Remember Danny Couch, who was creamed in his 1995 run for Miami mayor? Well, he sure is lucky when it comes to cash. On December 5 the City of Miami Beach sent Couch, a midlevel public-works employee and union steward, the following correspondence: "Dear Mr. Couch: An error was made in your paycheck for ... November 21, 1999. You were incorrectly paid $14,040 for 16 hours.... The correct amount was $14.40. Therefore you were overpaid $14,025.60. You are hereby informed that this money must be returned." Now it appears the Beach is holding Couch's job hostage. On December 20 the city moved to discipline him, citing only the paycheck incident. The claim: He is "disgraceful," "antagonistic," and "wantonly offensive." Then on January 5 public-works director Julio De Peralta suggested Couch might keep his job if he returned the money. Comments Couch: "Yes, I owe them something, but not as much as they say."

SAVE Dade, the political group that forced Miami-Dade commissioners to pass a gay-rights ordinance amendment in December 1998, is quietly becoming one of the county's most potent political forces. The group has raised more than $400,000, much of it since the amendment's passage, says chairman Jorge Mursuli. Indeed benefactor and part-time Miami resident Harvey Burstein contributed $10,000 just last week. And they have gathered a list of 2000 potential volunteers, 200 of whom Mursuli says are "hard-core." Last fall SAVE Dade backed four candidates: Matti Bower, Neisen Kasdin, and Luis Garcia in Miami Beach, and Johnny Winton in Miami. All were successful. And this week local power brokers, including former Assistant County Manager Cynthia Curry, Miami-Dade Community College president Eduardo Padron, and others, were slated to meet at the home of former Miami Herald publisher, doormat Dave Lawrence, to pledge support for the amendment, which has been challenged by Christian extremists. "Our goal is to make sure that we have a place at the table," Mursuli says. "Equal rights for everyone is a primary focus, but it is no longer the only focus."

Gone but not forgotten: Cheryl Devall, who left a job as National Public Radio's Miami correspondent this past November after three years, settled recently in Los Angeles, where she is working for the San José Mercury News. Fond memories of subtropical nights aside, she remembers some tough times in Miami (though that was not the reason she departed). One problem was the lack of radio reporters (there are none) at WLRN-FM (91.3), the local NPR affiliate. Los Angeles and Miami are two of the few big cities in the nation where local public-radio stations don't have news staff, Devall says. And one L.A. station is on the cusp of leaving Miami in the laggard spot. "My work in Miami would have been a lot easier if I could have counted on some backup from a good local news department," she says. "It's a shame [for WLRN] not to be able to cover the news consistently." Ted Eldredge, WLRN station manager, is on the same wavelength. "I think [staff] is very much needed," Eldredge comments. "It is something we would like to do in the future. But when is a bit cloudy right now." By the by, NPR hasn't replaced Devall yet, but is likely to do so.

Chairman of the Miami River Commission Bob Parks has been swimming upstream lately, urging city and county commissioners to approve the dredging of South Florida's most polluted waterway. Although the feds promised more than five million dollars to scrape the bottom of Miami's watery barrel last March, the politicians may lose the cash if they don't act soon, Parks warns. City Commish Art Teele is a crucial stick-in-the-mud. "He seems to be running things now," Parks comments.

-- as told to Chuck Strouse

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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse