One local minister paid a visit to Porterville’s regular-scheduled City Council Meeting with a concern about what he called an inappropriate billboard near his son’s school.
Pastor Brent Whitley, who has lived in Porterville for a year after moving here from Bakersfield upon accepting a pastoral calling at Living Word Fellowship Church approached the dais during Oral Communications to voice his concern.
“We are really enjoying the Porterville community and have found the city family-friendly and nurturing of its children and youth,” Whitley said. “I am here this evening to ask the City Council for some help in addressing an inappropriate billboard near my son’s school.”
The billboard, he said, stands on the east side of Highway 65 overlooking the north end of the school property and advertises free testing for sexually-transmitted diseases.
“It features two young men naked from the waist up in a sexually-suggestive pose,” Whitley said.
Whitley said he contacted the Visalia company sponsoring the billboard — The Source LGBT + Center and had a cordial conversation with the executive director Brian Poth.
“He did not deny that the image was meant to portray a sexual relationship because that is their target audience,” Whitley said. “In fact, he confided that he was in favor of a more discreet image but he was outvoted by his executive committee.”
Poth seemed sympathetic to his concerns, Whitley said, especially since the billboard was so close to a school campus.
“However, he said that the ad agency chose the location. He was not willing to have the ad moved or replaced,” Whitley said. “So I contacted the Lamar Advertising Company based out of Louisiana and spoke with an executive vice president who explained that their written policy was that ad copy should be in keeping with the local standards of the community.
He did ask the general manager for our region to keep sexually-suggestive content and alcohol advertising off of that particular billboard in the future. However, he too was unwilling to replace or remove the advertisement.”
Now it's up to the community to determine what the standards are for the community according to their policy, Whitley said.
“So, I am asking the City Council, as duly-elective representatives of the City of Porterville, to sign letters affirming that sexually graphic advertising for any purpose is not appropriate for the billboards in our community. They aren’t going to listen to one man’s opinion. We have to speak with a unified voice.”
The letters, he said, won't cast any aspersions on the source nor makes any kind of statement about the LGBTQ Plus community.
“We are simply saying to Lamar Advertising and to any of their clients that the citizens of Porterville prefer not to have any sexually-explicit, suggestive or graphic content posted on billboards in our city because we have no way to filter this content from our children.”
Because it was during Oral Communication, a time set aside to address the City Council on any matter of interest, whether on the agenda or not, the Council listens but doesn’t comment.