Garage ads generate billboard law debate
Can you tell your readers who is getting paid for allowing advertising on the empty wall spaces in underground garages all over town? The garages that I frequent are the Honolulu Interisland Terminal parking garage exit ramp and under the Kalanimoku Building, both of which I think are state-owned. I know these are not illegal, but they are such an eyesore and more are appearing.
Answer: According to The Outdoor Circle, many other people share your views. It also believes the ads, under the state's anti-billboard law, may be illegal.
The offices of the state Attorney General and city Corporation Counsel are both looking into the question.
Two state departments oversee parking garages where the ads have been placed -- the Department of Transportation in the airport garages and the Department of Accounting and General Services in the Kalanimoku and other state buildings.
The DOT's Airports Division has contacted the state Attorney General's Office "to get their legal interpretation of the law" regarding the ads in the airport parking garages, based on a recent query by the Outdoor Circle, spokesman Scott Ishikawa said.
Already, the city last week removed a recently placed wall ad outside the Honolulu Municipal Building garage, which would have generated about $2,700 in revenue in the next year.
"Originally, when we got the complaint, we tried to look for an alternative site," said Sid Quintal, director of the city Department of Enterprise Services. Because one couldn't be found right away, the decision was made to remove it immediately, he said. It was removed on Wednesday.
Four other ads inside various city parking garages remain. How long they stay up wasn't certain, Quintal said.
"We're reviewing our policies and procedures ... just to make sure we don't offend our taxpayer base," he said. "We're going to work with corp(oration) counsel to get a full interpretation (of the law)."
Meanwhile, ads in buildings overseen by the Department of Accounting and General Services may be removed sometime next year, but not because they may be "eyesores."
State Comptroller Russ Saito, the head of DAGS, explained earlier this month that his department's current advertising contract was solicited to help defray state expenses by using otherwise blank wall space. The advertising was solicited "in compliance with concession law."
But, he's concerned about the public's view on the appropriateness of such advertising, as well as any advantage given to an advertiser, who may also compete for state contracts or services awarded by DAGS.
He's "now weighing the benefits in additional revenue" against those concerns.
The ads don't make "a whole lot of money" -- only $3,000 to $5,000 a year, Saito said.
His inclination is not to renew the advertising contract when it expires, but says he doesn't plan to immediately change the policy allowing such ads because, "down the road," there may be "acceptable kinds of advertising that won't create any impression of unfair advantages ... (and) that won't be tacky."
But Saito said it's a different situation for the Department of Transportation, which sells advertising space at its properties, such as the airports, where there already are commercial concessions operating and where large numbers of the public come and go.
The ads there cost more and are "concession type of revenue."
By comparison, he said the parking garages under DAGS' purview are mainly used by employees or people who have business with a state agency.
The Airports Division has two contracts that involve advertising -- one involving "call boards" in the terminals and the other signs in the parking garages, Ishikawa said.
Call board advertising has been in place for more than 10 years, while the ads in the parking garages began in 2002.
Last year, the ads in the parking garages generated about $13,000 in revenues, which went into the airport fund, Ishikawa said.
There currently are eight ads in the parking garages. Each potential ad and its location is reviewed and approved by the Airports Division before it can be installed, Ishikawa said.
The Outdoor Circle believes the ads in question are "an insult on the visual environment of the state," said Bob Loy, the organization's director of environmental programs.
"We believe that allowing these 'billboards' anywhere in Hawaii is basically an affront to decades of tradition in this state of no billboards," he said. "We believe it is absolute prima facie evidence that billboards are creeping their way back into Hawaii society."
The Outdoor Circle was organized in 1912 specifically to fight billboards along Hawaii roadways.
Loy said the organization believes "there is evidence in state statute that putting billboards in any public building, except under the most extremely restrictive circumstances, could be illegal."
Even if the signs can't be seen from outside the parking garages, "We still think there is a question about the legality of any billboard in public buildings that they (state and city officials) need to resolve," he said. "In the meantime, they need to be more sensitive as to what people in this community want and, more appropriately, what they don't want. What they don't want, clearly, are billboards anywhere."
While happy the city removed the one sign outside the Municipal Building garage, "We wish they'd go ahead and remove all signs," Loy said.
Regarding the answer to someone wanting to obtain the names of physicians who prescribe medical marijuana (Kokua Line, Nov. 21
): Pamela Lichty, president of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, said she wanted to correct a "couple of inaccuracies."
It's not a matter whether a physician is "allowed to prescribe" marijuana, as we stated, but whether he or she is willing to do so, Lichty said.
"Moreover, it is not a prescription per se (since prescriptive authority is governed by federal agencies, which do not recognize marijuana as a legitimate medicine.) Rather the physician must certify that the patient meets the criteria for the program as laid out in Hawaii's law, then forward the application to the Narcotics Enforcement Division of the Department of Public Safety, which runs Hawaii's program," she said.
Lichty said a pamphlet outlining Hawaii's law can be found on her organization's Web site -- www.dpfhi.org. Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 988-4386 to request a hard copy.
As reported, there is no list of physicians certifying patients for the program; any such a list would be confidential.
Lichty said the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii was founded in 1993 and was instrumental in establishing Hawaii's medical marijuana law.
In addition to NORML, she pointed to two other national groups working on the issue of medical marijuana: Americans for Safe Access at www.safeaccessnow.org and the Marijuana Policy Project at www.mpp.org.
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