Minor public service options don’t balance major problems of electronic billboards

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Dear Editor:
Thank you for the June 27 article on electronic or digital billboards or “Powerpoint on a Pole.” Your article serves as a useful “wake-up call” to alert the public about an outdoor advertising technology that is sure to affect many people, and affect them negatively based on experience locally and around the country.
One justification by the outdoor advertising industry for electronic billboards is to present the faint hope that the signs would be readily used for Amber Alerts and other public service announcements. Well, the social benefit of using electronic signs would be so small as to be negligible, relative to the social costs.
The incremental benefit from electronic billboards would be so small because the capability for Amber Alerts is pervasive, even now. Capabilities for Amber Alerts are available via “variable message boards” in highway medians, as well as via TV, radio and cell phones. The social costs of electronic billboards, on the other hand, are high in terms of degrading the visual environment, creating light pollution, distracting drivers, causing accidents and reducing property values. And the real cost to the city could be millions, if they had to buy one out.
Curiously, the outdoor advertising industry has the opportunity now for “public/private partnerships” with standard legacy billboards. But, to my knowledge, there are few, if any, recent examples of the billboard industry proving gratis public service messages, such as for the El Paso County Health Department fairs and alerts, or important school district events and notices. Hence, the prospects for using electronic billboards for similar purposes are a faint hope.
Our community of Colorado Springs in El Paso County, which touts its beautiful setting and invests heavily in highway safety, would be better off without electronic billboards that compromise the visual environment and increase driver distractions.
Larry Barrett, Scenic Colorado