A regional manager of billboard company Lamar Advertising (LAMR) has denounced Scenic Pittsburgh, a municipal beautification group, as a "billboard hate group" whose leader has "a personal hatred for billboards." In fact, Scenic Pittsburgh, Pa., has every reason to be concerned about Lamar. Left unchecked, the company has a tendency to do whatever it wants, regardless of the law, to defend its boards. For instance:
- A Connecticut state judge recently found that Lamar illegally trespassed and cut down 83 mature trees along I-84 in order to preserve views of its outdoor ads, and did so without the required permits.
- It applied to do something similar in Panama City Beach, Fla., but is in the process of being talked out of it by local authorities.
- Lamar is rather less concerned with the view of the backs of its billboards, which sometimes get covered in graffitti or unsightly rust.
- Lamar historically has maintained the position that the First Amendment prevents any regulation of its business whatsoever. (It's maintained lobbyists to maintain that position also.)
- Some free speech is more free than others at the company, however: It has historically favored strip clubs and hookers as clients but has come out against atheists and gays who want to advertise. (Lamar makes decisions on a community-by-community basis.)
- In Pittsburgh specifically, Lamar triggered an ethics scandal when it gave Christmas gifts to the region's urban development chief and then -- as if by magic! -- received a no-bid lease for a lucrative new billboard without a public hearing.
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