Keep Eugene Green: Ban Billboards
Former Mayors Jim Torrey and Brian Obie were in the billboard industry, and the landscape of Eugene suffers as a result. Late in Torrey's second term, a large billboard (then sporting Torrey's corporate logo at the bottom) was installed facing the Washington-Jefferson bridge off ramp. No citizen who crosses the river on I-105 into downtown is able to choose not to look at this eyesore.
Now that Eugene has a mayor not connected to what is euphemistically called the "outdoor advertising" industry, the City has the opportunity to prevent further uglification. Here are several suggestions for coping with this problem, in order of effectiveness.
1. Ban Billboards
The State of Vermont prohibits billboards, since their natural beauty is an important asset. The highway department allows small signs to provide public notices for upcoming shops is sufficient to indicate destinations for motorists.
2. Moratorium on more billboards
A less controversial, but less effective approach would be to ban further construction of more billboards -- we already have more than enough.
3. Ban lighting of billboards
It is absurd that non-renewable coal and natural gas are being burned so that billboards can be lit, forcing everyone to see their messages (whether you want to or not).
4. Dark Sky Association recommendations for lighting
The least intrusive restriction on billboards would be to mandate the guidelines from the International Dark Sky Association (www.darksky.org), a group of astronomers fighting light pollution. These standards require lights to be pointed downward, not upward, so that pointless light pollution of the heavens is prevented.
If the energy crisis is real, then we should not burn coal and natural gas so that advertising can be lit up all night long. Hydroelectric and wind power should be reserved for more important tasks than this sort of crass commercialism. Motorists should be focused on driving safely, not reading fifty foot wide advertisements.
A new threat is pending for Eugene -- the specter of electronic billboards. The city of Salem is already plagued by some of these new forms of involuntary television watching, and it would be good for the City of Eugene to pre-empt this problem before it litters our landscapes.