He’s not mayor anymore, but Ralph Becker is still fighting against billboard ‘blight’


SALT LAKE CITY — He’s no longer mayor, but he’s not stopping his fight against billboards.

Former Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker has a long history of conflict with major billboard companies. And even though he’s no longer in office, Becker has helped launch a new Utah effort to combat what he calls the “proliferation” of what has almost become an “embarrassing blight” on Utah scenery.

Becker and his wife, Kate Kopischke, have worked together to launch Scenic Utah, a state affiliate of the national nonprofit Scenic America, a group “dedicated solely to preserving and enhancing the visual character of America’s communities and countryside,” according to its website.

“We want to fight the visual blight that too often occurs from just a lack of attentiveness and a lack of organized effort to protect the spectacular, visual qualities of both our communities and landscapes,” Becker said told the Deseret News in an interview Thursday, the day before the new group’s official launch.

Friday, Scenic Utah is co-hosting the annual Scenic America Symposium at the Alta Club in downtown Salt Lake City — a daylong conference with presenters who will focus on urban planning and public policy, billboard and sign control, dark sky preservation, and how to protect scenic byways, according to the event’s agenda.

“We are thrilled to be meeting in Utah this year,” Ryke Longest, chairman of Scenic America’s board of directors, said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to bringing affiliates from all over the country together to experience the state’s stunning natural beauty and the Salt Lake City’s local character.”

Becker’s beef with billboards dates back decades. He’s called them neighborhood blights, deterrents to economic development, and causes of scenic landscape degradation, all fueled by what he calls a massive political influence by the large corporations.

More specifically, Becker has had a longstanding …read more

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