Sunday, November 29, 2015         


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Mosaics of campaign signs might as well be billboards

By Lee Cataluna


What this town needs are billboards.

Looming, lighted rectangular signs all along the roadways, all owned by the city or state and rented to DUI defense attorneys, lap band surgeons and, during every election year, politicians. Now that's a practical money-making idea that could dig local government out of the hole left by the recession.

There have been half-hearted attempts over the years to get control of the campaign signs that end up covering every roadside fence and front lawn in the state. People have tried to limit the amount of time the campaign signs could be up before and after an election. The city this year took up a measure to limit the size, but not the number, of campaign signs. All that square footage of ad space on a single Waipahu avenue fence is equal to the size of a billboard anyway. We have billboards, it's just that they get put up in smaller pieces. Why pretend? There's even a large sign along Kalanianaole that is lit up at night with a string of Christmas lights.

Besides, only a billboard is truly big enough for Mufi Hannemann's ego. Only a billboard is truly big enough for Neil Abercrombie's head. Only a billboard can give a full accounting of how much each despises the other.

Another advantage is that it's much harder to steal a billboard than a yard sign. Imagine all the simmering feuds and full-out fights that could be avoided every election year if nobody was accusing their opponents of stealing the signs that probably just got blown by away the wind? Billboards could promote peace. And democracy. And stuff like that.

Of course, billboards wouldn't be so good in the pretty places on Oahu, like the drive from Wahiawa to Haleiwa or up Tantalus. But in parts of industrial Kalihi along Nimitz or along stretches of H-1 where all there is to see is smudgy concrete anyway, why not liven up the place with some brightly colored pictures of Kirk Caldwell in a Reyn Spooner or Rod Tam out to dinner with friends?

Think of the revenue stream that would be generated.

And when the space wasn't rented, the governor could post pretty nature pictures of trees, with one of those "this tree image brought to you by the Governor of the State of Hawaii ... your tax dollars hard at work" lines. Pictures of trees are easier to maintain than real trees

All this is kidding, of course. An argument could be made that consolidating advertising elements into designated space would be a way of controlling them, but Hawaii doesn't need billboards. We already have all sorts of eye blight and urban ugliness worse than billboards. And nobody needs to see politicians' heads any bigger.

Lee Cataluna can be reached at


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