Miami Councilmember Black to get day in court

Miami Town Council convened a special meeting on Tuesday, May 1 to approve a press release in response to the actions of Councilmember Mike Black, who in late March disabled the Welcome to Miami sign on Bullion Plaza, and to distance itself from the action of a single councilmember.

The press release read, in part, that “The Town of Miami is proud of its new digital sign at Bullion Plaza, which will allow the town to more effectively publicize town events and attractions,” and “Council does not condone Black’s actions and takes very seriously any allegations of tampering with town property.”

The incident took place on Friday, March 30, shortly after the sign was lit for the first time, when Black took matters into his own hands and shut it off because of complaints by his neighbors on Canyon Avenue, across the highway from Bullion Plaza.

“There are 32,768 LED lights on the sign and they didn’t do an environmental review,” Black said. “That sign faces the wrong direction and the lights shine directly into homes of Miami residents.”

Black also believes the sign violates town ordinance 317, part of the town’s Title 8 Health and Safety code, subsection 8.16.140, which states in part, “It is unlawful and a public nuisance to cause, allow or permit any artificial illumination of such intensity to interfere substantially and unnecessarily with the use and enjoyment of public or private property by any considerable number of people….”

But further on, the ordinance states, “This section shall not apply where the person responsible for the artificial illumination is authorized by the Town Manager.”

Police reports indicated that Black took the action on March 30 at around 9:45 p.m. after his mother-in-law, who lives at the foot of Canyon Avenue in a house facing the Plaza, complained about the lights flashing in her front windows. In response, Black called Miami police requesting an officer meet him at the sign to find a switch to turn it off.

When they were unable to find a switch, Black borrowed a tool from the responding officer to remove a plate from an electrical box to turn off the sign.

The following morning, Black contacted police again to let them know he reconnected the sign and it was once again functioning.

In April, Black was cited for “damaging or tampering with facilities.” He has pled not guilty to the charges, and the matter will go to court in Gila County on May 24 at 1:30 p.m.

“I do want my day in court,” Black said, adding, “I don’t mind the sign, I just want it done the right way. Who is going to advertise with the sign facing the direction it’s facing?”

The Bullion Plaza lighting project, which includes stadium lights surrounding the Plaza for events taking place after dark, was a $50,000 project funded entirely through donations from local philanthropic organizations including the Miami Consortium and the United Fund.

The matter was brought to public notice when a member of the Consortium spoke out at a town council meeting on April 23, and the ensuing council action both distanced council from Black’s actions and expressed appreciation to the Consortium.

“Black had no authority or permission to disconnect the electricity and doing so was not only illegal tampering with town property but it created a potentially hazardous situation by leaving bare wires in place,” Mayor Darryl Dalley said in the press release. “Members of the town council are held to a high standard and should be examples of good behavior.”

Additionally, town council is reviewing the matter with the town attorney to determine what actions are available to address the matter and ensure it does not happen again in the future.

Dalley thanked the Miami Consortium for providing funding and technical assistance for the new sign, which cost about $10,000.

The Consortium is part of a group of stakeholders, including Freeport McMoRan, Capstone Mining Co. and United Fund of Globe-Miami.

Black’s term expires in 2020.


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