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Municipal Advertising Bill Passes

City Council passed a bill Thursday to allow advertising on municipal property – an idea championed by Council President Darrell L. Clarke to raise money for the city coffers without hiking taxes.

The bill is just the first step in the process, giving zoning permission and setting up a task force that would explore which city buildings and other property would be appropriate for advertising and what kinds of ads would be allowed.

Ultimately, Mayor Nutter would have to sign a contract with a vendor that would seek and manage the advertising.

"At the end of the day, it's up to the administration to implement this particular program," Clarke said.

Clarke first proposed selling advertising on city property about a year and a half ago. He has been complaining in recent weeks that Nutter has been dragging his feet – a request for proposals from vendors was issued last year but later scrapped.

Nutter officials said in a hearing last month that they have to dig deeper into an issue related to city buildings constructed or renovated using municipal bonds. Generating a certain amount of advertising revenue on those buildings could cost the city in tax penalties, Solicitor Shelley Smith said.

Clarke said Thursday that he heard "informally" that the administration was going to issue a request for proposals in the next few weeks to place advertising on city vehicles – most likely trash trucks. Advertising on city vehicles would not have the same tax concerns, he said.

"If we can get up and running relatively soon, I think that's something we need to do," Clarke said. "I'd love to see these trash trucks with trash bag wraps on them."

Clarke said SEPTA generated $21 million in the last fiscal year from advertising on buses, trains and other property, and he hoped the city eventually could "come close to that particular number."

Mark McDonald, a spokesman for Nutter, confirmed that the administration was "working toward" a request for proposals on vehicle advertising, "but we don't have a timeline set yet." On Clarke's bill, McDonald said the mayor has two weeks to decide his position.

Clarke's bill passed 15-0. Councilman Bill Green abstained due to a possible conflict, and Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco was absent.

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