Raise your hand if this sounds like what Miami needs: fourteen new glowing LED billboards along the highway demanding drivers in hi-def to buy Svedka Vodka, iPods and cut-rate car insurance. Oh, hi there Commissioner Marc Sarnoff!
This morning, the Miami Commission will decide whether to give Clear Channel the go ahead for the new signs, even though activists argue they're unsafe and against state and federal law. We're sure the fact that Sarnoff has received thousands from outdoor advertisers will play zero role in this process.
The amendment doesn't specify where Clear Channel will build the new signs and would require the sign company to remove 38 older signs around town in return.
The problem is that LED signs clearly violate local, state and federal sign codes, says Barbara Bisno, a former federal prosecutor and activist on the issue.
Worse, they likely impact driver safety. Bisno says she's worried that Clear Channel is rushing through the new amendment to beat a federal safety study on the signs that's due to be released soon.
"If they show that these signs are dangerous, someone will have to move them and it could easily cost taxpayers big money," she says.
"This is a question of public safety, not just of citizens against big corporations."
Sarnoff is expected to miss today's meeting, but Bisno says she's been told a hearty letter of support from the commish will be read in favor of the new project.
As we reported last fall, Sarnoff has received more than $5,000 in corporate donations from outdoor advertising companies while becoming the biggest backer of new billboards -- including a failed push for 40-story ads next to the Arsht Center.
"It troubles me greatly that you and your fellow commissioners approved resolutions which provided for illegal signs and did not give notice to residents of the precise locations of these LED billboards," she writes. "The residents who oppose this visual pollution will stay on the job."
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.