by Carl McIntyre
There are 398 billboard locations and about 600 signs (many with multiple sign faces) in the City of Saint Paul, the highest concentration of any city in Minnesota. That works out to 7.5 billboard locations per square mile .
That’s a lot of signs! Most are owned by Clear Channel, a media giant owning several, if not the most radio outlets in the state. (Locally: KDWB, KEEY, KFAN, KFXN, KQQL, KTCZ & KTLK).
The glut of billboards in St. Paul is an issue that has been debated over the years—eight years ago, according to the article, a referendum to remove the signs in the neighborhoods (excluding the freeway signs) failed to pass (I’ll bet there was some serious lobbying on that one!)
How many of you remember the delightful series of Burma Shave signs that used to be along the highways? They were a series of small signs, each with a single line: “These signs” “We gladly” “Dedicate” “To men who’ve had” “No date of late” “Burma Shave” [source] They were fun, but the signs were deemed by many as too distracting. But those old signs are nothing compared to the distraction created by the new electronic signs that are beginning to appear around the Cities.
Clear Channel wants to erect “up to 15 digital billboards along freeways” [TwinCities.com], and the city wants them to tear down “dozens” of neighborhood static signs in exchange. Clear Channel thinks that is too much.
It should be noted that the single sign erected so far in St. Paul located on the Midway along I94, IS very bright and distracting with it’s ever-changing message. It very-well could be dangerously distracting for drivers on this very busy freeway—my opinion.
What say you? Is this a free speech issue? Should these electronic signs be banned altogether? Should they be limited? Should all billboards be banned? Is there room for compromise?
* On-line article posted 21 Nov 07 @ 12:01am CST: “Opinions harden in billboard debate” by Laura Yen & Maryjo Webster