News: Scenic Miami-Dade County Fights Spam on a Stick

By John Zur

Feeling bombarded by billboards hanging over I-95 or by giant posters on the sides of buildings en route to South Beach? You’re not alone. Scenic Miami-Dade County, Inc. is a for-profit organization devoted to protecting and promoting the natural, scenic beauty of Miami-Dade. Their proactivity goes so far as to encourage residents to take action by emailing City officials, whose contact information is provided on their website.

Whereas Scenic Miami-Dade County, Inc., founded in January 2011, is a for-profit organization, that does not have members, the non-profit entity is Scenic Miami, Inc. “It is rapidly gaining supporters throughout the county,” says President Barbara Bisno. “Our members are citizens who are upset by the actions taken by both the City of Miami and Miami Dade County regarding the issues surrounding billboards, electronic LED billboards, large mural advertisements and poster advertisements proposed by the City of Miami to be plastered in empty store windows.”

Scenic Miami-Dade County, Inc. is a for-profit corporation which, among other activities, engages in action alerts to individuals and organizations in Miami-Dade County. Retired Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara Bisno acts as President of the organization, giving the public an opportunity to send emails to Commissioners and administration officials in the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County. Says Bisno, “Often Commission meetings are held during the work week, making attendance difficult for many residents. Technology has allowed residents to communicate with their representatives by email when they cannot attend a meeting. Hopefully, our political leaders will be responsive to these email messages.”

To date, City officials have not been receptive to whatever public outcry has come out of Scenic Miami’s efforts. “Though at the last City of Miami Commission meeting they acknowledged receiving many email messages on this issue,” said Bisno. Emails were sent to each of the City officials listed on Scenic Miami-Dade’s website, including Mayor Tomas Regalado, City Manager Tony Crapp, City Attorney Julie O. Bru, City Clerk Priscilla Thompson, District 1 Commissioner Wilfredo Gort, District 2 Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, Distrcit 3 Commissioner Frank Carollo, District 4 Commissioner Francis Suarez, and District 5 Commissioner Richard P. Dunn. Emails went unacknowledged.

Scenic Miami, Inc. is trying to “protect” all of Miami-Dade County, “but most especially the City of Miami which has a demonstrated history of creating business partnerships with outdoor advertising companies that knowingly violate the law,” states Bisno.

Bisno and Scenic Miami, Inc.’s mission is to preserve what they deem to be the natural beauty of the Magic City as not only a tourist destination, but a home to countless residents growing restless at the sight of more flashy, neon, LED distractions. “Both the city and county are a collection of beautiful, often quaint, always interesting neighborhoods which are being drowned by this ‘spam on a stick.’ We oppose visual pollution and we are advocates for the natural beauty of Miami and Miami- Dade County. We also are advocates of the ‘built environment’ consisting of interesting architecture and neighborhoods which should not be hidden by advertisements,” offers Bisno.

The Urban Environment League and Miami Neighborhoods United, as well as several individual neighborhood homeowner associations, are active allies. Sierra Club and Tropical Audubon Society members have signed Scenic Miami, Inc.’s petitions and receive their action alerts. “The local scenic movement is rapidly gaining supporters,” says Bisno. “We worked with MNU to stop billboards in the Roads neighborhood with the help of City of Miami Commissioner Frank Carollo.”

As for those whose efforts are not in line with Scenic Miami, Inc., Bisno says, “We oppose the influence of the outdoor advertising industry and its lobbyists on federal, state and local political leaders. This industry, nationwide, seeks to convert public spaces into commercial venues generating private profits.”

Nearly six months into their mission for Miami, Scenic Miami-Dade County, Inc. is focused on an amendment to the County sign ordinance, proposed by Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, which will allow cities to opt out of the county’s sign ordinance. “This will be a disaster for our community as we have seen the City of Miami, as an example, act at the bidding of the outdoor advertising industry and permit ever-growing dozens of electronic LED signs changing every 8 seconds all along our highways (now illegal under county code),” says Bisno.

Residents of Miami and Miami Beach, who are constituents of Commissioner Barreiro, are encouraged to visit Scenic Miami-Dade, Inc.’s website (scenicmiamidade) for additional information regarding his plans. The second reading (adoption) will probably be scheduled in mid-July. “Your readers should let Commissioner Barreiro and other commissioners know they oppose his amendment by going to our web and clicking action when our alert goes out for this July meeting,” suggests Bisno.

Although it appears as though the City is steamrolling past activism against gaudy advertisements, Bisno believes that Scenic Miami, Inc.’s email network for action alerts is “growing geometrically.” She continues, “We know hundreds of email messages are going to our commissioners and administrators which would not have been generated prior to the scenic movement taking hold in our community. Time will tell if our political leaders listen to their constituents and halt the march of blinking lights in our eyes as we drive in our community or look out the windows of our homes or to the moneyed lobbyists of the outdoor advertising companies and blot out our beauty with billboards.”

Peter Ehrlich, also a founder of the local scenic movement, and Dusty Melton, an expert on the County Sign code, will be guests of Topical Currents on WLRN radio at 1 pm, June 20.

Please visit the following websites for more information: scenicmiami, scenicmiamidade, scenicflorida, and the national Scenic America at scenic.org.

If you would like more information about membership in Scenic Miami, Inc., please visit scenicmiami.org and click “membership.” You can also contact Scenic Miami, Inc. by sending an email to scenicmiamidade@gmail.com.

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