Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Help Me Howard: Art in Yard
Displaying art on your property? Courts in various parts of the country have ruled it's legal. Miami Code Enforcement says it is not, so what happens to a Coconut Grove artist stuck in the middle? It's tonight's Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Look at these pieces of art. Most people would describe them as beautiful.
Jobie Steppe: "I'm a redneck from Fort Pierce."
Now meet the man who created them.
Jobie Steppe: "I'm just an average person trying to make a living and enjoy himself."
Eugene Jobie Steppe, a Coconut Grove resident who one day started breaking up tiles, rearranging them in whatever pattern came to mind, and suddenly...
Jobie Steppe: "I don't know what I'm doing. I don't have any training, so therefore what comes out has to be original art. I went, wow, maybe I'm an artist."
Jobie calls it art. The people who ride by call it art, and the City of Miami code enforcement calls it, well, it's in writing.
Jobie Steppe : "'Outside storage of miscellaneous materials, equipment, and or debris.' My art, they are calling my art 'debris,' I love it."
It amused Jobie so much he decided to place a $2 million plus price tag on this debris, but the city isn't laughing. Instead, threatening to place a lien on his home, after citing him for illegally operating a business in Coconut Grove and operating without a valid license. Not true, says Jobie.
Jobie Steppe: "Artbyjobie.com sold on the Internet, virtual store. It has nothing to do with my home. If they want to buy my personal art, they can buy it as long as it is out here."
Out here, referring to the sale, which, he says, a federal court has ruled an artist can use to display their work.
Jobie Steppe: "Said I could use the first 15 feet because it is public property. They actually used the word 'sidewalk.'"
Finally the city cited him for parking a commercial vehicle in his front yard.
Jobie Steppe: "This is a mobile easel, it ain't a commercial vehicle."
Now a cynic would look at this Coconut Grove artist the city is trying to shut down and argue Jobie is just using nuances in the law to fight back.
Jobie Steppe: "I don't consider it a nuance, it is right there in black and white, First Amendment. That is not a nuance. That is America."
At first, Jobie was afraid to fight for his First Amendment freedom of expression but, after thinking about it, this veteran has decided code enforcement won't shut him down.
Patrick Fraser: "They are going to start fining you, what, how much a day?"
Jobie Steppe: "$250 a day."
Patrick Fraser: "What are you going to do about it?"
Jobie Steppe: "Not a darn thing."
Patrick Fraser: "They said they are going to foreclose on you."
Jobie Steppe: "Let them try."
But is this artistic freedom or a code violation? Want to draw up an answer, Mr. Finkelstein?
The answer is both. In some parts of the country courts have ruled this is legal. However, in other parts of the country there is no ruling. In other words, Jobie has a good chance of winning, but he may have take the city to court to do it."
When I spoke to the head of Miami's Code Enforcement he told me the van is clearly a commercial vehicle.
"We are certain he is operating a business from his home." That, "We have taken pictures of the deliveries of the art." When I mentioned that a Federal Appeals Court ruled that selling art is protected in some parts of the country, he told me that applies to the Ninth District only. We live in the 11th District.
Jobie Steppe: "Because they are acting like a bunch of clowns, and they are acting like a bunch of Nazis."
Jobie has now taken his battle to City Hall, literally. He has parked his van outside Miami City Hall and adorned it with art expressing his opinion of the City of Miami Code Enforcement that is threatening to take away his home.
Jobie Steppe: "I think it's my obligation to stand firm on what they are trying to do to me and other citizens in Coconut Grove by confiscating our properties through these code violations that are completely ridiculous."
Well, Jobie is planning to go before the Code Enforcement Board to fight the violations. Odds are, city-appointed board members will agree with City Code Enforcement officers against the taxpayer. If so, Jobie says he'll head to court. We will probably follow him because he is truly one of the few Coconut Grove characters left around.
Painted yourself into a corner? Draw a line straight for us. We don't have artistic license, but, picture this, our legal landscape will be up to code, or so we hope.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (please include your contact number when emailing)