Pittsburgh City Council fights Lamar over digital billboard

Published on: 2015-02-05

It's not the first time this is happened, but one of the most public, and thus worthy of examination. Media Buyer Planner notes:
Lamar alleges, in the civil lawsuit filed on Tuesday, that City Council president Doug Shields and other council members used their offices to get a permit for a 1,200-square-foot billboard rejected. The billboard had been approved by city planning and zoning workers, but the process by which it was approved had come under fire, and one of the City Council members, Patrick Dowd, filed an appeal challenging the permit.

The City Council then approved a six-month moratorium on new billboards.

Dowd said he used personal resources, not his office, to file the appeal.

The topic of digital billboards seems to be an emotional one, with cities and counties and anti-billboard rabble-rousers raising their hands here and there across the country against the new technology. Companies like Lamar and Clear Channel would seem to have an almost unlimited resources to fight any lawsuits necessary in order to push the billboards through.
Our take:

The ability for local governments to be able to make targeted decisions on the behalf of their constituents is one of the most important and endearing parts of US law. While creating a legally challenging landscape for new-media activists, the benefits of local government typically outweigh the costs. However, if, as the lawsuit alleges, government officials used public resources to start a private feud, that would immoral and probably illegal as well. Roadside electronic billboards will continue to draw their share of detractors, but we hope that future cases can be instituted by governments with the best interests of all constituents in mind -- and given the amount of additional tax revenues these devices can bring in, that may mean we'll see many more of them in the future.

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