Letter: Billboards degrade our living space and enable the tracking of our behavior

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Billboards are stacked along the 600 South offramp from I-15 in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, March 13, 2018.

Contrary to the lobbying vision of the billboard industry (”Commentary: Electronic billboards are the signs of our times,” March 25), citizens around the world are rebelling against the intrusion of billboards, particularly digital billboards. These “TVs-on-a-stick” bring not only visual blight, light pollution, reduced driving safety, lowered property values, and commercial indoctrination of our children, but also — surprise! — they enable surveillance that records our travels and buying patterns (Consumer Reports, Nov. 20, 2019).

In short, the places we live are being degraded, and we’re being tracked. Many cities are responding by banning billboards. Globally, the Clean Cities movement has cleared out billboards from Grenoble and Sao Paulo, among other cities. In America, the scenic states of Vermont, Maine, Hawaii, and Alaska ban all types and have survived years of spurious lawsuits by billboard companies. Others, like Oregon, have caps. Many cities and towns in Texas have banned digital billboards. In places like Scranton, PA, Reno, NV, and Ft. Lauderdale, FL, homeowners have been outraged by billboards looming over homes and lowering property values. The list goes on.

Most cities in Utah ban new billboards, yet we still have one of the highest per capita number of billboards in the country — similar to that of New Jersey. The economic future of our state is impaired; businesses and people prefer not to relocate to places of visual blight. Utah will cease to be competitive in attracting companies, knowledge workers, and even tourists.

A ban on billboards in Utah will be good for business and good for the soul. Let’s restore Utah’s renowned scenic beauty and keep Utah livable and vibrant economically. Let’s become the fifth state to ban billboards.

Janet Muir, Eden

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