Best Politician 2021 | U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
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Frederica Wilson means far more to Miami than her iconic, colorful headgear might suggest. For years she has fought for under-represented minorities, first as principal of Skyway Elementary School in Miami Gardens, then as a member of the Miami-Dade school board, the Florida legislature and, since 2011, Congress. Before taking the oath of office to represent Florida's 24th Congressional District (which covers Aventura, Hollywood, Miami Gardens, North Miami, and North Miami Beach), she founded the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, an innovative mentorship program for students. While in office, she went toe-to-toe with Donald Trump during his presidency, including roasting the president for mishandling a phone call with a grieving widow of a U.S. soldier. She's never one to remain silent when it comes to injustice — she remains vocal about U.S. aid to Haiti after the recent presidential assassination, has helped residents of Edgewater negotiate with their landlords regarding displacement, and more. (She's always dressed to the nines, by the way, because she's inspired by her grandmother.)

Photo courtesy of Andrea Mercado

For more than a decade, Andrea Mercado has been a fierce advocate for communities of color. The daughter of South American immigrants and recently became co-executive director of Florida Rising, an independent political organization working to bolster the voting and political power of marginalized groups. Her work as cofounder and director of campaigns at the National Domestic Workers Alliance helped birth Domestic Worker Bill of Rights legislation in seven states and national overtime protections for two million home-care workers. At Florida Rising, she leads a team that registered over 200,000 Floridians to vote, passed legislation such as the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act and the Tammy Jackson Act, won a $4 million dollar settlement for Florida families on disaster food stamps after Hurricane Irma, and provided more than $300,000 in COVID-19 relief for Florida's marginalized communities. She does it all in an effort to ensure a brighter future for underserved groups throughout South Florida.

For those not in the biz, "flack" is a semi-unkind name for the public information officer of a given private or governmental entity. We journos like to shorten things, and these folks' official titles are often something like "vice president of external relations for the South Florida subdivision," which wastes a lot of ink. The term itself has murky origins. It could harken back to World War II-era anti-aircraft gunfire (AKA "flak"), as reporters often fancy themselves heroes in a battle between good and evil, which makes guardians of coveted information (the flacks) the bad guys in this scenario. Likewise, flacks often find themselves defending someone or something against incoming flak from people like us. In the ceaseless battle for information, both sides can occasionally lose the point of the exchange, and it's the rare spokesperson indeed who is unfailingly knowledgeable, courteous, and bend-over-backward helpful. One of those is local treasure Eunice Sigler of Florida's 11th Judicial Circuit. If she can get you the information you're looking for, she'll do it. If you have a question, she'll answer it quickly and thoroughly. And if you're looking for something that can't be gotten, she'll let you know and let you know why. Navigating the oft-contentious world of journalists, defendants, lawyers, and judges has to be a tough gig, but Sigler unfailingly does it with grace and style.

Courtesy of Feeding South Florida

Careful readers of New Times Best of Miami editions might notice a couple of things. First, Feeding South Florida is based in Broward County, which even the most geographically challenged will note is not in Miami. And second, the charity was given this same award in the 2020 Best of Miami issue. But frankly, the organization is just that good, and its services are essential to the neediest among us in the entire region — which includes Miami-Dade County. During the past 12 months, the charity's leadership and army of volunteers have selflessly stepped up to help South Floridians dealing with the fallout from the pandemic. Although the group was recently dealt a setback — losing out on a state food-distribution contract in Broward and Palm Beach counties — its long and impressive track record ensures that it will continue to fulfill its mission for years to come.

Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for PAMM

On their own, Craig Robins and Jackie Soffer are formidable Miamians. He's the commercial real estate wunderkind who's transformed the Design District into one of the world's most visited luxury retail shopping districts. She's the scion to a family empire that built Aventura while forging her own path cementing development partnerships to build North Miami's Solé Mia and the new Miami Beach Convention Center hotel. As husband and wife, Robins and Soffer are an unstoppable force in Miami's high society. Their mutual flair for stylish design, fashion and art has landed them in the pages of W magazine and Architectural Digest. Like many one-percenter tales of romance found, their courtship began, well, in court. According to a 2018 W profile, Robins said they met when "she sued me." It was a dispute over private-jet fees that was quickly settled when they realized "we didn't want to fight anymore." Exactly. Why try to beat your adversary when you can marry instead? Well played, you two. Well played.

At the turn of the next century, if Miami isn't entirely submerged, kids in elementary school will learn about the very beginnings of the Magic City's transformation from a tourist-driven party destination into the tech hub of the Americas. They will click open a blockchain hologram that reveals the ancient Twitter archives of all the founding fathers of Miami's tech-bro scene and up will pop a December 4, 2020, tweet from San Francisco venture capitalist Delian Asparouhov, who typed the following 13 fateful words: "ok guys hear me out, what if we move silicon valley to miami." Among the prosaic answers to that seemingly innocuous question — "humidity is fucked"; "Too far south. Why not Seattle or Portland?" "Does Patagonia make speedos?" — came a response from the personal account of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez (@FrancisSuarez): "How can I help?" And nothing would ever be the same again.

Photo courtesy of Selina Miami Gold Dust

The Selina Gold Dust is well on its way to becoming a secret to no one, but the retro boutique hotel on Biscayne Boulevard just shy of 79th Street still makes you feel like you've stumbled upon a hidden treasure. Lucky for us, this hotel is not just for travelers. Enjoy a Miami-inspired meal at Matt Kuscher's Café Kush, a sunny day by the pool at one of the motel's many pool parties, or a late night out at Don's 5 Star Dive Bar, Kuscher's new nightspot hidden beneath the main level and filled with "Don"-related Miami nostalgia, from Shula to Aranow to Bailey (AKA "King of Carpets"). You don't want to miss this new Upper Eastside gem.

Photo by Eve Edelheit

Kristen Arnett is the quintessential Florida woman. And as of last year, in a victory for the South Florida literary community, she's officially a Miami woman. The award-winning queer fiction writer and essayist first captured the Sunshine State in its bizarre glory in her debut novel, Mostly Dead Things. Since then, Arnett has garnered a loyal following on Twitter with her witty repartee and clever jokes about everything from ravioli to 7-Eleven. Each of the Orlando native's essays and books, which mainly focus on lesbian life, are like love letters to the Sunshine State, reminding us of all the ways we love and loathe this messy subtropical place. Her second novel, With Teeth, hit shelves in June.

Now that it's been a few years since Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey shut down, historians can look back and say about circuses, "What the hell was that all about?" Circuses were hotbeds of animal cruelty, exploitation of the disabled and the foreign, and who the hell thought it was a good idea to expose children to clowns? With a historian's careful eye, Miami's own Les Standiford takes us on a tour on the origins of the biggest circus of them all in his new book, Battle for the Big Top: P.T. Barnum, James Bailey, John Ringling, and the Death-Defying Saga of the American Circus. Standiford's heavily researched tome brings alive a bygone America filled with eccentric characters like Barnum and Ringling, who monetized a culture in which every child dreamed of running away and joining the circus.

Photo by Jessica Lipscomb

Islandia Journal may be brand-new, but its founder, author and educator (and occasional Miami New Times contributor) Jason Katz, has the old soul of a zine dude. The magazine's stated milieu: myth, folklore, history, ecology, cryptozoology, and the paranormal in the subtropics. The first issue sported an illustration of Everglades griffin on the cover. A a griffin! Miami, in particular, boasts a rich history of wild truths and even wilder folklore. The quarterly zine accepts submissions in the style of prose, nonfiction, fiction, reported pieces, and even poetry. Its inaugural volume one, Islandia published work by 20 local contributors, including a poem by O Miami founder Scott Cunningham and a story about a Scottish soldier named Gregor MacGregor by Nathaniel Sandler, the brains behind Best of Miami 2021 "Best Bookstore" honoree Bookleggers. Look for volume two to drop soon.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®