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The Suits Retreat

Affluence is besieging South Florida's cities. Five thousand mostly upscale condos and apartments recently began filling up in downtown Fort Liquordale. Almost as many are planned or poised to open in West Palm Beach. Hollywood, desperate to catch up, last week agreed to give a developer $350 million to build on Young Circle.

That's enough lucre to intimidate even this chrome-coated, sludge-disposing 'Pipe.

What's causing this downtown renaissance? The urban feel of our urban centers. Late-night revelry. Street life. Kids having fun downtown.

How have our civic leaders reacted? Like school marms, of course. Both Fort Lauderdale and West Palm have banned bargoers who are less than 21 years old. And Hollywood has discussed shutting down all bars at 2 a.m.

Tailpipe, concerned about these misguided attempts to pave the way for the wealthy, phoned up the area's top party players.

Here's West Palm Mayor Lois Frankel on Clematis Street, the heart of the area's nightlife district: "We wanted an area for everyone, but it turned into an area for primarily 16-year-olds, kids walking around with their pants to their navel and sitting and throwing things and stuff like that. The commission decided we want a more mature crowd on the street at night here."

And Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle: "With all these new places opening up, we may have to reconsider the 4 a.m. closing time. When the bars close, there's a lot of tire screeching and noise like that."

And Hollywood Mayor Mara Giulianti, who in July made an early-morning field trip to check out the bar scene in her burg. "In some of the instances, [the clubs] have allowed gangs and fights and stuff that isn't going to be an asset with people living there. The nightclubs create a black hole. They aren't open during the day, and they don't help pedestrian traffic on the street."

Even Wilton Manors Mayor Scott Newton doesn't exactly talk like a party animal: "The problem is when you are trying to sleep at 2 a.m. and there's a lot of noise outside."

Of course, all the mayors concede that nightlife helps bring people downtown. Indeed, a thunderstorm of enlightenment struck the area recently. The first bolt hit Wilton Manors last month, when commissioners allowed service of liquor for an extra hour, until 3 a.m., on Friday nights. Then West Palm was struck last Monday, when commissioners approved an exception to the under-21 ban for concerts. And on Wednesday, Hollywood commissioners signaled they may approve more than a dozen 4 a.m. liquor licenses -- though fees could increase to pay for police protection. Giulianti, who's probably the most pro-nightclub of the bunch, says her brood is "leaning toward" approving the 4 a.m. measures, though no formal vote was taken.

The 'Pipe hopes this glimmer of permissiveness is permanent. Condos are no reason to crack down on kids. A little gritty city life is needed in the sterile subtropics. Even Naugle, the most conservative of the four, acknowledges that his city has fielded but one objection to noise from its new urban pioneers. And it wasn't club-related: "Someone called to complain about the train whistle," he says. "It's been there since 1896."

Chasing Crows

If you want to buy fireworks in Palm Beach County, prepare to exercise your skills as a creative liar. The County Commission's recently crafted ordinance requires those who purchase fireworks to state their reasons for using them. The catch is that simply exploding a few M-80s in the backyard just to make noise won't cut it any more. The law requires fireworks buyers to state a reason -- one that complies with Florida law (a law that has rarely been enforced by the state itself) -- and to attest to its legitimacy. For anything above the impact level of sparklers, this gets a bit quirky.

Technically, state law limits the legal use of fireworks to a few, narrowly proscribed functions. Like signaling trains and scaring birds. Or even creating spectacles at military ceremonies or sporting events.

Private Fourth of July and New Year's celebrations? No good. Shooing the crows off your driveway? OK.

County Fire Marshal Jim Sweat, who helped write the new rules, concedes that they will promote some crafty fibs. "If people are willing to lie, they have to be more specific than they were before," Sweat says. But the point is, he stresses, fireworks purchasers will have to sign a notarized affidavit stating their intentions. Buyer beware. If they start a fire or put someone's eye out during a bottle rocket fight, authorities can go after the evildoers on felony forgery charges.

Fireworks can take credit for starting 68 fires in Palm Beach County since 1998 and untold injuries, the chief declares. "It's kind of funny only until somebody gets hurt," the party-poopin' Sweat says.

Crack the Market, Mon

Who would have figured? South Florida chiropractors have found a profitable niche in the Jamaican community. Listen to ads on the mysterious 93.5-FM pirate station for Dr. Mandell in Plantation ("just call 1-800-IRIE-DOC!"), whose dramatic voice-over ("Pain weakens. Pain destroys. Pain makes us cry.") sends shivers up unadjusted spines. Meanwhile, WAVS-AM (1170) hosts half-hour call-in chiro programs.

One local back-cracker speculates that Jamaicans, used to driving on the left side of the road, may be involved in a disproportionate amount of automobile accidents.

Back in your hole, wise guy, suggests Dr. Daniel Abeckjerr of North Miami, president of the Florida Chiropractic Society. "Jamaicans are very holistic," he says. "They believe in natural foods, no drugs, no surgery. They're extremely natural-minded." Abeckjerr adds that chiropractors have always operated under the dictum that "the body heals itself," which resonates with islanders.

The star of this naturally salubrious world is clearly Lauderhill's Dr. Michael Douglas, the Brooklyn-born chiropractor who hosts the call-in shows on WAVS. Douglas leaves this week for Athens as the chiropractor for the Jamaican Olympic Team. It will be his second Olympics with the Jamaicans (he caught 1996 in Atlanta but missed 2000 in Australia). Look for him down on the field during warm-ups, where he'll be hovering around the Jamaican runners, "evaluating skeletal structures, joint movement, and muscle balance," he says. (Hey, kids, if you're running a race, check out your skeletal structures first, OK?)

But Douglas is a multitalented man. It's his lilting, Caucasian-reggae jingle, penned by the good doctor himself, that raises the practice of spine-aligning into the realm of art: "You wrecked your car 'bout an hour ago/Neck's in pain, don't know where to go/To the ER? Just say no/They take too long, yes, they're too darn slow/Go to Douglas, don't wait in vain/Go to Douglas, no run-around game/Douglas Chiropractic for your injury and accident pain."

Damn, that was nice.

Now, stay in that right lane.

Hang the Bureaucrats

In 2002, Steven Attis was the first to raise the alarm that coastal construction giant Weeks Marine was dragging steel cables across the reef in Hillsboro Inlet in Pompano Beach. Thousands of sponges and coral heads were sheared from their moorings and overturned in a Weeks dredging operation. The reef looked like "someone took a weed whacker to it," says Attis, president of Vone Research Inc, a volunteer environmental and marine archaeology group.

"We screwed up," Weeks project manager Robert Sevoy told a local TV station. "A cable got loose."

The damage to the reef caused the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to withhold the final $595,000 of the $2.5 million the state was contributing to the project, putting the Hillsboro Inlet District Commission, the body that hired Weeks, in a bind. The commission had to more than double its 2003 tax levy to meet loan obligations. And so Attis, who is one of about 54,000 homeowners in the district, saw his taxes go up.

Fine. Let's fix it. Attis put together a coalition of volunteer groups to go into the inlet -- a waterway boats use to cut through the barrier island -- and save the coral and fix the reef for cost. But the district commission turned him down and instead hired Nova Southeastern University for the job, to the tune of $800,000. The commission was hoping to avoid a fine from the state -- and to pass the bill to the alleged culprit, Weeks Marine. Meanwhile, Weeks has done a hard reverse and is refusing to pay a dime. A company spokesman would not comment.

Jack Holland, chairman of the board that administers the inlet, says he turned down Attis' group on the recommendation of the state Department of Environmental Protection and Broward County.

Pity the poor Hillsboro district residents. Says Attis: "I found the damage, and my taxes went up. I stopped them from damaging the reef even more, but my taxes went up. And they wouldn't let me fix the reef -- but my taxes went up."

Just when Tailpipe was looking for reasons not to be cynical...

-- As told to Edmund Newton


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