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.
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
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
will sue."And we will win," he