Monday, February 11, 2008

Another chance to block a bad idea

Every billboard in the city could be converted into brightly-lit LED message boards that change messages every six seconds, under a proposed ordinance being pushed hard by the billboard industry with enthusiastic in-house assistance by Ald. Mike D'Amato.

Fortunately, Aldermen Robert Bauman and Michael Murphy got the matter referred back to the Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee, so there still is a chance to kill this thing before it lives.

This is a really bad piece of legislation. It should die.

The Department of Public Works has said signs should not be allowed to change more than every 30 seconds, because signs that change more often may distract drivers and pose safety concerns. There also are related concerns about light pollution, energy use and just the overall obnoxiousness of lights flashing in people's windows.

The Federal Highway Administration is studying the safety issues connected, but the industry does not want to wait for the study results. It wants those six-second message boards, and it wants them now.

At the very least, aldermen he council should wait for the FHWA study to be finished before rushing to do the billboard industry's bidding.

And residents who care about the historic aesthetic of some of the city's major neighborhoods might want to tell their aldermen that the blight of flashing LED billboards should never be endorsed by the Common Council or the mayor.


jon said...

My only thought: how could light pollution get worse? I'm north of Milwaukee and already lights up the south somewhat like a pinkish nightlight...

Anonymous said...

Oh give it a rest.

You can hate billboards but the conversion is hardly a bad idea.

Even this must be stopped? Choose your battles - have a point.

Gretchen Schuldt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

You obviously don't know your facts. There are only a handful of these digital billboards throughout Milwaukee (10 I believe out of hundreds) and they currently change ads every 30 seconds. I did some checking and every other major market that has these boards change ads every 6 or 8 seconds. Milwaukee is the ONLY market which does 30 sec.

I contacted my alderman and he told me that a local study was done over a 6 month period at Oakland & North where a digital billboard was changing ads every 8 seconds. During that 6 month period there was no significant increase in accidents nor was a single accident attributed to the digital billboard.

If you're going to try and ban these, then why not ban those department of transporation electronic displays that change information every 6-8 seconds, those are even more distracting.

Gretchen Schuldt said...

Anonymous -- The ordinance change would allow billboards to BECOME LED message boards that change every six seconds. That there are 10 or 12 or 20 now doesn't mean there will not be a lot more in the future.

Did your alderman also tell you that the traffic folks in the Department of Public Works think that the Oakland Ave. test site was not the best and may not show typical results?

I don't know what every other major market has done, and you don't provide any sources to verify. I do know Rhode Island has stopped issuing permits for LED billboards until the feds complete their safety study.

Residents of communities across the country have sought similar measures. Just Google LED billboards moratorium.

Anonymous said...

No, you're wrong. The ordinance would allow current LED boards to change from 30 sec changes to 6 sec. This does not give carte blanche to billboard companies to simply put up LEDs wherever they want.

The council requested the study at Oakland & North but now that's not good enough because the results didn't come back favorably to your side of the agrument?

Did you also know that there's an electronic billboard on I-94 in Waukesha county that's been there for over a year that has ads flipping every 6 seconds?? Funny how you haven't heard of any increased accidents, or accidents at all, that are directly attributed to the 6 sec ad changes.

All you need to do to see what other markets are doing is go here:

Just click on any of the markets and you'll see that all of them are between 6 and 8 seconds. Do you honestly think that I wouldn't have done my research prior to making a statement as I did?

Gretchen Schuldt said...

Well, anonymous, how would I know if you did your research? I have absolutely nothing to judge that by, since you don't say who you are.

We could go on forever like this. I could say, for example, "are you discounting DPW's concerns about the study because they do not reflect favorably on your side?"

And, by the way, I'm not wrong. As I said in the original post, "Every billboard in the city could be converted into brightly-lit LED..."

That is "could," not "would" and not "would allow new billboards..."

I live in a neighborhood near Miller Park. The huge flashing sign along the freeway there has been a real problem for residents on Story Pkwy. because of teh brightness of the lights. I support those residents -- and city residents who might be facing the same situation -- over Clear Channel any day of the week, month or year.

I understand that trying to block LED billboards is probably like trying to stop all stupid violence or even like trying to stop people from talking on cellphones when they drive. Worthy goals, but...

Can't we at least get an ordinance that gives protection to residential neighborhoods and that reflects the results of safety research that is now underway?

Anonymous said...

Again, I ask you please to do your research...the LED you're speaking about is on the property of Miller Park. It is owned by Miller Park and the ad space on there is sold by Miller Park. Clear Channel and other billboard companies do not own/run that sign. Since Miller Park owns that sign they do not fall under the same rules as billboard companies since it's on their own land, they can flip ads as often as they want and even run video. I think you think that if this ordinance passes that every electronic billboard in Milwaukee will mimic what the display at Miller Park does...and that's just simply false.

Also, do you actually know how many billboards are in the city of Milwaukee?? It's probably close to 1,000. Based on the cost of this technology, do you really think it would be cost-effetive for billboard companies to attempt to convert every single one of them?

Gretchen Schuldt said...

I understand that the sign is not owned by Clear Channel or Lamar. Lights shining in windows do not differentiate in negative impacts according to the owners of the lights. They would also be a pain if they were a few watts less bright.

I also do not think, by the way, that every billboard would be converted and be like Miller Park.

Anonymous said...

Where are these lights shining into windows? I live near street lights that shine into my bedroom every night, shall I demand that they be removed too?

And let's be clear, the Miller Park board is completely unique in that the laws/ordinances do not apply the same. Lamar or Clear Channel electronic billboards will never have the ability to run full motion video such as Miller Park. From what I read through the city, billboard companies are NOT seeking that ability. All they want to do is change the ads every 6 seconds and not 30 seconds.

I'm not trying to be an a-hole but it just seems that not all of the facts are out there about this issue, it seems awfully one-sided.