Thursday, February 7, 2008

Business, Budgets, and Billboard Bill

How many times have you heard Bill Ramsey’s plaintive refrain that Fayetteville’s progressive sign ordinance is the cause of our city’s financial ruin and the bane of business trying to make a buck? He pouts that Cracker Barrel pulled out for Springdale, a business-friendly but dog-butt ugly economic rival, and that the landlocked Fuddrucker’s closed up shop because no one could find it.

Springdale Chamber President Perry Webb must rub it in that his commercial cornucopia to the north has 59 billboards within the city limits, while Fayetteville has only three. Ramsey hasn't been able to get one erected in years, and Webb says there have been applications for three more in his bailiwick since October. Ramsey claims that business would boom if only we would let commercial outfits block the sky with gaudy signs and billboards, and Webb argues against any action to ban additional billboards up in the former home of Featherfest.

Now here's a little data that make them both look foolish. Fact is that aesthetic Fayetteville sales tax collections in November were $1,311,019, up about $60,000 or 5% over November 2006. Billboard blighted Springdale brought in only $863,970 in sales taxes for the month, down 10% from last year and down 17.5% from two years ago.

I won't argue that Springdale's net advantage of 56 billboards caused them to collect $345,000 a month less in sales taxes. Ramsey and the Fayetteville Chamber of Cowbirds should quit trying to fool us that there is any correlation between increased visual clutter and sustainable economic development and good jobs. It makes no more sense and has no more empirical evidence to back up their claims than any of their other demands for special privileges and corporate welfare "incentives." What bilboes.

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