Houston considers blow-up ban

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City council members call them "attention-getting devices" and say that's the problem. They're a distraction to drivers. Adding to the problem is an ordinance that restricts the number of days a so-called attention-getting-device can be up. It's an ordinance the city says it just can't enforce.

You can't miss them -- blue gorillas, colorful balloons, red tags, great Danes. They're big advertisements for the businesses that put them up, anything from cell phone stores to car dealerships. In some cases, they have a story.

"Widetrack is a great Dane and he was the original owners', the McDavid family back in the 60s," said Brian Berry of McDavid Honda.

In other cases, they're just meant to grab your attention.

"The blue gorilla is just basically brings attraction to the dealership," said Mo Nazzal with McDavid Nissan. "It basically lets them know where we're at."

And that's a problem, according to some Houston city council members. Council Member James Rodriguez points to a big yellow duck as an eyesore in the Gulf Crest neighborhood.

"I do get complaints from several of my constituents about the way this looks, the way it detracts from property values and so we are concerned about businesses utilizing this type of advertising," he said.

Vice Mayor Pro-tem Sue Lovell is on the Quality of Life committee that moved a proposed ban on the attention-getting devices to the full council last week.

"If it's an attention-getting device, then it's also an attention-distracting device," she said.

The ban is supported by some neighborhoods, real estate groups and others. But at the root of the proposed ban is something very practical.

"The biggest concern is there's been sort of an ordinance on the books and they can only be up a certain amount of time and we haven't found a way to be able to enforce it," said Lovell.

There's already a limit on commercial use of attention-getting devices to 104 days out of the calendar year. The ban wouldn't touch holiday decorations, but if it passes, you can say goodbye to the big cow on the Southwest Freeway.

The ban would apply to the big inflatables, windsocks, streamers, strobes, spotlights and other flashy devices. City council could vote on the ban Wednesday. And Lovell says it looks like council will likely support it.

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