Commentary

printed 01/31/2020

For a municipal government so concerned with its view to the east, one would think it might face west now and then in the summer and see just how attractive those tram ads are on the Boardwalk.

Admittedly, as the operators of an advertising medium that has always chafed at the idea of having to compete with local government for advertising dollars, we have a conflict of interest in this discussion.

Nevertheless, most people — and a significant number of council members — would agree that a people-carrier festooned with banners about the Zika virus and how it can be sexually transmitted isn’t exactly vacation postcard material.

Obviously, other ads aren’t like that, nor do they appear in photos of a group of tram-riding Boy Scouts, as happened in this instance.

But they do, in the words of tram advertising opponent Councilman Dennis Dare, add “more visual pollution to the Boardwalk.”

We agree, as did Councilwoman Mary Knight and Councilman Matt James, that the Boardwalk is busy enough from the visual standpoint without the added garishness of tram ads.

But in addition to the visual aspect of these panels, their presence also implies that money trumps aesthetics every time. That’s why the suggestion that the city conduct a cost-versus-revenue study before making a decision hits the wrong note.

In other words, that says an ad panel of questionable taste or design will get closer to the desired standard if it produces a sufficient amount of revenue.

Either how things look is important to the City Council or it isn’t, and the amount of money involved shouldn’t be a mitigating factor in a case like this one.

City officials should be concerned with the view from both directions, and unless they’re going to assign people to judge the appearance and message of every panel, the easiest thing to do is not do tram advertising at all. Three council members oppose it. Convincing one more shouldn’t be that difficult.

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