[Durham INC] President of Chamber of Commerce on billboard misinformation
randy at 27beverly.com
Thu Jan 22 21:32:24 EST 2009
Casey Steinbacher: Digital billboard debate should be based on facts
By CASEY STEINBACHER : Guest columnist
Jan 21, 2009
The Herald-Sun treated Fairway Outdoor Advertising unfairly in the story
it ran recently, and the accusations against Fairway appearing in letters
to the editor are just not true.
Fairway donated a billboard to support the Prepared Food Tax initiative
because I asked them to. The Prepared Food Tax was an initiative that the
Chamber of Commerce supported. Fairway agreed because it thought it was
the right thing for Durham.
This type of in-kind assistance from corporate donors is common. Fairway
donates billboard space for all kinds of causes. There certainly was no
"quid pro quo" between Fairway and any city or county official, nor for
that matter was there any "quid pro quo" between Fairway and the Chamber.
There did not need to be, because the Chamber already supported the
proposed updates to Durham's billboard ordinance that Fairway and other
members of that industry have proposed.
I am really amazed at the amount of misinformation that opponents of this
proposal have been alleging as "the truth" about this proposed ordinance.
Debate should be based upon the facts.
The new regulations will not allow for any increase in the number of
billboards in Durham and will not allow billboards along highway corridors
where they do not exist currently. In addition, the proposal will allow no
more than 25 percent of existing billboards to be converted to digital,
and that will only be along NC 147 (north of RTP), I-85, 15-501 and US 70.
Digital signs already exist in Asheville, Charlotte, Greensboro and
Wilmington. The technology that controls digital billboards, which is made
in Durham, regulates the light output constantly so that they never are
any "brighter" than a traditional billboard, they do not "blink," and
nobody is proposing that billboards be allowed in residential areas.
Also, in other communities digital billboards have proven to be very
effective at communicating public safety information like Amber and Silver
alerts, and assisting law enforcement. And many of the messages on our
billboards do indeed promote national businesses, but guess what -- many
happen to have local franchises with local people employed in them who
rely on this medium to direct customers to their door.
People have the right to disagree on the merits of this proposal, but base
your disagreement on the correct information, not opinion that is passed
off as fact.
Have communities thrived economically when billboards have been reduced or
taken away? Sure they have. Have communities thrived when billboards have
been allowed to flourish? Sure they have.
You have the right to find billboards visually unappealing, just as I have
the right to find the opposite. But that's what we're talking about here,
what each of us finds visually appealing or offensive to the scenery. Why
is it necessary to vilify Fairway in this process?
Fairway has been a stellar corporate citizen of Durham and the Triangle
region for many years, and numerous non-profit organizations throughout
those years have benefited from its generosity. They do operate a facility
here and do employ Durham residents. Fairway's community support did not
begin when the ordinance amendment was proposed. I can name numerous
projects and programs over many years that Fairway has donated billboard
space to in the name of corporate citizenship.
Nobody should underestimate the extent to which businesses like Fairway,
and The Herald-Sun for that matter, support important community
initiatives. I would hate to see innuendo reporting do anything to
dissuade business from making future donations because their support will
somehow be vilified for the sake of painting a face on the enemy. Durham
deserves better from its only newspaper and the quality of public debate
on community issues should be held to a higher standard.
Casey Steinbacher is president of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce.
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