In My Opinion

Fred Grimm: The subtle beauty of chainlink fencing

Before Lynda Bell, few elected officials were willing to stand up for my kind of aesthetic. You know the look. Lowdown Americana, set off with an old sofa on the porch and a rusted-out ‘75 T-Bird in the front yard, windows busted out, hood missing, shreds of vinyl roof flapping in the wind. The whole tableau framed behind a sagging chain-link fence.

Oh, a few politicians understand some constituents harbor a deep-seeded need to surround themselves with pit bulls named after their ex-wives, neon Budweiser signs, the kind of big-haired women who frequent Indian casinos. But their appreciation of anti-urbane culture hasn’t extended to zoning matters. Not before Lynda.

The vice chairman of the Miami-Dade Commission has championed the very beauty of chain-link fencing.

Sure, other pols argue that chain-link fences ought to be tolerated in struggling, crime-infested residential neighborhoods because they’re cheap, effective and keep crackheads out of the yard. But they worry that chain-link lends an area a ghetto look. “Like a jail,” Commissioner Javier Souto said.

But Commissioner Bell fought to rescind the decade-old ban on front-yard chain-link fences in unincorporated Miami-Dade neighborhoods because they’re just plain pretty. “A lot of people don’t want a wooden fence in their front yard,” Commissioner Bell argued last February, as she pushed through an ordinance designed to nurture a chain-link renaissance. “It’s clear. It looks nicer. You can’t graffiti it. . . . It actually looks nice to me because the wood gets warn and weathered and the planks warp. I mean I’ve seen fences when I’m driving down the turnpike, one’s brown and one’s red and one’s blue. This is why I think a chain link presents a much cleaner look.”

Exactly. If we banned wood fences instead of chain-link fences, there’d be none of those rainbow spectrums mucking up the panorama. Instead we have these clean, uniform views framed by gray metal barriers made of oh so lovely wire grids. All we’d need is for Lynda to tweak the county ordinance and allow her chain link to be topped off with shiny curlicues of concertina to reflect the evening sun.

I feel like Lynda did this for me. Me and Jenna. But mostly Jenna. “I’ve been hearing from a lot of different contractors,” Bell told her fellow commissioners. By “a lot,” she meant daughter Jenna Mendez and her hubby. We’ve now learned that the couple were so enraptured by the charms of chain link that in March 2012, they started their own fence company. Bell forgot to mention this back during the February meeting, an odd oversight, given that the address of the fence company is also Commissioner Bell’s home address.

Some critics claim that Bell only pushed the ordinance to benefit her daughter’s business. But those are the very people who could never understand that a chain-link fence can set off a neighborhood as exquisitely as a barbed wire tattoo can adorn a woman’s bicep.

Read more Fred Grimm stories from the Miami Herald

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