Fight against signs of times

Wiley A. Hall 3rd.

October 30, 1990|By Wiley A. Hall 3rd.

I started off in the north, amid the undulating, green hills of Hunt Valley, where multistoried homes sit far off and on high like distant castles.

Then down Falls Road to Ruxton, where every house has a chimney -- and some of them have more than one -- and where the homes are nestled among the trees, snug and comfortable like forest cottages.

Now over and around the Beltway to the tidy suburban tracts south of the city, with their smooth, trim, green lawns.

Finally, down to the quiet, half-hidden waterfront communities that radiate out from Ritchie Highway.

In one of these communities, I am told, the governor has his home.

So, I toured suburbia yesterday and suburbia was good.

And everywhere I traveled, I searched, I searched, I searched in vain for billboard advertising.

And guess what?

Although I found rolling hills and smooth green lawns and handsome homes, I didn't see billboards.

People in the suburbs, I am sure, swill liquor and chain-smoke cigarettes. But people in the suburbs apparently would rather not have billboards hawking these products marring the serenity of their neighborhoods.

It is only human to feel this way.

That's why it bothers me that the owners and managers of Boisclair Advertising, Inc. have so much trouble understanding why the people of Baltimore object to billboards in their communities.

I presume that the owners and managers and legal counsel of Boisclair Advertising, Inc. do not choose to have billboards sitting in their front yards.

Yet, Boisclair has plastered more than 1,300 illegal billboards in low-income residential neighborhoods throughout the city.

The people in those neighborhoods say they don't like them.

City officials say the billboards are illegal.

Last week, a city judge even ordered the company to take the billboards down within 60 days.

L Yet, Boisclair and its lawyers act astonished and aggrieved.

They act as though they find such objections hard to believe, as though the courts have failed to understand some crucial higher truth about the city's need to have Boisclair billboards looming over people's homes.

And so, the company has vowed to take its case to the state's highest court.

"Absolutely, we're going to appeal," said one of Boisclair's lawyers after last week's ruling in city Circuit Court. "This is just the beginning."

Money is involved, to be sure. Boisclair estimates that the billboards are worth more than $2 million in investment and revenue.

Yet, money isn't everything.

In theory, Boisclair might make even more money with 1,300 billboards hawking liquor and cigarettes dotting the gentle hills in Hunt Valley. But Boisclair knows that the affluent people in Hunt Valley would rise up in outrage should 1,300 billboards appear on their green hills.

So why is it that poor people have so much trouble getting their point across?

Why is it so hard for the owners and managers and lawyers of Boisclair to understand that poor people want what other people want: neighborhoods that are nice, quiet and reasonably serene?

Boisclair's determination to fight on for the insane right to post billboards in residential neighborhoods has all of the blind zealotry of a crusade.

But a crusade for what?

The word "anthropomorphism" comes to mind.

Anthropomorphism is the ascribing of human emotions to animals or objects that are not really human. Small children, poets and other romanticists are often guilty of anthropomorphism. You see a lot of anthropomorphism in cartoons and comic books.

Perhaps Boisclair is convinced the court and city officials have ascribed human sensibilities to animals or objects (the poor people of Baltimore) that don't deserve it.

So, perhaps Boisclair has launched a crusade against the

empty-headed romanticism of the Circuit Court.

Perhaps they are determined never to succumb to the silly sentimentality of city officials.

Perhaps, in other words, they are engaged in a fierce crusade against anthropomorphism.

If so, it is a battle Boisclair will never, ever win.

Why? Because the people of Baltimore will never, ever let Boisclair win.

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