Spring 2015 Newsletter

By April 6, 2015Newsletter
Jim Lagowski

Jim Lagowski

President’s Message

Spring is the ultimate bringer of change… snow melts, flowers bloom, trees bud, and people feel a sense of renewal. This year spring represents change for Scenic Michigan as well. You may have noticed our new Scenic Michigan logo! Thanks to very generous major donor support, we have contracted with the esteemed Public Sector Consultants for a redesign of our logo, letterhead and website. We are thrilled with our new look and can’t wait to showcase these products this spring with a complimentary social media campaign. Look for Scenic Michigan on Facebook and Twitter @Scenic Michigan.

We are very excited about these changes as well as our new office in Ann Arbor at 1100 North Main in historic Kerrytown. We are fortunate to be located in the New Center which houses not-for-profit organizations like Scenic Michigan. Very economical and strategically important as we work to build relationships with south-southeast Michigan, an important step in our long term survival and effectiveness. Our business office will remain for now in Petoskey. Say hello to our Executive Director Abby Dart when you are in Ann Arbor.

This location shift in day-to-day operations has already paid dividends, with Downriver (from Detroit) Mayors of 18 communities, a follow up to a presentation by Abby and longtime Board member Pam Frucci from Grosse Ile. We are working with Detroit officials on sign issues in that community. This Spring, we hope to be working with the 8 Mile Rd. Association, a consortium of 14 communities along the 8 Mile Rd. corridor from Lake St. Clair to Livonia. In the meantime distribution of our award winning Michigan Sign Guidebook continues.  If you or any one in your community would like a CD of this 200-plus-page document just ask.


Scenic Michigan’s 10th Annual Waterfront Wine Festival

This year the highlight of the event is a raffle of a cruise for two on the luxurious Haimark line to one of their 9 day itineraries to North, Central or South America! (air, port taxes not included. Subject to availability)

This year, the highlight of the event is a raffle of a cruise for two on the luxurious Haimark line to one of their nine-day itineraries to North, Central, or South America! (air, port taxes not included. Subject to availability)

This event is the major fundraiser for Scenic Michigan

Please join Scenic Michigan on Saturday, June 27, 2015, 4 to 7 P.M. for the 10th Annual Waterfront Wine Festival on the bay in beautiful Harbor Springs. The Festival features wine tastings from around the world, delectable appetizers from area restaurants and live music from the John Driscoll Ensemble. A highlight of the festival is the raffle which includes the chance to win one of several prizes ranging from gift baskets of wine and food to wine related packages. Tickets in advance are $20 and $30 at the door. Admission includes 2 tastings, a complimentary wine glass and complimentary food. Additional wine tasting tickets are $2 each or 6 for $10 or 12 for $20.

New this year is a $50 VIP pass which includes unlimited tastings and a signed poster by this year’s esteemed area artist Margaret Tvedten. In addition, VIP guests will have the opportunity to consult with special guest wine sommelier Tony Zanotti. Tickets will be available online beginning April 1, 2015 at www.waterfrontwine.org and at area venues. VIP passes are available only online and are limited in quantity.

Check out the Waterfront Wine Festival on Facebook to see posters from previous years and to keep updated on all the Festival news!


Scenic Michigan to Present Cass Tech High School Senior with Scholarship

Scenic Michigan will be awarding the first annual Scenic Michigan $1,000 College Scholarship to a Cass Tech High School Senior who writes the winning essay on the topic of “Why community appearance is good for Detroit.”  The deadline for submission was April 1, 2015 and the award will be presented at the annual Cass Tech Scholarship event. One senior will be selected by the Scenic Michigan Board on the strength of his/her essay and the scholarship check will be presented by Executive Director Abby Dart and Board Members.

Cass Tech High School

Cass Tech High School

Scenic Michigan selected Cass Tech to highlight the Scenic Michigan’s work with the City of Detroit as a partner with community leaders who seek to revitalize and beautify the city.  Executive Director Dart commented that “It is so important for students, who are the future residents and leaders of Detroit, to see how scenic beauty plays a critical role in creating great cities.”  Cass Tech Guidance Counselor Walter Stevenson, Jr. thanked Scenic Michigan and noted “by allowing our students to compete for your generous scholarship award, you have opened yet another door of opportunity to our Technicians for the possibility of a more successful college experience!”

Scenic Michigan seeks to expand the scholarship program to additional schools in Southeast Michigan as funding becomes available.  If you are interested in donating earmarked funds for the scholarship program, please contact Abby Dart at info@scenicmichigan.org.


Detroit City Council May Allow Billboards in Downtown Business District

Change of zoning ordinance would reverse longtime prohibition against billboards

Possible billboard blight on the historic Detroit Guardian building

Possible billboard blight on the historic Detroit Guardian building

The Detroit City Council is considering amending its zoning ordinance to permit billboards, including digital billboards in the downtown business district.  Prohibited for over twenty years due to driver distraction and aesthetic concerns, new proposals from the Outdoor Advertising Industry have spurred the Council and Planning Commission to reconsider the regulations.

The proposal is still under review but it appears that historic buildings are not protected from digital displays and the area under consideration includes an area with several historic districts.  Scenic Michigan Board Member Larry Keisling and Executive Director Abby Dart appeared before the City of Detroit Planning Commission in February to share information and concerns about digital billboard.  Keisling, the former Planner for the City of Detroit, explained the issues regarding distraction and the intrusion into downtown dwellers, where last count indicated that over 6000 residents live in downtown Detroit.

Stay tuned for further updates as the proposal is discussed and debated by city officials.


 2015 is the 50th Anniversary of the HBA … Not a Reason to Celebrate!

Pamela Frucci

Pamela Frucci

The Highway Beautification Act signed into law in 1965 was initiated by Lady Bird Johnson. She had driven through Stowe Valley, Vermont, known for its ski resorts, and noted there were no billboards to spoil the snowy countryside. Her thoughts turned to having the whole country not billboard free but at least fewer in number and not so big and blaring. She convinced her husband President Lyndon Johnson that this country needed a strong billboard law limiting the number of billboards to only 5–6 per mile and size to no larger than 300 square feet. With President Johnson’s prodding, Congress passed the HBA.

Her proposal backfired when the Outdoor Advertising Association of America was called upon to write the rules of the act! The word from Congress was “They know something about billboards.” The OAA of America loves the Highway Beautification Act! They wrote the rules that billboards could be up to 212 per mile (two-sided) and up to 48,000 square feet (so that giant tire on I-94 would be legal). Back in Lady Bird Johnson’s time there were 300,000 billboards. Now there are 500,000!

While in Vermont in 1987, I talked to Tony Ciaraldi, the ski resort owner from Stowe Valley who, along with his sons, chainsawed all the—then—wooden billboards. Resort owners ended up advertising their resorts by word-of-mouth. It was Stowe Valley free of commercial billboards that attracted the attention of Lady Bird Johnson.

If you really want to get mad about how the billboard industry got away with covering America the Beautiful with billboards, read the article by Dr. Charles F. Floyd, professor and chair of the Dept. of Real Estate and Legal Studies at the University of Georgia in 1979 entitled “Billboard Control Under the Highway Beautification Act—A Failure of Land Use Controls.”

My first brush with billboards was in 1976, 63 years after reading an amazing story of how in the year 1913 the now State of Hawaii worked 14 years to finally remove the last billboard in their territory. I was inspired by how a group of bustled ladies in the organization Outdoor Circle campaigned to challenge the proliferation of commercial signs that they said were “ruining the health and beauty of Hawaii.” Up until then the billboard companies were unchallenged, but Outdoor Circle changed that!

In 1913 Outdoor Circle took over the entire issue of the Pacific Commercial Advertiser in Honolulu and filled it with anti-billboard messages. Children wrote essays on the detriment of billboards and photos of the worst billboards were printed in the newspaper. (I have a copy of that 1913 newspaper!) The women got a red rubber stamp with large letters that read “anti billboards” and stamped their envelopes, checks receipts, and letter heads. They got public sentiment on their side and in 1927 the last billboard came down. The then territorial governor signed legislation banning billboards. Today only three other states that are known for their scenic beauty—Alaska, Maine, and Vermont—ban billboards.

Scenic Michigan has been working since 1989 to preserve Michigan’s scenic beauty. Why? We embrace noted naturalist John Muir’s theory: “People need beauty as well as bread.” We won’t be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Highway Beautification Act or Michigan’s version of the act. Both laws don’t work! What’s beautiful about rows of commercial billboards along our highways?

Pamela A. Frucci (member since 1989)
Scenic Michigan Board of Directors