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County Puts the Brakes on Miami's Bid to Cover Every Vertical Surface With Advertising

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If Marc Sarnoff and Tomás Regalado had their way, pretty much any stationary object within 1,000 feet of a major Miami roadway would be plastered with an LED billboard by next Tuesday. (Surely this has nothing to do with the fact that both guys took thousands in contributions from sign companies during their last election bids.)

The only problem is that county, state, and federal laws all say those signs are illegal. The city hoped to opt out of the Dade rules yesterday, but a committee wasn't having it. Enjoy your unobstructed views while they last!

"It was a big win for us," says Bill Pollak, a member of Scenic Miami, a group fighting billboard expansion. "But there will be another fight. We hope the community sees the danger and mobilizes."

As we reported last year in our investigative piece about Mark Siffin -- a developer hoping to erect 40-story digital billboards downtown -- Commissioner Sarnoff's campaigns have received thousands of dollars from outdoor-advertising firms.

Not coincidentally, Sarnoff has partnered with Regalado (also the recipient of big bucks from sign companies) to rewrite the city's sign ordinance and authorize a half-dozen new LED billboards around town.

Alas, county code forbids all such LED signs. That's why they hoped the county might let the City of Miami opt out of the regulations. But at county hall last night, Bruno Barreiro couldn't even find a second for his motion on the issue.

Barreiro could still amend the county's rules to allow the flashing, eye-catching signs. Either way, city leaders don't seem too worried by the loss -- they've already signed agreements with three more companies to let them erect signs near highways.

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