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Chief Executive Officer
miaminewtimes.com | If Signs are Outlawed… | 2004-12-09
For Barry Rush, the energetic CEO of Metro Lights, the trouble starts when you call his billboards "signs.""They're not signs," he insists, referring to the eight vast non-signs his firm has draped on the sides of various buildings in downtown Miami.They're "wallscapes" or "murals," he explains, sipping spring water and relaxing in his running gear at an outdoor cafe at the Loew's Hotel on South Beach.Miami commissioners are considering a new law to legalize the approximately fifteen wallscape signs currently deployed, including Rush's, and about thirty-five others.The new measure would require sign companies to pay the city a $10,000 fee, to be used by the city's Arts and Entertainment Council to promote arts and entertainment. Rush says one important thing to remember is that there is a big difference between a billboard that covers a wall and a standalone billboard that blocks something else."We haven't done anything to impact the view of the landscape," he submits.Rather, Metro Lights, which is based in the very billboard-intensive borough of Manhattan, takes a blank, "in some cases ugly," wall, and beautifies it, Rush adds."We think we've added vitality to the city." Still, there are striking similarities between wall billboards and non-wall billboards.Miami zoning officials issued Rush and other wallscape advertisers permits for their signs, even though city and county laws passed in 1985 prohibit any new expressway billboards south and east of I-95.Like this past September, when Rush received a call from Otto Budet-Murias, one of Mayor Diaz's aides, asking for a contribution to help fund the county's general obligation bond campaign.Rush gave $10,000 to the Neighbors Building Better Communities political action committee.Another outdoor advertiser, New Jersey-based Wallscape Media, also donated $10,000. (The PAC raised a total of $1.1 million in about six weeks.) Rush dismisses any suggestion that his contribution was in any way related to the pending legislation to legalize his signs."I respect this city too much to think that I would have been in trouble if I didn't write that check," he says."Sometimes people do things because they're the right thing to do," he says. Which raises a final comparison between Rush and the non-wallscape counterparts with whom he has so little in common.Like them, if the county or any government orders him to remove his signs, he will sue."And we will win," he assures.
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... For Barry Rush, the energetic CEO of Metro Lights, the trouble starts when you call his billboards ...
Barry Rush, president of Metro Lights L.L.C. in New York, which used to help Callowhill find advertisers for the billboard, was mentioned in the judge's ruling.
But Rush said the company severed its ties with Callowhill several years ago.
"The point we are trying to make is that wallscapes add vitality to a city," says Barry Rush, a partner with the New York-based advertising firm Metro Lights.
Metro Lights did not obtain any city permits before hanging the Gap ad, Rush acknowledges, claiming that he didn’t realize permits were necessary. Rush would not reveal how much the Gap paid the building owner to allow its wallscape. But billboard advertisers pay as much as $200,000 annually for a sign in a "prime" location. Rush stresses that he believes wall wraps should be regulated "to weed out advertisers who don’t play by the rules," but not under the same statutes created for billboards.