Perhaps no one has done more to beautify Houston than Eleanor Tinsley. The Houston City Council Member, now in her fifth term, takes a strong stand against billboards, she advocates demolition of dilapidated buildings, and she drums up support for more trees and parkland. Tinsley was a featured speaker at the North Houston Association’s first meeting of 1989, which also heard from Ed McMahon, Executive Director of the National Coalition for Scenic Beauty.
Together they gave NHA members a national and local perspective on what can be done to make Houston a more beautiful place. “We really have begun to take the time to improve the quality of our lives and our surroundings,” Tinsley said. “We realize visual pollution can be as damaging to our spirits as air and water pollution.“ ‘The City of Houston passed an ordinance in 1980 prohibiting new billboards, but Tinsley acknowledged legal battles over sign control have slowed progress in the battle against visual blight.
“Sometimes we seem to take one step backwards for every two steps we take forward.” she said. A lobbyist for the sign industry once told her his organization thought nothing of spending $250,000 each year to keep the City of Houston tied up in litigation.
Tinsley applauds the North Houston Association for participating in the Gateway Houston project to beautify freeway corridors leading to and from the airport. “Persuade your neighbors to landscape their property so we can please the traveler’s eye,” she added. Jack Linville, chairman of the NHA Board of Directors, introduced Tinsley and said. “Signs are doing damage to our community. The image we are sending out is bad for business and bad for businessmen.”
Tinsley advised members to work with groups such as Billboards Limited, Trees for Houston, the City Parks and Recreation Department, and the Park People. “Your commitment today has helped to keep me going,” she said. Following Tinsley’s comments, McMahon pointed to the many cities across the nation that realize the economic and aesthetic benefits of stringent sign controls. Houston is one of his favorite cities, he said, but it suffers from image problems.
“One of the main reasons is billboards.” he said. McMahon narrated a dramatic slide show that juxtaposed landscapes, cityscapes and suburban developments with and without billboards. He urged members to ask themselves, “What are we building today that will be worth preserving 100 years from today?” He also noted. “Most people remember the first time they see a place. ‘That impression becomes imprinted on the mind and it’s hard to change.”
Trees serve a vital role in the community, and people don’t realize how important greenery is until it’s gone. Trees growing along a street visually tie a neighborhood together.” he said.
“Beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder… It’s also in the pocketbook of the beholder.” – Ed McMahon National Coalition for Scenic Beauty
“So when people say, ‘Oh, what a lovely neighborhood.’ they really mean, ‘What beautiful trees’.” Beautification adds up to better business, he emphasized. “Over 80 percent of shoppers prefer to shop at businesses that have substantial amounts of landscaping.” He added that houses with mature trees also sell For thousands of dollars more than the same types of houses in barren subdivisions. McMahon lauded Tinsley lor her work, mentioning that the Coalition tor Scenic Beauty presented her with a national award. “Many of you may not know this, but people all over America are looking to this city, looking to people like Eleanor Tinsley, for the political courage and leadership necessary to solve these difficult issues in their own communities.”