business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Perhaps you saw the recent story about how Baltimore officials are considering the sale of advertisement space on the side of fire trucks as a way of generating cash that can be used to solve the city's budget problems?

Well, that's nothing ... at least not when compared to this story that I read in the Washington Post:

"Two years into Europe’s financial crisis, which has governments slashing spending in a bid to tame runaway debts, the region is facing a cultural calamity for which there is no emergency bailout fund. Historical buildings, churches, monuments, bridges, barracks, archaeological ruins and other sites are disintegrating from neglect. Local governments, desperate to find a way to preserve these sites before it is too late, are making up for budget shortfalls by hanging ads, selling usage rights and, in some cases, putting the structures themselves on the market.

"In France, the caretakers of Versailles have agreed to let two hotels open on the palace grounds and have proposed ­licensing the image of the building for use on luxury watches. In Spain, planners eager for more tax revenue approved the construction of an office tower in the historic city center of Seville near the Gothic cathedral where Christopher Columbus is buried, ignoring threats from the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to disqualify the city as a World Heritage site if the project proceeded. And in Greece, the government voted this year to open sites such as the Parthenon, the Poseidon Temple and Delphi to cinematographers willing to pay per-minute fees."

In Venice, a city that is in perpetual restoration, the economic situation is so bad that "a compromise was struck to allow billboard-size advertisements on scaffoldings, but only while restoration work was being done. Money raised from the ads would be used to fund the restoration, and any left over would go to the region’s general budget." Similar agreements have been reached in Rome, where they allow the ads to cover only 20 percent of the scaffolding, and in Milan, where the limit is 50 percent.

Ads on fire trucks? That seems like small potatoes when compared to what is happening in the great cities of Europe.

It reminds me of the scene in Network, when the broadcasting company CEO, played by Ned Beatty, tells Howard Beale:

There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immune, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today.

And that's the way it seems to be going...

Hold on....

Just heard a story on NPR about a high school in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, that is in such tough financial shape that the school district is auctioning it off. Whoever comes up with the most cash won't actually own the school, but will get naming rights, plus free tickets to football games, a coffee mug, and the right to give the commencement address at graduation.

It seems just like yesterday that high schools were debating whether or not it was appropriate to allow a soft drink company to sponsor the scoreboard.

Talk about innocence lost...

KC's View: