A bitterly divided St. Paul City Council voted Wednesday to preserve a dilapidated and disused billboard perched above the Eastern District police station.
The billboard, which dates to the 1940s when the building was owned by Hamm’s Brewing, has been blank since 2013.
But Council Member Dan Bostrom, whose ward includes the building, sees it as an irreplaceable asset to the neighborhood.
“This is a way to positively tell our story,” said Bostrom, who’d like to see the board used to celebrate the legacy of East Side native and legendary Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks.
Like many city councils, St. Paul’s has a custom of alderman’s privilege, where the body gives members deference on issues specific to their wards. But the Eastern District building sits at the border of two other council wards, and the members who represent those areas would rather see it torn down.
“If there was ever an example of blight, this is it,” said Council President Kathy Lantry, who represents the area south of the station.
Lantry pointed out that the city passed a policy in 2002 opposing all billboards. She, along with Council Members Amy Brendmoen and Russ Stark, also objected to the timing of Bostrom’s resolution, which was not included on the council’s agenda.
They argued the public, including members of a Facebook group opposed to the billboard, deserved an opportunity to be heard on the issue. But Bostrom said a public hearing would merely delay things.
“It wouldn’t change anybody’s opinion on this council, I don’t care what we did,” he said.
The final vote was 4-3.The city owns the billboard. Bostrom says it’s up to the mayor’s office to decide what message to place there.