Following a recent presentation to people with tourism interests, during which he repeatedly stressed the value of the state’s scenic beauty, the Democratic candidate for governor, Walter Dalton, was asked where he stood then on recent state legislation that now permits out-of-state billboard companies to clear-cut with impunity more than 70,000 publicly-owned trees along state roadways that are worth a lifetime value of $11 billion in ecosystem services alone.
Dalton, who has long been a major beneficiary of campaign contributions from billboard interests, dodged the question, even when it was reiterated, by performing what is known as “the pivot.” Probably knowing that audiences rarely catch on to this trick, he chose to answer a question that hadn’t been asked.
He explained instead why, even though it had won approval by the courts all the way to being denied a review by the U.S Supreme Court, he spearheaded state legislation on behalf of the billboard industry to take away amortization as a tool for local communities to remove the eyesores.
Lt. Governor Dalton asked rhetorically how the audience would like it if they were only given seven years to extract the value of their house? It must have been obvious to Dalton, a former county attorney, that he was comparing “apples and oranges.”
Basing the construction value on the property tax paid on an individual billboard and the average revenue value reported per billboard in Inc. Magazine, which is wholly and parasitically reliant solely on the value provided by the public roadway, a billboard company can more than retrieve the value of a board in just five years.
As early as 1918, ten years after the roll out of the Ford Model T, courts established the constitutional right of communities and states to protect themselves from the blight created by billboards as well as the harm they create by lowering real estate values while destroying trees and the economic, environmental and public health benefits they yield.
Fortunately, Dalton’s opponent, Republican candidate Pat McCrory has proven that he understands the importance of billboard control and the right of communities to be billboard free. If elected, lets hope he can better inform his colleagues who are in control of the North Carolina General Assembly and begin to put out-of-state billboard companies back in their place.