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The Rest of the Story: Billboards

Nobody likes billboards in their neighborhood. We’d all like to extinguish these blight-causing creatures in every corner of our city — particularly in our residential neighborhoods, where too many residents endure their daily sight. When I came into office in 2015, I inherited a city with many billboards constructed decades ago and quickly learned that the City lacks any legal authority to tear them down. The Just Compensation Clause of the Fifth Amendment requires that if the City wants to eliminate legal billboards, it must pay property owners and billboard companies — a lot of money — to do so. That magic pot of money doesn’t exist, so the City merely halted new billboard construction for decades. In the meantime, residents have endured decades of the same (often blighted) billboards.

We have another path, though: the City could tell advertising companies they have to tear down many old billboards for any new one that they erect. Such agreements could finally — for the first time in decades — reduce the aggregate number of billboards in our city, ridding our most blighted neighborhoods of them. Companies want to erect more lucrative LED signage — the kind that is often featured in the downtowns of major cities — which gives them an incentive to make this trade. Best of all, we can rid our residential neighborhoods of old, blighted billboards while we confine any new signs to the Downtown and at the Airport. By doing so on City property, we can also ensure that the public benefits directly from any advertising revenues to improve basic public services. So, that’s exactly what the Council agreed to do when it passed Council Policy 6–4 in a public hearing in 2019....

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