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Pittsburgh Council Poised to Open City Assets to Corporate Sponsorships

Pittsburgh is one vote and the mayor's signature away from allowing private businesses to sponsor city-owned assets like vehicles and buildings.

In hopes of creating another source of income for the city's coffers, Pittsburgh City Council members voted in favor of the "Market Based Revenue Opportunity" (MBRO) bills on Wednesday, 6-0, with one abstention by Councilman Daniel Lavelle. A final vote on the legislation is scheduled for next Tuesday.

Under the three bills from Councilman Bill Peduto, city assets like park benches, employee uniforms, and the city website would be fair game for Pittsburgh to open up to potential advertisers. The city government would send out a request for proposals (RFP) to get businesses' bids on a particular asset, then decide on the best advertising offer.

Some city-owned property would be exempt or reserved for small business advertising, including ballfields and walking trails. Department of Public Safety vehicles and uniforms would not be included in the advertising policy either.

Dan Sentz, environmental planner for the Department of City Planning, said before the sponsorships can start, Pittsburgh first has to contract with a private company to create "design standards" to regulate the size and scope of the private advertising.

"We think the design criteria will allow people to visualize better, so they know that we are consciously keeping the Pittsburgh brand as the prominent name, and the sponsorships would be subservient to our Pittsburgh brand," said Sentz.

He said the final approval of the proposed design standards would ultimately fall to the city's Art Commission.

The new advertising policy is expected to generate $1.2 million to $2 million per year, but that money has already been budgeted into Pittsburgh's five-year financial plan.

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