Advancing and defending the principles of Scenic Wisconsin made 2022 a busy year. From efforts to end billboard blight to preserving scenic byways, increasing agricultural tourism and barn preservation, Scenic Wisconsin actively engaged with state and local decisionmakers and the public.
Supreme Court decision on Reagan v. Austin: A major victory for scenery!
The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case Reagan Advertising v. City of Austin on November 10, 2021, a case that considers whether billboard restrictions violate First Amendment rights. Reagan argued that regulating signs based on whether they are off-premises of the product advertised on them violates the right to free speech. At stake is whether federal and state governments will continue to have the right to regulate outdoor advertising signs, commonly known as billboards, along highways in this country. The justices expressed concerns about the implications of the case on the national landscape, the legacy of the Highway Beautification Act and the costs of overturning long-standing scenic laws.
In August, Scenic Wisconsin joined other scenic-oriented state organizations in signing an amicus curiae brief in support of the City of Austin. In October, we issued a strongly-worded bulletin in favor of Austin, to encourage people and organizations in Wisconsin to join the fray against Reagan. Attached to the bulletin was an improved edition of our policy statement “Billboards are not a benefit in Wisconsin,” which states the importance of scenery.
On April 21, in a victory for scenic beauty, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of the City of Austin over Reagan National Advertising, affirming the constitutionality of the longstanding distinction between content displayed on signs that are located on-premises and off-premises. The Supreme Court’s decision prevented an effort to convert static advertising signs to digital billboards, which had the potential to undo significant portions of the 1965 Highway Beautification Act.
“This is a big victory for Scenic Wisconsin, Scenic America, and all our allies,” said Scenic Wisconsin President Gary Goyke. “The Supreme Court’s ruling puts a stop to this latest attempt by the outdoor advertising industry to chip away at the sacred legacy of the Highway Beautification Act, and it affirms a city’s right to have a say on what its streetscapes look like.”
We participated in drafting new Billboard Reform Bill in state legislature.
We engaged a popular and effective State Representative to draft a revised bill that would prohibit new billboards from being installed along the major highways of the State of Wisconsin. This new bill will be narrower in scope than the bill that was introduced two years ago. There were several State Senators and Assembly Representatives that indicated support for it and encouraged us to pursue further efforts. The stated opposition of majority party leadership has weakened and some uncertainty eliminated with the latest Supreme Court decision gives us additional hope in fighting these significant legislative battles.
Citizens for a Scenic Wisconsin is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation.
We remain active in support for Rustic Roads and Urban Forestry
During 2022 Scenic Wisconsin prepared for future efforts to establish a Northern Wisconsin River Scenic Byway and to support urban forestry by engaging experts and educating ourselves. We have discussed needed statutory changes for the scenic byway with a prominent State Senator and will continue those discussions in 2023. In addition, we will be working with our friends in Milwaukee on the important matter of preserving the Urban Forestry programs which help our largest city a great deal.
Scenic Wisconsin website updated… it is beautiful and relevant
The Scenic Wisconsin website continues to present interesting and influential information that is important in sustaining our scenic objectives. A prime example of this are the recent articles about digital billboards and about tree extinction. We spent much effort in 2022 keeping this site up to date and interesting.
Meet the Board of Directors.
Front row, from left: Charlie Mitchell, Vernie Smith, Shirley Brabender Mattox, Charles Clemence
Back row, from left: Gary Goyke, Emily Voigt, Ed Kleckner, Scott Becher
It takes financial support to continue to defend scenery against self-serving actions of the well-funded outdoor advertising industry. Please contribute as much as you are willing and able to, however much fits into your budget.
Your past support has gotten us this far. The promise of an even more Scenic Wisconsin is just around the corner and is linked irrevocably to our advocacy efforts. Can you please help us keep fighting to make our Mission Statement a bigger part of Wisconsin future?
Wishing all our friends and supporters a very Happy and Successful New Year!
Gary Goyke, President Charlie Mitchell, Founder
December 08, 2022
The mission of Citizens for a Scenic Wisconsin is to preserve and enhance the visual character of Wisconsin. We believe that America’s scenic heritage is fundamentally important to individual and collective well-being, to economic prosperity, to a healthy ecology, and to the quality of everyday life. Our objectives are to support and promote programs and policies that protect natural beauty in our environment, preserve landscapes and streetscapes, protect historic and cultural symbols such as barns, conserve trees, and improve the appearance of communities.