Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Electronic Billboards Again Threaten Arizona Skies

Several weeks ago Arizona made the news as Governor Jan Brewer vetoed legislation that would have allowed wide-spread use of electronic billboards in the state.  Well, there is a new measure advancing to do the same.  This time there are protections in place for the state's astronomical observatories but not for people living in the central and western portions of Arizona.

From Scenic Arizona earlier today:

Dear Billboard Watchers, Preventionists & Friends of Dark Skies:
The electronic billboard bill (see attached) came out of the partisan caucuses today in both the Senate and the House.  Final votes will likely occur tomorrow.  Please contact your senators and representatives and ask them to vote against the bill on Final Read.  You should be particularly strident if you live in any of the following counties/areas: Maricopa, Yuma, La Paz or the Apache Junction/Gold Canyon area of Pinal.  Electronic billboards would be (lawfully) allowed in these counties/areas for the first time since 1970 and the amended bill does not offer even the most basic protections that other states have enacted when they have rolled over for the billboard industry.  For example, in Texas electronic billboard panels facing the same direction on a roadway have to be at least 1500 feet apart for boards on both sides of the street.  In contrast, billboards on a state highway inside a municipality in Arizona would only have to be 100 feet apart on the same side of the roadway (e.g., Grand Avenue in Phoenix, Glendale, etc.).  Furthermore, the bill now includes an unnecessary emergency clause that would preclude citizens from exercising their constitutional right of referendum (is this even legal?) and would preclude cities and counties from adopting timely moratoria to get their local codes in order prior to the onslaught that is surely coming from the billboard industry (however, since the both ADOT and the Attorney General's Office are (incredibly or not so incredibly) refusing to follow the law and stop issuing permits for electronic billboards, there is a downside risk in opposing the emergency clause).
The amended bill is a result of an 11th hour deal between the major observatories and the billboard industry under heavy pressure from the latter.  The observatories did at least stick to their guns on keeping the prohibition in place outside of the county areas mentioned above.  Preserving that prohibition is at least a partial victory that we all should celebrate.  However, Scenic Arizona, the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix, the Sierra Club and other active opponents of the bill were precluded from the negotiations and did not and could not endorse any compromise that does not offer at least some limitations on these monstrous and blinding eyesores that will proliferate in the allowed zone.  Even for those that live in the still protected zone, travel to and through the Phoenix area occurs often enough and we all must stand behind those that live in the allowed zone who are getting nothing meaningful out of the amended bill.

The House Member Roster is at:
Beginning tomorrow morning, telephone calls are preferable to emails for brief communications (for those outside of the Phoenix area, note the toll-free number: 1-800-352-8404). Use email for more detailed messages. Make sure to indentify yourself as a constituent of the district.  If you don't know which district you are in, you can refer to .