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Council edges closer to policy on naming rights

May 04 2012

Victoria councillors moved closer to adopting a corporate namingrights policy Thursday, but want to find out what residents think of the idea.

After lengthy debate, councillors decided to use a draft crafted by Coun. Marianne Alto as a template for a city policy that would be put to the public for input before a final decision is made.

Councillors were far from united on the concept.

Alto started working on the policy in an effort to "turn over every rock" looking for new revenue sources.

"This is just another rock. It's a rock that's complicated and it's a rock that requires a good amount of thought," Alto said.

She said her proposed policy provides enough safeguards to allow the city to be fairly restrictive in what offers it would consider.

City staff suggested that Victoria, with the exception of perhaps the Victoria Conference Centre, would not be able to generate much in terms of revenue from naming rights.

A staff report suggested a broker be hired to pursue that deal.

Coun. Shellie Gudgeon was worried, given current staff work loads, that the additional revenue wouldn't do much more than cover the additional costs.

"I think we might just be growing our payroll and paying for it with naming rights - and if we're looking at it that way, I don't think it's a wise decision," Gudgeon said.

Coun. Pam Madoff said it's the principle behind the idea that should be the most important consideration. She quoted University of Victoria professor Reuben Rose-Redwood, who has started an online petition against the idea.

"Instead of naming places in honour of those individuals or groups who played a significant role in Victoria's history, the proposed naming-rights policy reduces public place-names to 'commodities' that can be bought and sold, which has the effect of cheapening their symbolic value," the petition reads. Mayor Dean Fortin noted the city heavily subsidizes the Victoria Conference Centre.

"We have an annual deficit at the conference centre of $600,000 a year" - roughly the amount a naming-rights agreement could generate, Fortin said.

"That's an annual deficit that's paid for by us, the residents of Victoria, to help promote this region," he said, adding most of the economic benefit goes to the federal and provincial governments through sales taxes.

"If we had the opportunity to make that a self-sufficient operation and still retain that economic benefit to that region and everyone else - then we should take a look at that."

Coun. Chris Coleman said naming-rights present a difficult discussion and the language used is important. "I wouldn't describe it as selling out," he said. "What I would say is it's opening ourselves to a partnered opportunity that has mutual benefits."

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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