Sunday, June 12, 2005

Repeal the Leave No Billboard Behind Act!

One of the first longer posts I wrote on Young Philly Politics was on the signing of the Leave No Billboard Behind Law, an awful piece of legislation passed in the dead of night in Harrisburg, aimed directly at SCRUB, a citizen group aimed at stopping illegal billboards from sprouting up everywhere. And, the kill a fly with a shotgun, the law not only stopped Philly residents from easily challenging billboards, but from challenging pretty much any zoning restrictions without spending a lot of money to prove they "have standing."

Many, many Philly legislators voted for it, most claiming they didn't know what they were signing.

There may be some truth to their claim, or least some of their claims, because on Monday Rep. Mark Cohen is introducing legislation to repeal No Billboard Left Behind, with many Philly legislators as co-sponsors.

From a SCRUB press release (no link):
This “silence the citizens” sneak amendment has set new legal hurdles for community groups and citizens through a “detrimentally harmed” standard that will complicate and possibly eliminate a citizen’s ability to challenge zoning decisions. The “silence the citizens” supporters claim it will only bring Philadelphia in line with the rest of the state. But SCRUB believes the “silence the citizens” legislators are acting - naively at best - to tip the system further to benefit select industries in Philadelphia, to the detriment of the neighborhoods.

The new legal standard is already proving costly for civic associations who are forced to litigate twice: first to prove standing, and if they prevail, then litigate the actual merits of the case. Since enactment of the bill in November several community groups, including Society Hill Civic Association and East Falls CDC have faced standing challenges based on the amended Act 123.

Cohen's co-sponsor's are:
Rep. Thomas
Rep. Oliver
Rep. Caltigirone
Rep. Manderino
Rep. Staback
Rep. Shaner
Rep. Vitali
Rep. Josephs
Rep. Blackwell
Rep. Yelio
Rep. Freeman
Rep. James
Rep. Bishop
Rep. Washington
Rep. Youngblood
Rep. Roebuck
Rep. Marie Lederer
Rep. Williams
Rep. Myers
Rep. Donatucci
Rep. Waters
Rep. McGeehan

This is a bill that should pass. Will it? I doubt it. The billboard industry worked long and hard to sneak this through, and will work just as hard to make sure it does not see the light of day.

Either way, thank goodness someone is taking some action here, and reminding people of the issue.


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