Sometimes, the Dallas City Council does something important, say passing a budget or regulating natural gas drilling. More often, they spend ungodly amounts of time doing things like arguing about whether a single billboard should be allowed to advertise for condoms or strip clubs.
That happened today for a full hour. The Texas Department of Transportation, you see, is in the process of redoing the Stemmons-LBJ interchange, forcing Ralston Outdoor to move one of its billboard. The proposed site is a few blocks away, sort of close to a couple of office towers. The building owners don't want the billboard there, so they sent their lawyers the plead with the City Council.
"You're all familiar with the cucumber that we have up on Central Expressway advertising Condoms to Go," one of the attorneys said. "We don't need that in an office district."
Even more foreboding was a sign, owned and operated by Ralston a few blocks away, advertising Dallas Cabaret. A "material adverse effect on our land value" would be inevitable.
Such an outcome should be avoided, council members agreed. Luckily for them, it already had been, a fact that was first raised after 30 minutes of talk about cucumbers and "SOBs." According to the 25-year lease the company had signed with the landowner, Ralston was barred from advertising sexually oriented business.
But leases can be amended, and the city's definition of sexually oriented business doesn't include places like Condoms to Go. Clearly, this was a case that required mayoral leadership.
"Do you promise that you will not change the lease as long as you own the company?" Rawlings finally asked Ralston general manager Doug Ralston.
"There will be no change ever."
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"You promise that?"
Confident that no allusion to human sexuality will appear over that particular stretch of LBJ Freeway, the council approved the billboard move. Now, maybe Ralston can try to woo back the client that most recently advertised there: Fuller's Jewelry.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.