A controversial proposal for Toronto to aggressively court corporations willing to pay for naming rights to city sites including subway stations and parks is headed back to the drawing board.
Mayor Rob Ford’s powerful executive committee voted Monday to have city staff take a second look at the issue after several councillors queried what limits would be put on the kinds of names and products involved.
“How low would we go or what would be the threshold we would set?,” asked Josh Matlow (Ward 22 St. Paul’s), one of several councillors not on the committee who turned up to pepper city staff with questions.
Colleague Janet Davis (Ward 31 Beaches East York) asked: “Is there anything you won’t consider?”
Staff responded that Toronto doesn’t entertain sponsorship or naming deals contrary to its “values and principles”, but offered only tobacco products as a non-starter.
The politicians should trust staff to follow guidelines in a report suggesting “any city property may be considered for naming,” but only changes in the public interest would be forwarded to council for a vote, they said.
Requested by the budget committee in January, the report states Calgary, Winnipeg, Chicago and New York proactively solicit offers to buy naming rights but there are a “limited number of examples” in Toronto.
They include Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, the Franklin Children’s Garden at Centre Island and BMO Field soccer stadium.
The report last week touched off debate about how far down the corporate naming and sponsorship road Toronto should go to get money to plug a budget deficit projected at more than $600 million for 2012.
Councillor Doug Ford (Ward 2 Etobicoke North), his brother’s closest adviser, said at the time “folks don’t have to worry about Doritos City Hall” but, given the state of city finances, most Torontonians wouldn’t care if Spadina TTC station became “Spadina McDonald’s.”
In a deposition, Toronto resident Sue MacLeod urged councillors to keep corporate names out of parks.
“What parks have always said to people in cities is ‘Here is a natural place for you, or a tranquil place, a respite from commerce.’ To let corporate names into our parks is to take that away,” she said.
Councillor Norm Kelly, the parks committee chair who last week told the Star he saw “nothing objectionable,” in the report, made the successful motion to have city staff address concerns and bring back a new report in September.
He said the new report should what names and products are off-limits, and suggest ways councillors can get involved in the process earlier if a proposed renaming or sponsorship is in their ward.
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