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3M's Visual Pollution

January 05, 1986

Regarding "Creative Freedom Sustained at 3M" (Dec. 1), Chairman Lewis W. Lehr's vision unfortunately does not include the "beauty" in "America the Beautiful."

The article did not mention that, aside from the 40,000 products it makes, 3M is also in the billboard business.

It erects this worst form of visual pollution all over the country, debasing the urban environment and destroying the rural scenery along highways.

Billboard companies lobby for laws (yes, they do) in many states that require the removal of public trees on public right of ways, some with public money, to clear the view of billboards.

(They tried this year with AB1279 in California, which was proposed by Assemblyman Lou Papan, but was temporarily stopped by public uproar.)

Billboard companies create laws that make local control of billboards impossible (California's is known as AB1353).

Lehr should expand his vision to heed the wisdom of some other visionaries.

A recent bulletin by the National Coalition for Scenic Beauty quoted the following individuals:

- "Billboards are hideous. They represent less than 1% of total advertising in the U.S. I cannot believe that the free enterprise system would be damaged if they were abolished."

(David Oglivy of Oglivy & Mather, third-largest U.S. advertising agency.)

- Billboards are acts of aggression against the American landscape."

(William F. Buckley).

- "Billboards constitute a severe environmental blight throughout the United States and affect the very quality of our lives."

(Stanford University Environmental Law Society).

- "America's dwindling patrimony of natural beauty has been mortgaged to the Billboard Gang and its friends in Congress."

(Field & Stream Magazine).

- "Communities should be planned with an eye to the effect made upon the human spirit of being surrounded by beauty instead of ugliness."

(Thomas Jefferson).

The cry of "down with billboards" is heard across the land.

Three states and hundreds of cities have banned billboards outright.

Lehr should add another innovation to 3M's credit by not erecting more of these eyesores and phase out the old ones after their cost has been amortized.


Co-founder, Citizens Council on Visual Pollution

Los Angeles

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