Correction: Billboard issue fails to advance

After lengthy debate, the Kansas City Council yesterday fell short of asking voters in November to decide whether to put a $100 license fee on outdoor advertising to pay for enforcement of the city’s billboard ordinance. By a vote of 8 to 5, the council declined to move forward with a recommendation from the city’s planning, zoning and economic development committee at this time. The proposal would have raised money to hire staff to inventory billboards and enforce a city ordinance.

The city has a stringent billboard ordinance, but has had trouble finding staff resources to enforce it. The council generally agreed yesterday that billboard blight is a serious problem in Kansas City and that it needs to be addressed. The lengthy discussion resulted from disagreement from how to handle enforcement.

Councilman Ed Ford, whose committee has been discussing the ordinance for four months, said he favored putting the $100 fee proposal on the ballot because it had gotten the most agreement from both industry and neighborhood groups. “It came from, not general consensus, but at least general agreement,” he said, adding that the billboard industry itself proposed the $100 fee as an alternative to a 2% tax.

Yesterday was the deadline for the council to put items on the November election ballot, but that required nine yes votes.  The five dissenting council members suggested the city council could appropriate the money and start enforcement immediately instead of sending a proposal to voters. Council member Jan Marcason suggested the city could spend more time figuring out whether the measure would raise enough money to be effective and whether the $100 fee would actually solve the blighted billboard problem.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the billboard issue would go to a vote in November.  That’s about as wrong as we could have been. The Midtown KC Post regrets the mistake.

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