Politicians Love To See Their Name!

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown has taken promoting his name to a level never seen before by a local politician. Putting the Mayor’s name on newly purchased fire trucks, which caused a public back lash has brought the issue of the Mayor’s self promotion to a head.

As reported in the Buffalo News:

Office entrances. Gateways to city facilities. The shirts of many city lifeguards. Banners near the downtown waterfront. Some crime surveillance cameras. Lobby displays that promote literacy. Even a Zamboni at a city ice rink. You’ll find “Byron W. Brown” on all these — not to mention a barrage of video programs aired on the government access cable television station. Folks who live or work in Buffalo or who visit City Hall know this fact to be true: the mayor loves to see his name on things. More so than most previous mayors. “He has his name on everything except for the City Hall urinals,” quipped one former city official.

Brian Meyer from the Buffalo News has created an interesting video “Building the Brown Brand” that is worth watching.

I welcome a creative approach to addressing city issues, but unfortunately Brown’s obsession with plastering his name every where is not the type of innovation needed in Buffalo. In researching whether other municipalities have addressed the issue of elected officials spending taxpayer dollars on displaying their names, I came across the following:

1) Illinois – State Senator Jack Franks in 2009 introduced the Local Official’s Sign Act which makes it a Class A misdemeanor for the name of an elected officer of a unit of local government or school district to appear on a sign paid for with public funds. A criminal statute is probably not the way to go to address this issue and the proposed legislation has not become law.

Illinois State Senator Matt Murphy introduced legislation this year to amend the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act to prohibit: The proper name or image of any executive branch constitutional officer or member of the General Assembly may not appear on any (i) bumper stickers, (ii) commercial billboards, (iii) lapel pins or buttons, (iv) magnets, (v) stickers, and (vi) other similar promotional items, that are not in furtherance of the person’s official State duties or governmental and public service functions, if designed, paid for, prepared, or distributed using public dollars. The Murphy legislation is probably a more realistic approach to addressing excessive marketing by politicians at taxpayer expense. The key issue though is determining items “…that are not in furtherance of the person’s official state duties or governmental and public service functions”.

2) Philippines – The Philippines of all places has addressed the issue of politician marketing at taxpayer expense by issuing a directive to all government officials that states:

The practice of putting up billboards or signages bearing the names, initials and images of government officials on government programs and projects has been noticeably abused and misused by some public officials for their personal interest and has taken the credit away from the taxpayers who are the one paying for such programs through their tax payment. In pursuit of the President’s directive issued during the 4th Cabinet Meeting held on August 5, 2010, where he directed all members of the Cabinet and other government instrumentalities to refrain from associating the President’s personality and identity in their programs and projects, and pursuant to his Department’s thrust to uphold local governance, practice of putting up billboards and signages and other information materials bearing the names, initials or pictures of government personalities on all government projects, and properties (fire trucks, ambulances, vehicles, etc.) are hereby prohibited. Towards this end, all Local Chief Executives are hereby deiced to revisit all government projects and properties and to ensure that this policy is strictly observed.

Do you think some type of legislation preventing elected officials from displaying their names at taxpayer expense is necessary or is this just not an important issue to worry about?

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Paul Wolf

I had not considered the impact of politicians plastering their names all over the Internet in relation to taxpayer funded government programs. You make an interesting point Andrew.

Jay Johnson

The Mayor is missing a huge opportunity by not engaging local street artists to portray his name prominently in graffiti. <sarcasm>

Ed Albetski

Ego is ego. All federal workers here should take a look at their own agency’s website. How many have a picture and a bio of the director on it? Do you think the public cares the proverbial plugged nickel who the head of an agency is? This is “cult of personality” and it is why Kim Kardassian is a celebrity. Politicians are just trying to keep up.

Kevin Lanahan

I remember back in the ’90s when my agency built its first website. We had the director’s name featured prominently. When he left, there was a panic to replace his name and image, even though we didn’t have a portrait of the interim director. It took about 3 directors before I could convince them that we didn’t need that info in the banner.