EDMOND — Three former mayors who are opposed to electronic message signs want to give Edmond voters the chance to repeal a recently adopted ordinance allowing the signs.
Notice of intent to circulate an initiative petition was filed Wednesday at city hall by former mayors Saundra Naifeh, Dan O'Neil and Randal Shadid.
Council members on Jan. 13 passed an ordinance allowing electronic message signs along arterial streets and roads such as Broadway, Edmond Road, Second Street and Interstate 35. The new ordinance is stricter than those in most cities, officials said.
The vote was 3-2 with council members Elizabeth Waner and Darrell Davis opposing the motion.
Shadid said the signs will diminish the beauty of Edmond.
“Those signs are butt-ugly,” Shadid said. “I am not for the signs,” he said. “I believe the signs are really a traffic hazard. It is as bad as texting.”
Proponents have 90 days to collect 650 signatures, which would be 25 percent of the number of people who voted in the last general election, Shadid said.
The petition calls for a Nov. 4 vote to rescind the ordinance and prohibit electronic message signs.
“It is a process that we have for this purpose,” said Mayor Charles Lamb, who voted for the ordinance. “This kind of action will find out if the public supports it or not.”
City Manager Larry Stevens said Wednesday he knew about the petition but had not read the document.
The new ordinance allows electronic signs with a message, but no graphics, and the message can only change every 30 seconds. Oklahoma City's ordinance allows the message to change every 10 seconds.
The electronic message portion of the sign can only cover 75 percent of the allowed sign area. The illumination of the sign will be measured in foot-candles.
A committee was appointed in 2010 to study electronic message signs in Edmond. The citizens committee took more than nine months to make a recommendation to the city council.
Council members then held two workshops on the subject before adopting the ordinance last month.
Naifeh has long been an opponent of electrical message signs and other signs in Edmond.
“We are not against Edmond City Council and we are not against business,” Naifeh said. “We are for Edmond. Electronic message signs are not intended for way-finding, but for advertising.”
Signs have been a discussion topic in Edmond for more than 30 years, Naifeh said. The ordinance will have a considerable effect on the appearance of the city, she said.
“Just visualize every sign as a message center with messages changing every 30 seconds. It is more like a Twitter account than a sign with a business name on it,” Naifeh said.
Safety is an issue with electronic signs, the former mayors said. They think drivers will take their eyes off the roads to read the electronic signs.
“As we see on major highways, one billboard leads to more and bigger billboards,” O'Neil said. “We will see the same effect with electronic signage.
“Competition for the drivers' attention will lead to more and more of these signs until Edmond resembles Las Vegas. That is not the image we want to reflect in Edmond.”