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Billboards Banned in Indianapolis

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From the Indianapolis Star:

The City-County Council voted Monday to block the construction of any new billboards until Dec. 1, a move backers say will let the city shape a sign strategy that addresses business and neighborhood concerns.

“Indianapolis has a sign-proliferation problem,” said Cathy Burton, head of the Marion County Alliance of Neighborhood Associations. A billboard study, she added, will focus on “what makes healthy neighborhoods.”

The billboard debate has been one of the thorniest in the council this year. Neighborhood activists have long urged tighter restrictions on billboard placement, but some billboard industry officials argued a moratorium could cost them money and jobs.

Mayor Bart Peterson opened the debate in March with a proposal to block new billboards for a year.

Hmm. We have a “sign-proliferation problem”? What we actually have here is a First Amendment problem – yet nobody seems to look at it that way. Some handful of busybody buttmunches arbitrarily decides that billboards in general offend their fine-tuned little aesthetic sensitivities, so they’ll just ban them. Why is this even an acceptable proposal for polite debate?

Why isn’t the ICLU raising hell? There’s not even a peep of dissent that I’ve seen locally other than minor crap about costing jobs in the billboard industry. It might be a billboard for Big Macs, or for Planned Parenthood. Hey, just shut up with it. We don’t like signs, we’ll just ban them.

Note that this insensitivity to free speech issues comes in this city primarily from Democrats. It was Democrat mayor Bart Peterson who pushed the ban.

This shows consistency on his part; the first big initiative he had when he became mayor was a ban on certain arcade video games that he didn’t like.

PS: The video game nonsense cost our fair city somewhere close to half a million dollars in legal costs before being tossed out by the courts. It’s ok though – he was doing it for the children.

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  • Mark Saleski

    if they come up with a strategy, like they did several years back in the state of maine, where everything goes onto ‘standard’ signs, is that such a bad thing?

    it’s an interesting issue. i can see how folks get concerned about the ‘blight’ issues of too many billboards.

    on the other hand, there’s the whole americana aspect to billboards….i do remember approaching “South Of The Border” as a little kid, thinking the signs were very cool.

  • Jim Carruthers

    “Free” speech should not be conflated with commercial speech. To take another angle on this issue, what billboards (and other ads plastered on any public space that holds still long enough such as buses and streetcars) do is encroach and privatize public space. In urban areas, the public domain is steadily being fenced off and degraded by corporate bodies who have no liability or accountability.

    Essentially, it is as much pollution as someone who dumps shit in your drinking water and expects the public to pay for the consequences.

  • Al Barger

    Many of your left wing types really do not believe in free speech. Mr. Carruthers offers a perfect case in point. Just attach the word “commercial” to it, and it is no longer legitimate expression, but mere pollution. If there is any form of money connection, then Mr. Carruthers will likely consider your speech mere “pollution” or “shit in the drinking water”.

    Billboards are generally put up on private land. I’ve not heard of Indianapolis taxpayers being asked to “clean up” after billboards. Mr. Carruthers and Mayor Peterson will presume, however, that if they can see it, then it is “public space” that they and their commie ilk can censor as they see fit.

    The First Amendment makes no distinction between commercial and private speech. It is an arbitrary and unworkable distinction. Any real respect for free expression comes bound to a respect for private property. Other than literally hollering out on the street corner, most free speech involves property and contracts. You don’t need to outlaw expression you don’t like, just require licensing of the printing presses and loudspeakers.

  • mike

    I grew up in Vermont, which doesn’t have billboards, and in New Hampshire, which does. New Hampshire’s scenery is dessicated by these eyesores. Vermont’s is far prettier without them.

    I’ll take Vermont any day.

  • Al Barger

    Mike only furthers my #3 comment. He regards his petty and subjective concern with “eyesores” as trumping all, without even a passing concern for other people’s property rights or freedom of expression.

  • mike

    Dammit, Al, you’re right. I’ve got to get over my petty and subjective concerns for mountains, lakes, fresh air, and such other stuff. Sure, that new billboard for Stella’s Adult Shack blots out the view of the mountain range, but, hey, Stella’s got some nice hills of her own, if you catch my drift–heh heh heh heh heh. Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder, hey, Al, heh heh heh–and if Stella could see what I’m holding right here for her, she’d respect my property rights, let me tell you, heh heh, heh. Burp.

  • Damien Jacob

    If you ban billboards completely, it is the beggining of the end to the first amendment, as we know it. Billboards are large metal structures… that some see as “eye sores”, but the messages placed on those structures is commercial art! A graphic artist designs the message after copy editors figure out what they want to communicate, then vinyl makers manufatur the banner, contractors place the message on the board, then they take it down to go to the recycling facility. Not to mention all the other jobs involved like; clients, sales people, insurance, lawyers and proof readers. ANy way, maybe regulate the structure, but DO NOT regulate the medium. businesses need to communicate using outdoor media. Property owners need to have the right to use their land for “best use”, corporations are viewed as individuals in the eye of the law, individuals have the right to free speech… it’s just that simple. Plus banning new billboards, protects the large company who has all the signs from any competition popping up….. thus, interfering with fair market value.

    Free Speech
    Property Rights
    Economic Liberty
    Free Enterprise
    Law of equality


  • Warren

    If I were an ad guy, or a PR guy, I think that billboards would be the last thing I’d put money into. The only places they’re really effective are places with high, slow traffic (like Atlanta downtown). When I travel, I rarely even pay attention to them anymore, unless I’m looking for food. Restaurants and hotels — those are the people that should be buying billboards. Everyone else is wasting their money.

  • Consequences

    Well the more billboards they ban the more signs I will nail to telepone poles. People with business will always find a way to market thier services.

  • Consequences

    Well the more BillBoards they Ban the more Bandit signs I will nail to telephone poles. A shortage of Billboards just drives up the cost of existing ones thus people look for affordable alternatives.

  • offivatat

    Hi I just lost my job in Indianapolis, Indiana. I have applied to most of the job sites more times than I’d care to recall and sent off hundreds of resumes. However, i have not been able to find a single good response to my applications. If anyone knows about particular job site where i can look for a good job, please revert me with the location details. I will be thankful to you for your early response.