Sacramento’s Getting Pretty Desperate

According to a staff editorial in the Sacramento Bee, the Governator has actually proposed selling advertising space on the traffic bill boards meant to alert highway drivers of bad traffic conditions in order to shrink California’s approximately $20 billion deficit.

This time the governor wants to sell advertising space on state highway message boards.

The proposal is serious. If approved, existing message boards – the ones used to alert drivers to road hazards ahead or abducted children – would be upgraded with LED technology and converted to colorful commercial grade electronic billboards. The state would lease the billboards to outdoor advertising firms and collect the money upfront to help balance the state budget – as much as $2 billion over 20 years for 500 billboards.

But there’s a hitch. Because the billboards would operate within the rights of way of interstate highways, the proposal requires a change in federal law. State Transportation Department officials have sent a waiver request to federal highway administrators asking permission.

A federal review of electronic billboard safety is already under way, suggesting the governor’s idea is not as far-fetched as some might think. But the review involves e-billboards alongside highways, not on the road itself.

Think about the possibilities. The California Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in downtown Sacramento could become the Chevron EPA Building.

The California secretary of state’s office could be sponsored by Diebold, the controversial maker of digital voting machines.

The Board of Equalization building? Perhaps Clorox could sponsor it – since a lot of bleach is needed to clean up that mold.

Crass? Yes, but preferable to electronic billboards in the middle of state highways. At least a big Terminix sign on the Capitol dome wouldn’t be a road hazard.

If you haven’t already seen it, let me recommend the movie Idiocracy. While certainly not PC, the movie’s parallel of Gatorade winds up buying the FDA.  It’s fictional, but only barely.

Hat tip to the Sacramento Bee staff.

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