Given the fact that billboards pushing alcohol and cigarettes have stood in city residential neighborhoods for decades, no great harm is done by allowing them to remain for a few months longer until the Special Court of Appeals hears the appeal of Boisclair Advertising.
Still, it is a disappointment to community groups, which charge that such advertising preys on the poor and who thought they had made progress last October in Circuit Court. Boisclair has about 900 billboards in residential neighborhoods where, according to zoning regulations, they are not permitted. Judge Joseph Kaplan ruled that the advertising company didn't have a good enough case to warrant a trial, and he granted the city summary judgment -- ordering the billboards to come down.
The appeals court's action is strictly procedural -- a function of Boisclair's having dug its heels in. But when the legal wangling has run its course, we trust that Kaplan's carefully considered judgment will be upheld. The signs are illegal and offensive. The city may eventurally have to pay Boisclair for billboards that were put up before the 1971 zoning law existed. But we suspect they make up a small number of the total -- nowhere near the company's $2 million estimate.
But in the end the signs must come down. The people in these billboard-infested neighborhoods have a right to expect that the law which bans them will ultimately be enforced.