Financial benefit of digital billboards on school property comes with aesthetic cost
On behalf of Scenic Michigan, a statewide organization that preserves, protects and enhances Michigan’s scenic resources, we strongly encourage the Ann Arbor Board of Education to withdraw its unilateral decision to erect digital billboards on school properties.
Adams Outdoor Advertising has systematically approached school districts and cities throughout Michigan offering cash in exchange for impacting the safety, character, and, in this case, exposing students to rapidly changing messages in their learning environment. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “anything that distracts drivers from the forward roadway for more than two seconds significantly increases the chances of crashes and near crashes.” It is irresponsible to place the proposed digital billboards on the campuses of Huron and Pioneer High School where teen drivers already compromised by inexperience will be further distracted.
The impact on adjacent neighborhoods for homeowners and businesses is substantial. The bright light emitted by digital billboards can be viewed for miles and becomes the dominant feature in the landscape. The changeable messages that are viewed by students and drivers cannot be controlled or regulated due to First Amendment constraints.
True, the district, like many districts, faces harsh financial realities. Perhaps the good and consistently generous residents and businesses of Ann Arbor might offer foundation or corporate support to raise the needed $100,000. It makes good sense to have a public hearing and pose this question.
Finally, please don’t underestimate the strong relationship that your citizens have with a “sense of place.” Your students are no different. Once the look of their school is destroyed, this place in their hearts and minds will never be the same. Scenic Michigan encourages you to take a stand for community character, safety and for future students of your excellent school district by withdrawing your support for this proposal.
Abby Dart, Executive Director Scenic Michigan