What part of 'inappropriate and illegal' can't city understand?
By Michael Lewis
The City of Miami, which continues to license massive billboards that apparently violate county law and plans to permit more in return for more cash, last week stopped just short of turning trees into billboards too.
Not that the city won't be back with amended rules to fill streets with more ads. That's still planned as the city barks up the wrong trees in plastering a tourist-supported community with visual garbage.
Mayor and commission included, we've somehow elected the six people in town most insensitive to their own environment.
We know, we know — the poor city needs the money. We understand that.
But there's no coming back from the visual pollution to which the city has already given a head start. Where do our elected officials live?
Everything in the city these days is a deal for chunks of cash to stave off the economic wolves.
There are requests out to lease three city-owned Coconut Grove waterfront sites to the bidders who will most enrich city coffers — setting up a replay of past Grove deals that promised the city everything and left taxpayers the poorer for it.
There are the massive billboards that already deface much of downtown, to soon expand farther while adding city-owned landmarks to the list of structures uglified in the name of city income — all despite the fact that the county attorney shows in a formal opinion that the city is violating county law in so doing and could face cash penalties of up to $60,000 per sign.
But since the county commission and mayor don't have the guts to enforce county laws and collect the money, the city goes on raping its community to fund past, present and possibly future extravagances.
Only an outcry last week prevented the city at the last minute from authorizing signs on sidewalks, crosswalks, curbs, trash receptacles, lampposts, electric lights, telegraph poles (if any could be found), utility poles, hydrants, parking meters, bus benches and shelters, news racks, shade trees, walls, fences, barricades, bridges, overpasses, viaducts and public buildings.
The commission caved in on that but promised to return minus the trees — maybe even excluding more. How environmentally sound of them!
The proposed ordinance cited two benefits from this disfigurement: raise cash (which it surely would), plus "further the interests of the general health, safety and welfare of the community to disseminate communications, announcements, and information on municipally owned facilities..."
That's equivalent to saying the city could improve the environment by operating a dump on Flagler Street downtown.
Plastering ads on everything the city owns doesn't seem to promote health, safety and welfare — other than the welfare of the outdoor advertising companies that would be the true beneficiaries.
If elected officials are so in need of revenue and so insensitive to the visual pollution they create in the process, why don't they sell ads all over the city cars that officials drive for free? Those would be billboards that could generate bonus money for moving around town.
They could also lease the city commission chambers for meetings, parties and private events. Unlike events at the AmericanAirlines Arena and Marlins Park, the public would actually get those revenues.
And why not print advertising on every city commission agenda? Each agenda item could have a paying sponsor outside of government. (On second thought, maybe many already do — but we just don't know about it.)
Desperation causes foolish acts. But how foolish can the city get in quest for a buck? We might not have seen the limit.
Two weeks ago we asked, in looking at city plans to license LED billboards wrapped around landmarks and plunk them in city parks, whether commissioners were "desperate, insensitive or greedy?"
Looking at this latest foray onto public rights-of-way, it's evidently all three.
If not that, what is it about inappropriate and illegal that our elected officials can't understand?
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