Honolulu, Hawai‘i (July 21, 2014) -- City officials confirmed this afternoon that a pilot for Aerial Banners North was arrested today at Dillingham Airfield after flying banners over O‘ahu once again.
The Outdoor Circle applauds the City and County of Honolulu for fully enforcing the ordinance prohibiting aerial advertising in Hawaii.
"Thank you Mayor Caldwell and everyone with the City for enforcing Hawaii aerial advertising ban," said Marti Townsend, Executive Director of The Outdoor Circle. "This arrest sends a strong message that the people of Hawaii are serious about protecting our natural beauty. We will not tolerate attempts like this to circumvent our advertising laws.”
Mahalo to all the people who helped enforce this law by reporting plane-sightings to the Honolulu Police Department.
Aloha! Thank you to everyone that reported the illegal aerial advertising over the holiday weekend. Here is the latest article from The Honolulu Star Advertiser. Click here to read it.
Here is our July 7th public statement on the matter:
Last weekend, a Florida company opened shop in Honolulu by flying a little yellow plane over O‘ahu dragging a big advertisement. This company thinks that a waiver it received from the Federal Aviation Administration regarding federal safety regulations entitles it to also violate Hawai‘i’s longstanding ban on billboards. Boy, are they wrong!
With your help, we can make sure the laws that protect our beautiful skylines remain in full effect.
Here is what you can do:
1) If you see the little yellow plane dragging an advertisement, please take a picture and note the date, time, and location of the sighting. If you can see the tail number on the plane, note that as well.
2) Report this information to:
Honolulu Police Department (call 9-11), and
The Outdoor Circle (mail(at)outdoorcircle.org).
Your reports can be anonymous. We’ll use this information in support of an enforcement action against the company. (Remember, it’s a $500 fine for every violation and up to 3 months in prison).
3) Write a letter to your favorite local publication about your experience of this little yellow plane and its illegal advertising. Did it interfere with your enjoyment of Hawai‘i’s natural beauty and open view planes?
4) Support The Outdoor Circle! Staying on top of these regular assaults on Hawai‘i's enviable sign laws is hard work and we need the support of you -- those who benefit from our work -- to keep up our day-to-day operations. Click now to make a secure and meaningful donation to the Circle today and continue to keep Hawai‘i clean, green, and beautiful. Mahalo!
FAQ's on AERIAL ADVERTISING IN HAWAI‘I
Why is the little yellow plane bad?
State law and county ordinances in Hawaii outlaw billboards, including aerial banners. Click here to read: Hawai‘i Revised Statute §445-111 thru 13; click here to read Revised Ordinances of Honolulu §40-6.1 thru 6.2. This little yellow plane from Florida is flying over O‘ahu with advertising banners, in violation of these laws.
Why is aerial advertising so bad?
This little yellow plane is the coqui frog of visual blight in Hawai‘i. If we do not prevent it getting established here, then in a short time Hawai‘i will be over run with aerial advertising from manned and unmanned aerial vehicles. We are already experiencing an arms race of sorts in bus and car advertising. We cannot allow this new invasive species to take hold and further degrade Hawai‘i’s natural beauty and our amazing viewplanes.
Basically, because we value our natural beauty and open space so much -- both financially and emotionally -- that we agreed along ago that billboards are bad for Hawaii, and it does not matter if they are on a building, bus, or bi-plane.
Did the FAA allow them to advertise with aerial banners despite our laws?
No. The Federal Aviation Administration gave the little yellow plane a waiver from FAA safety regulations regarding aerial banner towing. This waiver does not apply to other state and county laws the company has to follow. In fact, the FAA regulations regarding “certificates of waiver or authorization” specifically says:
“The grant of a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization constitutes relief from the specific regulations stated, to the degree and for the period of time specified in the certificate, and does not waive any state law or local ordinance. Should the proposed operations conflict with any state law or local ordinance, or require permission of local authorities or property owners, it is the applicant’s responsibility to resolve the matter.” Click here to read FAA regulations 18-1-2.
Do they have a free speech right to advertise in this way?
No. The 9th Circuit Court ruled in 2006 that because Hawai‘i’s billboard ban – and specifically our ban on aerial advertising – is content neutral it does not violate the First Amendment guarantee to free speech. By content neutral, the court means our advertising laws apply to everybody regardless of what they are saying or how they are saying it. Other cities have tried to regulate advertising based on whether it was offensive or ugly and the courts have ruled those attempts do violate free speech rights because what might be offensive or ugly to one person, might be a fundamental belief worthy of constitutional protection. Unlike these other places, Hawai‘i has a general rule that nobody – no matter what they are saying – can express themselves through billboards. There are many, many ways other than billboards to express ones beliefs and to advertise for products and services.
Moreover, the people of Hawai‘i are empowered to protect our best interests, including our economic and emotional interest in our natural viewplanes. The 9th Circuit wrote that:
“In actuality, the ordinance is designed to protect what is perhaps the state’s most valuable and fragile economic asset-the natural beauty upon which Hawaii’s tourism economy relies. Revenue generated by tourism accounts for almost one quarter of Hawaii’s gross domestic product, and almost one third of the state’s employment. Studies, and common sense, indicate that the scenic beauty of Hawaii is one of the primary factors weighed by potential visitors when determining whether to spend their vacation dollars in Hawaii or another locale. More than half a billion dollars have been spent in the past five years on improvements to public areas in Waikiki, and a large proportion of these expenditures were for primarily aesthetic enhancements.” Center for Bio-Ethical Reform v. Honolulu, 445 F.3d 910, 923 (9th Cir., 2006).
Volunteers from our five branches on O’ahu worked hard to stop the passage of Bill 69, which would have allowed billboards on the outside of city buses. Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, chair of the Budget Committee, committed to deferring the fundraising measure for one year. The City Council passed a buget that restores key bus routes without resorting to bus billboard advertising to raise funds.
The challenge now is to identify additional sources of revenue for the City that can help to sustain basic city services (like buses and parks) without undermining the best interests of our community. Some of your suggestions for revenue sources have been proffered to the Council members in private meetings. Stay tuned as this issue continues to be discussed.
In the meantime, continue to build support for maintaining Hawaii’s ban on billboards by collecting signatures of the petition against bus billboards, talking to your Neighborhood Board and City Councilmember, and supporting The Outdoor Circle.
In case you missed it, click here to watch Andrew Pereria's story on transit trees.
Also, here is the story from The Star Advertiser regarding bus billboards.
Updated on April 24, 2014:
The Budget Committee voted to pass Bill 69 for second reading. The Honolulu City Council plans to hear the bill on May 7th at 10 AM at Honolulu Hale. If you care about this issue, please attend this important hearing.
From Kathy, Chair of the Bill 69 Working Group:
The City Council’s Budget Committee is once again considering Mayor Caldwell’s proposal to sell advertising on the outside of city buses. Hawaii is too beautiful for bus billboards! Our public bus service should not be held hostage to such an ineffective fundraising scheme.
Many of you worked hard back in January to convince the Budget Committee to defer consideration of the proposal for billboards on buses. They did defer the bill. But now that the Council is closer to voting on the final budget and the issue of Bill 69 is back on the agenda for Wednesday, April 23. There will be a hearing that morning, probably at 9 AM
If we work hard now, we can kill off this bad idea of bus billboards and stop the Mayor from holding bus service improvements hostage to advertising signs.
Here’s what each of us needs to do right now:
1. Prepare and submit testimony for the budget committee meeting on Apr. 23. You can fax your testimony to: or email it to:firstname.lastname@example.org,email@example.com,firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Make plans to attend the hearing, if at all possible. Bring your friends. We need to have a strong showing at this hearing to demonstrate support for keeping Honolulu billboard free. Click here to sign up to testify.
3. Forward the action alert email from The Outdoor Circle to other friends who share our concern for scenic beauty. If you are a Facebook user, post it on your Facebook page. “Like” The Outdoor Circle for more updates.
4. Call your Council Member to express opposition to Bill 69 even if your member of Council is not on the budget committee. (The Council Members do talk with each other!) Here is a list of all Council members with their phone numbers and their districts.
5. Call the office of each member of the budget committee to express opposition to Bill 69. That’s Chair Ann Kobayashi, Chair; Carol Fukunaga, Joey Manahan, Kimberley Pine, and Stanley Chang.
Our message is simple:
1. We cherish the scenic beauty of this island. Allowing advertising signs to mar this beauty is counter to all we hold dear. Rolling billboards are just as bad as the stationary ones The Outdoor Circle got rid of a century ago!
2. The Mayor and City Council must restore the cuts that were made in Oahu’s bus service. But they cannot hold bus service hostage to a plan for billboard advertising that will damage our scenic beauty. They must be creative and find the money somewhere else.
3. Bill 69 creates a false promise of new revenue because of its many legal problems. We already saw how previous efforts to regulate advertising content produced years of expensive litigation around aerial advertising. Bus billboards are a bad idea. The Budget Committee must kill this bill right now.
This is the time for all of us to take action. Hawaii is too beautiful for bus billboards.
Mahalo for your continuing commitment to keep Oahu free of rolling billboards on our buses.
For examples of what Honolulu could be in for if bus billboards are allowed, click here to see TOC's Facebook photo album.
Recently, we reported that members on Oahu are using "See, Click, Fix" -- a new app on their smartphones -- to report illegal billboards to Honolulu's enforcement division. And now we are seeing results! Here is the follow up from the first enforcement action taken through the "See, Click, Fix" App.
From the inspector's report:
"Inspection on 3/10/14 revealed the correct address of the complaint is 1357 South Beretania Street. The inspection on that date revealed the following:
- Mark Glen's Action (Gold) - There is a non-permitted sign (a banner). Pending.
Reinspection on 3/17/14 revealed the banner sign (Cash For Gold) has been removed at the above-referenced property."
Yay! It worked. The key here is patience. Like most counties in Hawaii, Honolulu's code enforcement division is woefully understaffed. It takes months for complaints to be inspected and notices of violations to be sent to property owners. We are heartened, however, to learn that two new enforcement officers were recently added to the staff at Honolulu's DPP Customer Service Division. These new officers combined with this more convenient method of reporting possible violations, we hope to stem the proliferation of illegal outdoor signage in Honolulu.
To download the app onto your smartphone, click here. You can make anonymous reports of billboard violations -- but be sure to mention you are working with The Outdoor Circle!
A special thanks to the members of the North Shore branch for taking the lead on enforcing our sign laws on Oahu.
Members of the North Shore Outdoor Circle have had it with the proliferation of illegal signs in their community. They are banning together with members from the four other O’ahu branches to stamp out this visual blight. This is not the first time, TOC member have taken on illegal signs with great success. But this time they have a new secret weapon: a smartphone app called “See, Click, Fix.”
“See, Click, Fix” is a free application available on most smartphones that allows citizens to easily report problems to the county. The program automatically routes the reports to the proper agency. Your report can include images, the specific location, and a detailed description of the problem. Reports can be tracked on the SeeClickFix website, including when reported problems are resolved by the proper authorities.
TOC members are encouraged to install this app on their smartphones and start reporting illegal signs, dumping, water-wasting, trees in need, and any other matter that needs the county’s attention to the proper authorities. Be sure to mention that you are member of The Outdoor Circle in your reports.
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
The executive director of The Outdoor Circle is determined to protect Hawaii’s scenic environment
By Christine Donnelly
Marti Townsend walks to work most days, a 30-minute trip from Makiki to her office on King Street that not only serves as good exercise but also keeps her connected to Honolulu’s cityscape at the street level. That’s important to her job as executive director of The Outdoor Circle, leading several thousand members who all are devoted to keeping Hawaii clean, green and beautiful.
Founded in 1912, the group is well known for planting and maintaining exceptional trees throughout the state and for ridding Hawaii of billboards in 1926 — a victory
over visual blight the group is working hard to preserve in light of Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s proposal to sell advertising on the exterior of city buses. Townsend notes that she also is an avid bus rider, like many OC members.
“Some people try to create the perception that you have to be either for Hawaii’s scenic environment or for TheBus, but that’s a false choice,” she said. “We definitely support both.”
Townsend, who grew up in Aiea and graduated from Moanalua High School in 1995, earned a bachelor’s degree in political philosophy from Boston University and later worked for two sessions as a budget analyst for the House Finance Committee in Hawaii’s Legislature. She also volunteered at The Outdoor Circle after college, which inspired her to become a lawyer; she focused on environmental law at the University of Hawaii.
Married and the mother of two young children, Townsend took the lead position at The Outdoor Circle in May 2012, after serving as the acting executive director of KAHEA-The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance. Heading any nonprofit means juggling many tasks. It’s no different at The Outdoor Circle, where Townsend oversees operations for 10 branches of the grass-roots group throughout the islands and takes the lead on statewide policy initiatives, fundraising and programs.
“Engaging people in the public process is a big part of what I do,” she said. “We all appreciate Hawaii’s natural beauty and the public green spaces that add so much to our quality of life. It does take a community effort to preserve and enhance that.”
Click here to read the article from the Honolulu Star Advertiser
The 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.