Best Quote 2018 | "You Can Look Right Into My Soul" — Michael Grieco | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
City of Miami Beach

This might just be the greatest quote in Miami public-corruption history. It's all right there — the cold desperation, the plea for mercy, the inability to own up to one's mistakes despite knowing that everything will get a lot worse if you don't come clean right now. Last year, Miami Herald reporting duo Nick Nehamas and Joey Flechas nailed Grieco for collecting money from a so-called "straw donor," who was paid by a noncitizen to illegally contribute foreign money to Grieco's campaign for Miami Beach mayor. After the duo tied a political-action committee to Grieco, the reporters sat down in the Miami Beach city commissioner and lawyer's office in Brickell — where Grieco stared them right in the eyes and said the allegations were "absolutely untrue. You can look right into my soul." The Herald instead looked into his handwriting and found that Grieco had pretty clearly signed PAC documents. Grieco eventually pleaded no contest to straw-donor charges and was temporarily barred from running for office.

Most government flacks respond to critical reporters in a few obvious ways: by screaming over the phone, ignoring requests for information, or publicly accusing journalists of lying. The Miami Beach Police Department's Ernesto Rodriguez is the rare public figure who seems to understand that it is a reporter's job to critique governmental decisions — he's happy as long as his side of the story is heard. It helps that "Ernie" secures information at a rapid-fire pace. It also helps that he's active on Twitter. During CNN's Parkland town hall, he was busy yelling at the National Rifle Association's Dana Loesch just like the rest of us.

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Glenna Milberg is the rare TV news reporter who seems to understand that her job is to critique powerful people, not to suck up to them. Milberg has been a fixture on South Florida TV for decades, and she's earned her airtime. Today she hosts This Week in South Florida, a public-affairs program where constituents can listen to candidates explain and defend their platforms. Where most TV reporters are occupied with ludicrous features about the latest, dangerous teenage social media challenges, Milberg spends her weekends pressing politicians about their thoughts on topics such as school funding or environmental policy.

TV news broadcasts are often vehicles for profoundly stupid commentary, outright government propaganda, and weird scaremongering. They're mostly just there to scare your grandparents into buying bread and water jugs when hurricane season starts. NBC 6 evening news anchor Jawan Strader offers much more than that. This year, Strader debuted an additional weekend program called Voices, which spotlights viewpoints from the city's black community. He has spent considerable time interviewing members of the Dream Defenders civil rights group about what it's like to "drive while black" and face racial profiling. He's also held panel discussions on untreated mental illness in black and brown communities, and even told the story of the "segregation walls" built during the Jim Crow era to separate Liberty City's black residents from nearby whites. In an era when some TV stations are forcing their anchors to read preapproved scripts praising President Trump, Strader is allowing the community at large to guide the conversation.

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It's always dicey when longtime local sports anchors retire or move on to different markets. Miami takes its sports seriously, so if the new guy isn't on the home team, he needs to at least pretend to be. When Clay Ferraro joined the Local 10 News team in 2014 after working in Fort Myers for over a decade, even the most skeptical sports fans could tell right away he'd be a good fit. Whether it's a straightforward, quick hit during the news broadcast or a comedic sports parody sketch after the kids have gone to bed, Clay Ferraro's recaps are events worth watching in their own right.

John Morales' role in the South Florida community has grown in importance recently, not only because of the predicted threat of bigger, more powerful hurricanes brought on by climate change, but because of the beloved meteorologist's willingness to wade into what some see as political waters to educate the public on environmental matters. As a meteorologist, he views climate change as scientific, rather than political, in nature. Morales is active on Twitter and Facebook, where he shares news articles and the latest topical research alongside weekly weather reports. The issue became personal this year when the catastrophic 2017 Atlantic hurricane season — which included major hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria — decimated Caribbean islands including Puerto Rico, where Morales grew up. Like thousands of relatives of Hurricane Maria's victims, Morales went weeks unable to communicate with his family due to damaged infrastructure on the island. Perhaps for these reasons he has become even more dedicated to educating the public on ways to curb the looming threats of climate change. In March, Morales publicly declined an invitation to moderate a panel at FIU after learning that climate skeptic James Taylor would be participating. Instead, Morales hosted his own talk about the scientific method and the ways journalists can become complicit in climate denial efforts through ill-informed pursuits of objectivity.

Few people handled the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as poorly as Marco Rubio. Florida's junior senator managed to make things worse for himself with every noncommittal remark he made in the wake of the shooting. The coup de grâce of his political self-immolation was his decision to take part in a CNN town hall alongside a handful of MSD's blisteringly intelligent, staggeringly capable student activists at an arena packed with Parkland parents and students. While it was a bold move to try to connect with his rightfully outraged constituents, Rubio did not fare well. When Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed in the shooting, took the microphone, he immediately told Rubio his comments the preceding week had been "pathetically weak." As the crowd applauded Guttenberg, Rubio's face betrayed his trepidation. But it was when one of the most prominent voices of the #NeverAgain movement, Cameron Kasky, asked Rubio point-blank if he would refuse to take money from the National Rifle Association that the entire nation saw the senator's spirit break live on national television. Kasky repeated the question again and again as the jeers inside the BB&T Center grew louder. Rubio declined to reject future NRA contributions.

Photo by Emilee McGovern

From the moment Emma González took the stage at the Rally to Support Firearm Safety Legislation in Fort Lauderdale — just three days after 17 people were gunned down at her school — she has been a model of compassion and activism for people around the world. In her speech, she called "BS" on those who would dismiss her and her peers and asked politicians in the pockets of the NRA how much the lives of students were worth to them. From speaking to a few hundred people in front of the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale to addressing 800,000 in front of the U.S. Capitol during the March for Our Lives, González has not let tragedy harden her heart, nor fame diminish her integrity. Instead, she's been humbled by her platform, and she's ceded it to students of color in communities across the country who have traditionally been ignored in the gun reform debate.

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Initially, Robert Ramos set out to make Rene De Dios and the South Beach Shark Club as an homage to the shark fishermen he grew up around, and to the Miami Beach that once was. That passion project expanded into a 17-minute documentary while Ramos and producer Pedro Gomez studied film at Miami Dade College. The short film received the Faculty's Choice Award at MDC before going on to win five awards at Miami Film Festival's CinemaSlam, including best writing, best director, and CinemaSlam Champion. The documentary explores the life and legacy of Rene De Dios, a heroic figure to many locals with a devoted following of angling acolytes eager to stand alongside him on the South Beach Pier or take fishing trips to the Keys with him. But the movie also offers a look into the South Beach of the '60s and '70s and its development over the years. Rene De Dios and the South Beach Shark Club is a love letter from Ramos to his city's past and present. Now, Ramos and Gomez are crowdfunding to expand the movie into a feature-length documentary in time for festival season.

Photo by Naza Quirós

César Paniagua is not exactly new to Miami, but he's a noticeable recent addition to the city's musical landscape. Paniagua moved back to his home country of Costa Rica in 2010 after graduating from Miami Beach Senior High School in 2008. He began to flourish as a musician in his hometown of Sarchí, eventually playing around the country with his band, Camelolloide. Paniagua returned to Miami with his blues guitar, harmonica, and a book of original songs featuring a brand of "tropical rocanrol" that blends eclectic influences from musicians such as Muddy Waters, the Beatles, and Jack Johnson. Paniagua has quickly carved out a niche for himself here, playing gigs all over Miami from Las Rosas in Allapattah, to Kill Your Idol on South Beach, to Churchill's in Little Haiti and the Wynwood Yard. He's also collaborated with local musicians such as Rick Moon and filmed a music video for his song "Nobody Knows." In May, he released Del Sol y La Roja Juventud, a five-song EP featuring tracks recorded and produced in Miami, Mexico City, and Sarchí.

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