October 3rd, 2011
New Florida state motto: ‘This space available’
By By Fred Grimm
Among Florida’s beggared public institutions, their budgets desiccated, even a school bus looks like a big yellow business opportunity.
Those unnatural sounds breaching the quiet along the state’s network of nature trails? The voices of the outdoor advertising industry, offering to re-decorate those economically antithetical pathways.
The Sunshine State’s new motto: “This space available.”
Bills have been filed in Tallahassee ahead of the 2012 legislative session that would encourage outdoor advertising on public property once considered off limits to commercial totems. Crass exploitation of public institutions has now become integral to Florida’s new business plan.
Three bills floating around the House and Senate would allow school districts to transform bus fleets into rolling billboards. And bills filed in both chambers permit the sale of “name rights or space for commercial advertising display” along “certain state-owned greenway or trail facilities or property.”
Neither bill is all that shocking. Last winter, the governor toyed with the notion of peddling ad space in state parks and with giving over large tracts of parkland to a for-profit golf course developer. Gov. Scott explained the new philosophy. “Our state parks, hopefully, are generators that, as much as possible, cover their costs.”
Both proposals, along with plans to shut down 53 state parks, were shelved. But they conditioned Floridians to the notion that nothing much is off limits to commercial exploitation.