The ability to quickly change the message on a digital billboard has raised the concerns of some council members, who decry what they regard as a tasteless digital sign already advertising on Route 114, featuring foot treatments through what some have described as a “throbbing toe” image. In the past, Councilor Barry Sinewitz has raised the possibility that without input from the city, even worse could be posted on a digital billboard.
“I want to know what’s going up on a billboard,” he told his colleagues last October.
For his part, Ankeles believes that, notwithstanding the First Amendment protection of free speech, the city could move against a billboard company that featured a tasteless or offensive message. He stressed that his client had no intention of doing such a thing.
Former Mayor Mike Bonfanti expressed dismay at the coming electronic transformation.
“No one likes the digital billboards,” he said. “They’re distracting. And so blinding. ... They aren’t what the public really wants,” he said.
“I don’t like any billboards,” said Ruth Mowder of the Peabody Arts Association, who was asked to comment on their aesthetic impact. “I don’t think they’re going to be pleasing to the eye.” They dangerously distract drivers, she added.
And she worries that there might be worse to come.
“Next thing, there’ll be moving pictures,” she said.
Staff writer Alan Burke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.