Nearly a decade ago, Fremont High teacher Hugh Bassette raised the issue of billboards
in Oakland with his students and with the City Council. More recently, community
leaders such as J. Alfred Smith of Allen Temple Baptist Church, Serena Chen of The
Alameda County Lung Association, Rosalinda Palacios of El Centro de Juvedad, and
Janice Louie of Alameda County Tobacco Control Program have contributed their efforts
to removing illegal and destructive enticements aimed at youth in Oakland's diverse
neighborhoods. These organizations represent thousands of people.

The Oakland Billboard Coalition has worked hard to show to City Council the impact
of billboard blight on Oaklanders' everyday reality. When City Council explained that
their records were so poor that they did not even know how many billboards there were,
the Oakland Billboard Coalition organized a community event-- "The Great Oakland
Billboard Hunt" to count every billboard in the city! Assistance from the City Manager's
and Mayor's office has been crucial in documenting and mapping the location of the

In the past year, the City Council has begun to act. In the Fall of 1997, they were
going to eliminate tobacco and alcohol billboards, but decided on a "partial" ban due to
threats of lawsuits from the billboard companies. As of June 1998, 93 billboards may still
display tobacco and alcohol ads, which are an illegal enticement for every child seeing
them. Even though city did not totally ban the tobacco and alcohol ads, Eller Media filed
a lawsuit in June of 98 anyways! They sued over the restrictions on alcohol billboards,
even though a similar suit lost in Baltimore. Outdoor Systems has added its name to the
lawsuit. It's an industry that sues if you look at them funny. The suit is part of a larger "the
best defense is a good offense" national strategy.

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