With respect to the “Five Man Electrical Band,” soon these behemoth billboards will be “blockin’ out the scenary, breakin’ my mind. ” You thought Route 1 was already an eyesore with its abandoned junk yards and strip clubs? Just wait until the money grab starts on this one.
Recently, the Peabody City Council approved a special permit to go along with new zoning, and paved the way for gigantic billboards, both static and electronic, to start “blockin’ out the scenary.” Why? Because the city stands to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in permitting fees.
Now, I know the city needs revenue, and I’d be the first to complain if they took it out of my taxpayer hide. But come on boys and girls of the city council: Do you really know what you’ve signed up for here?
The problem I have isn’t directly related to billboards. My concern is that the city council hasn’t done anything to give us some control over the content of these behemoths. That’s right, just as long as it doesn’t violate obscenity laws, we have no control of any of the messaging.
OK, so by now, I know that you’re probably screaming at me: “Bob, I thought you were pro First Amendment! Why do you want to censor billboard content!?”
Well, it’s NOT a First Amendment issue! It’s a quality of life issue, and before they think about filling up the city coffers, our elected officials should be thinking about how this all affects our community. What does it do to property values? And, what will happen if these messages are offensive?
You might think this is an extreme case, but it is possible under the new rules for these billboards that a racist organization like the American Nazi Party could post anti-Jewish content calling the Holocaust a hoax. Not only would something like that deeply hurt and offend people of the Jewish faith, but can you imagine the damage it might do to Peabody’s reputation as a community? It’s already bad enough that some people from around the country think of the Golden Banana first when someone mentions Peabody.
The city council definitely needs to take another look at this issue, and amend the special permit as necessary.
Here’s an article that recently ran on this issue in the Salem News.
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