Singer Jon Secada -- Who? -- Unveils a Britto Homeless Meter in South Beach

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Must everything in Miami be endorsed by a marginal celebrity and decorated by Romero Britto? The answer to that question, clearly, is yes.

In July, the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust, chaired by mega-lobbyist Ron Book, the luminary who brought you the Julia Tuttle sex offender colony, introduced garish parking-style meters wrapped in the signature flowers of Miami's worst artist and designed to deter samaritans from supporting panhandlers. The meters-- roughly 35 have been installed so far-- cost around $1,000 each and are generally despised by local homeless as instruments of bureaucratic grand theft.

Yesterday afternoon, the meters continued their hive-like spread across the county as Jon Secada-- a bootleg Julio Iglesias, we've determined after much research-- unveiled one on Lincoln Road and Washington. Clearly, the Homeless Trust has taken a page from the Miami Dolphins' marketing strategy book which says: Cover a bad idea with Britto art and throw a celebrity or two at it, and the masses will cheer.

The meter campaign has taken a bizarre turn for the conspicuously excessive. On Thursday, "Homeless Awareness Day", ten more of the eyesores will be unveiled in the parking lot of posh Joe's Stone Crab. A "Super-Meter"-- a six-foot-tall metal pyramid-- will be installed at Dadeland Mall. The Dolphins' special teams players are somehow involved in the day's festivities.

It all begs the question: Would the money and attention lavished on these meters be better spent if given more directly to local shelters and their local charges?

By Ron Book's own figures, the Homeless Trust has spent "upwards of $20,000" on installing the existing meters, and they have pulled in around $2,000 in coins. If the goal is to get aid to Miami's homeless as efficiently as possible, it's hard not to see this as a backwards plan.

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