Signs of the Times

A fight is brewing for today’s City of Miami commission meeting. Commissioner Marc Sarnoff and City Manager Pete Hernandez are expected to present competing versions of a law that would regulate “murals,” the humongous outdoor advertisements currently hanging off many buildings in and around downtown Miami.

The ordinance, proposed by Sarnoff, was supposed to be on the January 24th agenda, but was pulled at the last minute, he says. He complained, got it rescheduled for February 14, and then found out the city had drafted its own version of the law, one far more favorable to the outdoor advertising lobby. The key differences: Sarnoff wants to limit the number of murals in Miami to 15, while the city wants 35; the city would allow a self-serving exemption for government buildings, allowing them to be draped head to toe in lucrative ads. Hernandez’s office did not return several phone calls seeking comment.

Behind all the maneuvering is -- what else? -- money. A simple Heineken ad hanging off a building can earn upwards of $2,000 a month. The city, Sarnoff estimates, is already owed more than $2 million in uncollected fines. Indeed, both Sarnoff and the city administration agree on one thing: With that kind of money flying around, Miami should be getting its cut.

“I strongly suspect there will be a compromise offered,” Sarnoff said on Friday. “Whether I entertain the compromise, I don't know.” –Isaiah Thompson

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Frank Houston