Thanks to a major turn-out from all four TOC branches on O‘ahu, Mayor Caldwell’s proposal to sell advertising on the outside of city buses was deferred by the Budget Committee. Congratulations on a job well done!
This may, however, be only a temporary reprieve from the blight of bus billboards. We need to be prepared that Bill 69 might come before this Committee again in March. In preparation for that, we should:
1. Celebrate our victory!
Thank you to everyone who gave so much of their time and resources to make this campaign a success. Thank you to Kathy for chairing the working group, Martin for all of the advice and the very effective signs at the hearing, Barbara, Jeremy, Linda, John, Susan, Martin, and Kathy for meeting with Council members, Susan and Jeremy for the petition, Diane and Steve for reaching out to our allies, Leigh for contacting our Neighborhood Boards, to the 20+ people who testified in opposition to the bill today, and to all of the many wonderful letters to the editor that were submitted over the last month. All that work culminated in this victory. Mahalo nui loa!
2. Thank the Budget Committee & Council Chair
Please take a moment to draft a short thank you note to the members of the budget committee that supported us and especially Council Chair Ernie Martin. Below is a list of how the committee members voted. Here are their email addresses: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Chair Martin did not have to attend this committee meeting and speak so eloquently on the challenges with the city budget and against the passage of Bill 69. But he did and we are very grateful.
3. Continue to build our movement
We have to assume for now that Bill 69 will come up again during the March budget discussions. To be ready for that, it would be good to continue to meet with Council members, Neighborhood Boards, and other supportive groups, and continue to collect petition signatures. Please reply to this email if you are interested in joining the working group in this effort.
How the Committee voted on the motion to defer Bill 69:
Chair Ann Kobayashi (Manoa): YES.
Vice Chair Stanley Chang (East Honolulu): NO.
CM Carol Fukunaga (Makiki, Downtown) YES.
CM Joey Manahan (Kalihi) YES.
CM Kymberly Marcos Pine (Ewa, Waianae) YES with serious reservations.
Council Chair Ernie Martin (North Shore) is not on this committee, so could not vote on the motion, but he urged the committee to “shelve” the bill, and if not at least defer the bill until after the Mayor’s budget is released. He asked excellent questions of the administration.
Honolulu City Mayor Kirk Caldwell is seeking authority to sell external advertising space on city buses to reduce the City’s current budget deficit. The Outdoor Circle, Hawai‘i’s oldest, environmental advocate and champion of the 1927 ban on billboards, has long opposed outdoor advertising because it undermines the scenic beauty of our islands.
Like the City, The Outdoor Circle is also very concerned about the City’s longstanding budget shortfall. Honolulu’s parks and trees already suffer from insufficient funding and would likely be early victims in the next round of budget cuts. Many Circle members are also avid bus-riders, who want to see improved and expanded bus service.
Yet, members of the Circle found the Mayor’s proposal to be dubious and dangerous because it could significantly weaken current controls on outdoor advertising and not balance the city’s budget.
The city’s budget shortfall now stands at $156 million. Advertising on the outside of buses is expected to raise $8 million at best, and more likely would raise only $2 million a year. As such, this proposal would soil Honolulu’s scenic beauty and we would still be forced to cut funding to public parks and other essential public services.
Residents and visitors already suffer with the lack of enforcement on stationary sign violations and convoluted applications of the current mobile advertising ban. With outdoor advertising on city buses, it would be a short trip to seeing signs on bus shelters, transit stations, and future rail cars.
Circle members appreciate Mayor Caldwell’s attempts to address these concerns, but his efforts fall short. He cannot promise that the content of the advertising would not be offensive, as constitutional protections guarantee equal access to any form open for public use.
Hawai‘i is special. We want to protect its largest city from turning into just another metropolis, where one cannot blink without being inundated with commercial advertising.
The Outdoor Circle looks forward to working with Mayor Caldwell and his administration to find workable solutions to the City’s budget challenges, but cannot support advertising on the exterior of city buses.
Hawaii News Now: Proposal would put ads on City buses
KHON: Mayor wants buses turned into rolling billboards
KITV: Mayor: Bus Ads Ticket to Restore Routes, Services
PBN: Honolulu mayor proposes adding advertising to the sides of buses
Star-Advertiser: Exterior ads could earn $8 million
Greenleaf is the online newsletter and blog of The Outdoor Circle. Here you will find updates on the projects and accomplishments of our many branches throughout the state, as well as programs with statewide impact.