Litter, visual clutter may bring Miami handbill ban
By Risa Polansky
Mirroring cities such as Miami Beach and Key West, Miami plans to begin cracking down soon on both posted and littered handbills.
The city commission is to see in January companion ordinances that would prohibit placing signs in the public right of way and provide enforcement provisions for illegally posted and strewn notices.
One ordinance would deem it illegal not only to "throw, discard, place or deposit, scatter, cast" handbills — defined as notices such as fliers, circulars, posters and stickers — but also to cause them to be thrown or discarded on public sidewalks and streets, beaches, buildings, benches, motor vehicles and other public property or non-consenting private properties.
Ten or more commercial handbills advertising the same business would implicate the business in the offense, the proposed ordinance says.
A first-time offender would pay a $100 fine plus $50 per handbill. The fine jumps to $250 for a second offense within a year and $500 for a third. The $50-per-bill fee would still apply in all cases.
To ensure fines are paid, the ordinance reserves the right for the city to place liens on violators' property. Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said agreements may have to be sought with other cities in order to collect fines from non-residents.
Fines would go to Miami's general fund, Code Enforcement Director Mariano Loret de Mola said.
Though commissioners are fed up with the situation, he said "the problem with the posting has been on and off. It is not a daily problem, it is sporadic, especially when a big event takes place around the city."
Plagued by loose fliers clogging drains and blowing into the ocean, Miami Beach commissioners last year considered a ban on handbills altogether before imposing instead strict fines.
Area nightclubs came out in full force to oppose the proposed ban, as did the American Civil Liberties Union.
For littered handbills, Miami Beach imposed fines similar to those proposed for Miami, though steeper.
Miami is proposing also an ordinance that would deem it illegal "for any person to post, stick, stamp, stencil, write, paint, erect or place any notice, bill, card, poster, advertisement or notes or other paper or device calculated to attract the attention of the public, to or upon any sidewalk, crosswalk, curb, or any portion of the public right-of-way."
The "public right-of-way," the ordinance says, would include surfaces such as lampposts, telephone or utility poles, hydrants, parking meters, bus shelters, news racks, trees, walls, fences, piers and public buildings.
Signs placed by the city or required by state or federal law would be exempt.
Commissioner Tomás Regalado said he finds signs "in the middle of the public right of way in every part of the city," citing the view on Coral Way earlier this month: "Lights, landscaping, historic trees — and all of a sudden, you have all these signs, "Mitt Romney for president'… It's pollution."