Best Political Fight 2001 | The Battle in Davie over Rocky Johnson | People & Places | South Florida
Sure, it's been a year of skirmishing in South Florida. The baseball stadium, the convention center, Elián, and of course Chad all sparked disputes that were better than anything that happens in the ring these days. But tear gas notwithstanding, all those issues still qualified as good, clean fun -- and that's not the way we like our debate. We are particularly enamored of the allegedly disgusting behavior that led to the Town of Davie's suspension last year of Rocky Johnson, dad of World Wrestling Federation champ The Rock. Johnson, himself a former pro grappler, was hired in June to a $9-per-hour job working around kids as an activities leader at Pine Island Community Center. Before he was summarily dispatched, he had a helluva time at taxpayers' expense. Among other things, cops say, he received a blow job, got a massage, and took naps at work; bragged to the kids about his (and The Rock's) penis size; and inappropriately touched a camp counselor's behind. Twice. How was he hired? Three clues: Davie mayor Harry Venis drove Johnson to his interview, sat in on it, and was listed by Johnson as a reference. We just can't understand why they sacked Rocky. This is the kind of behavior that gets people elected governor in Minnesota.

One more time: Butterfly ballot. Angry Democrats. Happy Republicans. OK, we're done.
OK, you're a parent. Junior's marks this year are underwhelming. And the teacher and the school, well... let's just say they're not meeting their obligations to you or your child. What to do? How 'bout doing it yourself? There's precious little stopping you: The state requires only that you file a letter of intent with the local school board. But who will help you? First rest assured that you're not alone; currently nearly 6000 children from kindergarten through 12th grade in Palm Beach and Broward counties are home-schooled, and the practice is growing 10 to 15 percent nationally every year. The Florida Parent Educators Association (FPEA) refers parents considering home schooling to several local support groups. (These groups tend to gather their own kind, be they free thinkers or fundamentalists.) Once you begin, home schooling options are almost limitless. A family could spend as much annually as the cost of tuition at a private school, though it's also possible to do it for next to nothing by buying used materials at the home school associations' sales and workbooks from pharmacies and grocery stores. Catalogs, online resources, and enrichment courses are available for parents who feel they need more-traditional school supplies; field trips, physical education classes, spelling and geography bees, and book clubs spin off from the support groups as the need arises. How will you know if Junior is progressing? Once again you have options. You can have your child tested by a certified teacher or administer a standardized test. (The Iowa tests are a favorite.) And what about the long-term outcome? To get beyond high school, kids "test out" by taking the GED or dual-enrolling (as home-schooled teenagers) at a community college. Most universities accept home-schooled students with a year's worth of college grades. Heck, you might even consider Stanford for your baby, baby! Last year Stanford University admitted 9 of the 35 homeschooled children who applied, calling the applicants "an exceptionally strong group."
Florida citizens enjoy unparalleled access to government documents -- our Sunshine Law is the most comprehensive in the nation. But the people whose job it is to hand over the documents are a mixed lot. Some are helpful, some are incompetent, some delight in their ability to obfuscate and complicate. And then there's Jeff Samuels, public records guy extraordinaire. The last time we called him to look at a file, Samuels said he was really busy and it might take a while. "How long?" we replied, expecting to be put off for weeks. When he answered, "Is tomorrow OK?" we nearly swallowed our No. 2 pencil. On another occasion, after we had copied some documents, Samuels called the next day to report that he'd done a quality check on our request and discovered that we'd been overcharged by 60 cents. They just don't come any better.
For four hours a day, she berates, taunts, and baits America's right wing in a relentless, I'm-as-mad-as-hell rant. She's the liberal anti-Rush of South Florida whose searing afternoon drive-time rhetoric is sure to burn the Bushies and warm the hearts of those who insist Gore Got More. Her voice oscillating between a smoky, late-night-DJ purr and a strident Brooklyn squawk, she'll dissect the news, casting a particularly jaundiced eye upon any act perpetrated by a Republican. Yet unlike the increasingly irrelevant Limbaugh, Rhodes: (a) does her homework, and (b) accepts calls from those who disagree with her. Her exchanges with such folks sometimes degenerate into unintelligible shriek fests, but more often than not, she lets them speak their piece -- before pulling the plug and giving herself the last word, of course. Her advice to the misguided: "Think before opening your mouth to me, because I sure do before I open mine to you."
OK, yeah, we admit it. Sometimes we time it. We synchronize our exit from I-595 eastbound to I-95 southbound, or switch from I-95 northbound to I-595 westbound to coincide with the landing of -- whoooooooooooooooooooosh -- a jumbo jet. What makes this experience, well, such fun is the same thing behind the appeal of roller coasters: all the fear, none of the consequences. What if the pilot gauges it wrong? Luckily it's never happened. And you can get even closer to the planes by driving around Perimeter Road, which is open to the public and hugs the airport fence all the way around. Still, we prefer the spontaneity of a chance encounter, as well as the terror demonstrated by some motorists who are obviously not in the know. In very few places on Earth do three major traffic arteries -- I-95, I-595, and Federal Highway -- nestle so close to an airport. Enjoy it.
On Thanksgiving eve, Miami-Dade County wussed out in fear of the Republicans at the gate. Palm Beach decided to take the festive Thursday off and ended up looking like a bunch of turkeys. (After the county missed the Monday deadline, a British reporter summed up the stupidity of this decision by asking a sheepish judge and canvassing board member Charles Burton, "You chose pumpkin pie and turkey over a national election?") But Broward's stalwart chad-checkers -- County Commissioner Suzanne Gunzburger, Judge Robert W. Lee, and Judge Robert Rosenberg -- cried, "Damn Bill Scherer and Marc Racicot, full speed ahead!" They got their candied yams and cranberry sauce to go and ended up meeting Katherine Harris's certification deadline for recounted ballots. Though their efforts ultimately didn't amount to a hill of spiral-sliced ham, we should all give thanks for their dedication and diligence.
Because his voice is perfectly pitched (rich and sonorous) and his mind is perfectly bent (far to the right), this former Canadian and ex-baseball player is a talk-radio natural. He doesn't go in for "that Black Helicopter garbage," but neither does he place any credence in evolution, the moon landing, or the Cold War. (He suspects the fix was in.) What does he believe in? Ronald Reagan, "The Clinton Chronicles," the Committee of 300 (if you don't know, don't ask), and his regular Wednesday guest, "the number one gold and silver man in the country," a hustler named Larry Heim, who counsels Dan's listeners on the safe refuge only precious metals can afford from the coming crash. In his disquisitions on the latest public infamy (generally of the Clintons), Gregory tends to get carried away during his one-hour show, which airs at 10 a.m. weekdays, often fumbling around for words. At the height of Pat Buchanan's "religious war" campaign of '92, he practically asphyxiated himself in exhorting his listeners to get up and march into the streets. "What are you waiting for?" he screamed. We were waiting for him.
Each year our readers choose A1A as the best scenic drive in Broward and Palm Beach counties and of course they're right -- in part. There are some scuzzy stretches of this oceanside road, to say nothing of the many miles of looming condos blocking that same ocean from view. But the stretch of A1A from the Flagler Memorial Bridge to Southern Boulevard (known to its Palm Beach residents as Ocean Boulevard) is truly scenic -- if your idea of scenic runs to the homes of the rich and famous. The route is lined with French chateaux, Italian villas, English Georgian, plain old American colonial, and the ubiquitous Mediterranean. It's a visit to the Wizard of Oz-tentation in his Emerald City of envy-green hedges clipped to manicured perfection and acres of velvety lawn (no drought in Palm Beach, folks). If all this splendor makes you grind your teeth, turn your eyes eastward. With the exception of an occasional gazebo larger than your house, the road is open to the vast expanse of the Atlantic crashing below the cliffs. Nature knows what scenic is.

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