Posts Tagged ‘highways’

Save Highway Trees; Urge Governor Deal to Veto HB 179

May 2, 2011

There is still a chance, perhaps a small one, but a chance nevertheless, to block the billboard industry’s attempt to clear-cut taxpayer owned trees on the state’s highways.  It will take a veto by Governor Deal. 

Former state representative and retired Columbus lawyer Milton Jones, who is an enthusiastic  Trees Columbus booster, states the problem and the solution.

Problem:

House Bill 179 allows billboard companies to clear-cut every single tree in a view zone in front of a billboard. Thanks to powerful billboard interests, HB 179 passed the Georgia General Assembly despite significant public opposition.

Billboard owners can already trim and cut trees in front of billboards under existing law, but HB 179 would cut down every single hardwood and pine tree in a 250 foot view zone in front of billboards. These are trees owned by the public that would be sacrificed for private gain. HB 179 harms the scenic beauty of Georgia.

Solution:

Urge Governor Deal to stand up for trees and veto House Bill 179.  You can email the governor by clicking here.

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Rail Transit Can No Longer Be Ignored by Georgia Legislators

April 20, 2009

For a lot of my childhood, I lived a block  from the Central of Georgia Depot on 6th Avenue in Columbus.  That depot was a very busy place, especially during World War two.  Not only were there major passenger trains like the Seminole and the City of Miami, which connected Chicago to Florida,  that made a stop in Columbus, but local passenger trains to Macon,  Montgomery, and Atlanta.  During the war,  my mother and I went by train from Columbus to Joplin, Missouri to visit with my brother who would soon be sent to England and Germany.  I was about 13-years-old at the time.   Railroads put every passenger car they had into service,  including some very old ones,  and the train that took us from Birmingham to Springfield, Missouri was so long it was pulled by not one, but two steam engines. 

After the war,  the emphasis  on automobiles and highways,  and the rapid growth of airlines, just about killed the passenger train business.   Well, for those who believe there are cycles to history, the train cycle is here.  Trains are the most economical and fuel efficient way to transport masses of people.  Finally, national leaders, including Presdient Obama,  are recognising this. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Sunday,  “President Barack Obama announced plans Thursday for a national high-speed rail network that would include lines crisscrossing Georgia connected through a hub in Atlanta.

“The plan would create a European-like system with trains that could run at more than 100 mph. Obama is pledging $8 billion toward development of the system as part of the economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”

Finland Passenger Train Car (Courtesy: Jonic)

Finland Passenger Train Car, upper deck (Courtesy: Jonic, Wikipedia)

Our leaders at the Georgia state capitol, however,  have been in love with highways and cars to the extent they, for the most part, ignored rail,  and critics say this could  hamper Georgia in taking advantage of the federal funding for rapid rail.

The legilsature left the Marta system in Atlanta hanging out to dry by not taking action that would allow the system, which is more popular than ever,  to use funds it already has to keep it up and running.  There is a 40-year-old state law that says Marta can’t spend reserve funds on operating expenses.  That made sense 40 years ago when Marta first started, but now that it is a mature system, it makes no sense at all.

As I reported earlier, Columbus Representative Calvin Smyre and State Senators Seth Harp and Ed Harbison say that situation will have to be faced and corrected when the legislature goes into a predicted special session in July to come up with a new budget.  Let’s hope they and other legislators come to grips with this problem because it is critical.

The Billboard Bill Fails in the House, but It Could be Voted on Again

April 2, 2009

While we can feel good about the responsible way that a majority of Georgia House members voted down SB 164,  which gives billboard companies more power to cut down trees on public property,  we can’t relax yet.  The bill was defeated, but a vote to reconsider was passed so it could come up again.  Friday is the last day of the legislative session.   It would be a good idea to contact your state representative,  thank him or her for voting against the bill and urge him or her to vote no again if it does come up before the legislative session ends.

URGENT! The Billboard Bill Gets Georgia House Consideration Tomorrow

March 31, 2009

If you haven’t already contacted your state representative via telephone or email, let me urge you to do it now.  Josh McKoon, Common Cause and Republican activist,  informs me that SB 164, the one that gives billboard companies more power in cutting down trees on public property so  you can see billboards better,  is scheduled for consideration on the House floor TOMORROW.

PLEASE LET YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVE KNOW YOU WOULD LIKE FOR HIM OR HER TO VOTE NO.

Save Our Highway Trees by Contacting Your Georgia House Rep. and Urging a No Vote on SB 164

March 29, 2009

Let me urge you to pick up your phone and call your Georgia House rrepresentative,  or email him or her,  and say that you hope he or she will vote against SB 164, the one that gives more power to billboard companies to cut taxpayer owned trees along highway rights of way.

Ken Henson, Columbus attorney, Trees Columbis Inc. board member

Ken Henson, Columbus attorney, Trees Columbis Inc. board member

Ken Henson,  a Columbus attorney and Trees Columbus Inc. board member,  who was among those who testified at the Georgia House Transportation Committee against the bill,  says it not only give billboard companies the right to cut trees in front of billboards that already exist, but to cut them where billboard companies plan to put up a new billboard.  Though there were a lot of people who spoke against that bill, the committee sent it to the House floor witha do-pass recommendation.  That means the only way to stop it is on the House floor.  It happened last year and you can cause it to happen again.

I am not against billboards,  but I don’t think they are more important then trees that beautify our highways and add to our oxygen supply.  A recent survey shows that a majority of Georgians oppose cutting of trees on public property to make it easier to read to a billboard.  Still,  billboard industry lobbyists in the Gerogia State Capitol can have more influence than such polls that tell state legislators what the people of Georgia want.  The only way to overcome the power of the well funded vested interest lobbyists is by massive input from voters.  So, please let your legislator know that you want him or her to vote against SB 164.

Billboard Bill Goes to Georgia House Transportation Committee

March 24, 2009

It appears that if the move to give the billboard industry more power to cut down trees on public property is going to be stopped,  it will have been be stopped the same way a similar bill was stopped last year,  on the floor of the Georgia House of Representatives.  A spokesperson for Dorothy McDaniel of Trees Columbus, Inc., who attended today’s Georgia House transportation subcommittee meeting,  tells me that it voted 3 to 1 to send SB 164,  which easily passed in the Georgia Senate, on to the full Department of Transportation Committee,  where it expected to be approved and sent on to the floor of the House. 

Dorothy McDaniel,  Trees Columbus, Inc.

Dorothy McDaniel, Trees Columbus, Inc.

If you value trees and highway beautification more than the rights of billboard companies to cut trees on public property that block the viewing of billboards on private property,  then it would be a good idea to let members of the Georgia House know you want them to vote down this measure.   To get you local legislator’s email address just go to this Georgia House of Representative website.

The billboard industry already has the right to seek a permit to cut down trees on public property.  but the DOT can deny the permit.  If the new bill passes,  what was once a privilege will become a right.

Bob Hydrick Deals with the Facts in the Billboard Controversy

March 18, 2009

Dick: Thanks for bringing to my attention Willam E. Board’s response to your post following our conversations last weekend. If Mr. Board wants to deal with the facts then let’s do so.

Fact: Under existing law and regulations the issuance of a vegetation management (tree-cutting permit) is by definition a privilege and not a right, because the DOT Commissioner has the discretion to withhold (deny) a permit if the vegetation to be removed falls into several categories spelled out in the regulations. This the basis of the lawsuit filed by the City of Columbus, Gateways and Trees Columbus.

Under SB 164, this discretionary authority will be eliminated. Mr. Board is right in that a permit is still required,  but the language reads “shall be issued.” making it a right, which takes away the DOT commissioner’s discretionary authority.

Fact: As to trees planted as a part of a beautification project, as Mr. Board stated SB 164 does protect trees planted before January 1, 2009. But, as he also noted, it makes any trees planted after that date fair game for a mandatory vegetation management permit. Here’s an example of what that could mean. Right now Gateways and the DOT and others are spending millions of dollars in public and private money to landscape the Victory Drive 185 interchange creating a Gateway to Ft. Benning that will be a community landmark. Under SB 164, any trees planted on the rights of way as a part of this project would be eligible to cut any time in the future if the billboard company decides it wanted to put up a billboard adjacent to the project.

Fact: SB 164 is a bad bill and the people of Georgia recognize it as a poll done for Scenic Georgia by the widely-respected polling firm, American Viewpoint last month clearly demonstrates.  500 respondents were asked this question: “Do you favor or oppose the State of Georgia allowing billboard companies to cut down trees on public property so that motorists can see billboards located on nearby private property?” It wasn’t even close: 72% said NO! and 24% said Yes.

Getting the Facts Straight

March 18, 2009

William E. Board’s comment following my post “How SB 164 Gives Billboard Companies More Power to Cut Public Trees”  raised some interesting points.  My post was based on what Trees Columbus Inc. Board Member Bob Hydrick,  who is a former mayor of Columbus and an adeversting comapny executive,  told me.  I published MR. Board’s   comment in the comment section of the post,  but since I am going to publish Bob Hydrick’s response as an artilce, I am given Mr. Board the same treatment.   Here is Mr. Board’s comment, which will be followed by Bob Hydrick’s response in another post.

In response to your article above, I have some FACTUAL information taken directly from the new Bill SB164. I realize that facts don’t seem to be the basis for your conversation with Bob Hydrick, nonetheless these are excerpts from the Bill as it sits passed by the Georgia State Senate.

1.      Hopefully you will do me the courtesy of publishing this, as I gave you the courtesy of reading your article, no matter how inaccurate it may have been. Below is your article with the sections of the NEW Bill where appropriate to rebut the comments the Hydrick falsely stated. They FACTS are indentified with 6 ******.

Either you are unaware or you are deliberately trying to mislead your readers. Billboard companies have the right to cut these trees now,” Anna McLendon wrote in a comment on my post about the latest effort by billboard companies to obtain the right to cut trees on state and local governmental highway rights of way. She is partially right, certainly, though, not about my deliberately misleading my readers. I don’t do that. The unaware part is the part that’s partially right. I didn’t know as much about the present law or the one that just passed the Senate as I should have. She is wrong, however, in that the billboard companies now have the “right” to cut those trees.

In order to correct my shortcoming in understand the two laws, I called former Columbus mayor and advertising executive Bob Hydrick, who is on the board of Trees Columbus Inc. Bob explained it this way: “What the billboard people have now is the ‘privilege,’ not the ‘right’ to cut trees on public rights of way. They have to get a permit from the state Department of Transportation commissioner. If their request meets certain criteria, he can grant permission to cut the trees, but he can also deny their request. The new law, the one passed by the Senate and is now in the House, gives them the ‘right’ rather than the ‘privilege.’ They won’t have to get a permit from DOT anymore.” ******This statement is TOTALLY inaccurate. The new legislation requires the billboard company to apply and have granted a permit from the Department of Transportation. (From the Bill SB164 – (d) Permit application process and fees:

(1) A vegetation permit must be secured prior to performing any vegetation removal. The permit shall be effective for one year from the date of issuance. Any permitted work not completed during that year shall require the submission of a new application to complete.

(2) Permit applications for vegetation removal will be made by the outdoor advertising permit holder upon the forms prescribed and provided by the department and shall contain the signature of the outdoor advertising permit holder. A separate application must be submitted for each work site. The application must contain all required information before a permit will be granted. The following is a list of all required information that must be submitted with the application form:)******

 

Now, when a billboard company wants to put up a new billboard, it has to wait five years before it can get a permit to cut vegetation on public property. Being on private property, it can put up the billboard, but it can’t cut trees on public property for five years. The new law ends that prohibition, also. ******This is a misleading statement as well. The new legislation does allow the 5 year time period to be withdrawn, but this new legislation is a pilot program. It will be phased in over the next three (3) years allowing for different districts each year. And if it doesn’t work, the legislators can return to the current system. (From the Bill SB164 – (g) Effective date:

(1) This Code section shall become effective on July 1, 2009, and shall be implemented as a three-year pilot program by department districts as follows:
(A) Year one, effective July 1, 2009: First, Second, and Sixth department districts;
(B) Year two, effective July 1, 2010: Third, Fifth, and Seventh department districts; and
(C) Year three, effective July 1, 2011: Fourth department district.
(2) As of July 1, 2012, this Code section shall become applicable to all outdoor advertising signs lawfully permitted by the department wherever located unless otherwise determined by the General Assembly. Nothing contained in this Code section shall render any sign existing on July 1, 2009, nonconforming.)******

Also, Bob told me, now, they simply cannot cut trees that were planted as part of beautification projects. The DOT commissioner doesn’t have the authority to give a permit for that. Under the new law, that would also change. They would have the right to cut trees planted as part of beautification projects. ******Once again, this is a TOTALLY inaccurate statement. If the trees or vegetation were planted as a part of beautification projects, removal would not be permitted. (From the Bill SB164 -(8) No removal of any tree planted prior to January 1, 2009, as part of any local, state, or federal government or specifically identified beautification project shall be permitted under this Code section unless written approval is obtained from the sponsoring jurisdiction.) ****** There is a suit against the DOT pending on this one, filed by Trees Columbus, Inc., the Gateway Foundation, and the City of Columbus, concerning the attempted cutting of trees planted as part of beautification projects on I-185 inside the Columbus City Limits.
I hope that clarifies what the Billboard industry is trying to accomplish with the new law, SB 164, which passed in the Senate and is now in the Georgia House. You can read the bill by going to this Georgia Senate link. I haven’t changed my mind about how I feel about the law. I don’t want beautification projects on public property destroyed to make it easier to see billboards. I hope you will let your representative in the House know that you do not favor SB 164, which expands the billboard industry’s power to cut down trees owned by taxpayers.

******Now, I’m not sure what Senate or House Bill Bob Hydrick was reciting, but the correct contents of SB164 are included in this rebuttal. The people of Georgia deserve what is right for the State from the Congress it elected. This Bill will bring jobs for the Arborists, jobs for the Landscapers, local advertising who depend on this kind of advertising (To the tune of 10,000+ employees employed by the local advertisers), jobs for the Billboard Company and money to the Georgia Department of Transportation in the form of Fees paid for application and mitigation.

Georgia has more trees and vegetation than most of the states in the country. How are they helping Georgia’s economy? How are they contributing to an increase in jobs? They give us air. And no matter how many get cut down as a result of this legislation, we’ll never run out of that. Oh, and one last thing that Hydrick failed to mention. The Billboard Company will have to lower their signs to 75’ or less in order to obtain and continue with the permit applied for under this new legislation. And at THEIR expense!!

It’s time to think with our heads and not our hates. Georgia is depending on Congress to improve our economy. SB164 is at the very least, a start!

William E Board

 

How SB 164 Gives Billboard Companies More Power to Cut Publically Owned Trees

March 14, 2009

“Either you are unaware or you are deliberately trying to mislead your readers. Billboard companies have the right to cut these trees now,” Anna McLendon wrote in a comment on my post about the latest effort by billboard companies to obtain the right to cut trees on state and local governmental highway rights of way.  She is partially right, certainly, though, not about my deliberately misleading my readers.  I don’t do that.  The  unaware part is the part that’s partially right.  I didn’t know as much about the present law or the one that just passed the Senate as I should have.  She is wrong, however, in that the billboard companies now have the “right” to cut those trees.

In order to correct my shortcoming in understand the two laws,  I called former Columbus mayor and advertising executive Bob Hydrick, who is on the board of    Trees Columbus Inc.  Bob explained it this way:  “What the billboard people have now is the ‘privilege,’  not the ‘right’ to cut trees on public rights of way.  They have to get a permit from the state Department of Transportation commissioner.  If their request meets certain criteria,  he can grant permission to cut the trees,  but he can also deny their request.  The new law, the one passed by the Senate and is now in the House,  gives them the ‘right’ rather than the ‘privilege.’  They won’t have to get a permit from DOT any more.”

Now,  when a billboard company wants to put up a new billboard,  it has to wait five years before it can get a permit to cut vegitation on public property.  Being on private property,  it can put up the billboard,  but it can’t cut trees on public property for five years.  The new law ends that prohibition, also.

Also, Bob told me,  now, they simply cannot cut trees that were planted as part of beautification projects.  The DOT commissioner doesn’t have the authority to give a permit for that.  Under the new law,  that would also change.  They would have the right to cut trees planted as part of beautification projects.   There is a suit against the DOT pending on this one,  filed by  Trees Columbus, Inc., the Gateway Foundation, and the City of Columbus,  concerning the attempted cutting of trees planted as part of beautification projects on I-185 inside the Columbus City Limits.

I hope that clarifies what the Billboard industry is trying to accomplish with the new law, SB 164,  which passed in the Senate and is now in the Georgia House.  You can read the bill by going to this Georgia Senate link.  I haven’t changed my mind about how I feel about the law.  I don’t want beautification projects on public property destroyed to make it easier to see billboards.   I hope you will let your representative in the House know that you do not favor SB 164,  which expands the billboard industry’s power to cut down trees owned by taxpayers.

You can read MS McLendon’s complete comment, as well as those by others, by going to my previous post on the issue, “I Think I Shall Never See a Billboard as Lovely as a Tree.”

When the Old Way is the Better Way

December 31, 2008

 

Georgia 85

Georgia 85

 Once again, I became totally frustrated driving to and from the Atlanta area on I-85. Remember when I told you about running into one of temporary concrete barriers when I drove back at night in the rain? That was the day after Thanksgiving.  Well, when I drove up weekend before last to Smyrna for my great-nephew’s wedding,  while driving through the construction area near Newnan, I ran off the road,  ending up with screeching tires as I turned back onto the road.  It was hairy.

  I decided, that’s it. When I drive back to Columbus, I am not going to use I-85. I’ll take the old slow way on Georgia 85. I did and I don’t think it took me much longer to get back, and it was a lot more pleasant.  I just about had the highway to myself most of the way, and it was nice to ride through the small towns like Gay and Manchester. They appear to be frozen in time.  Gay and Manchester both looked the same way they looked 40 years ago.

  So next time you head to Atlanta, let me suggest you go the old way. It’s a lot quieter and easier.  Admittedly it takes a little patience when you drive through the small Atlanta suburbs like Fayetteville and College Park because it seems like there are a hundred traffic lights to slow you down, but the peaceful drive that you get the rest of the way is worth it.