While it should not be news to anyone above ground that this state is in financial straits, have we sunk so low in this state that we’ll prostitute our municipal facilities for cash?
While it should not be news to anyone above ground that this state is in financial straits, have we sunk so low in this state that we’ll prostitute our municipal facilities for cash?Although he didn’t put it quite that way, Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei, of Wakefield, doesn’t think “it’s a bad idea” for Massachusetts to sell the naming rights to state-owned facilities, including pools and parks. And he’s convinced the Senate of the fact, because they passed the measure recently. The House has yet to vote on the idea, which is now tied to a supplemental budget. Initially I thought the senator was grasping at 11th-hour budget straws, but I came around to see his point. After a bit of telephone banter, I’m inclined to agree — to a point. Tisei says that selling the naming rights to, let’s say, the Boston Convention Center, could fetch upwards of $1 million per year. He noted that many states are already doing this. However, when pushed, he cited only the local example of the Springfield Convention Center, now known as the Mass Mutual Convention Center. Calls to the switchboard at Springfield City Hall were so mired in voicemail hell that I was unable to get to the right person find out if this has been profitable. He further explained state pools and parks that may be closed due to budget cuts or maintenance costs, or that are beyond the scope of this or next fiscal year’s budget, may benefit from private funds. “If local businesses could make repairs to allow these sites to open,” he says, “it’s a win-win.” And why not exchange that donation for a name-sharing opportunity on the signpost? I agree with that. What I do take exception to is the process. If passed by the House, the measure would allow the Secretary of Administration and Finance to put the naming rights of Massachusetts-owned facilities out to bid. According to Tisei, rhetoric in the measure states the secretary would decide which facilities qualify for naming rights by a determination of what is “tasteful and appropriate.” One has only to look at the recent news stories to wonder if anyone at the State House can judge what is “tasteful and appropriate.” When pushed, Tisei said that there weren’t any limitations on which facilities could “benefit” from these naming rights. But the ultimate decision would lie with the governor, so we could potentially see Trump Tower State House at Beacon Hill or the Smith and Wesson Government Center. Tisei likened the measure to the Adopt-a-Mile program now in place on Massachusetts highways. For a fee and a few hours community service, companies may plant a sign stating that they sponsor a section of our illustrious highway system. I’m all for raising money that doesn’t involve raising taxes and I commend the senator for thinking of every possibility to raise revenue; I hope that someone in the House has the foresight to put some limitations in this measure before it passes. Donna O’Neil is the editor of the Wakefield Observer. She can be reached at email@example.com.