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. O 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 economic doldrums. 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 lighting levels. 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 Steve Aust is ST's Senior Associate Editor. A member of its editorial staff since 2000, his work emphasizes vinyl graphics, architectural and environmental graphics, and 3-D signage. 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 embrace change. 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
St Update
Technology Update
Typography Foe Wide-Format Design
Vinyl Apps
Strictly Commercial
Lighting Techniques
The Moving Message
Technology Review: The Mutoh ValueJet 1617H printer
Technology Review: CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X7
Design Matters
New Products
Advertising Index
Editorially Speaking

Signs of the Times - May 2014