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Naming rights debate continues

June 3, 2009

The debate on setting policy to guide naming rights for city property continued with the Wauwatosa Common Council on Tuesday sending the issue back to the committee level to hash out more details and to try to get a stronger consensus of support.

Alderman Thomas Herzog, who was among those who voted 5-3 against the most recent version of the proposed policy at last week's Community Development Committee meeting, said he "was generally in favor," but he had some sticking points like the dollar amount that would require council approval.

"We should get this right before we hastily move this forward," he said. "There's no time crunch."

Herzog received support from the majority of the council with a 10-5 vote to refer it back to the CDC for discussion Tuesday night.

Mayor Jill Didier floated the idea of naming rights earlier this year, but she has not been pursuing any sales. Rather, her focus has been on selling bleacher seats at the Hart Park stadium.

She recommended sending the issue back to committee because city staff was concerned there was not a process established for handling naming rights requests. For instance, there is no listing that outlines what a $5,000 donation could buy or how much it would cost to name the football field.

"None of those details exist," she said.

The idea of naming rights got a lot more attention in the community than she expected, especially when it comes to possible uses for Hart Park athletic facilities.

"We need to step back for a little bit from the emotion of Hart Park and think about this more globally," Didier said. "It's not just athletic facilities, but the city as a whole. We get people who call and want to name a street after someone."

Looking at the bigger picture of what could be named, city staff has voiced concern that the Community Development Department, as recommended by the policy, may not be the place to direct naming rights requests. The Department of Public Works or the mayor's office was thrown out as a possibility.

The five aldermen who voted against sending the issue back to committee for the third time said the issue has been discussed ad nauseum, and appropriate tweaks have been made to the policy authored by Alderman Dennis McBride. They also spoke about the importance of having a policy in place to protect the city.

NEXT STEP

WHAT: Wauwatosa's Community Development Committee will continue formulating a policy on selling naming rights for city property

WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: City Hall, 7725 W. North Ave.

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