Appeals Court: TxDOT Can’t Limit Ron Paul Sign, Any Other Advertising Billboards

Billboards and signs near Gulfgate, Houston, 77087

In the wake of a multi-year legal tiff between TxDOT and an Austin-based real estate company over a freestanding Ron Paul 2012 sign outside of an erotica shop on Hwy. 71, a district appeals court has just struck down central parts of the Texas Highway Beautification Act, Dug Begley reports today. The ruling may have eventual implications for city makeover enthusiast Scenic Houston’s long-term de-billboarding quest, and comes right on the heels of the announcement last week that an additional 13 signs around Houston would be coming down.


The law in question, passed in 1972, lets TxDOT regulate advertising signage outside of city limits, with an exception allowing election-related political signs within a certain 80-day period prior to those elections (the Ron Paul sign was about a year early). The court found that the exception qualified as discrimination based on sign message content, a red flag in First Amendment speech cases — but rather than strike down the small section of the law giving special treatment to political signs, as TxDOT’s lawyers suggested, the Third District court took down the parts of the law giving TxDOT any authority to regulate ad signage at all

Scenic Houston’s count of billboards negotiated away since 2015 is now up to 68 — will the fallout from this ruling cause that trend to reverse? And could the case signal room for the eventual comeback of the inflatable gorilla to the Houston landscape?

Photo of signage in Gulfgate: Jan Buchholtz via Swamplot Flickr Pool

Signs of the Times

10 Comment

  • Well this one is quite simple: the ugly, filthy, disgusting, rotten billboard companies have paid off the district appeals court judge. Billboard companies are as repulsive as prostitutes or child molesters. They are obsolete eyesores that fester on the cityscape like relics from the 80’s. They’re tacky as hell, and all that crap should be torn down. Shame on the bribe-ridden politicians who allowed them to proliferate in the first place. TxDOT and Scenic Houston should keep the pressure on these low-life companies until they pull-up and pack-up all those raggedy-ass shits and scram, GTFO of Houston. Billboards in Houston are like an STD that won’t go away.

  • I’m surprised our lower sky is not already festooned with a dense overcast of Blade Runner-style advertising blimps and drones.

  • While I think that billboards aren’t visually appealing, I’m not on the warpath like Honest Truth.
    From a logical point of view, I don’t think billboards are very wise advertising vehicles – I mean, when was the last time you decided to buy anything based on seeing a billboard?

  • Is the vintage “Live Like People, Not Like Bees” billboard still up along the Gulf Freeway? I love that tacky sign. And how about the ‘Jesus’ billboard constructed from shipping containers near Hobby Airport? Both of those are (or were) awesome, definitely part of the city’s free-wheeling character.

  • Yay! I hope billboards return with a vengeance. Houston hasn’t looked like Houston since the aesthetes started throwing their weight around.

  • I don’t really care about most of our roads. Honestly: most of our roads, at least in and around big cities, are ugly as hell. If I had my way, we’d allow billboards almost everywhere, but slap a tax on them and use the money to fund state parks.
    I said “most” of our roads; not all. There should be defined scenic routes where billboards are prohibited. I don’t think most of 71 would qualify, but a good number of roads in Hill Country and West Texas, along the coast and maybe in the Piney Woods might. Not all of them by any means.

  • While I’m usually in favor of more revenue streams and unregulated property rights, billboards just seem a bit too 19th century at this point.
    That being said, I’d gladly banish all political signs to the 9th circle of hell if i could.

  • Agree with Wolf Brand. The only billboard I remember is for Vasectomy reversal but certainly not the name of the business. Kind of like those soaring business signs on the North Freeway. Has anyone ever stopped at a construction machinery sales site because of the impulse of seeing a sign?

  • For TheNiche:
    The “Live Like People, Not Like Bees” billboard: