B y D a v e D e v i n e
WHEN THE STUDENTS of Mansfeld Middle School return to class next week, they'll have some reorientation to do. They'll find a newly renovated school, teachers excited to begin another year, and a permanent Yokohama Rice Bowl advertisement on their school's marquee. Mansfeld will have joined a growing list of Tucson Unified School District middle schools, from Taco Bell's Secrist on the far eastside to 7-Eleven's Naylor on south Columbus Boulevard, which have combined commercialism and education in a very public way.
Under a TUSD policy adopted in April 1993, this approach to installing signs and saving taxpayers money by having advertisers pay for them is catching on. The sign "sponsor" must pay for the entire sign and maintain it for one year. This will save the taxpayers several thousand dollars in expenses.
In exchange, the "sponsor" gets a permanent advertisement. Sometimes, as in the case of Mansfeld, which is on Sixth Street just south of the University of Arizona campus, the sign can be in a prime location.
Is this legal? According to the district's administrative guidelines for the program, "Marquee signs shall be designed to comply with all applicable city...building codes for the site for which the sign is to be installed." However, an employee of the city's Development Services Center indicated that if a governmental agency were not the owner of this type of sign, it would be prohibited by city regulations.
But who's concerned about a little disagreement over legalities when TUSD has opened a whole new way for governments to raise money without raising taxes? For years people who've attended sporting events at public institutions have been subjected to all kinds of advertising. Sometimes it seems the only thing not for sale are the white stripes on the flag. But the TUSD approach opens several new avenues to combine commercialism and government.
Using the bottom of the wings of the A-10s flying low over town to promote noise-insulation products.
Allowing the University of Arizona to sell departments, not just buildings, to be named after big-time donors. How does the Rupert Murdoch Journalism Department sound?
Our city leaders voted to allow a reflective rainbow on top of city hall. But, hey, that just won't produce the income the way a rotating billboard, similar to those found in major-league ballparks, would.
Since the Pima County Board of Supervisors' meetings are televised to county residents, the supes could wear trademark clothing to pitch a product or two. One obvious pairing would be Big Ed Moore modeling the No Fear line of clothing.
Saving the biggest for last, what about A Mountain? Think any of the major commercial television networks would be interested in having their letters displayed for all of Tucson to see? All it would take is the right price, some helpful University students and more paint.
With taxpayers rebelling against the ever-increasing cost of government and bureaucrats looking for creative ways to raise revenues, the link between advertisers and the public sector is just beginning. Pass the soy sauce, please.
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