Councilman Weiner urges review by County Law Dept & County Ethics Commission before advertising commences on County website; Law Dept concurs. Community News
Signs of the times: county lawmakers consider business sponsorship
By Jesse Chadderdon
Posted Aug 19, 2009 @ 12:22 PM
Wilmington, Del. —
There are no revenue projections, but one New Castle County Councilman thinks there's money to be made by opening up the county's Web site to advertisers.
There's no legal precedent either, but other policy makers say the concept is cause for concern.
The site got nearly 2.8 million unique visits in 2008, and Sheldon thinks nccde.org would be attractive to local businesses looking to advertise, and could bring much needed revenue at no cost to taxpayers.
"It's just another way to look at trying to raise some money without raising taxes more," Sheldon said.
Like other sites, Sheldon envisions banner ads across the top of the page and along the sides, with advertisers paying the county a small fee per click.
But Councilman Robert Weiner (R-Chatham) said allowing doing so could make the county vulnerable to lawsuits.
"Given the Constitutional protection given to freedom of speech, it would be difficult for New Castle County to exercise any discretion as to which commercial entity could take advantage of it," he said. "For example, an adult-entertainment business could file suit if we didn't allow them to advertise."
County Executive Chris Coons, said he had concerns about whether advertising could be clearly delineated from county services, and whether the ads could create a perceived conflict of interest if the company does business with the county.
An Ethics Commission review, prompted by a council resolution to study the issue, placed it squarely in the hands of the Law Department, and advised it to adopt guidelines governing the "source, type, form and content" of the advertising if it decides move forward.
County Attorney Gregg Wilson said he is reviewing advertising on the Web site and at county parks and facilities.
"The county law department is currently working through the ethical and practical issues of how advertising might or might not benefit the county," Wilson said. "There are a number of considerations with regard to advertising on public property that must be carefully reviewed, such as what is acceptable and appropriate, how much do you charge, and what is the duration of advertising."
The concept of advertising at facilities like county parks is one that Coons said he has considered in the past, but the details were never hammered down. Conceptually, it would work like the state's Adopt-a-Highway program, where a company who helps maintain a facility or donates money to the county could be recognized.
Weiner said he'd be much more willing to support that concept, if it passed law department scrutiny.
"I had a real estate company in my district that wanted to advertise in exchange for giving money to the Talley Day Bark Park," he said. "It would be a nice way for the county to defray some of its costs."
nccde.org by the numbers
Page Views: 25,619,119
Web Hits: 134,397,167*
*Includes search engine pings
Source: NCCo, 2008 data
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