November 19, 2009

The First Amendment and Billboards, Baby!

The PRU Crew has decided to cover the issue of billboards in Park Ridge with a slow and easy beginning. We will be attempting to address the many related issues over our next few posts.

Today we will be narrowly addressing the issues of billboard content and the First Amendment -- somebody may want to notify Park Ridge's Constitutional UNscholar, Ald. Don Bachtard.

For this week's edition of the Herald-Advocate, we're going to give PRUdos to our favorite local reporterette for coverage of the topics of billboards and the first amendment.

In Ms. Jennifer Johnson's article --
'Officials mull how to keep control of billboards' content' -- we read, "If the Park Ridge City Council overturns the city's law prohibiting billboards it may have very little say about the type of advertisements that appear on them should the signs be erected along Interstate 294 as proposed.

City Attorney Everette "Buzz" Hill said that if the city changes its Zoning Ordinance to allow billboards, it cannot prohibit certain types of advertisements on the signs."

And there in lies the rub with the first amendment and free speech -- in short, if the speech is legal, then government must abide by "content neutral" standards in any attempt to regulate speech.

Ms. Johnson's article includes, "You're opening it up for a big gentlemen's-club sign at the entrance to Park Ridge," Planning and Zoning Commissioner Joe Baldi said last week."

Oh, Joe! Say it ain't so!

Oh, wait. Local zoning czar, Jack Owens, says it ain't so -- "Attorney Jack Owens, representing Joseph Loss and his company, Generation Group Inc., said his client's proposed billboards for Park Ridge would not contain any "salacious ads" or ads for adult entertainment.

"Generation Group includes in its legal arrangements with property owners that it will not advertise adult entertainment or any visual advertising of a salacious nature," Owens wrote in a letter to the Planning and Zoning Commission. In addition the company "refuses to allow advertising for gentlemen's clubs, massage services, adult book store, sexual toys or DVDS," Owens wrote."

Phew! What a relief! No "gentlemen's clubs, massage services, adult book store, sexual toys or DVDS"

And in case anybody isn't familiar with "gentlemen's club" billboard advertising, here's what some of those billboards look like --

This photo accompanied another recent article in the Herald-Advocate

Hey! That's not nearly as steamy as we expected "gentlemen's club" billboards to be. We're not sure, but we just can't muster any real sense of offense at this billboard. "Gentlemen's clubs" are legal and this billboard is advertising a legal...uh...service?

Well, let's see what else is out there in the way of "gentlemen's club" billboard advertising.

Okay! That's more like it! Er, sorry -- what we meant to say is, yes, those are just terrible. Who wants to look at that while they're stuck in traffic.

Seriously, people -- while zoning czar Jack Owens and Commissioner Joe Baldi prattle on about billboard advertising for "gentlemen's clubs" and other advertising of an "adult nature," the PRU Crew is wondering if any of the following would be acceptable?

Better than an auto parts and tools calendar!

Your social conscience will be "lovin' it!"

It looks like liquor is quicker!

It's the real estate market that's gone cold!

Doctors, doing the work God forgot!

The ultimate in good hygiene!

Everybody hates lawyers, until they need one!

Don't forget what your mother said about underwear and accidents!

And borrowing a cue from Hustler Magazine, some for the ladies!

But rest assured people, zoning czar Jack Owens, attorney for Mr. Joseph Loss and Generation Group, Inc. promises "Generation Group includes in its legal arrangements with property owners that it will not advertise adult entertainment or any visual advertising of a salacious nature," Owens wrote in a letter to the Planning and Zoning Commission. In addition the company "refuses to allow advertising for gentlemen's clubs, massage services, adult book store, sexual toys or DVDS."

Has anyone reviewed any of those "legal arrangements with property owners?"

What happens if and when Generation Group Inc. is sold to another company?

Addendum, for the searchers -- site map for proposed billboard locations (.pdf), last page of the Jack Owen's letter; note, Haeger Engineering's banner is conveniently placed over the homes along Manor Ln., and the site map does not include the residences to the north.

For those interested, you can view the Renaissance NW Highway LLC‎ property and the surrounding area through Google Maps.


Anonymous said...

Pru, you do have a way of getting your point across.

More than the billboard contents, I object to how big they are. I don't want that looming over the neighborhoods near where these are planned to be located.

Billboards are big ugly eyesores, period.

Anonymous said...

Wait a second. This is the issue that people have with the billboards?!?!?!!? People are concerned that there will be a few billboards along 294 that may be risque in nature and that it will reflect badly on Park Ridge?!?!?! "Gee Bob that is a sign I find offensive! I wonder what kind of community would allow that kind of a sign. Oh my gosh! It is in Park Ridge. Well this has completely changed my opinion of that city." Are you kidding me? Too funny!

ParkRidgeUnderground said...

Anon@2:14 --

Do you live in an area that has giant billboards of any kind, as the first commenter said, looming over your neighborhood?

Anonymous said...

Let's get those billboards up and start raking in all that cash so that Allegretti and the Alderdopes can cut this coming year's budget deficit from $3 million to $2.5 million. Then the can vote to give more money to Kalo Foundation, Brickton Art Gallery, and get right back up to $3 million again.

Anonymous said...

2:14, are you kidding?!?!?

I'm not sure it's so much what other opinions are but rather OUR OWN.

As residents we can (and should) express our likes nd dislikes of ANYTHING that is proposed to our community. It is after all our right to do that.

If any, some or many residents feel that billboards don't exacly fit in with the character of our community or quite frankly that we think that they are just plain UGLY, we are going to say so.

If that in some way gets your undies in a bunch, too bad.

Anonymous said...


No looming billboards where I live. I do have some experience having lived in the city for many years. There was a hooters billboard right across the street from one of the condos I lived in for many years.

Putting that aside, I am not aware that there has been definite plans as to where the signs would go. If I am wrong please let me know what neighborhoods these signs would loom over.

ParkRidgeUnderground said...

Anon@2:33 --

Nice try.

Check the site map and you will find the proposed locations for the billboards. While you're checking the site map take a look to the north and south.

You may notice residential homes in the very near vacinity.

Anonymous said...

I live in the fourth Ward and I don't remember voting for him. I wish he would get back to work in his own ward and start representing the fourth. not the special interest groups. I wish somebody would run against him we need change please please.

Anonymous said...

Call me a prude but I don't want to see half naked bodies or liquor ads on ugly billboards in my town from now until forever.

Anonymous 2:23 made the point that this is about getting money into the city coffers but the officials will just turn around and spend it again anyway and we are right back to starting over.

I am not willing to sell the nice appearance of our town for fast cash that will vanish into a hole as soon as it comes in. I don't want my town to be for sale like that.

Anonymous said...


I failed at finding the information via the site map. I just read my copy of HA and it references 1460,1550 and 1580N. Northwest Hwy.

I have to admit I am not completely familiar area and google maps is not much help at giving any perspective. I will make it a point to drive by the area and see for myself.

Of course I do not question the right of any citizen to push back against any potential decision by their elected officials that might adversely affect them. I would not be happy if a billboard was erected in my front yard.

The main focus on your post today seemed to be the potential risque content of the billboards. Careful!! If they allow billboards they may be for sex stores, strip clubs or underwear! I am sorry buy I still find that concern hysterical!!!!!

Anonymous said...

2:36--he doesn't work for "special interest groups"
he works for Howard Frimark.

Anonymous said...


I don't get why you think it is so hysterical to not want billboards with sex shop toys and strip clubs. Why is objections to those things so hysterical to you?

gypsy said...

It doesn't belong in Park Ridge.

Anonymous said...

anon 3:42:

Well I guess we all find different things funny. I find it such a silly objection and one I cannot relate to. Not only are we going to have billboards but they might be sexy billboards....ahhhhh!!! I drive on the expressways all the time and I could not even tell you the content of any of the billboards along my route, let alone if there are any for strip clubs. I can barely drive and talk on the phone let alone adding th task of looking at billboards.

From the perspective of the residents near by, the billboards would be facing the expressway, not the houses. I would also guess that at least 50%m of PR residents will never see the signs. If I am taking 294 north I get on at Golf Road. Of course if they turn out to be worth it I can change my route and get on at Cumberland and loop around.

In your post you say......."to not want billboards with sex shop toys and strip clubs". Do I take that to mean you are OK with Billboards as long as the content is OK? Look, I have no problem with those who might be affected by a larger structure near their home taking issue. From there it is a trade off for the elected officials. What revenue will be generated versus who it will alienate. Kind of like some of the folks near Higgins complaining about possible development and how it might affect their neighborhood. Of course as I recall they received a pretty good beat down on the blogs.

But if you are telling me that you concern is that if the billboard idea goes forward you are concerned about the content, sorry, but I still find it funny.

Anonymous said...


Your full of crap. You comment on the hystericalness of peoples objections to content. Then you say to the PRU you don't know the area and will have to drive by it. Then the PRU adds a map and then you say you aren't good with the maps. Then now you are the expert on what the residents near by will be seeing.

You tried to make sex shop toys and strip clubs a nothing issue because they don't bother you when you drive by but you don't have billboards of any kind by where you live.

No I am not for billboards of any kind and yes the contents is an issue too for the people in the near by area.

Are you trying to impersonate and outhouse, because man you are full of crap!

Anonymous said...

We are bombarded with this garbage everywhere - television, magazines, the internet, on the highways. Enough already! These billboards are obnoxious (it doesn't matter what's on them) and they are a distraction while driving. Keep the eyes on the road. Let's not sell our soul for a few bucks.

Anonymous said...

What map did PRU add??? I wish I had a detailed map. I took the address from the HA and went to google maps. I am not familiar with the area. Google maps does not give good perspective related to distance. I do know where that Renessance Office Park is and I know there are town homes across the street but as to all the residences are near by I will take a drive by and look for myself. I will admit that that is not a route I often take.

I claim to be an expert??? All I said is that billboards would face the expressway. It does not take an expert to draw that conclusion.

As to it being a nothing issue, you are correct that for me it is a nothing issue. I would argue that it is for you as well. It seems to me that the argument for those who might be affected by this is that regardless of content this is a blight on their neighborhood. In your own post you said you are against billboards of any kind and yet stated that content is an issue. How can that be? If you do not want billboards of any kind, the content is "a nothing issue".

Anonymous said...

This town is already ruined – planes are roaring over spewing toxins, our infrastructure is failing – what’s a few signs next to that carbon monoxide generator we call 294? Bring on the gentlemen’s club images, flophouses, off-track betting, high-density condos, and whatever else the aldermen can think of to attract revenue. Park Ridge is no longer a charming, affluent town – that it is only a nostalgic memory.

Anonymous said...

A picture is worth a thousand words. Good job PRU

gypsy said...

all of you who are complaining so much--where ARE you at City Council meetings? Do you get up and speak, voicing your concerns? Do you call your alderman or mayor? Or do you just sit in front of your computer and bitch.
Get up and DO SOMETHING.

Anonymous said...

I agree with some of the posted comments here in NOT seeing any type of billboard with suggestive

But on the other hand - if you're going to allow them - then you can't place a gag order on them either.

Didn't MSH suggest that they may even look into Ads on the roofs of the HS for the jet passengers to read!

We've come a long way here since Frimark's rein.

The Uptown development still looks a bit empty. The white elephant looks a bit lonely and so does the empty stores.

Forget the small stuff that HF did - lets try to recover and move on.

Mayor Dave needs all the support he can get.

And I don't mean from the pussycat dolls that met off site the other day either.

Bean said...


First of all, YOU don't attend all that many council meetings.

Second of all, just because when you are at the meetings you don't see people addressing the council doesn't mean the council isn't being addressed...through phone calls, emails, or through some other maybe, a local blog?

Third of all, let's not forget about the "representative" part in "elected representative." Last I checked, one of the requirements for becoming an elected representative was adulthood. I don't believe the aldermen and mayor should require constituents to babysit them at public meetings, lest those adult elected representatives get lost on their way to a policy goal.

Fourth and finally, I do believe there are quite a greater number of people paying attention and participating in our local government process than has occurred in the past...even if much of that appears to you as taking place in front of a computer terminal to type a "complaint" into a blog.

S'all good.

Bean said...

Anonymous at 7:53,

What Mayor Dave really needs is to pull his spineless head out of his appeasing ass and quit worrying about who and how many people "like him, really like him!"


ParkRidgeUnderground said...

To our anonymous correspondent --

Thank you for the heads up.

Some website services employ retarded people, and we don't mean that in the nicest way.

gypsy said...

Bean--how do you know? YOU are never there!
Yes, I attend the meetings.

Bean said...


I know because I have been to more meetings in that chamber than you have fingers and toes upon which to count your own attendance.

...but if you need any help getting down off your high horse, let me know.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Bean. If people have to attend the meetings to get things done and done right why the heck did we elect these people?

Anonymous said...

I forgot to say I agree with a picture being worth a thousand words. I would not like any of those billboards in Park Ridge and I also agree that Park Ridge should not have billboards. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

PRU raises the issue of the first amendment and how it comes to play with billboards.

As another person said here, you can't put a gag order in place for advertising.

If billboards are allowed then we can't expect to be able to have any say about what goes up on them.

The billboard company will have all the control over who they sell the advertising space to.

I am not sure I want to turn over all that control to a company whose sole purpose for putting up billboards is to sell advertising space and make money from it.

Anonymous said...

It's going to happen. Frimark made promises and Allegretti is seeing they get done.

Anonymous said...

gypsy, you are so obnoxious. You are one of the biggest complainers and whiners here!

Anonymous said...


I understand the point you are trying to make about controlling free speech. I do feel you chose extreme examples to use though.

I disagree with the person who says people worried about this are being hysterical. How ironic that people using their free speech to oppose risque billboards get laughed at because others think risque billboards are fine and just free speech. It goes both ways.

I don't live in the are where these are proposed for but I'm not crazy about this idea.

Anonymous said...

Billboards are fugly!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 421:

You say from your perspective the signs will face the expressway.

In other words, the residents nearby should be happy about looking at the backs of these huge signs.

Are you for real?

Anonymous said...

anon 12:31:

Maybe I have not expressed myself clearly, although I stated the following in the post you replied to..."Look, I have no problem with those who might be affected by a larger structure near their home taking issue." To restate it, if those affected feel that the signs will dramatically change their neighborhood or view of the expressway, by all means have your voices heard! I am in no way saying they should be happy about it anymore than I am happy about the new runway, or other residents are happy about a potential Hotel on Higgins or a Casino. I have never stated people are wrong to not want a structure like that built their homes. In fact, many of you have jumped on my posts assumeing that somehow I want billboards or am some "porn lover".

I just see this whole thing about billboard content as a joke. Perhaps I have a warped sense of humor. I read PRU's original post with all those clips, mostly from other states, and I picture this middle aged (like me) family in their homes on Prospect, or Belle Plaine, or even across the strret from the Billboard not able to sleep knowing that it is an underwear ad.

The issue is that for those who live near where these things may go up it may be a problem. For those who are truely concerned about the content of the billboards, it is possible that you may have finally found some common ground with some of the folks from PRMA.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Anon 1:12 for bringing to light the other piece to the puzzle!

Anonymous said...

Motoring north on the tollroad today I spotted a billboard within the Renaissance complex and a smaller one just to the north, both facing the tollroad. Both were advertising office space. Are they "legal"? Thanks PRU!

Arizona Strip Clubs said...

The advertising for other products OTHER than strip clubs is much worse than the strip club billboards. This is just wrong on so many levels to force strip clubs to take theirs down when you leave mainstream product ads up.

Anonymous said...

Just so you know, the "LA's Hottest Realtor" one is from a movie that came out last year called "I Love You, Man" so it's not real at all. It's a pretty funny movie, you should watch it.

ParkRidgeUnderground said...

-- the billboard for Ernie's Body Shop isn't real either.