Tonight at 6 pm the St. Petersburg City Council will accept public testimony on their proposed Sign ordinances that will kill jobs, harm the economy and lead to higher taxes. Based on reporting of the Sun Beam Times this story was featured last night on ABC Action news at 5:30 & 11 pm and founder Dr. David McKalip was interviewed for the story. To justify their attack on free speech, they will rely on the faulty assertions of a very small group of well-meaning folks using invalid information to support a rather extreme agenda to stop what they consider to be an assault to “their eyes”. They will have no data showing a public safety benefit, will ignore the economic impact and will offer only small, nonscientific surveys to support their positions. They will even ignore the data from their own surveys that indicate the ordinances go too far! The Sun beam Times has discussed the negative impact on sign spinners, small businesses and free speech and now asks citizens to show up tonight at 6 pm to defend free speech and a prosperous economy.
Come to St. Petersburg City hall Thursday, 6 pm 10/18 to say NO job-killing sign ordinances.
175 5th St. N.
The City wants to do many things with this ordinance. Some are reasonable like requiring owners of dilapidated vacant signs to take them down, ensuring electronic message centers are not too bright, don’t flash and don’t face people’s homes. Human sign holders can’t stand in the street. The regulations will now permit an image (static only). These are reasonable. However there is far more that is unreasonable.
- Human sign holders can’t move in ANY way to attract attention and can ONLY be in front of the business itself, not on the corner down the road. This will kill the jobs of multiple sign holders for one business or perhaps all of them since they could be replaced by an a-frame sign.
- Businesses with electronic signs must keep the same message up for 5 minutes, up from the current 6 seconds (5000% increase). This is a disservice to consumers who want to know when to stop for a bargain and a disservice to businesses who need the traffic to hire more people and grow.
- Electronic messages can’t scroll or move in any way. Scrolling and moving text is not dangerous and actually can help grow a business.
- Images can’t move. The small electronic sign at the new McDonalds on 38th/4th st. had tasteful images of their products that moved. Now the sign is blank and the McDonal’ds Corporate attorney’s are looking into the matter. Does the city want an expensive lawsuit or will they cave to the big corporation while hurting small businesses?
- Older signs must be downsized if the property owner spends more than 50% of a building’s value on a renovation. Why stop a business from spending more money on a renovation in a down economy? That would create jobs. Also, older larger signs are often a factor in selling a building, like the Animal House that changed to an Achieva Bank on 4th and 62nd. That sign would have to be downsized!
- If a sign is outside a vacant building for more than 6 months it must be removed. This is unrealistic in a down economy when properties remain on the market for years. If a sign is falling apart, rusty or an eyesore,there are other ordinances that can be used, but if an owner leaves a tastefully painted sign up while they sell, there is nothing wrong with that.
- Historic signs would be exempt, like the World Liquors sign by Tropicana Filed and arts venues would be exempt. Apparently the activists feel some signs are more equal than others. The politicians are serving as the judge of taste.
- The city would exempt large venues like the Tropicana field where it would then keep offering rapidly changing text and moving billboards on a busy, high speed exchange at I275. There is obviously no legitimate safety concern.
The initiative began from a handful of activists who connected themselves to a great organization, CONA (the Council on Neighborhood Associations). They worked through the committee structure, then got the Executive committee (11 people) to approve the proposed city ordinance, and at least two of the Executive Committee member were not even at that meeting (including the President who is a Liaison to the Chamber of Commerce). Last night at the CONA meeting there were only about 20 people there representing over 100 member neighborhoods and only about 8 people left by the time the Chair asked for a vote on the Executive Committee’s recommendation of CONA support for the ordinance. NO VOTE WAS TAKEN BY CONA and so CONA members will have to rely on the judgment of a very small group of activists to guide them. This is a shame for a group that has done so much for the city, but continues to see its membership and credible influence drop as it takes on these odd issues that are outside of its main mission of working for neighborhoods.
There is no credible claim that safety would be affected since the city currently uses its own directional signs at the Trop on the street with messaging changing every 2 seconds. Local busses and trolleys have electronic messaging centers that change frequently. How can a driver handle the ever changing road conditions of emergency vehicles, political protestors, and kids on bikes, but not handle the wholesome economic activity of a human sign or a business’s electronic messaging center. Their argument just does not hold water!
The activists will point to a survey they claim supports the new ordinance. Well, that survey is publicly available here and includes only responses from 98 people, with only 91 responding to many important questions. Those responding are not defined by the survey (e.g. their political party, city residency, business ownership status and the like). However even this non-scientific, biased and small survey argues AGAINST the proposals in the ordinance! Here are samples from the CONA survey:
CONA survey supports 6 second dwell time (44%) and offered no option for 10, 15, 20 second times, with the next most popular response at 30 seconds (27.5%).
“The Current Sign code has a message duration of 6 seconds. What should the message duration be? (n=91 responders)
- 44% – 6 seconds
- 27.5% – 30 seconds
- 2.2% 1 minute.
- 7.7% – longer than one minute.
CONA survey supports Human sign spinner with limited restrictions and only small number oppose them altogether!
“Regarding Human Signs (Sign spinning): which policy do you think would be best for St. Petersburg” (n=89)
- 32% Allowed with permit, but with time, place and manner restrictions
- 16.9% – prohibited for commercial purposes.
- 13.5% – allowed without a permit, but with time, place and manner restrictions.
The anti-sign activists will also likely ignore an admittedly small, but more powerful survey of about 45 business members of the Chamber of Commerce that oppose these restrictions. They also ignore the work of the highly informed public policy council of the Chamber that is opposing these ordinances.
The right course for the St. Petersburg City Council tonight is to vote this ordinance down. Then go back to the workshops, allow the public testimony there that was denied in the past and create reasonable ordinances that provide more freedom to businesses to try to power our way out of this terrible economic recession. A recession created in part by such regulations to begin with.