From the Heartland

This is my soap box, on these pages I publish my opinions on firearms and any other subject I feel like writing about.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Suppose we had a city and no one came?

Planing Director wants to stifle even more tourism
City Planning Director Marvin Krout wants the city to pass an ordinance for something that is already in the state statutes;

It's sort of a backup ban, because the state already forbids the erection of new billboards along interstate highways.

I am not suggesting that there not be any regulation at all concerning billboards. Billboards in some areas are so prolific that a person could not read all of them and still be considered a safe driver. Not only that with too many of them they have a reverse advertising effect (nobody pays attention to them)and create an undesirble obstruction of the local scenery.

It does seem however that the City Planning in it's zeal to transform Lincoln into the kind of population center that only they envision is, to a large extent, discouraging tourism.
We're from the Government we're here to help
City planners say most billboards are leased by national companies selling products, not local attractions. And, Krout said, state law already allows "government signs" to promote local attractions, under certain conditions.

Here we go again, "We're the government we know what's best you, so sit down and shut up. If we want your business known (certain conditions) to travelers we will put up a sign for you at your expense. That is if we feel you deserve the recognition, but you gotta be nice to us and follow our rules."

It's the Economy Stupid
The first problem with that is economics. When there is only a very limited amount of billboards allowed the cost of advertising on that board is prohibitive to many local businesses. Of course the only ones that can afford it are national companies with million dollar advertising budgets. If Krout hasn't noticed these are also mostly national companies that have strategically located their businesses next to the "big road". After all when property values sky-rocketed for those prime locations they were again the only business entities that could afford the investment. If you don't believe that just take a drive north on 27th Street from Superior to the Interstate and tell me how many "non national businesses" have been built out there.

As for the "government signs" they simply display the LOGO and the only businesses they promote are those that are within a few miles of the Interstate and tell you which way to turn once you leave the Highway. You know the blue ones I'm talking about. The ones that depending on the time of day and weather are sometimes very hard to read and then they are only posted a mile from the exit. Anyone passing through Lincoln seeing these would think that the only thing there is a couple of Motel 8's, some McDonalds, a few national brand gas stations and a Dairy Queen. Oh yea and a Cracker Barrel.

Not that there is anything wrong with those brands, (ed... I had a McDLT the other day) there is just so much more to see and do in Lincoln and the planning commission is either ignoring it or squandering every chance to promote it. If the City of Lincoln wants tourism dollars they are going to have to advertise it, people are just not going to be driving by and think, "Gee I wonder what's here, lets waste several hours friving around looking for something and if by chance we do it will be time to go before we actually get to check it out." There has to be a hook, something promotional that catches their attention makes them want to stop. People need a reason to come to Lincoln for something besides a Husker game.
Local Businesses loose out to "Proper Planning"
What about local businesses or other entities that could attract some of the transient traffic if travellers knew they were there? Supposedly the planners are concerned with bringing tourism money to the Capitol City. When they deliberately make it impossible for local businesses to call attention to themselves all they are doing is further lining the already deep pockets of national businesses. Yes I know they pay local taxes and hire local residents, but how much of their normal operating expence for product is actually purchased from the local economy? Very little of the profit shows up on the local economy either. It is paid out to shareholders that by and large do not live in the area.

Yes there should be a limit on the number, size, and type of billboards along the corridors that lead into Lincoln. It is a balance that at this time is weighted toward the only ones that can afford it, national money. Lincoln is like the majority of towns, cities and villages all over this country, people normally do not make this a vacation destination or a travel stop unless they know somebody that lives here or need a tank of gas. In order to get the transient traffic off the Interstate and into the local establiments they have to be told there is something here worth stopping for. Afforadble and attractive billboards are a cost effective way of doing that.

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