Letters to the Editor

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TACOMA: Council needs to stand by billboard law

Letter by Erik Bjornson, Tacoma on Sep. 28, 2011 at 1:32 pm with 1 Comment »
September 28, 2011 2:14 pm

Congratulations to the Tacoma City Council for listening to residents and passing a reasonable billboard ordinance which wisely bans digital billboards from blemishing Tacoma’s skyline and requires nonconforming static billboards to be removed by March 1, 2012.

During multiple public hearings, hundreds of Tacomans weighed in against digital billboards, 1,400 signed petitions against them, and six neighborhood councils and dozens of civic groups opposed them. Approximately 95 percent of Tacoma residents opposed digital billboards in the public process.

However, as the billboard issue moves through the court system, there will no doubt be temptations for the City Council to capitulate or appease Clear Channel and to once again be tempted to make some sort of deal in non-public “executive sessions.”

It is important that Tacoma’s interim city manager and council stand up for the public interest and hold fast in backing the current billboard law. Seattle, Bellingham and many other high-quality-of-life cities rightfully ban digital billboards, and it is reasonable that Tacoma continue to do the same.


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  1. I noticed the city council is looking for input from the citizens in the selection process for city manager. The answer is really simple. Select a city manager who supports a high quality of life for Tacoma. It seems city government lets private business set the tone for any and all development in Tacoma. The same can be said of the city council. Any Tom, Dick or Harry who floats any idea gets the red carpet treatment.

    The citizens are opposed to billboards-period. They are an eyesore. I can bet the city council will cave in and “settle” on terms proposed by Clear Channel.

    Another issue on which the city government fell down is the moratorium on “big box” stores, i.e., the Elk property. Is it so difficult for the city government to canvas the city for large tracts of land? Aren’t pictures available from space? Doesn’t the Pierce County Assessor have parcel maps? Sure! But, does the city anticipate such developments? Does the city develop a plan to make the city liveable? Nope! But, if there is a slightest code violation (cutting the grass), the code enforcement agents are there.

    I remember when Russell Investments was being wooed to stay in Tacoma. The handwriting was on the wall. Russell Investments was going to Seattle. People on the inside knew of the decision six months plus before it was announced. Yet, the city was going to throw countless dollars downtown to entice Russell Investments to stay. That’s money taken away from other city projects. And, the city was creating a gerrymandered international investment zone in which no taxes would be collected. Improvements with no return. Instead of enticing a firm with 900 employees to stay or move into Tacoma, wouldn’t the city be better off enticing firms with one hundred or less employees to open shop.

    This city has no sense of direction. On something as simple as promoting tourism, this town falls down. Recently I had time to spare waiting for a family member to disembark from a plane at SeaTac. I perused the tourism brochures on the racks near the Delta arrival baggage claim. There was NOT one brochure for any Tacoma museum, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, the University of Washington Tacoma, NOTHING. There were brochures for museums as far south as Chehalis. Everywhere but Tacoma. Why? Because city government and the city council are not leaders. They are followers. They let others control the destiny of the City of Destiny.

    I expect the city council to cave in and run off with tails between their legs. Expect to see large digit billboards all over Tacoma, and, the biggest will be at Wal-Mart on Union Avenue.

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