William D. Brinton
Bill Brinton dedicated much of his adult life to protecting Florida’s natural resources and scenic beauty.
Perhaps more than any other person, Bill took to heart and practiced two important provisions of the Florida Constitution:
Article II, Section 7: Natural resources and scenic beauty – (a) It shall be the policy of the state to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty
Article I, Section 1: Political power – All political power is inherent in the people.
Bill’s involvement in environmental and scenic issues began with his service on the Jacksonville Community Council Inc. (JCCI) Visual Pollution study, released in 1985. At the time of the study, Jacksonville was plagued with numerous unsightly and largely unregulated on-site signs, as well as a rapid proliferation of off-site commercial billboards.
The JCCI study led to the adoption of new City sign regulations greatly reducing the number, size and spacing of on-site signs. When the City Council failed to follow through on the JCCI study recommendations to more strictly regulate billboards, Bill was one of the founders of Citizens Against the Proliferation of Signs (CAPSigns, now Scenic Jacksonville). Bill drafted a citizens’ initiative to amend the City Charter to prohibit new billboards and require the removal of about one-third of the existing billboards following a five-year amortization period.
CAPSigns embarked on an unprecedented and highly successful effort to place the Billboard Charter Amendment on the ballot. Bill’s leadership raised the community awareness of this issue to the point that hundreds of volunteers collected almost 18,000 voter signatures in a single day to place the issue on the May 1987 ballot. It passed overwhelmingly, despite a massively funded effort by the billboard industry to defeat it.
When the billboard industry filed lawsuits challenging the Charter amendment, Bill was there every step of the way, spending thousands of hours defending the amendment all the way to the Florida Supreme Court and negotiating settlements with the billboard companies. When the settlement agreements were breached, Bill filed lawsuits to enforce compliance. As a result of Bill’s efforts and leadership, there are now thousands fewer billboard faces in Jacksonville. Bill’s dedication and work resulted in Scenic Jacksonville receiving the prestigious Robert Rodale National Environmental Achievement Award for Beautification in 1991.
Bill Brinton again stepped into a leadership role when the City Council weakened the City tree protection ordinance to largely exempt residential developers. In 2000, he organized Citizens for Tree Preservation (also now part of Scenic Jacksonville), which led yet another successful citizens’ initiative to amend the City Charter to restore protection for trees, including those on property slated for subdivision development. Once again, citizen volunteers collected the necessary signatures to place the issue on the ballot, where it passed by a 3-1 margin, prevailing in every single precinct in Duval County.
The Tree Protection Charter Amendment, drafted by Bill Brinton, required the preservation of trees over a certain size during development or, when that was not possible, a mitigation payment into the City’s Tree Protection and Related Expenses Trust Fund to pay for the planting of trees elsewhere. Because of Bill’s efforts, countless numbers of trees have been saved and millions of dollars have been received for planting replacement trees around the City.
Bill Brinton was a leader in the fight against litter and blight in Jacksonville. He authored the City’s Zero Tolerance on Litter ordinance (Chapter 741, Ordinance Code), passed by the City Council in December 2004. Bill also served on the Blight to Beauty Task Force.
Bill’s commitment to scenic beauty and the environment was reflected in his community service. He served as Chair of the Jacksonville Landscape Commission and was a Past President of City Beautiful Jax and Tree Hill Nature Center. He was counsel for Scenic Jacksonville and served as Board Member and then counsel for Citizens for a Scenic Florida. Bill also served on the Board of Directors of Scenic America for over ten years.
In his legal career, Bill Brinton was a tireless champion of the scenic environment, becoming one of the nation’s preeminent experts on sign regulation. He filed numerous amicus briefs, often pro bono, on behalf of the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, the U. S. Conference of Mayors, the American Planning Association, Scenic America, the International Municipal Lawyers Association, the Sierra Club and many others. For his work, Bill received the International Municipal Attorneys Association Amicus Service Award and Scenic America’s Distinguished Advocacy Award. He also assisted local governments and citizen organizations across the country in fighting visual pollution, often on his own time and at his own expense.
Fortunately, Bill’s environmental efforts did not go unrecognized during his lifetime. In 2016 he was the recipient of The Garden Club of America’s Cynthia Pratt McLaughlin Medal for environmental protection and that year he also received the Keep Jacksonville Beautiful Jake Godbold Award for beautification. In 2015 he received the Mayor’s Environmental Award presented at the Mayor’s Environmental Luncheon, as well as the Public Trust Environmental Legal Institute’s Behind the Scenery Award. He also received the Mimi and Lee Adams Environmental Award and Greenscape’s Canopy Award. Bill was honored with City Council Resolution 2017-292 honoring and commending him for his long history of civic engagement and leadership.
Bill promoted community awareness of issues affecting the scenic beauty of our city, state and nation as a frequent speaker (on over 70 occasions) at conferences, seminars and meetings from coast to coast. He was also the author of at least 10 articles on the subject of sign regulation.
Regrettably, Bill lost a battle with cancer and died June 19, 2017 at the age of 64. Few people in their lifetimes have been such passionate champions of the environment and made such a positive contribution to the scenic beauty and environment of their community.
Charles E. Bennett Champion of the Environment Award
Scenic Jacksonville, City Beautiful Jax (formerly JaxPride: A Coalition for Visual Enhancement), Greenscape of Jacksonville, Public Trust Environmental Legal Institute of Florida, Sierra Club Northeast Florida Group, Timucuan Parks Foundation, North Florida Land Trust and Mandarin Community Club nominated William D. Brinton to receive (posthumously) the 2017 Charles E. Bennett Champion of the Environment Award.
William D. Brinton Day
May 17, 2017 was proclaimed William D. Brinton Day by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. Over 300 guests gathered for lunch to celebrate Bill’s work for scenic beauty and against visual blight – at the local and national level. William D. Brinton Day included a “thanks” from all the scenics, which was put together by Scenic America.