The billboard executives in Utah did their best to grab more power this year and they lost. But they’re not done yet. Just last week, in a commentary in The Salt Lake Tribune, three billboard executives teamed up for their opening salvo in the 2022 legislative session. They’re in for the long game.
They’re betting past moves to cozy up with legislators will pay off. And they’re betting you won’t pay attention while they expand the problems associated with billboards in our cities.
They believe you’ve grown so used to their visually polluting pockmarks that you wouldn’t mind them ramrodding through another law making it even harder for cities to do anything about the signs’ blight.
The big billboard executives want legislators to think their companies are just scraping by, that cities are bullying their business.
Never mind that they routinely give away free space on their massive advertisements to promote candidates of their choosing over ones they view as a threat to their highly profitable operations.
Never mind the lobbyists the industry hires every session. Billboard companies are really just getting by, they say. One more law change will make things right. Cities are being unreasonable and these poor small local businesses won’t make it another week unless they have a spot on a Vegas-style light-up billboard the size of a small house. Ridiculous.
If anything, Utah needs to instill some local control in the matter. Billboard law and sign placement in Utah already prevents much needed housing from being built on otherwise vacant parcels. The signs rob city coffers of property tax revenue. They’re just plain ugly.
It’s nearly impossible for a city to get a sign moved as it is. The very last thing the Legislature should do is make the problem worse.
Taylor Anderson, Salt Lake City
Taylor Anderson is the editor of Building Salt Lake.