There is a difference between broken sidewalks and billboards. First, we need to distinguish the two and figure out what we're really talking about here.
Secondly, a signage ordinance that is "all encompassing" and spans every facet of the city, treats every area the same, and in the most literal sense squashes economic development clearly needs to be broken up and rewritten. Signage is an issue in every city, no doubt, and if there is one overzealous authority in any city...it's Signage. These departments are usually run by people who get off on their power, but these are usually the most unskilled, talentless people in the world, unfortunately (reminds me of Washington legislators).
In Jacksonville, the utmost authority has been granted to a small group of spineless bandits who can do anything from prevent bus stations from being constructed to prevent tactful and thoughtful advertising to prevent small businesses from letting people know they exist.
Provocative advertising might be a campaign in Atlanta right now that features pictures of cute chubby kids with captions that forewarn that chubby leads to obesity or chubby isn't as cute when your kid is a type II diabetic, etc etc. Provocative advertising includes the HIV campaigns. Provocative advertising is a 6 floor tall banner of Calvin Klein models. Provocative advertising includes the shirtless guys who stand outside the Abercrombie store on 5th Ave.
Vibrant corners to me are those corners with old 3-5 floor buildings at a 5 point intersection with billboards and signs on top of each and taller buildings behind them, perhaps with banners hanging from the sides. I have never seen such corners without a lot of foot traffic and I just love all the activity that goes on and all the signs calling out at you as you pass through.
My firm owns One Times Square with the most expensive advertising in the world, so perhaps I'm biased, but I'm also looking forward to Times Square South, which will rise in Atlanta in a few years and feature multifloor LED panels around the base and perhaps a Madame Tussaud's or something along those lines. The area in which it is going in has become a vibrant tourist area...a 24/7 pocket of the city with tons of lit signage and billboards atop buildings, etc.
As you're driving down the Connector (south) towards downtown, you'll see Allen Plaza (where the W Downtown and Ernst & Youg building are), and covering the garage is the world's largest LED display, which features advertising for networks, events, the city, etc etc. It's quite bright, day and night. I think it would give Bill Brinton a heart attack, but honestly would he rather have that or a fugly garage in sight of 320,370 vehicles from around the country at that point on the interstate?
Jacksonville in general is just an ugly cityscape. Of course on the Roosevelt corridor (an ugly one as I have mentioned MANY times), you're going to get billboards for that SOS lounge and this that and the other. Maybe signage along this corridor should be left up to a local board of engaged citizens? Should the same laws governing this area be the same laws governing downtown or Riverside? Or bus stations for that matter?
In Jacksonville especially, since it is 774 square miles and at least as many neighborhoods/personalities, should one law govern all? I hardly think so.
In fact, I know in Atlanta these sorts of things are left up to areas, which we called NPUs. They are run by separate boards and generally overseen by the city. This for 135 square miles, so yea...Jacksonville needs less one size fits all and more local governance. And signage should not be tied in with our public transportation agencies. It's amazing that came to be.