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?
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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.