• O’Donnell on 2018’s top political stories

    Insider asked Pat O’Donnell to identify top government stories of 2018.  Pat is president of YESCO Outdoor Media and chairman of the Legislative Committee of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America.

    By Pat O’Donnell

    First, I’ll highlight top news of the year, and then look to next year:

    Progress in Oregon

    Congratulations to colleagues in Oregon, who won a long-sought property rights victory.

    In April, Oregon’s governor signed legislation to protect billboards from un-compensated government taking. In the past, the state had paid salvage value.  The new law calls for compensation based on market value measured by comparable sales determined by an appraiser.

    This legislative achievement took more than a decade.  “Persistence pays,” said Chris Zukin of Meadow Outdoor Advertising in Insider.  Industry advocates included Meadow, Lamar Advertising Company, OUTFRONT Media, and Pacific Outdoor.

    Tax Victory in Cincinnati (Round One)

    Norton Outdoor Advertising and Lamar successfully challenged a targeted billboard tax in Cincinnati.

    After six days of hearings, the judge ultimately issued a permanent injunction to block the tax as a burden on free speech.  In court, Norton and Lamar showed that billboards communicate a wide range of commercial and noncommercial messages on behalf of many speakers.  The judge said billboard speech carries First Amendment protection, noting legal precedent against singling out one form of media for unique taxation.

    New “Sheriff” in Congress

    Bud Shuster accepts the industry’s top award in 2015

    Even billboard old-timers have trouble remembering Congress without a Shuster.

    Bud Shuster of Pennsylvania was elected to the US House in 1972, and became chairman of the committee that deals with billboards.  When Bud Shuster left Congress in 2001, his son Bill Shuster was elected to that seat. Bill Shuster also became chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.

    Now, Bill Shuster is retiring from Congress.  The next chairman will be Congressman Peter DeFazio of Oregon, a billboard customer.

    New Safety Rules for Billboard Climbers

    In November, new federal rules require fixed ladders that exceed 24 feet to have some type of fall protection.

    The industry is proud of its safety record (training, equipment, and compliance).

    10-year Anniversaries

    A decade ago, our industry formalized partnerships with the FBI and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

    Since then, the FBI has resolved 57 tough cases as a direct result of billboard publicity, and more than 1,900 AMBER Alerts have been transmitted to digital billboards.

    On April 20, 2018, the FBI director presented a community leadership award to Clear Channel-Las Vegas for helping law enforcement after the mass shooting and also fighting human trafficking.

    The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children said a tip prompted by billboards led authorities to locate a young boy in Ohio in late August; he had been missing a year.

    What’s Next:

    • On January 30, 2019, a federal appeals court will hear oral arguments in the pending legal challenge to billboard law, based on the First Amendment. Ultimately, this case (Thomas v. Schroer) could be appealed to the US Supreme Court.
    • In 2019, look for government-sponsored research on billboard relocation in lieu of condemnation, to save time and taxpayer funds.
    • Billboard-tax lawsuits are on appeal. Clear Channel Outdoor has been litigating Baltimore’s billboard tax since it was enacted in 2013. The City of Cincinnati intends to ask a state appeals court to uphold its billboard tax, which was struck down by a common pleas court judge in October.

    Along with progress, we continually face challenges.



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