The Long View: Chalk One Up for the Sign Guy

Ken Mergentime is the former executive editor of Sign & Digital Graphics and WRAPS magazines.

When it comes to the hodgepodge of federal, state, city and county statues collectively known as “sign laws,” and the seemingly hopeless task that sign makers face in finding clarity and fairness amidst a sea of conflicting and often ambiguous legal language, it’s really nice to hear a story where one sign guy stood up, worked within the system and actually made a difference.

Yes, it’s true that sign associations have teams of government-relations staffers and lawyers who travel all around the country to help local officials develop more reasonable and beneficial sign codes, and we are all very grateful for their efforts. Great strides have been made—and there’s still a long way to go yet, especially with regard to the regulation of outdoor EMCs and other electronic digital signage.

But it’s good to know that you don’t necessarily have to be a lawyer to help shape sign laws.

I recently heard from a sign shop owner, who, after receiving a ticket for the window-perf graphic he had on the rear window of his shop truck, decided to see what he could do to change the law.

“I couldn’t beat that $140 ticket, but in the end I was able to get them to change the law,” says Arthur Meeker, owner of Xtreme Grafx, a full service sign shop in Albany, Ore.

Oregon State law said that you couldn’t place anything on the rear window that hinders the view in or out of the rear window. Yet you can haul a load of wood in your pick-up and block the view, and there are many types of delivery trucks equipped with a cube box that blocks the back window entirely. And window-perf wraps don’t block the driver’s view, only the outside view into the vehicle.

Like so many sign-related statutes, this law didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Meeker contacted Oregon State Rep. Andy Olson, who quickly understood the situation and ultimately sponsored a bill to amend the state law to allow rear-window wraps.

The process of getting the bill approved took a bit of tenacity and hard work—and three years—to achieve.

Meeker and Olson met with leaders from the Oregon State Police, the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Transportation. Finally, on May 22, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber signed HB2406 into law, and beginning in January of next year it will be legal in Oregon to have a rear-window wrap on your vehicle. Good for sign shops and their vehicle-wrap clients.

“It took some time, but it was worth it,” Meeker says. “It was a great experience and a great satisfaction to be able to stand up against something that wasn’t fair, and then to actually make a difference that will impact our industry.” I wholeheartedly agree. A big Thank You to both Meeker and Olson for doing the right thing. And let’s chalk one up for the sign guy!

Okay back to work.