Electronic Billboards: Process doesn’t pass Smell Test
As Thanksgiving approached, with no fanfare, Proposal 250 showed up on the agenda of the City County Council. (A real Turkey!). This proposal is designed to permit electronic billboards in the City limits. It was teed up and certain to pass, way under the radar. But not for the diligence of a neighborhood activist who keeps a keen eye open for such shenanigans, Proposal 250 would now be law.
What’s the big deal, you might ask? I submit that this is a huge deal on so many levels. The whole discussion of the negative impact of billboards on the built environment is a debate for another day. The more disturbing issue, in my mind, is the intentional circumventing of the reasoned, transparent processes that has shaped the public policy of our city for decades.
There are so many questions that require scrutiny:
- Who thought this was a good idea? Answer: The Billboard industry and a surprising number of Council members.
- What compelling need has arisen that calls for the abrupt, unceremoniously reversal of 30 years of public policy aimed ultimately at removing billboards from within the city limits. Answer: No logical answer.
- What were the recommendations of the professional urban planners within the Department of Metropolitan Development? Answer: None. They were never consulted.
- What action was taken at the Metropolitan Development Commission, the body charged with acting on such matters? Answer: None. The matter was never before them.
- Was public input solicited as this proposal was conceived? Answer: NO
- Who drafted this proposal and handed it to the City-County Council for immediate passage with no prior scrutiny? Answer: The Billboard companies.
- What compelling public need warrants circumventing a process that has been successfully in place since the inception of Unigov? Answer: No logical answer.
- What motivated our elected officials to be party such a stunt? Answer: no logical explanation.
The few citizents that were able to drop everything on short notice and attend the committee meeting, urged a continuance until after the holidays. That provided time to rally the troops!
Last week, 28 neighborhoods were present and prepared. No doubt, the size and passion of the unhappy crowd, so close to a municipal election, may have given cause for pause. So, the matter was tabled. The following statementwas issued by the neighborhoods: “The consensus position within our coalition is that both the proposed ordinance and the path it’s traveled thus far, are unacceptable”.
What the proponents of the ordinance failed to assess was the power of the history of neighborhood passion around this issue. It’s been ten years or so since the last billboard battle. Then, neighborhoods fought tirelessly and successfully to mitigate billboard blight in our city limits. Most are still alive and kicking, strong and their resolve and irate about the reckless disregard for public process.
Hats off to the Marion County Association of Neighborhoods and Historic Urban Neighborhoods. And, a wag of the finger to those who thought they could sneak one passed them.