Rage, rage against the buying of the light

By | June 15th, 2011 | 5 Comments
Billboard Bathing by Robby Campbell

'Billboard Bathing' by Robby Campbell

Wednesday afternoon, a Miami-Dade County committee is voting on whether to allow the City of Miami to erect massive electronic billboards along major roads, including I-95, I-395, and the Dolphin Expressway. The committee will consider an amendment brought by District 5 commissioner Bruno Barreiro, which will let Miami and other municipalities opt out of a county sign ordinance that for decades has closely regulated the number and kind of billboards along expressways.

Update: The committee voted to defer the matter until their next meeting, on July 13. See comments section for more.

The electronic billboards — which boast brilliant LED displays and cycle through multiple digital advertisements — bring in huge revenue. Developer Mark Siffin, who wants to erect two 50-story electronic billboards downtown, six blocks west of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, estimated the value of the “media towers” at $100 million.

With so much money up for grabs, it is no surprise that developers and outdoor advertising giants like Clear Channel, which recently won city approval to erect 14 electronic billboards, are drooling at the chance to flood Miami neighborhoods with the lucrative light.

But they have met opposition from activists who say the billboards are illegal and pose a threat to both the economic health and scenic beauty of their surroundings.

Barbara Bisno, director of Scenic Miami-Dade, is leading the fight against the towers. She says Barreiro’s amendment “flies in the face” of decades of county planning that has sought to make Miami visually alluring to tourists.

“It’s very sad,” says Bisno, a former federal prosecutor who calls the city’s Clear Channel decision illegal. “We’ve had for 30 years a commitment from the county, and the city has violated it.”

Beyond aesthetic concerns, Bisno also worries that the electronic towers may prove dangerously distracting to expressway commuters.

“These billboards change message every eight seconds with the idea, of course, to catch the eye of motorists, which goes against the public interest on its face” she says. “Now we’ll have people texting, talking, and looking away while going 50 to 60 miles per hour.”

With the committee’s July 13 meeting fast approaching, Bisno is asking concerned citizens to visit Scenic Miami-Dade’s “Take Action” page to let the county know how they feel about the “billboardification” of Miami.

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5 Comments on “Rage, rage against the buying of the light”

  1. 1 Barbara Bisno said at 10:19 pm on June 16th, 2011:

    This is a great piece, Jordan. The committee voted to defer the matter until their next meeting at 2 pm July 13 at County Commission chambers. We will be sending out a new action alert closer to that date. The Commission wants a compromise which keeps the County standard to protect our scenic county, gives cities some latitude, and insures effective enforcement. We are working to see if that is possible. Your readers should visit us at scenicmiami.org to learn more about this issue and join our group – action alerts are on scenicmiamidade.org.

  2. 2 Peter Ehrlich said at 11:00 pm on June 16th, 2011:

    Great piece. Billboards are a huge problem. People should contact their Commissioners and ask them to stop approving visual pollution.

  3. 3 Jordan Melnick said at 11:19 pm on June 16th, 2011:

    Thanks for the update, Barbara.

  4. 4 Daus said at 3:17 pm on June 21st, 2011:

    Its an eyesore…. but what does it matter now a casino wants to buy the Miami Herald building?

  5. 5 Jordan Melnick said at 10:51 pm on July 13th, 2011:

    Update: In a rare moment of sanity, Dade County kept the electro-billboardification of Miami at bay (for now) by letting Barreiro’s measure die.


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