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Selling naming rights to public property should be nonstarter

Fitting though it would be at times to rename the New Hampshire State House after a restaurant that half-bakes its meals, we hope lawmakers have the good sense to resist a proposal to raise money by selling naming rights to state assets.

A bill that would put the state on the path toward establishing that practice comes from Republican Rep. Dan McGuire of Epsom, who views the sale of naming rights as a fairly painless way to raise some money for a state that desperately needs it.

“I don’t think this will amount to a giant pool of money, but it will be something,” McGuire told the Concord Monitor. “Every little bit helps.”

McGuire actually introduced a bill last January that would have allowed New Hampshire to sell naming rights to bridges, overpasses, exits and other highway structures, with proceeds earmarked for the Department of Transportation. A House committee suggested that he file a new bill in the 2013 session, and McGuire will propose the creation of a study committee to consider the merits of his proposal and work out some of the details of how it might work. He envisions a bill coming back in 2014 that authorizes the state to sell naming rights and hopes the Legislature will consider allowing sponsorship of not just highway structures, but also state buildings.

Well, perhaps a study committee is necessary to iron out some of the minor technicalities of how this might work, but why waste time on the small things when the overall concept – the notion that the state should commercialize its public spaces – is, or should be, a nonstarter? Just how much study is needed to determine that this is a bad idea?

Yes, we have all become accustomed – numbed, actually – to the ubiquitousness of commercial tagging. But even if we have resigned ourselves to stadiums named after rapacious corporations and college bowl games sponsored by greasy snack foods, that doesn’t mean we have to blight our public spaces and assets with tawdry signs that glorify whichever corporate sponsor had enough money to buy that right.

And it’s not just a matter of aesthetic fastidiousness. The public realm is different from the private one, from the most unexceptional, utilitarian highway overpass to a precious, revered space like the State House. They were built with the tax money of the people of New Hampshire with the notion that they serve the public good.

Allowing these public assets to be hijacked, for the right price, to promote or in any way serve a private interest is contrary to the spirit in which they were created.

Besides inviting all manner of unnecessary controversies – how would North Country residents feel about driving over a bridge named after the builder of the Northern Pass project, or vegetarians regard a Burger King State House – a state that commercializes its public assets simply doesn’t have much respect for the important work it does. And it invites others to similarly devalue collective efforts.

Those concerned about forgoing some much-needed revenue can take some comfort in knowing that the money may be needed but it wouldn’t be very much. The much larger state of Ohio forecasts raising maybe $15 million a year when it embarks on a program next year to auction off sponsorship of roads and bridges – a piddling amount for what’s being sold.

If the state needs money to maintain or expand the roads, bridges, buildings or services that promote the general welfare, it should ask those who would benefit to pay.

Legacy Comments5

This is so weird to me. Folks complain about cell phone towers and pipe lines, yet trashing our bridges etc is fine. Like the folks that wnt Current use gone so we have less open space, fars etc. I guess the big beast of gov needs to be fed. I would rather take a couple of million and have a huge state wide study done of all the govt deps in our state. Wonder how much revenue would be found there. Never any talk about reform and making our state govt run better. Just cries for more revenue.

I think they should enact a sales tax to handle education funding. See... no whining about current use abolition or spending a couple of million on studying government agencies as it's been done many times in the recent past. As usual Bunny, you're a day late and a dollar short.

Of course you do, now that you are near retirement. It was awfully nice of you to live your entire life in NH without a sales tax and now that you have made your major purchases, had your kids, and are set to retire, you want someone else to foot the bill. Sweet deal.

What a can of worms this statement is.........."If the state needs money to maintain or expand the roads, bridges, buildings or services that promote the general welfare, it should ask those who would benefit to pay." ......Jim makes a great point...Concord mainstreet is another great example. Planned Parenthood is another. Rail service is another.

“”it should ask those who would benefit to pay”” I like the way you said that. Please ask the users of the Route 93 expansion every day to pay as they use it. Those that rarely or never use it should not have to pay the same cost as one who uses it 2X daily. Let’s see if they still want the expansion when the actual users actually pay the cost.

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