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Despite questions, panel backs naming rights policy

May 27, 2009

A divided Common Council committee has approved a policy to regulate the selling of naming rights to public property – the last hurdle before the measure goes to the full council for consideration.

On 5-3 vote, the Community Development Committee on May 26 back the proposed ordinance even though some members said there were still some outstanding issues and at least one questioned whether the measure was even necessary.

Alderman Robert Dennik made a motion to have the city attorney provide a legal opinion on whether the city should have a naming rights policy and if the proposed document authored by Aldermen Don Birschel and Dennis McBride fit the bill.

"I just think some of this is kind of overkill," said Dennik, who did not specify what language he opposed.

On a tie vote, his motion failed.

Supporting the request for a legal opinion were Birschel and Aldermen Tim Hanson and Thomas Herzog.

But Alderman Jerry Stepaniak said naming rights was a legislative issue for the city's policy makers, not a legal decision.

The committee also debated the whether council approval should be required on all naming rights deals of $5,000 or more, a figure Herzog said was not significant enough for that kind of attention.

"We'll be looking at this too often," he said.

He suggested increasing the minimum to trigger a council vote to $25,000. Any lesser amount could be approved by the Community Development Department, he said.

But ultimately, the committee chose to keep a tighter rein on the naming rights decisions to protect city property from any potentially embarrassing monikers.

Stefanie Scott can be reached at (262) 446-6618.

NEXT STEP

WHAT: Wauwatosa Common Council will vote on whether to adopt a proposed naming rights ordinance.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 2

WHERE: City Hall, 7725 W. North Ave.

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