I had heard the rumors and reports, coming from more people than I would have thought likely, that I was on TV, local cable channel 5, taped when I had spoken to a city council committee assigned to draw up a new sign ordinance. The tape was playing several times a day, according to my sources, but I hadn’t seen it. Until I was flipping channels the other night, at least.
As I passed through the lower channels, I heard a familiar voice, and looked to see myself, in living color, dressed in my work clothes, answering sign related questions put to me by those on the committee at City Hall. I didn’t stammer or stutter; I think I did okay, but after about two minutes I’d had my maximum daily allowance (make that maximum yearly allowance) for watching myself on TV, which put me back to flipping channels pretty danged quick.
I never knew that people actually watch very much of that kind of stuff, but I keep hearing from people who actually listened to what I had to say. Why was I there at City Hall trying to explain a little about the sign business?
Because our locally elected officials have put together a group of appointees assigned with the business of writing a new city sign ordinance, and I think it worthwhile for local business people, and sign people, to have some influence on the process.
Actually, I had missed the first two meetings, and hadn’t even known the existing sign ordinance was something that was going to be overhauled. I made it to the third, and have been back once since then. The whole process has been an educational experience for this old sign maker, that’s for sure.
Now, you probably already know, sitting in on local council meetings is a lot like how some people describe flying in airplanes, that is, “hours and hours of absolute boredom accented by a few minutes of sheer terror.” The first meeting, the one I spoke at, was partly called to get some input from the business community, and several people gave their opinions.
The majority of those who spoke were local small business people who were concerned about the city passing an ordinance that would hurt their efforts to advertise their businesses using banners and signs. Evidently, rumor had it that some serious restrictions might evolve from this committee’s efforts.
Every time some individual business person would express concern along those lines, the chairperson or some other member of the committee would speak up and say that the last thing they wished to do was hurt local business, or take away advertising options now available to them. Everyone left feeling that nothing of serious consequence would come of the new ordinance.
But the next meeting I attended was a non-televised work session, with few citizens present. Let me tell you, things changed pretty drastically. After two hours or more of roughing out an outline for the new sign ordinance, the tone of the meeting and the committee’s demeanor was best expressed when the chairperson said, “Let’s just write a sign ordinance with some real teeth in it, and see how much the city attorney will let us keep.” Quite a change from the televised attitudes expressed just a couple of weeks before.
Some of the possibilities discussed were declaring the whole downtown area a historical section, eliminating all billboards there and putting certain restrictions on signs and banners, as well as putting restrictions city wide on banners, and making the outdoor advertising people literally cut their structures down to a lower and uniform height everywhere (at their expense, of course).
It was also suggested that all signs, even though legally permitted originally, should have to be re-permitted every five years, a fun and expensive paperwork hassle going forward forever for businessmen and sign companies alike.
I’ve since done a bit of unscientific research into why this municipal effort was started to begin with, and the results have been educational as well. Seems one very large and prominent church in the downtown area has recently completed a major addition and renovation project, and several members of that church have complained that billboards in the downtown area detract from the lovely appearance of their property. What better way to have them removed than just to have them outlawed and condemned by City Hall?
If my assessment is wrong, I apologize now, but it seems quite likely that that was one major driving force prompting our city to devote the effort required to get a new ordinance drawn up, selecting a committee and so forth. It is also interesting that not one member of the 10-person committee was drawn from the local sign industry. The city wouldn’t want to get anyone who knows anything about the sign business involved; that would make too much sense, I guess.
Oh well. The meetings aren’t over, and I’m sure I’ll be there again, and probably be on TV as well. I won’t watch it, but I’ll be watching those working at City Hall a bit closer.
And when your city gets around to doing the same things, you may wish to be in on the proceedings, and give some constructive assistance if possible. But, since you may end up on TV, be sure to wear a clean shirt. I plan to the next time, anyway.
Have a great month,