Mike Dawida has been a state representative and one of the last Allegheny County commissioners. Now, as the executive director of Scenic Pittsburgh, he's fighting for a citywide moratorium on new electronic billboards.
Do you miss elected office?
No, I really enjoy this more. Being an elected official has become so mean-spirited and difficult that [officials] can't get anything done because they're so bogged down with the garbage. Doing this and teaching public policy is much more pleasant.
Why focus on electronic billboards?
They're not good for the environment -- they use as much electricity as 30 houses. They ruin the aesthetics of an area and lower property values. And then there's the safety issue: Studies show that if you take your eyes off the road for two seconds, your chance of having an accident increases by 26 percent. The whole purpose of an electronic billboard is to get you to look at it.
The partially constructed sign at the Greyhound terminal has sat unfinished for years now. Is that on your radar?
No one wanted that billboard ... but the mayor's office told his friends in the industry that they could build it. [Lamar, the advertising firm who proposed the billboard] lost that fight, and they are required to take it down. If they won't, then the city has the right to take it down and charge them. We plan to [seek a court order] to force the city to have the sign removed if they don't do something within the next two weeks. It's time to do what's right.