A decision in favor of outdoor advertising companies would result in unlimited clutter of unsightly billboards along Wisconsin’s highways.
The case known as Reagan v. Austin which pits two major outdoor advertising companies, Reagan and Lamar, against the City of Austin, Texas, will be heard by the supreme court on November 10. At issue is whether the federal and state governments will continue to be allowed to regulate off-premises outdoor advertising signs, commonly known as billboards, in this country. If the outdoor advertising companies win, the result will be a proliferation of big signs along our state and federal highways and a serious degradation of the scenery as viewed from the highways.
The outdoor advertising companies are arguing that regulating signs based on whether they are off-premises of the activity advertised on them violates the right to free speech.
In the words of attorney Cooke Kelsey, who works with scenic advocate Scenic America and who has appeared as ”amicus curiae” (friend of the court) in this case: “It is the most important scenic case to reach the court, ever.” If the billboard companies prevail, the damage to scenic assets would be a disaster for tourism and our quality of life.
Billboards don’t exist in harmony with natural scenery like farms, forests, or lakes. They are erected for the sole purpose of increasing revenue to the advertiser and to the billboard company. With the advent of smart phones and dashboard GPS providing information such as names and locations of hotels and all roadside services that an automobile traveler could need, there is no longer a need for billboards.
For a more complete understanding of how unnecessary and detrimental billboards are, read our position statement on our resource page. For the reasons cited, there are eight states in the US that limit or completely prohibit the use of billboards.
Kelsey has assembled a formidable coalition of major organizations and associations which have done pro-scenic “briefs” in support of the City of Austin. The coalition includes several of the very biggest real estate developers in the country, such as Trammel Crow; 22 state governments; many state scenic organizations, including Scenic Wisconsin; the National League of Cities; the US Conference of Mayors; the Chamber of Commerce of the City of Houston; the Municipal Lawyers Association; and the American planning Association, to name a few.
Subduing the outdoor advertisers will be a benefit to everybody. Please do what you can to lend your support to the City of Austin.
By Charlie Mitchell
Scenic News, October 10, 2021