Best Of :: People & Places
James Randi's crusade began in the early 1970s, when Uri Geller convinced a bunch of Stanford scientists that he could bend spoons with the power of his mind. Randi painfully exposed Geller as a fraud in a segment on the Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. In the years since, he founded the James Randi Educational Foundation and has taken on faith healers, psychics, mediums, astrologers, redneck martial artists, homeopaths, theosophists, scientologists, spiritualists, fairies, and, beginning in 2003, gods. At the age of 36, Randi began offering money to anyone who could demonstrate a paranormal ability under proper laboratory conditions. Randi is now 80, the prize has swelled to $1 million, and nobody's claimed it yet. Randi's fairly certain that nobody will before he passes over into the Big Nothing. But as always, he is willing to be proved wrong.
Of all the people who ought to have learned an object lesson from the dramatic fall from grace of Palm Beach area Congressman Mark Foley, it is Tim Mahoney. After all, he owed his ascendancy to Congress entirely to Foley's sex scandal. Once elected, Mahoney could campaign for reelection in 2008 with all the advantages of incumbency — provided he could keep his pecker out of the news. But that proved too tough a task. Mahoney allegedly paid a former mistress more than $121,000 so she wouldn't go public with their affair. Soon, another paramour surfaced, Mahoney's wife filed for divorce, and judging by her legal filings, she's intent on making her ex's 15th minute of fame as embarrassing as possible. By this time next year, Mahoney will no longer even be a "notorious" sleazebag — just a sleazebag, period.
"At night it gets darker out here than in other places," he begins. "It's a yawning, special kind of dark, deepened by acres of cane so still and quiet they can keep secrets." It's a story about Pahokee, the sugarcane town torn by gang violence—and the death of the captain of the football team. It was one of the best Palm Beach Post stories of 2008. And it was written by Michael LaForgia. He might not win those in-depth reporting or public service awards, but the young police reporter does something even more impressive: He manages to sprinkle a bit of the art and craft of storytelling into everything he writes. Whether it's a telling detail in a brief about a murder or a poetic lead like the Pahokee story, he does the things that help readers connect to stories. In a culture in which reporters are asked to do more with less and editors speak only in inches, LaForgia seems to actually care about the quality of his prose. If more writers did that, the newspaper industry wouldn't be as dark and bleak as those acres of cane.
In this era of media staff cuts, a midsized city like Lake Worth is liable to slip through the news cracks — unless a tenacious, tireless someone hustles for the skinny at City Hall. That's Wes Blackman. His blog
is required reading for the conscientious citizen of central Palm Beach County. A Michigan native who moved to Lake Worth in 1989, Blackman is an urban planner with particular interest in historic structures. He serves on numerous planning and landmark preservation boards, but that doesn't stop him from castigating city officials. Commissioners Suzanne Mulvehill and Cara Jennings are his favorite targets. This blog ain't one for fancy graphics. Blackman's idea of an exciting image is a scanned item from the commission agenda. But Blackman's enthusiasm for his subject is as infectious as it is admirable. He pores through the agenda and backup material in advance of commission meetings, pulling out the most interesting items and adding the context one needs to understand an issue. It's a fascinating, meticulously detailed study of one city's political theater. Blackman, who lost a bid for the commission in a March 2007 runoff by fewer than 200 votes, has still found a way to have his perspective shape city policy, and Lake Worth is better for it.
Yeah, we'll have to go with Jack on this one after he crushed his opponents to become mayor of Fort Lauderdale. The former state legislator has the common man's touch. He's an old jock with a big family. And he looks, in a certain light, just like a Neanderthal. How much more common can you get? But under that heavy brow is a shrewd operator, sort of the caveman lawyer of Broward County. He plays all the angles just right, and while he's no angel, he always manages somehow to keep his hands clean. And now he's won this great honor — but watch out, it comes with a cautionary note. During the past few years, we've endorsed Ken Keechl (recently disgraced in the Mutual Benefits scandal), Ben Graber (sold out and washed up), and Steve Gonot (criminally charged and removed from office). Seiler will surely have a bright future — so long as he can survive the "Best Of" curse.
If and when our country degenerates into a Hobbesian nightmare where the poor and hungry have revolted against the rich in a swift, brutal redistribution of wealth, the first audacious target for the angry proletariat with discerning taste will be the new Trump International Hotel & Tower. A monolith of ostentation at the center of Fort Lauderdale beach, the local Trump Tower symbolizes everything about the indulgent high-end development boom that helped America into the worst economic quagmire in generations and earned South Florida the moniker the Repo Riviera. But damn, that building is gorgeous! Designed by architect Michael Graves, the blue and yellow, 24-story curvilinear structure — which occupies no less than two acres of beachfront property — sets a new standard for luxury while still paying tribute to the region's art deco roots. The building itself features a 5,000-square-foot spa, an ultra-high-tech gym, a sixth-floor roof deck with a mosaic-tiled pool (replete with cabanas), and almost 300 rooms and suites with marble baths, oversized windows looking out at the ocean, and some of the most expensive beds you can buy. So when the weak social contract that binds society fails, look for the beautiful blue edifice by the sparking sea, where life will be anything but nasty, brutish, and short.