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Meet the new culture boss of Hollywood. She's not the same as the old boss.

A week ago Hollywood city commissioners turned over the keys of the Hollywood Central Performing Arts Center -- a 510-seat venue second only to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in the county's cultural hierarchy -- to Cynthia Miller. Miller is the 34-year-old arts maven who has spent the last four years rescuing the moribund Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, tripling its budget while attracting edgy, sometimes controversial art to a once bland institution.

Impressed with her track record, city commissioners in June 2000 gave Miller a chance to call the artistic shots at the performing arts center via a three-year, $800,000 grant. Day-to-day operation of the place, however, remained with the city in the person of parks director David Flaherty.

Last week commissioners gave Miller another $70,000 and put her in charge of everything, cutting Flaherty out of the picture. He is taking his demotion stoically, like a captain relieved of his ship's command. "The goal is for Hollywood to be known as a city of the arts," he says.

But only a month ago, Flaherty was waging political war to stay at the helm. At a city parks and recreation advisory board meeting in June, Flaherty criticized Miller's first season of programming, noting that her shows had attracted a total of only 3000 people. "I wasn't overjoyed with the performances," he says. "There was a lot of Chopin." In the season prior, when the parks department was in charge of programming and family-friendly fare ruled the marquee, 7000 people attended productions of plays including Curious George, Aladdin, and The Secret Garden.

At the same meeting, Flaherty all but accused Miller of malfeasance. "Based on my review of the past seven months, they need to provide us with details on how they are going to spend the rest of the money this year," he said. "Why do I say that? Because the performance season is over according to them... and we are still giving them $21,000 per month."

Miller's answer to Flaherty's query makes perfect sense: The money pays for marketing and scheduling next year's season. Her vision for the theater is similarly sensible. Next year she has 60 shows on the bill, far more than the 25 she put on last season or the 13 during Flaherty's final season. The upcoming schedule is heavy on world music, dance, and theater. "I have total control," she says. "If it doesn't work, I have no one to blame."

Has The Herald conceded the daily newspaper war in Broward County?

In July 2000 the paper inaugurated its shiny new offices way out west in Pembroke Pines; ever since datelines north of Fort Lauderdale have been scarce. Now comes the news that Broward publisher Paul Anger is taking a buyout. We never knew Anger personally, but we did see him in the Hollywood Mardi Gras parade in February dressed in kingly garb and waving a scepter. He was clearly adept at being a figurehead.

For the most part publishers are useless. They eat lunch, they join the Rotary Club, they pose for grip-and-grin shots, they do something or other with advertising about which real journalists neither know nor care. How they spend the other seven hours of the business day is a mystery to us. (Full disclosure: Undercurrents believes New Times has a publisher, though we can't recall the person's name at the moment.)

Nonetheless a publisher IS the public face of a newspaper. Without one, a paper is less invested in an area. Now it appears The Herald isn't going to have a publisher in Broward anymore. To quote the July 10 Herald article announcing Anger's resignation, "[Alberto] Ibargüen said he will name a new leader for Broward circulation and advertising [before Anger leaves], although the new manager may not have the title of publisher."

And now a lesson in how to get the county to spend money on your pet project even if it is completely unnecessary.

Step one: Contact your county commissioner. If you're lucky that will be Jim Scott. If you're really lucky, you will live in an unincorporated area of Broward County sure to be annexed soon. You'll be able to sell Scott on the idea that, prior to annexation, county taxpayers should pretty up the place, like applying extra makeup before a blind date.

Step two: Send your commissioner to talk to the people who really do the work, for example, the county's streets and highways division. Make sure your commissioner tells the county how important it is to tart the place up prior to annexation, even if the county's folks deemed your project unnecessary a year ago.

Step three: Sit back and wait for your pet project to come to a vote before the commission. If you aren't excessively greedy and keep your wish list to a couple hundred grand or so, you're golden.

Following these simple rules, the folks of Pine Island Ridge, a little square of unincorporated Broward surrounded by Davie, were able to win approval last week for a new, $223,000 concrete sidewalk in their neighborhood even though county inspectors pronounced the old asphalt one in "good" condition last year. A few roots have popped through the asphalt in the interim, but the sidewalk appeared serviceable.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Bob Whitby

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