Bill Wayne's Political Pages - The Gadfly
Gadfly 62
Submitted to the Warrensburg Gazette for September 28, 2000

The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.

Dear Editor

In Missouri, we have the right to make laws by putting issues on the ballot when the legislature won’t act. We’ve often used that right to our real benefit, including the tax-limiting “Hancock amendment.” This year, however, the two issues on the ballot increase the intrusiveness of state government. In addition to voting on welfare for (campaign finance reform – Proposition B), we get to decide if so-called beautification takes precedence over business. Proposition A would ban new billboards along primary highways and would let brush obscure many that are already there. It would establish official state policy that preserving the commerce of small towns is less important than providing a nice view to people whizzing down the old racetrack at 70+.

We’ll soon see all kind of claims by those billboard backers and banners. The ban-the-billboard crowd and the billboard industry will spend big bucks to argue about whether a ban on new boards would cost the state millions of dollars to tear down existing ones. They’re both misleading us, because the cost would be there, but only if the state legislature were to decide to require removal, something they’re highly unlikely to do.

Another argument is over whether any businesses would be hurt. I think it’s conclusive that small highway-based businesses would suffer most – the big companies can bid up the price of remaining billboards so the small companies can’t afford them. And, what about towns that are being by-passed by new highway construction? Their existing businesses wouldn’t be able to put up billboards to tell travelers that they’re there. Recent articles on the little town of Collins on MO-13 (you know, the place with all the good restaurants and little else) make that clear. Warrensburg restaurants, gas stations & motels could be jeopardized, as well.

Those who think that somehow the "view" is a public good can take private action, such as boycotting advertisers or even buying the billboard rights themselves. They don’t need to make it harder to find a motel or the least expensive gas 20 miles ahead. Even though I get a bit tired of Shoji Tabuchi & Yakov Smirnoff billboards down around Springfield, I’d rather be irritated by billboards than dodge someone gawking at scenery.

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