Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
President Ronald Reagan also said, “Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other."
Government officials mean well. Or at least they believe they do. Too often they can be obstructive. And they have a penchant for saying and doing silly things. More on that in a bit.
In August I blogged that good things were happening at Orion Energy Systems in Manitowoc, WI. The company had a high-profile visitor in 2001.
President Barack Obama watches as an operator demonstrates the final stage of light fixture assembly during a tour of Orion Energy Systems, Inc in Manitowoc, Wisc., Jan. 26, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)
The manufacturer of energy-efficient lighting enjoyed an economic comeback in 2013 marked by what the Journal Sentinel reported as “higher sales, a new focus on profitability and an acquisition that positions the company for growth.”
I blogged in August, "Last year’s loss of $2 million at this same time has turned into a $400,000 profit in 2013. As Orion savors its successful turnaround, its eye on future growth points to LEDs (light emitting diodes) with the company on the cusp of supplying such products throughout America." LEDs is a technology about to explode.
Admittedly I've criticized LEDs in the past, I also found in 2013 that Franklin's alarmist response to the use of LEDs by a local small business was ridiculous.
I do believe my jaw dropped to the floor when I read a FranklinNOW story posted on January 28. It began like this:
“The Architectural Review Board is poised to consider how LED signs should be regulated within the city.
“The board discussed concerns related to the signs Jan. 24, particularly those capable of displaying high-quality moving images.
“Member Ted Juerisson brought the issue to the board, noting that the brightness of the signs, such as the one located at the car wash on Rawson Avenue, can be overwhelming, especially at night.”
The LED signs, we were informed in the article, can be a ‘distraction,” in other words, dangerous.
Franklin’s Architectural Review Board discussed setting regulations for LED signs at its meeting on February 14.
There wasn’t a rash of accidents because of LEDs. So why did Board members make this a priority?
1) They want to LOOK important.
2) They want to FEEL important.
There’s a larger issue at play here.
Now mind you, this article appeared on the FranklinNOW website the very same day a Meijer’s representative was telling Franklin mayor Tom Taylor the company wasn’t going to build a store here.
No subsequent job creation.
No economic spinoff.
No establishment of another consumer option.
The reaction from City Hall?
No big deal.
But the issue at the time that riled folks was the concern that some poor sap in his car would see a brightly lit LED sign and recreate the Hindenburg disaster.
Reminded me of the time in the early 80’s when the dinosaur known as Milwaukee County Stadium had electronic messages placed on a board facing the expressway. The sheriff at the time predicted mass destruction on the freeway. Of course, it never happened.
I’ve built two homes in the city of Franklin. Each time, before I could proceed, I had to take blueprints in hand and attend a meeting for their approval. It could have been the not-at-all impressive Architectural Review Board, I can’t recall because quite frankly, I wasn’t impressed. I had to wait patiently for what seemed forever for this pompous group to call on me to kiss their rings and hope they would ok the exterior of my future house. There I sat as the approval for my home’s design depended on a guys dressed like the homeless.
This board was worried that the city, and this is hard to believe, didn’t have any stipulations in its building code to address the few (FranklinNOW reports a “handful”) LED signs that display bright images. Again, too bright for board member Ted Juerisson who said the signs can be overwhelming.
The Las Vegas strip. Now that's overwhelming, not lil ol' Franklin.
FranklinNOW also reported that “Building Inspector Fred Baumgart said that the signs also can pose a distraction to drivers if the displayed images or messages change too frequently.”
If I was a reporter and the building inspector told me that the LED sign at the car wash could pose a danger, I’d get on the phone and call the Franklin Police Department for the latest data about vehicle crashes near that site. Should be pretty easy given that 76th and Rawson is one of Franklin’s major intersections. Not surprisingly, the FranklinNOW reporter omitted this key element of the story.
Could LED signs be dangerous for motorists? I found this headline on treehugger.com:
New Study Finds Link Between LED Billboards and Likelihood of Highway Crashes
The results of a new Swedish study are referenced by the website reporter:
“Overall, the electronic billboards attract more visual attention than the other traffic signs included in the study. Dwell times are longer, the visual time sharing intensity is higher, very long single glances are more frequent, and the number of fixations is greater for the electronic billboards.”
The reporter even expresses his agreement with an activist who claims that highways should be off limits to advertising signs.
One assumes that the finding from the study is that LEDs are hazardous. Except that’s not what the study says, a key element once again omitted by a reporter.
The conclusion of the study states: “Whether the electronic billboards attract too much attention and constitute a traffic safety hazard cannot be answered conclusively based on the present data.” Also, “no effect was found for the driving behaviour data.”
Clamping down on these LEDs affecting the car wash at 76th and Rawson to the point the LED has to be altered dramatically or taken down would not be good for business. And what kind of message would that send to other potential business owners?
This is the kind of stuff we sweat in Franklin, over-regulation that prevents us from really, really, moving into the modern age and truly advancing. The knee-jerk reaction to the car wash lights was predictable: We don't have enough rules. We need to write another law.
Sorry, Ted Juerisson. You’ll just have to get used to LEDs like the rest of us.
And some more friendly advice, Ted. You may want to stay off the Hoan Bridge at night. And avoid Australia at Christmas lest you become overwhelmingly distracted.
THE TOP 10 FRANKLIN STORIES OF 2013
9) TURN OFF THOSE DAMN LIGHTS!
10) I TAWT I TAW A PUDDY-TAT