January 24th, 2012

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell Plans To Commercialize The Commute, Sell Roads' Naming Rights

By Matt Sledge
Huffington Post

If Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has his way, you could soon take Wawa Road over the Walgreens Bridge past the Waffle House Interchange to get to Washington. The governor has announced a plan to cover part of an estimated $70 billion long-term shortfall in the state’s transportation funding by selling off naming rights for state infrastructure to private entities.

Some critics are charging that the deal won’t turn out as sweet as advertised. Elizabeth Ben Ishai, who charts the expanding influence of corporations in the public sphere as part of her work with the nonprofit consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen, said the governor was setting up a false choice between raising taxes and selling naming rights.

The governor was assuming that advertising is free, she said. “In fact, the public pays a high price when our government essentially privatizes public space and provides yet another outlet for advertisers to bombard us with their messages.”

In times past, Virginia named its roads after its heroes, which means the state has both a Booker T. Washington Highway and a Jefferson Davis Highway. Selling off naming rights, Ben Ishai argued, “undermines the value of public space and reinforces the idea that all aspects of the state are, ultimately, for sale.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/23/bob-mcdonnell-virginia-governor-naming-rights_n_1224623.html

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