Hearing No Support, Perez Scraps Idea Of Putting More Ad Signs On I-91
March 31, 2007
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer
Don't like the idea of more brash billboards lining I-91, doing their best to dress up the city dump?
You're not the only one.
In fact, so many people didn't like the city's proposal to generate at least $2.5 million in upfront cash by erecting new billboards between I-91 and the landfill that Mayor Eddie A. Perez - who has taken recent political hits for acting first and listening later - yanked the plan Friday.
Because nobody liked it.
"Nobody came out and said, `We liked the idea,'" Perez said. "I think individual people do and it makes sense ... [but] most community people and business people are against the idea."
"After having that feedback," Perez said, "I decided not to go forward."
Under the plan, a contractor would have been sought to maintain the new billboards as well as 51 bus shelters throughout the city, Perez said. The billboards would have been installed primarily between I-91 and the landfill at the city's northern edge. Estimates showed that the city could have received $2 million to $3 million in upfront payments, and then more than $100,000 a year in annual rent payments, Perez said.
The idea had been floating around for a couple of years after the city's finance staff suggested it as a way to make money. City staff has in recent weeks shopped the idea around to various community groups, including the recently formed downtown Business Improvement District, which expressed concern. Members of Hartford 2000, an umbrella group of several neighborhood organizations, also opposed the idea.
Kenneth R. Kahn, an influential voice in the city's marketing strategy and the head of the Greater Hartford Arts Council, said he likes Perez but never liked the plan.
"Everybody was uniformly against it. There was no positive constituency for realizing additional revenue from the erection of new billboards," Kahn said. "I don't fault him for it. I just think it probably wasn't the best way to go."
City Councilman Robert Painter bashed the billboard idea and gave a "hooray" when he learned it had been tossed.
"Who has ever thought that billboards are an aesthetic advantage to a city?" Painter asked. "I'm not willing to sell my soul for that."
Painter also praised Perez's sensitive ear.
"The mayor has shown a great deal of resistance to criticism of any of his ideas, and I think it's wonderful that he's listening to people," Painter said. "He's had some wonderful ideas. It's not the ideas that are the problem. It's the style he's used to dance them."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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