Signs of the Times - May 2014 - (Page 104)
Ed it o r i a lly S p e aki n g
By Steve Aust
Circling the Wagons
A petition attempts to ban electronic signage
in Edmond, OK.
klahoma City and its surrounding suburbs are
prosperous. Twice already in 2014, Forbes has recognized
"OKC"'s desirability. In January, the venerable financial
publication ranked the city 10th among top cities where
workers in their prime (ages 35-49) were moving. And,
in March, it ranked "The Big Friendly" ninth among
the most affordable U.S. cities.
Three years ago, I visited a friend who lives in Edmond,
a suburb just north of downtown Oklahoma City that
represents an essential cog in the region's economic
engine. Edmond has grown astronomically - its 2010
Census count of 81,405 represents 55% growth over
the prior two decades - and it was named CNBC's top
"Perfect Suburb" in 2011. In February, its unemployment
rate stood at an even 5%, far below the nationwide
tally of 6.7%. I saw a city's housing and retail markets
in heavy-growth mode even during 2011's nationwide
However, trouble may be looming in paradise, and
it centers on signage. In January, after decades of conspicuous absence, electronic signage was at last allowed
in Edmond by a 3-2 vote of its city council. The provisions of the passed ordinance will hardly make the
city resemble Las Vegas; dynamic digital signage (DS)
will only be allowed along major-thoroughfare corridors
and I-35, and the law requires a 30-second dwell time.
Moreover, DS users must conform to standardized
However, that's still unacceptable to local residents
who seemingly maintain a dated notion about Edmond
as a sleepy bedroom community. Three former Edmond
mayors, Randel Shadid, Dan O'Neil and Saundra Naifeh,
filed an ill-conceived joint petition on February 14 to
put a measure up for vote that, if passed, would permanently ban DS in the city and block any options for
variances. Some civic organizations, such as the Edmond
Neighborhood Alliance, have also been vocally opposed.
Alliance President Walter Jenny told local TV station
KFOR, "There's not a whole lot of difference between
texting while driving and [reading] these message boards."
Really? We'll get back to that.
Councilman Nick Massey, who voted in favor of the
ordinance, said, "We formed a sign committee from
a cross-section of citizens, and drafted a compromise
measure. A majority of us felt electronic signage was
important for future economic development."
Apparently, signage has been historically contentious
in Edmond. Massey referenced Edmond sign-code
battles and revisions that have spanned more than 30
years. He said, "There's a small group in Edmond that
104 SIGNS OF THE TIMES May 2014
is ST's Senior Associate
Editor. A member
of its editorial staff
since 2000, his work
graphics, and 3-D
believes signs are unattractive and unnecessary.
Successful business and economic development
... are important to our future. We're now a thriving
community with more than 85,000 people."
Edmond's anti-sign forces cleverly positioned themselves for a May referendum. Local law requires that
a petition receive enough signatures to equal 20% of
the votes cast in the last municipal election. Edmond's
2013 ballot contained no prominent issues, so only 634
signatures are required by May 14 to get the proposed
electronic-sign moratorium on next May's municipal
ballot. Signatures from less than 1% of Edmond's
population present a low ballot threshold indeed, and
activist minorities potentially carry greater weight
in off-peak elections.
Councilman Massey remains optimistic that, even
if the measure reaches next year's ballot, it won't pass. He
noted the Edmond Chamber of Commerce's emphatic
support of DS, and that most owners of businesses in
the approved zones are eager to implement such signage.
Now, back to signs' purported distractions. This
worn-out assertion from the anti-sign contingent, that
signs cause accidents, remains untrue. Here's more
evidence: The federal DOT published a 2013 study
that concluded electronic billboards don't distract
drivers. ST Publisher/Editor Wade Swormstedt
summarized the findings in detail (see ST, March 2014,
page 40). Also, Texas A & M Univ.'s Transportation
Institute concluded the same after having studied
automotive-crash data before and after EMCs were
installed. Misinformation, not matter how often it's
repeated, doesn't suddenly become fact.
Kudos to Edmond's leaders and citizens for its growth.
The city has clearly acted progressively to nurture it.
However, continued prosperity requires adaptation.
If denizens don't adjust to current economic realities,
their beloved city may soon become outdated, and the
winds of prosperity may shift to places that better
Vigorous signage creates and reflects prosperity. A
majority believes this, but the minority who doesn't
often states its case with more vitriol. Common sense
will likely prevail in Edmond, but don't be complacent.
When necessary, stand up for signage, and the local
economy, in your community. Otherwise, minority
rule could lead to passage of such destructive proposals
as the one currently afoot in Edmond. n
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Signs of the Times - May 2014
Signs of the Times - May 2014
Columns & Departments
Typography Foe Wide-Format Design
The Moving Message
Technology Review: The Mutoh ValueJet 1617H printer
Technology Review: CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X7
Signs of the Times - May 2014