This August SCRUB’s own Mary Tracy, through her role as President of Scenic America, attended the annual conference for the National Alliance of Highway Beautification Agencies (NAHBA) in Charlotte, North Carolina. NAHBA is a think tank that aims to address issues concerning the Federal Highway Beautification Act. The organization seeks “to be an advocate for developing and promoting innovative ideas and consistent business practices for the control of outdoor advertising, junkyards, scenic and beautification programs; streamline the federal outdoor advertising control program through improved communication; facilitate the dissemination of information to members; and to encourage the integration of competing interests that serve the motoring public.”
Despite the expansiveness of this mission, Mary Tracy was the lone spokesperson at the conference to advocate for scenic beauty: the singular foil to the agenda of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA). In Tracy’s words, the conference consisted of “the regulators and the regulated”-i.e. federal and state level highway personnel responsible for enforcement of the Highway Beautification Act and the billboard lobbyists, whose purpose it is to get as many billboards as possible along the highway regardless of the impact on safety, aesthetics, and the environment. Save the presence of Scenic America, there was no other group at this meeting to represent the public interest.
Tracy was a speaker on several panels at the NAHBA meeting including: segmentation of scenic byways, a review of a pilot program in South Carolina and Florida, and the presentation of the International Scan Report on Outdoor Advertising. As Tracy commented after the event, “the NAHBA conference provides an important forum to discuss outdoor advertising issues, but there is a need for greater public participation to offset the imbalance created by the well represented billboard lobbyists.”
Here at SCRUB, we work to build a community of informed citizens who can shape decisions that impact the visual character of their communities, cities and states. We cannot stress enough just how integral the public’s input is in this process to maintain beautiful public space. In the coming months, Philadelphia’s lawmakers and billboard lawmakers will be working to rewrite the sign laws protecting our city. We are counting on SCRUB’s members and friends to join us at the table where these laws are being made.