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).
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