Cat ads removed from billboards
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org June 19, 2012 11:04PM
Updated: July 21, 2012 6:33AM
JOLIET — Ads for Caterpillar replacement workers were taken off of Joliet’s two new electronic billboards Tuesday as a political controversy over the matter was peaking.
During a council meeting Tuesday, three city council members said the ads should come down before Mayor Thomas Giarrante announced it was being removed even as they spoke on the matter.
“It’s my understanding that at this moment, unless things change, they’re in the process of removing that message from the sign,” Giarrante said.
Rod Hursh, a manager with Impact Outdoor, confirmed later that the Caterpillar ad had been removed, saying, “I just didn’t want any controversy around the ad.”
Impact Outdoor owns the signs that were put in place last month on city property in a private-public arrangement that includes requirements for public service announcements and restrictions against advertising for political campaigns or social issues.
Some city officials, including the mayor, have said the ad for temporary replacement workers during a Machinists’ union strike at Caterpillar’s Joliet plant does not violate the city’s advertisement restrictions.
But five council members have disagreed and suggested the ad, which had been running for a week, should come down.
Councilman Larry Hug raised the issue at the Tuesday meeting just minutes before Giarrante announced the ad was being removed.
Hug called the ad “a blatant negotiating tactic” and said he believed the city had the legal right to keep it off the billboards. He called on Caterpillar to remove the ad.
He asked city staff for a legal opinion, and City Manager Thomas Thanas said he did not view the add as a violation of Impact Outdoor’s contract with the city.
“I don’t think (Hursh) was aware of the political nature of this if there is a political nature to advertising jobs,” Thanas said.
Despite that opinion, two other council members said the ads should go.
“I don’t like the signs out there, and I think we as a group of people need to do what we can to make it right,” Councilwoman Susie Barber said.
Councilman Robert O’Dekirk, who along with Giarrante and Hug spoke at a Machinists’ union rally last month in support of the striking workers, said city officials were sending “an inconsistent message” by allowing the ads on the billboards.
“I think in this case we need to reach out to whoever is operating that board to get that advertisement off,” O’Dekirk said.
The Cat want-ad controversy had been brewing all day, with Giarrante issuing a news release saying Impact Outdoor had control of the content on the signs and describing himself as “a lifelong union supporter.”
But two other council members, Terry Morris and Jan Quillman, also told The Herald-News before the meeting that they believed the ads should be removed.
“Absolutely,” Quillman said. “I think this is a politically controversial issue, and I think it gives the impression that the city is condoning this.”