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The art of government: Color it confused.
Reading that the planned parking garage for the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport has what the Sun-Sentinel called an "unanticipated" cost -- $945,000 for art -- a New Times reader asked: Why did government culture cops suddenly demand sculpture immortalizing ticket-takers, murals depicting forgetful patrons searching for lost vehicles?

Asked about the "unanticipated" cost, airport spokesman Jim Reynolds explained, "the aviation department's opinion was challenged," then elaborated: Because the county's Art in Public Places law hasn't required garage art since 1995, and because the airport garage isn't scheduled to open until late 1999, airport officials concluded it didn't need to be all prettied up. Sounds reasonable, but, Reynolds added, "We got overturned."

"Undercurrents" immediately sought out those artsy-fartsy bureaucrats making life difficult for the commonsense folks trying to run an airport, build buildings, do things. Confronted with a demand for answers, Mary Becht, director of the county's Cultural Affairs Division, replied, "It wasn't an unanticipated cost. It's been planned for quite some time."

According to Becht the County Commission actually approved the airport garage way back in 1994 when the law still required garage art; then the project was postponed. Although it was rescheduled after 1995, the original commission approval still applied, Becht explained. "The county commission approved the budget in 1994. Now it's '98. This wasn't really a surprise."

As our public servants ponder such complexities, the travelers of Broward County may well ask what $945,000 buys in the garage-art world -- what wonders will their eyes behold?

The answer, said Reynolds: "Four large, translucent vertical shafts."
The fiberglass shafts, all lighted and colorful, will rise next to the garage escalator and elevators. "They should look pretty," Reynolds said. "They should be very nice."

Potential title for this work of art: A South Florida Welcome -- The Big Shaft.

Liberty or litter?
All freedom-loving citizens should be outraged that South Florida cities are interfering with the inalienable right of newspapers to make money. The cities, bolstered by a U.S. Supreme Court decision, want to ban those colorful individualistic newspaper circulation boxes, now clustered at prime locations like reporters at a free buffet.

Newspapers see the boxes as beacons of truth and enlightenment, beckoning readers to the information inside (including the advertising). Cities consider them bulky eyesores littering the landscape; they want to confine papers to shared spaces in large, blah, bland modular news racks.

What's worse, free enterprise is actually trying to make a buck off the papers' plight. A Deerfield Beach business is seeking city contracts to supply the modular racks, then charge rent to free papers like New Times. Community papers are fighting back, banding together against big government, arguing they shouldn't be controlled and forced to pay.

So, to the colors, citizen readers! Defend the right of the Red and the Yellow to clutter a corner near you.

Undercurrents wants to know about any and all political deals, media screwups, and particularly dumb memos from bureaucrats. Let us know. Call 954-233-1572, fax 954-233-1571, or e-mail [email protected].

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