Advertising? In the city?
When it comes to the city’s new street furniture contract, you have to take my perspective with a grain of salt. You see, I’m one of those reprehensible types who didn’t object when bars and restaurants started selling advertising in their washrooms some ten years ago. Back then, culture-jammers were busy figuring out how to jimmy the frames open and remove the offending pictures, and I was, like, Whaa? I never entertained the illusion that I had any say in the state of the cinder block wall I was staring at. I never thought it was beautiful or deserved to be pristine. Sometimes, depending on how much I’d had to drink and how my life was going at the time, I was thankful for the distraction.
So I’m not particularly surprised by what happened yesterday, when council’s executive committee ignored complaints from Toronto’s Public Space Committee about the city’s new street furniture contract. Pending a final vote by city council, Astral Media will provide and maintain new benches, trash and recycling bins, information kiosks, and transit shelters. They’ll pay for it with advertising on all these things, and the city will get a cut. My biggest concern is not the advertising, but the furniture itself. If you look at Astral’s proposal, it’s a pretty vanilla imagining of our Jetsons-esque future. (The bike stands are cool, though.)
It’s worth noting that the mayor and his cabinet politely listened to the deputations from members and affiliates of the Toronto Public Space Committee, but didn’t ask questions and pretty much brushed them off. The Mayor loves these activists for their parks and transit boosterism (Spacing editor Matthew Blackett apparently got an advance look at the Transit City LRT plan, and had buttons made for the unveiling), but clearly breaks with them on this one. I wonder how willing they are to agree to disagree.