Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Lingle signs bill
to stop sky ads

Gov. Linda Lingle has signed a bill that tightens state laws on outdoor advertising, specifically banners that are towed by aircraft or plastered on boats.

The law allows the counties to prohibit ads in the sky or on the water that fall beyond their boundaries so long as those ads are visible to the public.

The Outdoor Circle said the new law closes a legal loophole that allowed airplanes to depart from Maui County, which does not ban aerial advertising, and tow banners over crowded beaches on Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island, which have restrictions.

"This loophole that existed was allowing people to take advantage of a legal technicality and to bring that same kind of visual blight that the Outdoor Circle has worked so hard and so long to make certain doesn't enter our state," Lingle said last week.

Last year, U.S. District Chief Judge David Ezra upheld the city's aerial advertising ban. The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform is appealing the decision.

The anti-abortion group filed the lawsuit against the city after it was prevented from flying large banners over Waikiki, as it has in other cities.

The California-based group, which has used graphic images of aborted fetuses on their advertisements on trucks in Honolulu, said the aerial advertising ban violates its First Amendment right to free speech.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has already upheld Honolulu's ban on aerial advertising in 2002.

SkySign International Inc. had argued that state laws do not apply to the skies and that all regulation of air traffic was the responsibility of the Federal Aviation Administration, which had granted it certificates to operate over Oahu.

The federal appeals court ruled that Congress did not expressly bar local governments from enacting such ordinances.

"We feel confident that the 9th Circuit will reach the same decision on this issue now that it reached a couple years ago," said Jon Van Dyke, the city's special deputy corporation counsel.

Van Dyke also said the city is considering an ordinance against advertising on trucks. The Outdoor Circle said it is looking into it as well.

"A few jurisdictions, now, they are prohibiting vehicular advertising, so I think we can craft the ordinance that could work here as well," Van Dyke said.

Lingle said the complete lack of outdoor billboard ads is one of the special things about Hawaii.

"When you travel and see billboards everywhere you go, whether it's in a different country or state, you can see the difference immediately," she said. "We get so used to the beauty here in our own state, we take it for granted."

The governor also signed an anti-graffiti bill that increases penalties for repeat offenders convicted of vandalizing property.

Mary Steiner, chief executive of the Outdoor Circle, said the new laws send a "strong bipartisan message that Hawaii values its unique visual beauty and is willing to take strong action to protect it."

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