Sept. 4 Mail: Robert E. Lee and Billboards
Robert E. Lee ‘an Officer and a Gentleman’
The debate over the names of schools pops up regularly across the country [“Confederate Clash,” Aug. 21], and while Nathan Bedford Forrest’s personal record is spotty at best, no such opprobrium can attach to Robert E. Lee, a man who deserved the title of “An Officer and a Gentleman” like few others in American history. He was not a slave owner and opposed secession, but just as most of his contemporaries regarded themselves as Rhode Islanders, Georgians, Texans and Ohioans, he fought for his country, Virginia. By all the accounts I’ve read, he abhorred slavery and never said anything that could not be uttered in the highest of social company.
Abraham Lincoln, by contrast, regarded blacks as inferior and often stated that it was not his goal to free any slaves but preserve the Union, at all costs. He recommended a constitutional amendment to perpetuate slavery.
The issue in secession was the balance of power in the Senate. Congress had been increasing tariffs, and the burden was worse for the South, which relied more on imports. Lincoln played his part as the crony for Northern industrialists who wanted to protect themselves from competition and to bleed the South for their pet projects like railroads. No one’s immune from feeding at the public trough.
His Emancipation Proclamation was a public relations ploy and freed not one slave. His war against secession cost more than 640,000 American lives. Slavery was doomed anyway and was eliminated in almost every other country without any loss of life.
So we unhesitatingly honor Lincoln while we question the worthiness of Robert E. Lee?
Roderick T. Beaman
Billboards an Environmental and Safety Threat
The City Council is currently considering an ordinance that would permit the new construction of billboards along Jacksonville roadways. The approval of this ordinance would directly undermine the best interests of Jacksonville voters, who in 1987 voted to ban the introduction of new billboards in Jacksonville.
The construction of any billboard has a negative environmental impact by destroying the treescape lining the roadways. This reduces the amount of natural space between wildlife and the highway, which increases the likelihood of an accident occurring involving an animal. However, the proposed billboards will be electronic, which makes them an even larger environmental concern.
Electronic billboards run 24 hours a day. Over the course of a year, they use more than 30 times the energy of a single household. This high amount of energy usage will be expensive, as well as environmentally costly.
In addition to their potential environmental impact, electronic billboards present a safety hazard. These billboards encourage drivers to take their eyes off the road, leading to distracted driving — which was responsible for as many as 10 percent of vehicular deaths in 2011.
LED lights cause a temporary vision disturbance that can cause blurred vision for up to three seconds after drivers returns their gaze to the roadway. For a driver traveling at 60 mph, a standard speed for many of the roads the proposed billboards will stand along, it means that a driver may travel up to 700 feet with impaired vision as a result of the billboard's bright lights.
Jacksonville voters made a wise decision 25 years ago. City Council should reconsider ordinance 2013-493 before nullifying an amendment that was passed in the best interests of the community.
I think that I shall never see
a billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
I'll never see a tree at all.
— Ogden Nash, U.S. humorist and poet (1902-1971)
A Billboard Ordinance for the Future
A considerable amount of misinformation has been tossed around recently concerning proposed legislation to regulate the billboard industry. Unfortunately, many of these myths made it into this paper’s Editor’s Note on Aug. 21 [“The Worst Driving Distraction”].
A look at the facts reveals that the proposed legislation would neither “gut” the 1987 sign referendum nor “expand existing signs.” To the contrary, the voter referendum required the removal of approximately 500 billboards; since then, the industry has removed more than 900 billboards. Additionally, the proposed legislation would not allow any more billboards in Jacksonville than currently exist today. In fact, it will actually encourage the removal of even more billboards.
It was not the 1987 Charter Amendment that caused the industry to remove all those extra billboards. Rather, it was the court-approved settlement agreements — largely written by Bill Brinton and Tracey Arpen — that created the incentives for removing additional billboards. It is those agreements that have regulated our industry for the past 20 years, and it is those agreements that have allowed sign companies to maintain and repair existing billboards, to keep billboards on local roadways, and to build a new billboard if additional ones were removed.
Ordinance 2013-493 is a zoning ordinance for the future. The obligations of the settlement agreements will be ending soon, and this legislation incorporates many provisions of those agreements, as well as existing state law, to create a consistent, reasonable and fair set of zoning rules that allow for the maintenance and repairs of existing billboards, and provide incentives for removing additional ones. We look forward to having a fact-based dialogue about the proposed legislation and the future of the billboard industry in Jacksonville.
Division President, Clear Channel Outdoor Jacksonville