I thought it was bad when they started selling the names of the sports stadiums (beginning with San Francisco’s Candlestick Park) to raise money back in 1995. As the names changed with each new contract, and sports casters bumbled and/or mocked the names, the cheeziness of the whole thing really got to me. Finally, in 2004, the voters decided to end the whole sordid affair and passed an initiative that required the name to remain ‘Candlestick Park’ at the end of the current contract, and so it has since 2008.
But, there is a new ‘revenue enhancement’ scheme that is dreadful on a whole different scale. The Gubinator (who I admit that I voted for) wants to raise money in cash-strapped Cali by selling space on the freeway electronic signs. The original intent of freeway electronic traffic signs was to provide ’emergency information.’ The first Amber Alerts that went up were fantastic and many have resulted in the rescue of the child involved. Bridge and freeway closures are announced in advance and this has allowed Cali drivers to plan alternate routes- it’s great! Occasionally, the signs have also been used for driving related public service announcements like “turn in the drunk bum driving next to you by calling 911”, ok, maybe they used a little different wording. But, whenever there was a message on the sign, you could count on it being either important or useful, or both. Now, that just won’t be the case.
I find this money grubbing just too embarrassing, but that’s not what worries me. I have 3 main concerns.
1. Are we actually going to set up an entirely new bureaucracy to interface with companies to find advertisers, gather the ads, decide which ads are appropriate, bill for the ads and then collect the revenue from such ads? In the real world, companies are told to focus on their ‘core business’ and not get distracted. Sounds like a distraction to me and, really, how much revenue could be gained when all is said and done?
2. If we set up this bureaucracy, what’s to stop the legislature from deciding to build billboards or takeover abandoned billboards to get more revenue to pay for the bureaucracy? In this age where we, the people, own GM, Chrysler and AIG, that’s not so far fetched, I think.
3. If there are advertisements on the signs, then folks will just stop looking at them, just like we all skip the commercials on t.v. And if we stop looking at the signs, then haven’t we just undone the good work that was done by implementing them? Could we possibly make enough money to make up for the tragedy that would occur when the next Amber Alert is posted and no one pays attention to it and a child’s life is forever changed, or even ended?
The problem, I think, is that our government SPENDS too much. So, rather than looking at creating new bureaucracies that compete with private business and put lives at risk, how ’bout we put the brakes on runaway spending? (like the $200 billion single payer healthcare bill the Cali Senate just passed!)