Former SLC mayor fighting against bright billboards in city

SALT LAKE CITY -- Former mayor Ralph Becker and his wife, Kate Kopischke, are taking on an issue centered around the way local communities look by battling the brightness of billboards.

"We don’t want our communities to look ugly and we don’t want our highways to look ugly," said Kopischke.

Scenic Utah is one of many side projects that Kopischke and her husband are working on.

"You really can’t see the mountains, you can’t see beautiful scenery in the background, you can’t see cityscapes," said Kopischke.

It's an affiliate of the national organization, Scenic America, dedicated to controlling the visual blight of billboards and enhancing the scenic beauty of our country.

During his two terms as mayor, Becker fought pro-billboard legislation several times.

"They really have a lot of power to basically ruin the viewshed of a city," said Kopischke.

The "they" that Kopischke is referring to is Reagan Outdoor Advertising or ROA, the state's biggest billboard producer.

"They’ve really been successful at lobbying the legislature and supporting legislators to get ordinances and laws that are favorable to bigger billboards, taller billboards," said Kopischke.

Our partners at The Salt Lake Tribune say ROA is one of the biggest campaign contributors in the state. In 2016, ROA was number three on the list of most generous special interest donors and they poured a lot of money into the last mayoral race. ROA provided more than a dozen billboards in support of Jackie Biskupski, who ended up beating Becker in the race.

"Maybe it's a bit personal but he has this love [of] what our towns and communities and gateway corridors and night skies look like," says Kopischke.

ROA General Manager, Dewey Teagan said, "the general public does not consider billboards to be blight and there are far greater environmental issues....the Utah Outdoor Advertising Industry donates annually millions of dollars of advertising space to social issues such as domestic violence, opioid abuse, suicide prevention, and many many other problems facing our local communities."

To learn more about how to get involved, visit scenicutah.org.

To read more about the history between Becker and the billboard industry, read the Salt Lake Tribune article here.