New Portland parks sponsor policy launched
The City of Portland has kicked off its corporate sponsorship program for the city's parks in style, sending out dozens of bills to businesses whose names already appear on parks and recreation facilities.
Among those dunned retroactively for naming rights were Wildwood Restuarant, for the Wildwood Trail; Pioneer Electronics, for Pioneer Courthouse Square; and Rose's Restaurant, for the International Rose Garden. "This is an important step in our continuing movement toward public-private partnerships," said Zari Santner, chief of the city's parks bureau. "We believe that the name recognition that our parks give to these businesses helps to foster goodwill on both our parts. It's a win-win situation."
City commissioner Erik Sten applauded the initiative. "It's like a few years ago, when Mayor Katz and I were proposing that we charge city contractors a fee for the right to say that they do business with us. That's important intellectual property, and I think the rates we are charging in this case are very affordable."
Not every recipient of an invoice was as enthusiastic about the program, however. "This is a ripoff," said Bob Pittock of Pittock Auto Body and Towing of Clifton, N.J. That company was billed $5,000 for the naming rights to Portland's famous Pittock Mansion. And the government of Israel has filed a diplomatic protest with the U.S. State Department over a $7,200 invoice it received for the rights to name Mount Tabor Park. "We have our legal counsel looking at the relevant treaties," said a State Department spokesperson. "It's a sensitive matter, and we don't want to rush to judgment."
The investment consulting giant Wilshire Associates released a statement Friday announcing plans to contest the $6,176 fee it has been assessed with respect to Wilshire Park. Meanwhile, Washington Mutual Bank referred all inquiries regarding the $22,500 charge it has been assessed for the name Washington Park to its attorneys, who were not immediately available for comment.
Trademark lawyers said a court battle was likely in the case of the Laurelwood Brew Pub and the Laurelthirst Pub, who were jointly billed for Laurelhurst Park. "Those names are similar," said Tony Bertucci, an intellectual property law professor at Minnesota State University, "but they're not identical. It's a close call."
The launch of the new program was not without some administrative problems. The city's billing computers mistakenly sent a statement charging $15,000 to the Montreal Expos baseball team for the name of the Portland Expo Center. That team, however was disbanded in 2004. "We were using an old tape, and a few of the invoices were sent to defunct businesses," explained Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who is in charge of the city's parks. "We are getting the kinks out now, and after a few initial minor problems, which are to be expected, we expect the flow of revenue to be smooth."
Commissioner Sam Adams told reporters last week that he planned to expand the sponsorship program to the city's transportation bureau, which he directs. Adams said that the bureau had already sent bills to Jean Reynolds and Walt Richardson, after whom the city has named the new aerial tram cars. "The tram is going to cost the city nearly a million dollars a year to run," he said, "and let's face it, we don't have that kind of money. Walt and Jean will have to kick in a couple of thousand apiece. Originally, it was supposed to be free for them, but our costs have really escalated for reasons that no one anticipated."
The launch of the parks sponsorship program came as staffers in the parks bureau continued preparations for the upcoming public meetings on the policy, as well as other aspects of future financing of the city's fiscally challenged parks operations. The city has hired skilled, professional facilitators to insure that the meetings will be productive and "gratifying for all involved."