Three Dumb Ways the City of Miami Is Trying to Avoid Bankruptcy: Red-Light Cameras, Billboards, and Sarnoff's Little Sacrifice

The City of Miami is facing a $100 million budget hole thanks to a 15 percent drop in property values. City hall has vowed not to raise taxes, and while Commission Chairman Marc Sarnoff has talked openly about the possibility of bankruptcy, the city is trying some pretty dumb and desperate ways to plug the hole. Skyscraper electronic billboards will soon blight downtown. Your cars will now get tickets thanks to red-light cameras. And in the dumbest and most meaningless gesture of them all, Sarnoff will work without pay for, deary me, an entire month.

Today the city commission will take its final vote on whether to allow sky-high electronic billboards to pop up in downtown. The two mega-LED billboards would sit atop a proposed parking garage built by developer Marc Siffin. All in all, they'll be about 50 stories high, or as tall as the building across the street (which should be great for the property value of those Venetia Condominiums, because who doesn't want to look out their window and see unavoidable, blaring advertising?). The garage and two vertical billboards will sit behind the Boulevard Shops on Biscayne Boulevard, across NE 14th Street from the Arsht Center's Knight Concert Hall. The revenues would generate millions of dollars for Siffin and his proposed retail development.

They're kind of like the metro equivalent of a tramp stamp: Miami isn't an out-and-out whore yet, but if the price is right, we'll definitely think about it. The first reading of the ordinance passed 5-0, and it doesn't seem the final reading will have a problem passing.

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Then there are red-light cameras. They're already annoying drivers in Miami Beach and parts of Broward, and they'll soon come to Miami. The city has been talking about jumping on the trend since 2008, and a police spokeswoman tells the Miami Herald they should be up and running by the end of the year. They could generate millions of dollars for the city, but there's some concern that Miami's relatively poor citizens could take the brunt of the annoying fees.

Then, of course, there's Commissioner Marc Sarnoff's latest publicity stunt. He'll work for free. Not for an entire year, or the rest of his term, mind you, but for just the month of August. That'll save the city about $5,000, or a whopping 0.00005 percent of the budget hole. Way to take one for the team, big guy. Of course, the ability to get to crow about your sacrifice during your next election should be priceless.

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