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Your Ad on Billy Penn?

Incoming City Council President Darrell Clarke wants to deck the hall in ads.

I don't begrudge incoming City Council President Darrell Clarke trying to get a head-start on generating revenue for cash-strapped Philadelphia. But why is it that everybody in this town can only see as far as a billboard?

In the last session of the year, Clarke reintroduced legislation that would allow advertising on city property. We're not talking about sticking a sign in a vacant lot or flying a banner over the trash transfer station. Think Big. Think City Hall.

Clarke insists that slapping promotional spin on the architectual gem would be "tastefully done" and heavily regulated. So no wrapping Billy Penn in a Snuggie.

Most politicians begin these discussions with the best intentions, and it's hard to fault Clarke for exploring an option that could raise $10 million a year without further taxing city residents.

But Philadelphia already has an ugly track record when it comes to selling out to the outdoor advertising industry. Just last week, Mayor Nutter's veto was needed to kill a visual monstrosity that had sailed through a money-hungry City Council.

Economic desperation, you see, can lead reasonable people to lose their minds. On a trip to Vienna last spring, I was horrified to encounter giant ads featuring a bikini-clad woman draped over an otherwise iconic Austrian cathedral undergoing a much-needed -- and presumably expensive -- restoration.

Don't say you weren't warned.

-- Monica Yant Kinney

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