Bigger Than a Billboard

Once upon a time, there was a policy dispute at the Culver City City Council about a billboard. When the huge multinational Westfield corporation took over the aging Fox Hills Mall and did some upgrades, they wanted to use a slice of visible-from-the-freeway real estate (or maybe it was air rights?) for promotion. Culver City, interestingly, has a law against billboards. 

Through some convoluted logic, and a whole lot of pressure from the Chamber of Commerce, it was decreed to be signage, even though it was used to advertise movies, and there is no movie theater at Westfield Fox Hills. Not great, kinda dubious and unfair, but the council really wanted to make Westfield happy, so they did that. 

About a decade later, it’s still there, and yes, it’s still a billboard that advertises movies. Big win for the business interests, annoying eyesore for the residents. Also wildly hypocritical – for years, the city harassed small business owners over signage as minor as having a sandwich board on the sidewalk, (COVID did sorta stop that) and still has no issue with global corporations hosting a billboard, because somehow that’s signage.

Now that we have, once again, a majority on the council that is approved and anointed by the business interests who need to believe that they own this city, the policies being set forth are not just unfair or annoying, they are sadistic. And well on the way to being homicidal. 

When the initial meeting of the new council saw the first order of business turn to taking away a freshly approved minimum wage for health care workers, the cruelty was breathtaking. 

This was just the opening chess move. 

Next came an emergency meeting (talk about dubious ways to bend the rules ) after the annual calendar had closed to propose an “Anti-camping ordinance.” Never mind that we already have one on the books, AND that such laws have been declared to be unconstitutional. The ruling in Martin vs. Boise, saying that you can’t outlaw camping unless you provide shelter is utterly straightforward. “The decision was based on the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution‘s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment,” according to Wikipedia. 

So, contrary to anything that even resembles logic, the city council has proposed an anti-camping ordinance. That the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has already decreed illegal. But wait – that’s not a billboard, it’s just signage, right? If we take away everything that people own and let them keep a sleeping bag, we aren’t really outlawing camping.

I don’t know of anyone who would prepare going camping with just a blanket and a pillow. In forty degree weather. While it’s raining. That’s suicide. 

If the Culver City Council forces it on you, I’d say that’s a homicide waiting to happen. 

Most of the city’s Proclamations are nice window dressing; Proclaiming Senior Citizen’s Month or Volunteer of the Year is nice thing to do. This ordinance is a pile of garbage, cleverly presented as window dressing. 

Go ahead and read it –

Or maybe it’s just signage. It’s not really a billboard, right? 

Everything this council has done so far is a a flashing neon sign, bigger than anything in Las Vegas, that says citizens don’t matter, and corporations will not be denied. 

Judith Martin-Straw

The Actors' Gang