Best Local TikToker 2022 | Ken Russell | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
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Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell may have lost some fans in Miami following a swing vote that cinched approval of the contentious Inter Miami FC stadium project, but he has no shortage of TikTok followers. The former international yo-yo champ-turned-politico, who recently pivoted from the U.S. Senate primary race to a run for Congress, shares daily clips on his account @kenforflorida that cover everything from cannabis policy to how to solve a Rubik's cube with one hand. Despite occasionally giving off "How do you do, fellow kids" meme energy in his videos, which usually are taken in selfie mode and follow popular TikTok trends, Russell actually seems to be engaging community members on topical issues like medical marijuana, police reform, and the rent being too damn high. As of late May, he'd amassed more than 250,000 followers.


With its postcard-perfect images of the Brickell skyline and art deco buildings, Miami has long been ready for its close-up. But no one has shot the city more intimately than artist, photographer, and graphic designer Laura Paresky Gould, who runs the popular Miami Color Theory Instagram account, launched in January 2021. Using just her iPhone and a drone, Paresky Gould captures the colorful shapes and shadows of the city's unique architecture and composes them as if they were works of modern, abstract art. For example, at first glance, the bright orange eyebrow of a South Beach apartment and the worm's-eye-view of a Brickell skyscraper take on the geometry of a Mondrian painting. It's this perspective — exaggerating the smallest of details — that often stumps locals, who then peek at the comments to figure out what they're actually looking at.


A year ago, Eliana Salzhauer might have been named "Best Politician." She was then an elected commissioner in Surfside during the town's most trying time — the aftermath of the Champlain Towers condo collapse. But her true calling at city hall was holding developers at bay while acting as the chief dissenter to Mayor Charles Burkett, whom she (in)famously flipped the double bird during a Zoom meeting in 2020. Then came the elections in March, and both she and her nemesis lost their seats in a near clean sweep by newcomers. After the loss, Salzhauer indicated that she wanted to take a break from city meetings, but that turned out to be impossible. "I don't have the ability to take it easy when someone is taking a shit in my living room," she said with characteristic bluntness. Salzhauer says the new slate of commissioners is more pro-development than ever, especially the new vice mayor, Jeffrey Rose, a prominent home builder in the sleepy seaside burg just north of Miami Beach. So Salzhauer is bird-dogging the new commission like never before, calling out every potential conflict of interest and attempt to skirt setback rules or height limits. "They just put this entire town in a cage with the snake and nobody wants to look," she says. Her efforts and means may not always be polite or popular, but Surfside, you want her on that wall, you need her on that wall.


When resident demagogue Ron DeSantis announced, in the midst of our national gun-violence epidemic, that he wanted to make it legal for basically any yahoo to pack heat in public without a permit, it was gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried who immediately smacked him down. "This is absurd political pandering from the governor of a state that has experienced some of the worst mass shootings in our country's history, in a nation where we have the highest rates of gun violence in the world," she stated. On the same day, Fried, using her power as the state's commissioner of agriculture and consumer affairs, suspended the concealed-weapons permits of seven January 6 insurrectionists. Need more convincing? How about someone who denied DeSantis' order to lower state flags to half-mast when corrosive hate-talker Rush Limbaugh passed on to Hell? She did that, too. Someone who's leading the charge on adult-use cannabis, you say? Check. The big question now is whether she can beat Charlie Crist, the all-time king of showing up, to secure the Democratic nomination for governor and square off against DeSantis one on one. It's a major task, but remember that back in 2018, she beat a rifle-toting Republican to become the only Democrat to be elected statewide. Translation: She has surprised before.


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Ketanji Brown Jackson hasn't just made good, she's made history. In fact, no South Florida girl or boy has made a more profound mark on history. Yes, the late great Janet Reno, the first woman to serve as U.S. Attorney General, comes close. But to be the first Black woman named to the U.S. Supreme Court? Epic. And awe-inspiring. Jackson was born in Washington, D.C., but she grew up in Miami and her roots here run deeper than a live oak's. Johnny Brown, her father, was the lead attorney for the Miami-Dade school board; her mother, Ellery Brown, served as principal of the New World School of Arts. An uncle, Calvin Ross, was a Miami police chief. Jackson herself graduated from Miami Palmetto Senior High School, class of 1988. Not surprisingly, she's remembered by many as highly driven during her South Florida youth and made good during her senior year when she won the national oratory championship. From there it was on to Harvard — and now, history.

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Yes it's true that Mario Cristobal is the second consecutive University of Miami football coach to "come home" to great fanfare and big dreams. And it's also true that the first one — the super-hyped Manny Diaz — lasted three excruciating seasons before the axe fell. Might Cristobal follow in those regrettable footsteps? Don't count on it. Cristobal comes here with an edge Diaz lacked, one sharpened during his last somewhat bitter exit from town. You might remember that back in 2006, at age 36, Cristobal was named head coach at Florida International University, a fledgling program coming off a winless season. He significantly improved the team, which won a bowl game in 2010 and went 8-5 in 2011. But after a losing record the following year, he was abruptly canned. The decision was widely considered rash and unwise, and Cristobal has since proven it so. After being snapped up by a small football program called Alabama as O-line coach, he landed the head-coaching post at Oregon, where he went 35-13 over the last five seasons, was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year, and won a Rose Bowl. Now the second-generation cubano comes back to his hometown to coach the ex-powerhouse school with the big duck as a mascot (yes, we know it's supposed to be an ibis, but at games it looks like Donald Duck's slightly shady cousin and don't try to tell us otherwise). Will he return UM to its long-lost glory? Who knows, but it's a good bet he's gonna prove any doubters wrong.

There was a time when Jody Tagaris wasn't infamous for being crazier than a shithouse rat. In fact, as a former member of the GOP executive committee and Palm Beach County Commission candidate, she was a member of Republican royalty before it went totally in-your-face-death-cult fascist. Like so many of her ilk, it was January 6 that really brought out her Dark MAGA soul. On that day, the 67-year-old Tagaris put on her MAGA cap, her U.S. flag scarf, and her flag windbreaker. How do we know what she was wearing? Because she posed for photos while she was breaking into the Capitol, of course. In one she posed while climbing through a smashed window to the building ("Got tear gassed but okay!" she posted on Facebook.) Tagaris pleaded guilty in December to violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds — a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of $5,000.

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It's not because Kodak Black (né Bill Kahan Kapri) unironically glorifies criminal culture and greed. Or that he constantly has ugly-ass run-ins with the law. Those are staples for a certain brand of rap star. Though we should have, we didn't completely write off the famed Pompano Beach-born mumbler when he livestreamed an unidentified woman performing oral sex on his crew in a hotel room (while at that very time Black was facing criminal charges that he raped a woman in a another hotel room). That he has publicly demeaned black women and propositioned the girlfriend of the great Nipsy Hussle less than a week after Hussle was murdered should have been enough to end it for good with him — but somehow it wasn't. The last straw wasn't even his support for birther king and "fine people" admirer Donald Trump's re-election bid before the bag of orange goo commuted Kodak's 46-month prison sentence on a federal weapons conviction. The last straw broke in March, as the ex-prez continued to attack the democracy, well after a blatant attempt to steal the presidency, that Kodak again professed his love and announced that "getting rid of Trump was the worst thing America could've did." It was a reminder that he's a bad dude in the worst and most thorough way — and the last thing we need is more Kodak moments.

Photo by Catherine Toruño

In Brickell, along the Underline public park — you know, the recently activated and colorfully greenspace under Miami's Metrorail tracks — there's tons of public art to interact with. You've got a functioning, Ping-Pong table by artist Cara Despin, you can often find a painted piano available for play, and then there's Edny Jean Joseph's The Allegory. Occupying an entire wall near the Brickell Metromover station, the Matisse-like mural depicts a group of workers silhouetted in black juxtaposed with larger-than-life yellow flowers and a blue sky. There's significance at work here: Although Joseph himself is Haitian, he chose to paint a mural alluding to the contributions Bahamian immigrant laborers made to the early development of Miami. The yellow, black, and blue color scheme pays homage to the colors of the flag of the Bahamas.

Photo by Joshua Ceballos

If art is meant to challenge conventionality, then it's no surprise when controversy follows. Though outwardly unassuming — an innocuous depiction of a Black girl reading books — the wall mural painted on the side of the United Teachers of Dade (UTD) union's headquarters in Miami Springs was, until recently, the flashpoint of small-town politics. In addition to brazen vandalism that saw the mural's main figure splashed with black paint, the mural came under fire from members of the city council because it didn't conform to the sleepy municipality's requirements for a limited color palette in the 36th Street district. Following heated debates and a contentious council vote, the teachers union prevailed. UTD was allowed to keep its public art on display for pedestrians to enjoy and reflect on the fitting Maya Angelou quotation it bears as an epitaph: "But still, like the air, I'll rise!"

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