The Municipality of North Cowichan should consider other options than corporate sponsorships of public buildings and properties as a means to raise revenues, according to Reuben Rose-Redwood.
Rose-Redwood, chairman of the University of Victoria’s committee of urban studies, said in an open letter to the municipality that the experience other Canadian municipalities, including the City of Victoria, have had with corporate sponsorships has not been as financially lucrative as hoped.
Rose-Redwood said that after an extensive study into the sponsorship concept in 2012, Victoria city staff concluded that the Victoria Conference Centre was the “only lucrative venue for naming rights” in that city.
He said that given the assessment that a city the size of Victoria has so few potentially viable public assets that could make money for the municipality through corporate sponsorships, then a municipality the size of North Cowichan likely has fewer still.
Rose-Redwood also said pursuing corporate sponsorships would result in missed opportunities for commemorating the history of a region through the naming of public places, as well as missed opportunities to engage in a meaningful dialogue with First Nations regarding the reclamation of traditional indigenous place names in the region.
“Treating public place names as mere commodities to be bought and sold not only cheapens their symbolic value, it reinforces existing economic privileges and transforms the public sphere into a corporate-marketing opportunity,” he said.
North Cowichan has been seeking public input on a proposal to raise revenue by offering the private sector sponsorships and naming rights on municipal properties.
At a meeting in June, municipal staff provided council with a list of 15 municipal properties that could potentially be open to sponsorships and name changes.
The list includes Crofton Pool, Fuller Lake Arena, the Cowichan Sportsplex and the North Cowichan/Duncan Sports Hall of Fame.
That was followed by a presentation to council in July from Brent Barootes. president of the Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialties, who said the municipality has the potential to raise up to $1 million a year from corporate sponsorships.
Council is expected to make a decision on corporate sponsorships at a future meeting.