Effective October 10th, alcohol and tobacco advertising on Chicago's 4,278 permitted billboards will be phased out. The ban also covers the countless and wide-spread unpermitted ads posted on vacant buildings and lots throughout the city. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley personally lobbied city aldermen to support the ban that passed 47-1.

Chicago modeled its ordinance on the Baltimore billboard ban that the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review last April. The Court's action sent a strong message that advertising restrictions will be upheld as constitutional where governments use their zoning power narrowly to protect children. Neither the Chicago nor Baltimore ordinances will cover billboards along highways and in industrial areas, or those inside sports stadiums.

The Chicago ordinance caps a 14-year grassroots campaign led by the Reverend Michael Pfleger. The Chicago grassroots movement started with direct appeals to companies, which were ignored, and escalated to "red-washing" billboards. In the resulting prosecution for defacing private property, a jury acquitted Pfleger and others based on their defense that they had a "moral obligation" to act.

The Chicago city council's near unanimity indicates solid public support of billboard bans, and confidence in the constitutionality of those bans. Public support likely exists in many communities. We encourage efforts to promote similar bans nationwide. Several other cities are already pursuing similar proposals, including: Albuquerque, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle and Washington. We'll keep you up-to-date on those efforts. Please keep us updated on similar measures in your community.

September 15, 1997