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The 9th Circuit Rides to the Rescue of L.A.

January 6, 2009 |  8:53 pm

Wow. Neat.

At last, Los Angeles has a Big Cool Friend at its side for when it has to walk through the nasty, mean playground of billboard politics.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals -- that's the feds we're talking here -- has said that the city did indeed act legally and didn't violate anyone's free speech rights when it passed an outdoor advertising ban seven years ago to try to get a grip on out-of-control billboards.

In the years that this ban was rattling around the courts, the city played virtual roadkill in a lawsuit by advertisers that wound up letting 840 billboards not only stay where they are but go digital. What's digital? Think of 840 huge, vertical pinball machines.

Late last year, the city passed a ban within its earlier ban -- a 90-day moratorium that took effect the day after Christmas. Since then, even more unauthorized billboards, in the form of those building-sized plastic signs, have evidently been hoisted into place. Some ban. Is anybody afraid of City Hall any more?

[There's another lawsuit over these ''supergraphics''; one company actually brags that the signs are so large, they can be seen from space. And that generates exactly what kind of business? I didn't know you could shop online from the space shuttle.]

Now, at least, the city has some borrowed muscle. It can point to the 9th Circuit and say, "I'm with them," every time it goes out now to enforce its own rules and start taking down some of these obnoxious signs, and writing up their owners. [You ARE going to go enforce the rules, aren't you, City Hall?]

I think the city owes something to the locals who have been so vigilant about this. Maybe have a drawing, a feel-good contest giving one lucky Angeleno the right to paint his or her own anti-billboard message across a neighborhood outdoor sign, right before it gets taken down for good.

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