'We stopped in because we saw the bulldog'
How many of you have been driving down the freeway, when a giant inflatable gorilla caught your eye, and you said, "I gotta go shopping!"?
Well, if some city councilmembers have their way, the big advertising balloons will be a thing of the past:
The gorillas — along with the giant eagles, balloon rockets and Uncle Sams that sometimes appear on the rooftops of car dealerships and other retail outlets — contribute to visual clutter and pose a potentially dangerous distraction to drivers, city officials say.
The City Council could vote on the ban at its Wednesday meeting. If approved, the ban also would prohibit flashy and motion-driven devices, such as dancing wind puppets, spinning pinwheels, pennants, streamers and strobe and spotlights.
"I call them attention-distracting devices," said Jeff Ross of the city's planning commission. Ross said getting rid of them will make Houston more competitive with other cities that have banned them, such as Dallas, Austin and St. Louis.
"They distract the eye, create potential safety obstacles, obscure permanent signage and create visual blight," said Tommy Friedlander, who chaired Mayor Bill White's On-Premise Sign Task Force.
Banning inflatable balloons is what will make Houston more competitive?? What about the sports stadiums? And the light rail? And the Pavilions?
What about the smoking ban? And the second city-funded convention center hotel? And the downtown park? And the skate park?
Shoot, if all that was required was banning some inflatable balloons, why didn't someone mention it sooner? Think of all the tax dollars that could have been saved!
Back to the story:
Shane Rhodes has a giant, inflated bulldog on the roof of his car dealership on Long Point.
"We get three or four customers a month who say, 'We stopped in because we saw the bulldog,' " Rhodes said.
I'm not sure how common that shopping strategy is, but to each their own. That's what makes America great.
Councilwoman Anne Clutterbuck isn't sold on the ban:
Officials said holiday displays and residential lawn decorations would be exempted from the ban. The prohibition would apply only to attention-getting devices used for commercial purposes.
That troubles Councilwoman Anne Clutterbuck. She asked how the city would distinguish between attention-getting devices and the holiday lights, bows and sparkly stars installed in Rice Village and the Galleria area.
"Both (are) used for commercial purposes," Clutterbuck said. "We deem those as tasteful and the others as tacky."
That's not the Ready! Fire! Aim! spirit Houston's known for! Why get bogged down in those pesky details?
Fittingly, the city already HAS an ordinance banning "attention-getting devices," but the city's Andy Icken complains it's unenforceable. How Houston-like!
For a strong close, here's Councilman James Rodriguez selling the ban:
They just make the neighborhoods look bad, they lower property values," he said of the inflatable animals. A giant duck that sits atop a check-cashing store in the Gulf Crest neighborhood has prompted residents to complain to his office, Rodriguez said.
"Their homes are their sanctuaries, and they want to go out into their backyards, and they look up and see this big duck."
It's what we all dream of -- a backyard view that doesn't include a giant duck.