Local governments and voters are considering new regulations for billboards, including digital billboards. We’ve written about the topic here at the GPN site.

In Foxboro, Mass., townspeople will vote Nov. 17 on newly revised regulations covering electronic and digital billboards. In Tacoma, Wash., a  community group is drafting new rules for billboards in the city. The group of more that 20 citizens, may try to cut the total number of billboards in residential areas and historic districts. The city’s Planning Commission, and then the Tacoma City Council, will need to eventually approve the billboard group’s proposals.

Four states — Vermont, Hawaii, Alaska and Maine — have banned billboards outright, according to an NPR report. In Rhode Island and Oregon, regulators have decided that no new billboards will be built.

But billboards deliver a lot of services. For instance:

  • They provide extreme weather alerts that can help safeguard people and property.
  • They keep folks aware at election time.
  • They support free speech.
  • They are a valuable medium for people who don’t have Internet in underserved neighborhoods.
  • They help capture fugitives.
  • They deliver Amber Alerts in a timely manner.
  • They provide tax revenue and job opportunities.

On that last point, most billboard ads promote local businesses, and most of those are "small business" (less than 50 employees), says Ken Klein. He is executive vice president, Government Affairs at the Washington, D.C.-based Outdoor Advertising Association of America. And keep in mind, Klein told GPN, that schools, hospitals, museums, conventions centers, and other key community players often are billboard customers.

And who knows, maybe city governments can start promoting the great investment value of municipal bonds on billboards.

I urge governments to use restraint in regulating billboard operators, and their digital signs. I’m not quite ready to blast my views on a billboard that I’ve rented, but posting my views on the high-traffic ACC Idea Xchange site is a good start.

What do you think? Do we need more billboard regulations in the U.S.? Or should we continue to let billboards stimulate and grow the economy?  Express your views in the comment box below.

Michael Keating is senior editor for Government Product News and a contributing editor for American City and County. His mid-year 2014 government budget and spending forecast can be found here.

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