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Thank you City Council

Many thanks to the Wilmington City Council.

Local communities deserve the right to decide for themselves. Citizens should be allowed to have some control over local ordinances, not some out-of-state billboard company.

This is not a partisan issue. Friends from across the political spectrum think it's a terrible idea to have big TVs in the sky flashing 10,000 ads/day near our homes, schools, parks and places of worship. Industry's measure would allow seven blinking billboards per mile.

The billboard industry insists their study (which they funded) says bright, blinking billboards don't distract drivers; don't draw your eyes off the road. And yet, the industry publication, Advertising Age, boasts: "Outdoor is not an on-demand medium. You can’t choose to see it, you have to see it."

Industry will counter with talk about jobs and badly needed tax revenues. This is nothing but spin. Contrary to industry assertions, tax revenues from billboards are minuscule. And after all their talk about jobs, hiring a computer guy to change digital ads from afar doesn't generate jobs. In fact, road crews who now change billboard signs would likely lose their jobs.

Once installed, electronic billboards would be very expensive for local governments to remove. Local taxpayers would have to pay the industry "just compensation" -- which would include the value of the property plus the exponentially increased revenues they generate for their owners. Compensation for removal would amount to millions of taxpayer dollars while the billboards contribute little to your tax base.

Tax dollars are needed to support schools, sheriff and other vital services -- before risking scarce local resources for an out-of-state billboard company.

While industry will talk about public service ads for nonprofits, you hardly see any in areas with digital billboards.

Industry will talk about Silver and Amber alerts. But, police departments elsewhere are trying to opt out of these billboard alerts.

The state already has its own series of official message signs for Amber Alerts. They're designed to provide the information for motorists to react with the least possible distraction from their driving task, because they are designed in accordance with safe highway practices as mandated by the U.S. Department of Transportation. In contrast, the Amber Alerts on billboards have no official sanction, and often display useless and unnecessary information. As a result, according to Scenic Michigan, rather than communicating an important message in a non-distracting way, they require the motorist to take his/her eyes off the road for extended periods to read the material on the billboard.

Nonprofits and local businesses that have digital billboard ads tend to reduce budgets for advertising in local newspapers and other media outlets. This will take additional monies out of the local economy and reduce support for area businesses. Billboards for national companies won't contribute much to the state's economy.

To our neighbors across the state, industry is trying to quickly move its measure to stick electronic billboards, 50 feet in the sky over your communities -- seven per mile. Please ask your legislators to oppose industry's measure. (Scenic America is a good resource: www.scenic.org/billboards)

Once the billboard industry opens the door, and gets all their digital billboards up, the door can't be closed.

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