This year was a hell of a lot better than 2016. Alabama Democrat Doug Jones overcame a child molester to win a spot in the U.S. Senate. Harvey Weinstein and his misogynist colleagues from Hollywood to Miami are on the run. The stock market is surging. And the new Star Wars movie is actually good.
But this is Miami, and evil is all round us. Political figures are corrupt. The power company takes our money and doesn't do its job very well. Rappers, well, do what they do.
To wrap up the year, New Times follow its annual tradition of naming the lowest of the low in South Florida. By the way, this publication has long lived by the rule that people can make this list only once. But in 2017, we made an exception. Can you guess for whom?
Frank Artiles. After Donald Trump was elected president of the United States despite his proclamation of love for grabbing nonconsenting women "by the pussy," it seemed Republicans could say anything without suffering a penalty. But then came Florida Sen. Frank Artiles, who muttered, "Hold my cerveza, bro." Artiles was already well known for trying to ban doctors from discussing guns with patients, sponsoring a (failed) Florida version of North Carolina's transphobic bathroom bill, and deriding Muslims as "hajis." Artiles, a GOP mainstay from West Kendall, had long been a malignant force in Tallahassee. The hard-right loon was also accused of punching a college kid in the face at a bar, got caught lying about living in his district, and accepted an all-expenses-paid vacation from Florida Power & Light before writing pro-energy-monopoly bills. But in April, he made even Florida Republicans shun him by dropping the N-bomb in front of a black legislator. He refused to resign and might have survived that racist misadventure if the Miami Herald hadn't quickly revealed he'd hired a former Playboy model and a Hooters waitress as "political consultants." Don't sweat it, Frank — with that resumé, you're a shoo-in for a gig in the Trump administration.
Chris Foerster. This past October 8, the most epic revenge film since Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds landed on the internet. It featured Miami Dolphins offensive line coach Chris Foerster, a burly figure with a white goatee, hunched over his desk, where three chunky rows of cocaine awaited. Between snorting hearty lines of yeyo through a rolled-up $20 bill, Foerster dropped oh-so-romantic come-ons such as "I think about how much I miss you, how hot we got together" and "I wish I was licking this off your pussy." Sadly for Foerster, the recipient of those charming bons mots — a Las Vegas model named Kijuana Nige — was less than amused when the Fins suddenly forced players protesting racial injustice to stand in the tunnel during the National Anthem. "Y'all keep saying All Lives Matter?" Nige posted after blasting Foerster's coke-snorting face all over Twitter. "If his ass was black, they would be dragging him through the [mud] face-first." Be careful where you're sending your blow-sniffing sexts, kids!
Donald Trump. Dirty? Here's why: Advocated grabbing women's pussies. Assaulted, harassed, or raped 21 women. Made false claims about Barack Obama's birth. Fired James Comey to obstruct justice. Pushed racist Muslim immigration ban. Championed a budget to make himself rich. Refused to hand over his tax returns. Is closely associated with four people (so far) who have been indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller, two of whom have pleaded guilty. Cheats regularly at golf. Officially recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, thus undermining peace. Endorsed child molester and loser Roy Moore. Liar, liar, liar. Attacked Obamacare, first directly and then in sleazy, underhanded fashion. Insulted war hero John McCain when he himself is a draft dodger. Cheated on his first wife. Cheated on his second wife. Insulted his own secretary of state, thus making diplomacy impossible. Refused to fill positions in the state department, so American diplomacy fell apart. Insulted his own, racist attorney general. Pulled America out of Paris climate agreement. Like an 8-year-old, teased nuclear-armed North Korean leader. Threatened to pull out of NAFTA.
Steve Bannon. See Steve.
See Steve run.
Steve used to run Breitbart News. Then he ran the agenda at the White House. Now he runs a long game that threatens the future of our democracy.
Go, Steve, go!
Steve liked the White House. Steve likes lots of things that are white. Steve thinks white is supreme.
Before D.C., Steve rented a white house in Miami for his third ex-wife, Diane. Steve and Diane were bad tenants. Steve committed some light voter registration fraud. Diane burned the Jacuzzi tub with acid.
Bad Steve. Bad Diane.
Steve hates Democrats, but he hates GOP cucks even more. Steve likes outsiders. Steve likes Roy Moore. Roy likes underage girls, but Steve campaigned for Roy anyway.
Go, Roy, go!
But the voters did not like Roy. They elected a Dem.
Watch out, Steve! Your days are numbered.
Ted Vernon. What do you say about a guy like Ted Vernon? What do you say about any guy who's been accused of beating his children, an ex-wife, and a soon-to-be ex-wife? Vernon's checkered history of domestic violence should have been a warning sign for Velocity, a Discovery channel that somehow kept the pugnacious classic-car dealer on the airwaves for four seasons of South Beach Classics, a series about his Little River car lot. After New Times exposed Vernon as an abuser, the network canceled the show and pulled reruns. This past November, the former boxer and B-movie actor was indicted on a federal weapons charge after agents found 11 guns inside a closet in his Plantation home. It was a violation of a restraining order filed by his estranged wife. If the feds have their way, the 69-year-old Vernon will spend the next decade in prison. Hope he enjoys Nutraloaf.
Kathy Fernandez Rundle. County and city prosecutors are some of the most powerful people in the criminal justice system. They choose who is charged with crimes. In Florida, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle is apparently considered the "gold standard" for state prosecutors, which is sort of like taking pride in being the least-ugly orc in Sauron's army. Rundle has been pretty awful since she took office 24 years ago, but this year, she took things to a new level, by covering for four state prison guards accused of boiling a schizophrenic, nonviolent prisoner to death in a jerry-rigged prison shower. Julie K. Brown, one of the Miami Herald's star reporters, worked for years to have Darren Rainey's case reopened and even published gruesome photos that sure seemed to show burns all over Rainey's dead body. Rundle claimed the guards did nothing wrong, and the incident sparked so much national outrage that it wound up fictionalized in the Netflix prison drama Orange Is the New Black.
Chris Cedeno. Everything you need to know about Chris Cedeno is summed up by the fact that his detractors call him the "Cuban-American Clayton Bigsby." Bigsby, you might recall, is the blind Chappelle's Show character who joins the Ku Klux Klan without knowing that he himself is black. Cedeno, a Cuban-American, is arguably Miami's most prominent white supremacist despite the fact that he isn't even white. (He just claims to really hate Jews and black people.) For the past 12 months or so, he had popped up at civil rights demonstrations all over town, waving Confederate flags, displaying white-nationalist League of the South regalia, and wearing neo-Nazi pins. He even used the pointy tip of one of those flags to try to stab a Black Lives Matter protester. But given that he apparently spends most of his time posting on 4chan in the dark, it was easy for the good guys to cart him off to jail, where we assume he was denied entry into the Aryan Brotherhood.
FPL. This year taught us that a standard-size poodle with a well-timed sneeze can apparently knock out all of Miami's power infrastructure. In September, Hurricane Irma just barely hit the area. The storm's eye wall ran up the west coast of the state, and Miami got lashed with mostly sub-hurricane-strength gusts. But those winds were apparently enough to knock out most of Miami's power for a week despite the fact that Florida Power & Light claims to have spent $3 billion over the past decade hardening its grid against tropical storms. FPL turned the lights back on slightly faster than it did after Hurricane Wilma — but that was ten years and billions of dollars ago. FPL made a $1.7 billion profit in 2016; for that kind of money, the power grid should be able to withstand a laser blast from Mothra.
Kodak Black. It took a special skill to make a crime against women rise above the misogynist chorus in 2017. But Pompano Beach rapper Kodak Black was up to the challenge. He began the year on probation after posting a $100,000 bond following an alleged 2016 South Carolina incident, in which a teenager says he bit and raped her. In February, he landed back in jail for probation violations; his trips to Miami clubs and a boxing match in Cincinnati didn't exactly count as house arrest. In April, a Miami bartender alleged that Black punched and kicked her while she was on the job; later that month, his anger-management counselor claimed he'd roughed her up after he disrupted a session by "burping repeatedly." Oh, and those sexual assault allegations? He was indicted by a grand jury too and now faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. All of the legal drama didn't appear to have slowed his career: He released his debut studio album, Painting Pictures, as well as a mixtape, Project Baby 2, in 2017. But, hey, gotta pay those bills somehow. Just recently, a judge ordered him to pay $4,200 per month in child support after the mother of his 2-year-old son claimed he was withholding financial records.
Elaine Lancaster. In her prime, Elaine Lancaster, AKA James Davis, was the face of Miami's gay community, composed of people who had come here in the '80s and '90s from all across the country looking for others who wouldn't judge them. But then she threw her full support behind Donald Trump, a president who has alienated racial minorities, women, and the LGBTQ community through his spiteful rhetoric. And if backing the guy who even Republicans have called a "moron" who belongs in an "adult daycare center" wasn't bad enough, Lancaster also said she was joining the alt-right gas bag Milo Yiannopoulos on tour in support of "free speech." The irony seems lost on Lancaster, who believes the blowback she has received for her support of Trump and his clan of supervillains is unfair. Maybe she doesn't understand that free speech also means people are allowed to tell her exactly how they feel about her ideological leanings. "It's not just because I support Trump... It's because they don't like Elaine Lancaster. They're jealous of her because of her success," she told the Miami Herald in July. It's time for Lancaster to sashay away for good.
Michael Grieco. A shameless self-promoter and political opportunist, Michael Grieco would probably be mayor of Miami Beach if it weren't for a confoundingly boneheaded move. Despite enjoying hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations and rabid support from a solid chunk of voters, the then-city-commissioner was linked to a shady, secret political action committee and knowingly accepted an illegal donation from a foreigner in 2016. Called out by the Miami Herald this past June, Grieco took on an air of shocked indignation: "You can look right into my soul," he declared dramatically. Well, four months later, the by-then-disgraced ex-mayoral candidate was pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge. It wasn't even the first time Grieco's ambitions had been undercut by his dumb decisions. In 2006, he had to resign as an assistant prosecutor after using his case against then-NFL-star Sean Taylor to promote his side gig as "DJ Esquire." After his latest scandal, you might expect Grieco to go away with his tail between his legs. Nope: He's still not admitting fault. And because a plea deal bars him from seeking public office for only a year, we likely haven't seen the last of him in local politics.
Scott Cooper. As multimillion-dollar scams go, the one Scott Cooper is accused of running stands out as especially shitty. The sleazy so-called businessman preyed on the hopes and dreams of thousands of aspiring inventors across the nation, promising he could turn their ideas into best-sellers. His Miami Beach firm, World Patent Marketing, greedily took tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars from those dreamers, who emptied their retirement accounts, college funds, and life savings to bring their inventions to life. The company failed to make good on its promises to clients and then ghosted them. Anyone who dared complain faced the wrath of Cooper, who was fond of mentioning his Krav Maga-trained security force. While his clients panicked about the money they'd wasted, he bragged about his yacht and hobnobbed with politicians. Those high-rolling days came to an end when the Federal Trade Commission persuaded a judge to shut World Patent Marketing down. But as the case makes its way through civil court, millions of dollars remain unaccounted for. As for those would-be inventors who paid dearly to chase their dreams: They still haven't seen a dime.