Best Local Blog 2006 | Stuck on the Palmetto | People & Places | South Florida
South Florida is a little behind the curve in blogging -- Miami scribblers are gaining some steam, but Broward and Palm Beach cyber diarists have a long way to go to catch up to thriving blog communities in other parts of the country. As more locals join in on the conversation, however, they could do worse than to emulate Stuck on the Palmetto. This excellent web journal is the creation of a Pembroke Pines resident named Rick, who asked not to be identified more completely for fear of being "dooced" by his employer. Fine by us. Anything to assure that he keeps up his hilarious takes on local news. Rick tells us that he spent a couple of years blogging in obscurity about national politics until he realized last fall that it was more fun to write about the absurdity of life on our swampy peninsula. Rechristening his blog to commemorate his lousy daily commute, Rick has found a niche he finds more fulfilling -- and has given us a destination we hit every morning, without fail.
Save for Miami Beach's famed crayon-box outcropping of Deco hotels, out-of-town visitors rarely find much to write home about regarding South Florida architecture. In fact, it's probably easier to locate architectural atrocities and "what were they thinking?" landmarks. But the mid-'50s Kennan Building, at the northwest corner of Federal Highway and Oakland Park Boulevard, always draws compliments from locals and tourists alike. Twin columns of coral rock, steel, and glass adorned with a stylized, mid-century-modern mosaic, terrazzo floors inlaid with turquoise and silver -- they don't design buildings like this in Broward anymore. In fact, sadly enough, most of the area's best structures have been cannibalized by the wrecking ball. Even a renovation a few years back couldn't mess up the Kennan's Jetsons-esque appeal (it's hard to alter a round building, after all), which remains a beautiful beacon in a lonely sea of strip malls and chain restaurants.
Once upon a time, there was a lovely kingdom that flowed with coconut milk and sugar-cane juice. It was a warm, sunny place, and its citizens reveled in happiness and shared their joy and homes with every manner of beast: dogs, cats, ferrets, hamsters, birds, bunnies. But the subjects of the kingdom acted unwisely with their pets, which milled about the kingdom pell-mell. Cat begat cat and dog begat dog at a furious rate. They howled in the alleys and yelped in the streets and hopped in the neighbors' yards. So the queen, a just and beloved leader, commanded that each wandering or unwanted pet be brought to her court, where her jesters would feed them and pooper-scooper after them all their live-long lives. And the land rejoiced. Unfortunately, South Florida isn't a fairytale land, and there's no magic bullet for handling unwanted and discarded pets. But Abandoned Pet Rescue, with its no-kill policy, is probably the closest thing we have to it. Founded in 1996, the shelter takes in abused and neglected pets, then rehabilitates them and finds them good homes. It's all done with a troupe of volunteers who run the shelter day to day, but it takes cash to keep all those animals fed and cared for. The shelter is currently trying to raise money to buy a used recreational vehicle or bus to use as a mobile adoption unit, which will be outfitted with cages, to help more animals find adoptive owners.
Pity the poor rich men who cruise the singles clubs. They sink a hundred G into Porsches, Maseratis, Lamborghinis and Mercedes and then have to leave them in valet backlot purgatory. They enter the club as plucked peacocks, dehorned rams. After all, a snappy Italian suit and a ruby pinky ring can impress only so far. Mercifully, the valet parking for Blue Martini at The Galleria mall is sympathetic to the plight of the well-to-do. Home of $12 martinis and enough breast silicone to float a yacht, Blue Martini is among the top pickup clubs in Broward -- and the more ostentatious presentation, the better. The great thing is, valets don't hide the most elite, expensive cars back in the garage. For drivers who make the cut, their automobiles are parked along the curved drive abutting Blue Martini's front door and patio. Why, that's as good as puffed-up plumage.
Here's what you do. You need your oil changed, you go to Jiffy Lube at 44th Street and University Drive. When you're done there, they give you a $7 discount at Prestige, which is right up the road. So if you want to get a standard wash, you get it for $3.99 -- and you get top-of-the-line service while you're at it. Remember, Prestige isn't just a car wash; it's a salon. Real tony, this place. And you can go all the way up the ladder of offerings if you have the time and money. You want a full detailing of the interior and exterior of your car? That costs $100 -- but a mere $93 with the $7 discount. And you thought gas prices were high. Hey, if you got it, might as well spend it, right? If you don't, get the $3.99 deal. Can't be beat.
After Wilma clobbered us and the electricity went dead, some folks' reasoning, logic, and judgment went right out all those open windows. How else do you explain the guy found in his Hollywood apartment on November 5, unconscious and barely alive, next to a portable gas-filled generator? Or, on that same day, the Lake Worth family who allowed their generator to blow its exhaust back into their mobile home? But the luckiest death-cheater of all has to be 7-year-old Freolon Castro, who suffered second- and third-degree burns on November 1 after he helped his grandmother refuel a running generator while he was holding a lighted candle so she could see better. There's a lesson here, obviously, a crystal-clear lesson: Whatever you do, never listen to Grandma, especially when she hands you a candle while she's holding a can of gas. Sometimes age doesn't bring wisdom.
A totally average bureaucrat with a penchant for flashy clothing is brought under a town administrator's wing. He becomes "The Protégé." The town administrator resigns to take a sweet job in the Florida Keys. The town council needs to hire a replacement. The logical choice: The Protégé. But The Protégé is having female problems and needs some supplementary income. He begins to think he's smarter than everybody else. The Protégé sets up a sham corporation and begins to issue town contracts to his bogus company. He collects nearly $500,000. The town finance director discovers the scheme and asks a few questions. The town's assistant city attorney tips off The Protégé to an impending investigation. The Protégé begins to act like a crazed sociopath. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrives in town. Agents say they are investigating fraud, theft, money laundering, even illegal pornography. The Protégé inquires about getting a gun. He goes on the run. The allegations mount. Finally, The Protégé returns to town and turns himself in to police. His mug shot is plastered everywhere. The Protégé awaits trial. That is the story of former Davie Town Administrator Chris Kovanes, whose scam fell apart in October. He was arrested and removed from his job and should go to trial later this year. A crooked bureaucrat. A sham company. FDLE. Fraud. Illegal pornography. Those are fine ingredients for a Best Political Coup.
Most Broward politicians are pawns for a network of well-heeled lobbyists, business tycoons, and land barons. They waste millions of our dollars and think they're hot shit while they're at it. Not Gonot. When big-deal developer Pete Boinis tried to build a huge restaurant on the public pier, Gonot realized it was a sweetheart deal and went head-to-head with the town's overlords to stop the project. And, much to the chagrin of City Manager Larry Deetjen and Mayor Al Capellini, he was successful. Today, it's all out war in the town, as Deetjen and his political allies have begun a movement to recall Gonot. Voters would do well to recall the honorable stands that Gonot has taken before signing any petitions.
Palm Beach County Commissioner Addie L. Greene is quite possibly the first politician in South Florida history to spin an ethics complaint against her into good news. Earlier this year, Greene, a former school teacher, became the swing vote on the most contentious issue in Palm Beach County: where to build the Scripps Research Institute's Florida campus. Three county commissioners wanted to build in Boca Raton. Another three said they favored the Abacoa area of Jupiter. Greene, the only African-American on the dais, made her politics clear: Whoever promised the most money for minority outreach programs would get her vote. Abacoa developer George de Guardiola promised $5 million, plus another $3 million from Jupiter officials, so Greene delivered for the Abacoa site. The ethics complaint, filed by Delray Beach residents, alleges that, because Greene will help administer the $8 million in funds, she misused her public office. But Greene is unapologetic. She says that she's simply representing her largely African-American district and that if Scripps really is about countywide economic development, her constituents should benefit from the $600 million project. While it's possible that Greene did violate ethics laws, we have to give it up for a ballsy politician like Greene: From the beginning, she cast a critical eye toward Scripps, and when the time came to select a site, she made sure the developers made good on their promise to benefit Palm Beach County's less fortunate.
If you think Weston is an unusual winner for this category, you obviously have a short memory. Flash back to October 24, 2005. In just six hours, Hurricane Wilma ripped across Florida, leaving a trail of damaged roofs, flooded cars, and broken windows and cutting power to roughly 6 million Florida households. Most of South Florida went dark. But there was one beacon of light: the City of Weston. Thanks to buried power lines, most Westonites survived Wilma to brew coffee and run their air conditioners the next day. But the ability to withstand natural disasters is only one of Weston's benefits. Broward's westernmost burg is a safe, well-manicured suburb -- and we mean suburb, because it's out there! And despite the cookie-cutter neighborhoods and gated communities, Weston offers a family-friendly atmosphere unmatched in most of South Florida. Plus, Weston, with its roughly 64,000 citizens, has a cosmopolitan feel (honest!). For one thing, Weston is diverse -- 30 percent of the city's residents are Latino. For another, Weston has some money -- the city's median household income is $80,920. And they all know how to have fun. Take Weston Town Center. On Saturday nights, Weston's developer-designed downtown is packed, with people milling in and out of nice restaurants, trendy bars, and, of course, Starbucks. Sure, some may scoff. But no one was making fun when the power was out everywhere else as Westonites enjoyed nice dinners at the Town Center.

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