Chicago's City Council on Wednesday voted 43 to 6 to approve a 20-year digital billboards proposal after an hour of discussion and several comments against the plan.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said erecting more than 30 digital billboards along expressways that run through the city will add up to, "I believe, $15 million a year" and ensure no new taxes in future city budgets.
Still some aldermen spoke up against adding more signs in an already crowded space.
"We don't always agree," Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) said, to which Emanuel told him, "You can say that again."
Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) praised debate on the topic but pointed to "tremendous monetary stimulus" as his reason for backing it.
Over the life of the proposed 20-year contract, the billboards stand to raise more than $200 million for Chicago. In return new billboards will pop up along expressways, including as many as a dozen along the Kennedy.
"Citizens have an opportunity to profit from billboard industry," Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th) said. "They will benefit from having these signs."
Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) agreed, noting it's a good thing that the billboard industry isn't pleased with the proposal and reminding colleagues the billboards will be built along expressways and not the lakefront.
"I hate billboards," he said. "Let's call this what it is. Is it the parking meter deal all over again? It's not."
The council also approved a deal that lets Emanuel sign a contract with Chicago-based Integrys Energy Group to supply electricity to some residents. The contract, which could save residents 20 to 25 percent each month on their bill, allows Integrys to provide electricity to more than 900,000 households and small businesses.