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Credit Where Credit Is Due Department, Governor Division

Eagle Nebula, T. A. Rector & B. A. Wolpa, NOAO, AURA, NSF, Copyright WIYN Consortium, Inc., all rights reserved.I had heard from a lot of people that were hopeful that the governor would veto HB 2757, the bill that would have allowed “Electronic Message Centers” (an industry euphemism because “Obnoxious Bright Flashing Billboards” wouldn’t fly) along highways in the state. Maybe the governor would understand how many people are employed by astronomy in this state and how much of a spark that is for the optics industry, they said. I didn’t hold out the same hope given the knee jerk anti-environment and anti-scientist sentiment in our state’s Republican party, so I was pleasantly surprised by la Cervecera’s veto of the bill yesterday.

I’ve got a bit of a history with dealing with the billboard industry. I was on the Tucson Citizens’ Sign Code Committee for years and dealt with three industry reps, the change in representation coming as the main billboard company in Southern Arizona changed hands. I came away with respect for only one of them, a fellow named Marv Kirschler.

Of the other two, not so much. One came to a couple of meetings, skulked in the back of the room, refused to be acknowledged during the public comment period and even refused to say hi to me, even though he knew me from before. After coming to a couple of meetings and making it obvious he didn’t want to talk to us, he wrote an op-ed complaining about how the city and our committee was intransigent and didn’t want to negotiate with his company.

When Clear Channel bought out Eller’s local billboard operation, a representative of the company came to us to extoll the virtues of electronic message centers (he didn’t want to call them billboards). They could be used, he said, for Amber alerts, emergency notices and community advisories. The message was: please, our billion dollar corporation isn’t interested in profits, we just want to help Tucson. It was probably the most cynical snowjob I’d heard in my time on the committee. By the way, that guy is running for congress now.

This experience, plus reports from the Town of Marana we were treated to of midnight modifications of billboards so that they could claim “grandfathering,” make me distrust many of the claims of community responsibility of the billboard folks. I’m glad to see that the governor was not taken in.

NB: The photo is a view of the Eagle Nebula (Messier 16, NGC 6611) taken at Kitt Peak Observatory, Schuk Toak by T. A. Rector and B. A. Wolpa. Non-commercial use, credit National Optical Astronomy Observatory/Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy/National Science Foundation, additional copyright WIYN Consortium, Inc., all rights reserved.

One Comment

  1. Tom Prezelski wrote:

    While we are on the subject of credit where credit is due, we should give props to two of the behind the scenes players who helped make this happen:

    First, Mark Mayer. Though his single-mindedness too often gets him unfairly dismissed as a crank, he is widely respected as an expert in these issues both in Tucson and across the State. The network he has built of environmentalists, neighborhood activists, and astronomers, was fully informed of both the politics and policy behind what was happening because of his tireless work, and this made the necessary organizing possible.

    Mary Okoye coordinated the lobbying effort for the City of Tucson. The work she did was complicated and tedious, but, in the end, very effective, as usual. Those who think effective lobbying is a simple matter of hiring eye candy in short skirts and impressing the leadership with one’s glad-handing and name-dropping could learn a lot from the work she did to help secure this veto. This community is fortunate to have her.

    Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink