The Port Authority is going to sell Geico a billboard squarely on top of the George Washington Bridge toll booths. Even more appalling, “Geico’s message will also be integrated into the Port Authority’s direct mailings and its Web site, and costumed gecko mascots will appear at Port Authority bus stations.”
Words fail me. This is the rotten fruit of having no respect for our public institutions and managing government as though the point is to hide its costs. I don’t mind car cards in the subway or buses or ads in stations. I don’t mind (within reason) billboards on private property along the highway. But I despise covering the outside of a bus with an ad, I’m ashamed of begging from companies to clean up along the road for a sign, and I especially despise selling naming rights to things like sports arenas. The idea that we should have a Geico Authority of the Port of New York and New Jersey just because the PA’s management has no pride and the citizens of the New York area think they shouldn’t be happy to pay for excellent public services is deeply depressing. How about the Starbuck’s courtroom, or even a Smucker’s whole courthouse? Why not haul perps before the Wells Fargo Judge Smith of Alameda County, perhaps to become the Bank of America Judge Smith if they bid more next year? We could save a bundle on his salary, and then the taxpayers could buy more private stuff and the supervisor who gets the bill passed will be a hero of local government. This will pay even better if his robe is embroidered with a tasteful stagecoach logo, right?
This has nothing to do with naming buildings, professorships, and even elevator lobbies in hospitals after charitable donors who give irreversible gifts. There’s no public spirit in these commercial rentals of collective institutions; it’s cheap, shabby, and wrong.
OK, let’s see if we can get with the program and stop whining. First, why are we leaving money on the table by putting Washington’s name on the bridge; he never put a penny into the PA pot! Lots of companies would pay for this, and they should. Get this freeloader’s name off it and auction the whole bridge every six months.
And let’s be more entrepreneurial generally. A really good place to make a buck would be a big flag held up by the Statue of Liberty’s torch hand, I mean the Macy’s Statue of humiliation. Or we could paint her gown magenta and orange and pop a big inflatable donut over the torch. After all, it was really expensive to fix her up in the 70s, and the electric bill for the torch is an inexcusable burden on taxpayers. If no-one wants to pony up, that’s just the market telling us she’s outlived her economic usefulness. And copper scrap prices are at historic highs…
Give me your stingy and small-minded, the wretched refuse of two decades of trashing the institutions of a civilized state…I’m in despair.