The 1965 federal act requires states to enforce limits on billboards along major highways in scenic and rural areas. For about 14 months, however, state officials in Oregon were powerless to stop an unsightly explosion of billboards in scenic areas all across the state, including the Crater Lake Highway.
The Oregon Supreme Court opened the floodgates to this blight in March 2006. Justices did it by overturning a key provision of the state's law requiring permits for billboards outside of commercial or industrial areas.
It was an enormous victory for the outdoor advertising industry. It views Oregon as a battleground because it has -- or had -- some of the toughest billboard regulations in the nation.
At least 200 new billboards and untold numbers of smaller outdoor signs sprouted all across the state before Gov. Ted Kulongoski put a stop to it a few weeks ago. He did so by signing House Bill 2273, aimed at fixing the flaw in the 1971 law that Oregon's high court said violated the state constitution's broad free-speech protections.
On a short ride along the Oregon coast today I saw a lot of new, and frankly ugly, development and tons of new billboards. They seem to be at the entrance of every town along highway 101 and along Route 18 between Lincoln City and Portland. So, I'm wondering, can anything be done to stop the further eroding of beauty in this State? This place was once beautiful. Must we give in to the paving over of every last inch of this planet? And, I wonder if during a shift to progressive politics, we can take charge of this issue, as well - not just improve the bottle bill - but do something about the commercialization and paving of everything. Do we really need another strip mall? Do we need another K-Mart and Wal-Mart and super duper plex?
Does every road from here to there need to be widened to make room for more hummers? I think that the legislative agenda in Salem should be setting the bar higher - let's move beyond the current status quo and really move forward in the next legislative session. Before it's too late. Before there's one more McDonald's placed in this state, let's remember what a beautiful place we have and can protect. I don't see individual landowners being willing to take the steps I'm talking about, so I'm hoping there's another way. Suggestions? Thanks for listening.