True story: Lee Hillier, then a Plantation city commissioner, is sitting at the bar at Grin's Pub, a pleasant dive, having a few beers. The gnarliest half-drunk patron in the place, a man with few teeth and a dirty gray beard, comes up to him and starts complaining about a house in Plantation that gets on his nerves. The house has a trailer on the property and violates half the codes in Plantation's book, the drunk says. Hillier listens for a while and -- bam! -- the commissioner remembers the house in question. Soon, he's telling the drunk how he tried in vain to have his city enforce codes there.

The story illustrates both the best and the worst about Hillier, who lost his reelection bid in March. He knew more about Plantation -- every cul-de-sac, intersection, zone, rule, and code -- than anyone else in the city. He also had one hell of a vision: He wanted to create an international marketplace on State Road 7, and thus revitalize the predominantly black area east of the Turnpike. He wanted to thwart the power of lawyer/lobbyist Emerson Allsworth (who happens to be a convicted drug money launderer) and Allsworth's partner, Bill Laystrom, who together represent developers and control the Plantation commission. Hillier fought to clean up the city, add sidewalks and lights, and increase access to public facilities for disabled citizens. The problem: He failed to build any consensus on those issues. The ingrained, aging, white conservative Plantation political machine, which has neglected the east side for decades, beat Hillier down at every turn. He was far too blunt for diplomacy and thus never managed to clean up the city, or even that run-down house, for that matter. In the end, he proved you can't even fight City Hall from within its walls -- at least not in tight-fisted, cowardly Plantation. But we salute him for trying.

We like Lori Parrish. We really do. She's a Southern lady with an attitude almost as big as her hair, and we respect her for that. Sure, we've slammed her a couple of times, but we're paid to do that. It's nothing personal. Because we like her. We really do. Of course we might have raised her ire a bit last August when we exposed the fact that she charged a whopping $13,000 in cell phone bills to her campaign -- in which she ran virtually unopposed. But now at least we know who was on the other end of those phone calls: good old lobbyists. They are, after all, her best friends, according to statements she made in an April 2 article written by that cute and rascally Sun-Sentinel columnist, Buddy Nevins. In the story Parrish called attempts to regulate lobbyists and limit their power a "bunch of B.S." To clarify her point, she gave a classic quote about the relationship between politicians and influence peddlers: "All of us play golf, play cards, go to the movies, are attendants in [lobbyists'] weddings, or a variety of other things," Parrish said. "Some of us even married a lobbyist or two along the way. To me, [curbing lobbying] is simply unnecessary." Now, don't that just wrap a soft blanket around your little heart and make it coo? Who knew that government here in Broward was such a love-in?

Late one night police cars crowded the parking lot, but no one was at the pumps. Was it closed? Had it been robbed? As it happens, it was neither. Still, a Fort Lauderdale officer sternly warned that this is among the most dangerous places in town. Oooh, we're shaking! It's the entertaining kind of danger. For example, when a frantic customer didn't know the English word for his desired purchase, he made a crude pantomime instead. The clerk never missed a beat, handing his enthusiastic patron a condom. A youthful employee may wink and throw in a free bottle opener with your Friday-afternoon beer purchase, though such gifts may be just as easily snatched back by the disapproving boss (his father). You just never know at this family-owned Amoco. Pump your petrol and take your chances.
Your Beamer's buffed to a radical shine, your pecs are engorged from a brisk workout at the gym, you have a fresh and fab haircut, and you're horny. Better make the scene at the Alibi, where the eye candy is sweet and the drink deals get the juices flowing. This hip hangout in the heart of Wilton Manors -- the city-within-a-city that is fast becoming a national gay-relocation destination -- features a comfortable lunch patio outdoors, a bank of video screens and a pumping sound system indoors, and even a delightfully equipped men's room in the back. More important, it's usually filled with hot-looking men looking for other hot-looking men. Don't say you weren't warned.

Judging by the fuel prices, you'd think the Mobil station across from the Boca Teeca Country Club offers petrol Cordon Bleu instead of plain old gasoline. And while what you get at the pump is the same old, same old, the convenience store shames most gourmet boutiques. Clear-plastic bins of loose jelly beans and other candies cover half of the front wall -- you can fill a little plastic bag with cotton candy, caramel popcorn, bubble gum, and pear-flavor Jelly Belly beans. Next to the candytopia stands the self-serve frozen yogurt station; faced with eight flavors, three sizes, and several toppings, one can easily fill up with more lactose than octane at this Mobil. The station also offers cold drinks, a few plebian items (for example, potato chips), and a glass case of croissants and glorified donuts. Ain't Boca grand?
When Broward County bicycle coordinator Mark Horowitz suggested putting bike racks on buses more than a decade ago, people thought he was crazy. The bikes would fall off, they'd get stolen, no one would use the racks -- Horowitz heard all the complaints. Still he persevered. Two years ago Broward County transit officials finally agreed to try the racks; last summer Palm Beach County transit followed suit. Today officials in both counties declare their programs -- Broward's BYOB (Bring Your Own Bike) and Palm Beach County's BOB (Bikes On Board) -- unmitigated successes. An estimated 800 bicyclists are taking the bus daily in Broward, as are an estimated 500 people in Palm Beach. Pretty impressive numbers for transit systems that have struggled for years to increase ridership. In fact, officials say, they now face a different problem: More bicyclists want to use the buses than they can handle. Horowitz says that problem won't be solved easily or soon. Each rack can accommodate only two bikes; bigger racks would stick out too far, creating a safety hazard. But being too popular is a nice problem to have -- for a change.

Back in the 1930s, well-to-do Chicago brothers Preston and Tom Wells fell in love with Fort Lauderdale -- and with Champ Carr, the likable fishing guide and raconteur who took them out on their annual winter excursions into the briny deep. In 1936 the pair decided to build a small but exclusive resort hotel on the banks of the New River and install Carr as manager; they even named it the Champ Carr Hotel. When Carr retired in 1947, the lodging was renamed the Riverside Hotel. Other than that, it hasn't changed much from the original three-story hotel and six-story tower. It's still an unpretentious, European-style inn with the original Lapa Lapa tile floors and coral rock keystone fireplaces designed by society architect Francis Abreu. The 105 traditional rooms and suites, which range in price from $149 out of season to $269 in season, still boast their original Jacobean-style oak furniture, and although the clientele has changed from wealthy dowagers to hard-charging business types, the rhythm and serenity of the hotel hasn't. Food offerings include two well-regarded restaurants, both Ron Morrison creations: the moderately priced Indigo, with its Southeast Asian fusion cuisine, and the expensive Grill Room, a steak-and-seafood house modeled after a British colonial pub in some far-flung outpost. A word of warning: the hotel is in the process of adding 112 rooms and 4 executive suites in an adjacent 13-story tower by 2002. As at any of the world's newly renovated grand old hotels, you'll want to consider asking for accommodations in the old wing.
To most people in Broward County, Scherer was just another lawyer/lobbyist type who scurried around getting government contracts. (His plum is a North Broward Hospital District deal.) He wasn't really in the public eye much -- which turns out to be a good thing for all concerned. When the manual recount was under way in Broward, Scherer, a GOP operative, did a pretty good job of turning the procedure into a national joke. As the canvassing board counted votes and the television cameras rolled, Scherer started screaming at the counters like a spoiled child. "You are trolling for votes here!" he yelled. "You can't get this election any other way.... You told these lawyers to go bring you more votes!" Scherer's idiotic and arrogant outbursts (he had two of them on successive days) embarrassed not only him but also our fair county and the entire nation. Thank goodness Circuit Judge Robert W. Lee had the good sense finally to toss him out of the proceedings. Now if only we could toss him out of Broward altogether....
LePore was once almost universally admired by politicians in Palm Beach County. She has a genuine charm, works hard, and seems truly to care about the integrity and fairness of the election process. Time was, nobody would say a bad thing about her. Then came her ill-conceived butterfly ballot, which led thousands of Al Gore's supporters to accidentally vote for Pat Buchanan, thus giving W. the presidency. The world fell in on her. Pundits openly ridiculed her. Angry Dems flooded her office with hate mail. She instantly became the Bill Buckner of national politics, the woman who booted the presidential election. At the same time, she tirelessly had to coordinate the confusing recount mess. In handling all that incredible pressure, LePore proved she did indeed deserve the respect she'd earned for her years of exemplary service. Yet she will forever be remembered for her botched ballot.
Put simply, South Florida as we know it today probably wouldn't even exist if it weren't for a retired millionaire named Henry Flagler and his vision of linking the state's entire east coast, from Jacksonville to Key West, by rail. And his Palm Beach estate, Whitehall, now known as the Flagler Museum, is the ultimate monument to the man who paved the way for a Florida economy dominated by agriculture and tourism. When he embarked on the project that would make him the father of Florida development, Flagler had already amassed a fortune through his Standard Oil partnership with, among others, John D. Rockefeller. As if a second career as a railroad magnate weren't enough, Flagler also constructed a series of spectacular buildings as he made his way down the peninsula: St. Augustine's Hotel Ponce de Leon, Palm Beach's Royal Poinciana and the Breakers hotels, and of course Whitehall. The 60,000-square-foot, 55-room "Taj Mahal of North America" became the winter home of Flagler and his wife, Mary Lily Kenan, and today it's preserved in all the glory that led the New York Herald in 1902 to characterize it as "more wonderful than any palace in Europe, grander and more magnificent than any other private dwelling in the world...." Wander among the trappings of Flagler's lavish lifestyle (including his own personal railcar), and praise him -- or curse him -- for making South Florida possible.

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