Thursday, March 20, 2008

Deal or no deal

This entry later ran as an Op-Ed piece in The Advocate (Stamford, Conn.) newspaper on March 27, 2008, under the headline "City budgeting not a game ... or is it?"

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Gooooood day! And, welcome to this year's edition of "Stamford Budget Crisis"!

We have an exciting show for you today as we try to find ways to pay for all the things you – that's right, you! – need, want or couldn't-care-less-about-but-are-dear-to-certain-political-interests!

So, let's give the Wheel O' Gristle a spin to see what we will be trimming today to fund the "essentials" of tomorrow …

Oh, oh, oh … it lands on slashing public library funding for $750,000! Excellent! You get to shorten the operating hours and stop buying new books!

Wait, there's more!

Our exclusive, two-faced pointer thingy on the wheel has also landed on closing your most academically successful elementary school for a savings of $5.4 million! Fantastic!

What's that, Johnny?

Our announcer informs me that as an added bonus, we'll eliminate several crossing guards at the remaining schools because those near-minimum wage jobs for fixed income seniors really add up!

Such is life in my hometown. We may be on the alleged Gold Coast but every year the headlines read like we are in the poor house. This is because Stamford, unlike most of our neighboring towns, is really more of a rebounding, old industry city than a wine-and-brie bedroom community. Compared with most of Fairfield County, we have a wider diversity of ethnicity, socioeconomic standing and hamburger joints.

But that builds character … or does it create characters? Either way, it beats white bread.

Because of my city's location amid the home bases of celebrities, hedge fund kings and the plain ol' stinking rich, we tend to get the short end when it comes to state and federal funding for essentials like education and infrastructure repair, even though we have lots of the same issues as our poorer, more urban cousins. Stamford is a city, the Hartford and D.C. types forget, not a hamlet, and something is rotten in the state of the city.

Solution: corporate sponsorship.

Look, I abhor teams and municipalities selling the naming rights to ball parks. I also can't understand why corporations want their name on them because it tends to be a good predictor of whether the buyer is going kaput in the near future. Witness Enron Field in Houston, AmeriQuest Field at The Ballpark in Arlington, and PSINet Stadium in Baltimore. Mark my words, the Mets' new home being called Citi Field isn't good news for the financial giant's employees and stockholders.

But there is a market for it, so why not cash in? Capitalism, like freedom and democracy, separates us from the evil-doers and terrorists, I hear. Also, this is selling out for the sake of community enrichment, not personal riches.

Here are just a few suggestions that involve area corporations:

World Wresting Entertainment can make a nice donation to help keep the local libraries open at normal hours. In return, the city hangs banners at all branch entryways for the year, announcing: "We didn't close down on Mondays thanks to WWE SmackDown on Fridays (8 p.m. on The CW)!"

Priceline could give some financial help to the school system in exchange for high school stadium and sports team advertising. Here's your slogan: " Where you 'Name Your Own Price' -- but not at the cost of educating Stamford's kids!"

We could spiff up the concession and restrooms areas at our beaches if we get one of the many major beverage distributors headquartered in and around town to pay for their names on these facilities. Welcome to the Pepsi Picnic Pavilion at Cove Island! If Rover does his business in the park, no worries – use one of the complimentary Doritos' Do-Not-Doo-Doo bags to pick it up. Then toss it into one of our many Quaker Oatmeal trash canisters because, while any oatmeal can help lower your cholesterol, only Quaker helps reduce pollution in Long Island Sound!

Disclosure: Those last examples are also shameless plugs and hints for my wife's employer. Hey, corporations have paid bigger bucks for dumber ways to advertise that didn't benefit anyone other than the C-level suits in the long run.

Now, let's take a commercial break.

When we come back, we'll play a round of that annual favorite, "Too Poor to Pay for the Fourth of July Fireworks Show," OK?!

1 comment:

  1. I like the idea of WWE- the kids will like that! I wonder if some corporations already do give money... didn't one give $ to the library? Or was that what someone suggested in a letter to the editor? I read those articles in the paper, but I don't think too critically about them. I find the topic depressing, and I don't own a home, so I'm not investing myself in budget issues yet.

    Here's my idea: how about the state just pours money into Stamford? We'll fix the schools, that will attract more yuppies, and we'll be a kickin' city. And then, we'll pay them back.



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