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Violate Tacoma law...receive a gift! Mayor Stricklands new public/private partnership is under way.

by fredo
on 2/4/2011 @ 9:40am
The city council is poised to make the Clear Channel Co. the sole provider of Digital Advertising in Tacoma. This despite the fact that the same company has maintained a huge portfolio of illegal billboards for 13 years in our city. They've ignored city law and ignored the fines they were supposed to pay. So what rationale drives the city to give them a monopoly on the new digital billboards?

The Clear Channel representative claimed the new digital billboards were beneficial because they could be used to broadcast Amber alerts. If that's true then we should have more companies install them too because that would enhance our ability to broadcast Amber alerts.

The city claims it will make good money off the taxes paid by the digital advertising. If that's true then shouldn't we have more signs because that would increase the taxes raised?

clear channel claims they have a constitutional right to the advertising and they've used the phrase "constitutions matter" on many billboards. If constitutions matter, then why would they oppose other advertisers exercising their constitutional rights as well.

Why hasn't anybody spoken out about the city setting up a monopoly for this company? Especially Mayor Strickland herself? She knows this monopoly is not a good thing nor is it fair to other potential advertisers.

This monopoly on digital billboards is evil incarnate and I challenge other citizens to join me in challenging the new law.

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 2/4/2011 @ 9:44am
What if Pierce Transit starts advertising for Prop. 1 on these billboards?

by The Jinxmedic on 2/4/2011 @ 9:57am
The city should mould organic billboards from TAGRO.

by Jesse on 2/4/2011 @ 10:00am
I view the billboards as trash a company left behind. Sky trash.

They should see what legal precedent is on this issue. If cities have been winning against the billboard companies elsewhere, then Tacoma needs to fight it. If they've been losing, then cut a deal.

by cisserosmiley on 2/4/2011 @ 10:09am
everyone should buy a smaller but totally legal lcd sign, like the new one at gray lumber, then WE would all have full video.

by fredo on 2/4/2011 @ 10:25am
Jesse, the city seems to be cutting a deal with Clear Channel right now. Tacoma tried to get rid of the signs and Clear Channel sued. The new plan which is going to the planning commission and then the city council is basically a "settlement" to the case.

The problem with the settlement, I mean the major problem with the settlement is that it has the effect of creating a monopoly benefiting the Clear Channel Co. In order to get a new Digital sign permit you need to give up some older (expired and illegal) permits. There is no other company which has these permits to give up so there is no way any other company could acquire the new permit.

This clever new ordinance has given Clear Channel an EFFECTIVE monopoly on outdoor advertising. This violates every property owners freedom of speech. It's as if the city said the News Tribune could have the only newspaper in town and KLAY would be the only radio station in town, and Exit 133 would have the only blog in town.

How about this scenerio? in order to settle the famous civil rights case Brown Vs. the Board of Education, the government said they would allow blacks to attend public school but no other minoritys would be allowed?

by fredo on 2/4/2011 @ 10:45am
cissero, I've seen the small digital in front of Gray. There's a similar example just south of hiway 16 and union ave. in front of a real estate company

What distinguishes the new signs is the size. They range from 300 sq. feet to 672 sp feet. In other words, they will be about 30 to 45 feet wide. The company says they won't be like Las Vegas, but of course once the public decides that they are like Las Vegas it will be too late to do anything about it.

Who is protecting our public interest? If not the city and it's planning commission: then who?

by NineInchNachos on 2/4/2011 @ 10:58am
these billboards suck down our clean hydro power like nobody's business. Electricity that could be used instead to power a fleet of electric vehicles.

even so, long story short - our city lawyers are chicken shit.

by fredo on 2/4/2011 @ 11:06am
nachos, we have a good city attorney, Elizabeth Pauli, but she may not have the resources that Clear Channel brings to the table.

However, there is a legal complication for the city even if they go ahead with the "settlement," Any commercial property owner who feels the new law violates either their property rights or their rights to freedom of speech may file a cause of action to block the new law or put in a claim for damages against the city.

by Jesse on 2/4/2011 @ 12:17pm
If other cities have won a court battle like this one, Tacoma should fight. Judges don't decide cases, they just echo precedent. If judges "decided cases" then THEY would be setting precedent and therefore altering the law for future cases -- a big no-no..

But ya, Pauli may be looking at it from a financial point of view where Clear Channel could out-lawyer and therefore out-money the city by dragging this out.

by NineInchNachos on 2/4/2011 @ 12:48pm
Clear Channel started applying like crazy for new billboard permits as a tricky legal maneuver to show that their freedomz of sp33ch were being violated. Had the city pushed back, it would have been very costly Pyrrhic Victory.

What I'd like to know is if a small portion of the new digital screen is damaged by lets say a slingshot will it knock out the whole screen?

by fredo on 2/4/2011 @ 1:07pm
nachos and jesse, agreed.

re: the functionality of a digital billboard which has a partially damaged screen, I would go to a manufacturers website and search out FAQs. I'm sure this question has been asked before, but probably never by a fez wearing member of CLAW whose interest was not in keeping a sign functional but rather disabling it.

by NineInchNachos on 2/4/2011 @ 1:09pm
how about a pumpkin cannon?

by Erik on 2/4/2011 @ 1:29pm
The issue is a bit more complicated.

Clear Channel already has some billboards up and licenses they have applied for.

The City of Tacoma COULD have them all eventually removed. However, Clear Channel could argue some of their property rights were being taken and bring an action for damages against the city.

Around 1997, the new law was passed to phase out the billboards so that they could be removed and the owners would have a depreciation period. But now it looks like an owner can force a trial in the matter arguing that even with the depreciation phase, they are owed money.

I would have liked to see the City of Tacoma take a harder stance against the billboards in the city. However, the city could have to compensate Clear Channel for a great deal of money. That would be ok with me as they would eventually all be gone.

by fredo on 2/4/2011 @ 1:41pm
"Clear Channel could argue some of their property rights were being taken and bring an action for damages against the city." erik

Clear Channel was not the only entity for whom property rights were being taken. Anyone who owns a piece of commercial property was giving up the same rights CC was being asked to give up. There are hundreds of commercial property owners like myself who have obeyed the city law and not placed signs on our property. Our reward? We are now not allowed to participate in the digital billboard rollout. Meanwhile, the CC Co. has a track record of violating city codes and their reward: No fine and a city protected monopoly to continue placing billboard advertising.

A skillful lawyer could argue that the new code violates both the property rights and the freedom of speech rights of every commercial property owner who doesn't get the new signs.

by fredo on 2/4/2011 @ 1:53pm
We've been told that the digital billboards will allow the city to quickly diseminate AMBER ALERTS. If that's true, why do we want to limit the distribution of the digital billboards? I thought AMBER ALERTS were a good thing. By limiting the placements it will insure that fewer people see the AMBER ALERTS. This will needlessly endanger kidnapped children. Why does the city of Tacoma want to obstruct people from preventing child abductions? Why do they hate children and parents?

I hereby volunteer to allow a digital billboard on my commercial property so that I may help the police recover children who are abducted and also to remind people that "CONSTITUTIONS MATTER."

by The Jinxmedic on 2/4/2011 @ 2:12pm
"TAGRO matters"

by Urban E on 2/4/2011 @ 8:42pm
I didn't read every single word of every single comment above but this issue came to the Cross District Association design committee meeting where we met with the COT employee and attorney, I don't have the details in front of me but long story short the city ends up with a max of 48 digital billboards (for now) compared to a max of say 300+ regular billboards and considering that 1 side of a billboard equals 1 then the committees recommendation to the CDA members is to take the deal. Actually sitting down with the attorney and asking specific questions really shed some light on things that blogs don't give u, and for the record they are not the Native digital ones people keep comparing them to.

by NineInchNachos on 2/4/2011 @ 8:51pm
Urban E, Can you post details sir?

by fredo on 2/4/2011 @ 9:15pm
" the committees recommendation to the CDA members is to take the deal. " UrbanE.

Thanks for your comment Urban.

I wonder if there are any commercial property owners on this committee who will understand that by signing this "deal" the city council will effectively sell their interests down the river. The space on top of a commercial building has a value...a large value and I, for one, am not interested in signing away this value to appease some "committee" or some other ad hoc assembly of civic do-gooders. I want the right to broadcast AMBER ALERTS from atop my building plus messages about THE US CONSTITUTION, just like Clear Channel and my sign will not make my neighborhood look like Las Vegas or the EQC.

by Urban E on 2/5/2011 @ 7:47am
Fredo, yes there are commercial property owners on this committee, myself being one of them and by taking the deal you would not be losing your right to cash in as this was also my concern. If CH decided that your property was/is the best place for one of their billboards then they surely would contact you as they have others already. The reason we felt this was the best deal we could get is because of the ratio of billboards coming down to those remaining/pending and future sites. I would suggest people should become one of those civic do-gooders or join an ad-hoc committee so they can have a voice by a city recognized like the Cross District Association. Sorry NIN I don't have details but there should be some meeting minutes available shortly.

by fredo on 2/5/2011 @ 8:00am
Urban, sorry I don't know who CH is so it's difficult to respond to your post.

You know what? i've already decided that my property would be a good place for one of the billboards, why should I have to wait for someone else to make the same determination?

I'm ready to install the sign now. I have the money for purchase and installation and I have content ready to put on the sign including AMBER ALERTS. It's very important that the AMBER ALERTS be placed in many locations around town. Don't you agree this is an important function of the new signs?

I have exactly the same moral and constitutional right to install these signs as Clear Channel. The only thing I don't have is the old sign permits which the city is requiring. Also for the record I have been on one of the Neighborhood councils. These people are not doing a bad thing but they are not representing my interests.

by fredo on 2/5/2011 @ 9:13am
Urban@ I've figured it out...CH is city hall. I'm a little dense, forgive me.

It's not entirely clear to me that CH decided where the digital billboards should be placed. That sounds more like a decision made by CC and announced by the city. But it doesn't really make any difference. The "settlement" arranged by CH and CC is an unholy mess which will deprive every commercial property owner in town of their property rights and will compromise their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech. The city of Tacoma can't blow enough smoke to convince me that there isn't a "taking" involved in this "settlement."

Urban, if you really are a commercial property owner and would like to visit about this matter one on one please send me your contact information. my email is

by Urban E on 2/6/2011 @ 6:55am
CH was meant to be Clear Channel, sorry I was in a super hurry yesterday and I now get your point. I didn't know you wanted to actually do this as a private individual and I can see your frustration. I don't have all the of the deatails from when this fight over billboards started (years ago I hear) but yes you should have already have a had a pending/permit and site on the books with the city years ago if you wanted to do what you're talking about. When the city tried to ban the billboards out right sometime ago was when you could no longer submitt a new location. From my understanding CC has apprx 170 current locations with another 200+ pending locations that they could pull the trigger on at anytime. The deal would cut those current and future sites down to a max of 48. So lets say 25 now and 23 later, These aren't exact numbers so don't quote me but they are close. Yes I do agree amber alert signs would be a responsible use but who would do the policing of when a property owner decides they no longer want to be responsible. Do you really envision a neighborhood of privately owned billboards for the sake of the almighty $. I've just entered my 40's but one lesson I've learned so far in life is $ isn't everything. Yes I am actual a commercial property owner and will send you my contact info. If we meet do we wear disguises?

by fredo on 2/6/2011 @ 7:41am
Urban@ The "permits" under discussion have all expired long ago according to my information. The city declared they didn't want outdoor advertising in 1988 and gave CC and any other outdoor advertisers a 10 year phase out period. After 1998 all the permits should have been expired and the signs were supposed to be down. CC defied the city law and kept the signs up. They have violated the city law for 13 years. What this means to me is that anyone can place advertising on top of their property and allow it to stand for at least 13 years. There is a well established precedent for this in the city of Tacoma. I didn't own my commercial property at that time so couldn't have applied for any permit. But that's all moot. The city said they didn't want outdoor advertising and property owners have complied, apparently to their own detriment, with the law.

The city really wants it both ways. They claim they don't want outdoor advertising, they prevent people from obtaining permits, then 25 years later say "oh, we're OK with outdoor advertising, but only for people with permits."

I understand that the settlement with CC requires the city to allow CC to place a certain number of digitals. But the agreement shouldn't have designed in such a way that CC would end up with a monopoly just because they have the world's most expensive team of lawyers and they were the most notorious and flagrant lawbreaker for the last 13 years. Some of the digital permits should have been placed in a 'lottery" to be made available to property owners who wanted billboards for the last 25 years but never applied for permits because the city claimed they were ending the billboard program.

The basic reason that CC was able to beat Tacoma on this matter is they continued to assert their property rights and their freedom of speech rights. These are rights Urban which you and I and everyother property owner in Tacoma also has. I don't favor digital billboards on every square foot of commercial space but the city should have given CC a few spots lets say 5 and should have put an additional 5 spots into a lottery to make up for past signage discrimination. It's exactly the same thing as affirmative action.

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 2/6/2011 @ 9:32am
fredo, sounds like you'd be in favor of a billboard reconciliation park. Maybe the city can set one up on the Fife/Tacoma border along I-5.

by fredo on 2/6/2011 @ 10:05am
brilliant crenshaw brilliant. the parallels are indisputable. the "Tacoma Method" is alive and well.

1880- City leaders decide there are 2 classes of citizens, those whose property rights and freedom of speech rights are worthy of protection and those whose rights are not worthy.

2011-City leaders decide there are 2 classes of citizens, those whose property rights and freedom of speech rights are worthy of protection and those whose rights are not worthy.

"Experience holds a dear school, but a fool will learn in no other" Benjamin Franklin

by NineInchNachos on 2/6/2011 @ 12:26pm
Fredo, I can re-create the 'constitutions matter' graphic if you'd like to set up your digital billboard in Fredo City

by fredo on 2/6/2011 @ 1:30pm
I'd like.

by Urban E on 2/7/2011 @ 6:34am
Fredo, I can't argue with one single thing you've said because I am not aware of the past issues but your attention to detail is exactly why individuals like yourself should give back to your local business district and share your experience by becoming an active member. I also have spent some valuable time on a neighborhood council and while I tend to agree that sometimes it seems like a waste of time the majority of it has been really worth it. These groups need new blood and energy like never before. There are people on some of these boards that are older then Methuselah and need your help. Armed with the correct info will stand with you to fight for our rights.