This morning I received an email from Asheville PARC. Apparently our mayor has entered into an agreement to sell naming rights for our civic center to US Cellular. And apparently the citizens of Asheville were not consulted, and there was no open competitive bidding. For a lot reasons this action seems wrong.
Our city council will be voting of this agreement very soon. According to PARC, the vote "is to be held at the only council meeting .. before the new council takes office". In other words, it will be a vote of the out-going council at their next and last meeting; and if they do not hear from us, this issue may not get the consideration from some members that it deserves.
If you live in the Asheville area, you can contact the Asheville City Council at AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov and let them know how you feel about this.
A copy of my letter to the city council is below the fold.
To the members of the Asheville City Council;
I have just learned that the mayor's office has entered into an agreement to sell the naming rights for our civic center to a national telecommunications company, US Cellular. In my view, this is wrong for several reasons.
- Asheville is a unique community among the nation's cities; and that uniqueness is one of the reasons it is a significant tourist destination, arts and crafts center, retirement community, etc. Renaming our civic center to a corporate name is one of the things that takes away our uniqueness and makes us look like Charlotte, where everything is for sale and the city looks like the side of a nascar truck, pasted over with corporate branding.
- Asheville isn't just some place that people happen to live. We who choose to live here do some because we identify ourselves with this city. Asheville is special. It is our city; and it is our civic center. And our civic center should not be named for some national telecommunications company. The name of our civic center should reflect us as a community.
- I would imagine that for a lot of the touring performing groups that come to our city, when the artists look at their itinerary, US Cellular Center sounds like just another nameless stop on the tour; but when they see that they are playing the Asheville Civic Center, that has meaning. Asheville is well known as an arts and music mecca; thus Asheville Civic Center carries much more meaning to those who perform here, and to those that travel here to see performances, than does US Cellular Center.
- Three of the sectors of our economy that have the most significant influence on our national government are Finance; Oil, Gas & Coal; and Telecommunications. The citizens of our nation are becoming increasingly aware of the extent to which our government is bought and controlled by these sectors. We currently have an Occupy Wall Street movement which is spreading throughout the nation, including Asheville, bringing to the attention of all of our citizens the damage that the financial sector is causing our government and our economy. We have a dire climate crisis that our government effectively neglects because of the influence of the fossil fuel sector. We struggle to maintain net neutrality for the benefit of our citizens and small businesses against telecommunications companies that care only for profits. In light of the increasing awareness of our citizens to the damage that these companies are doing to our world, to name our civic center after a telecommunications company seems, to put it mildly, thoughtless.
- It is my understanding that the public was not informed of the intention of the mayor's office to sell the name.
- It is also my understanding the mayor's office decided against competitive bidding, and did not open the process up to other interested parties.
- And it is my understanding that one of our local businesses, Ingles, would have been interested in making a bid had they known about it, and have now expressed an interest in bidding now that they have learned what has happened.
So, no competitive bids, selling the name to a national telecom company, making our city look like the same giant advertising sign that other cities look like, selling the name of our civic center without consulting us, the citizens. This was the wrong thing to do for so many reasons.
I guess the one good thing about this is that the mayor's office did not sell the name to Bank of America or Exxon or AT&T. Or is that next? Maybe we can sell the name of Pack Square Park to Exxon/Mobile. Maybe we can let McDonalds and Burger King and all the other chains into our historic downtown area and drive away the tourists and our economy altogether. The Civic Center is in that historic area. Maybe we can sell the naming rights to downtown; perhaps the Verizon Historic Downtown Center.
Although I live in Buncombe County, my house is outside the city limits. However, like so many others of our community who are not in the city limits boundaries, I identify Asheville as my home, as my community, as the unique and special place that called me and so many others here to the Western North Carolina mountains. We have a deep and abiding love for our home. We do not want to see our city sold off and transformed into corporate logos.
It is my understanding that the City Council will be voting on this soon. Please vote to reject the deal.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter,