Back in December, a plan to get Clear Channel to take down 800+ billboards was proposed by Mayor White, but it ran into resistance and was ultimately put off till later because of concerns that it would allow existing billboards to be relocated. It appears those concerns have now been dealt with, because the ordinance is back on Council’s agenda, and some former critics are now hailing it.
The agreement with Clear Channel Outdoor would take effect after the City Council approves it. The proposal is on Wednesday’s agenda.
Under the settlement, Clear Channel would remove 831 small and medium-sized billboards from across the city, 51 of them from designated “scenic districts.” That represents a two-thirds reduction of all the company’s billboards that are less than 288 square feet in size
Many of those billboards were slated to come down by 2013, but some could have remained up permanently because they are located on federal roadways and are beyond the city’s legal reach.
In return, Clear Channel would get an extension on 24 large billboards that would have come down between 2009 and 2013. Those will get to stay up 20 more years. The last ones will come down in 2033.
“I think that’s worth it,” Mayor Bill White said Monday. “It takes down more billboards faster.”
Anti-billboard activists said they approved of the deal.
“We were very pleased,” said Ed Wulfe, a board member with Scenic Houston. The nonprofit advocates for beautification of streets and public spaces. “For all practical purposes, it will mean no new billboards.”
The group had blasted White for offering a “relocation” provision in its previous settlement offer last December. That would have given Clear Channel the right to move 466 medium billboards. That was the same as allowing new billboards to be built, the group contended.
Michael “Mack” Fowler, on the steering committee of the Quality of Life Coalition, said he was pleased with the change.
“I think relocation was a complete and total non-starter,” he said. “It was a horrible idea.”
One of the critics of the original plan said that the relocation provision “violate[d] a core principle of billboard reduction … freeze everything in place. Don’t let it move, don’t let it be rebuilt.” I’d say this new plan satisfies that condition, so it ought to have smooth sailing. I’d also say this is a good example of why Mayor White has done as well as he has and maintained such a high level of popularity in doing so: He proposed something that didn’t go over so well at first, then took the time to hash out the problems with the various stakeholders, and emerged with a solution that satisfied everyone. You want a good definition of success in politics, that’s a fine starting point.