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Doug Clark: This highway sponsored by nutty lawmakers

Thu., Jan. 24, 2013, midnight

File under hogs soar, Bigfoot lassoed and hell ices over:

A great notion is up for rumination in the Washington Legislature.

House Bill 1051 would make it OK to sell the naming rights of bridges, highways, viewpoints, etc., to help fund the upkeep of state roadways.

I can see it now.

Take that rest stop on the road to Ritzville.

For the right amount it could be renamed after a local industry like, say, one of our massage parlors.

All that nasty business from last summer’s police raid would have to get worked out first, of course.

Once this happens, however, weary drivers would find the “Asian Spa Relaxation Spot” a soothing oasis for a pit stop or cup of joe.

Not to mention that such a name would be in keeping with some of the other activities that have been known to happen at highway rest stops.

I need to come clean before going any further.

There was a time when I raged against the idea of whoring out the names of our public landmarks to corporate concerns.

To be specific, I grumbled and groused plenty over the deal that turned my hometown’s professional baseball venue into Avista Stadium, an advertisement for the power company.

I likewise moaned like a scalded gibbon when the hallowed Spokane Opera House became that “Performing Arts Center” brought to you by, um, some bank whose initials that I can never remember.

Is it DOA?



Anyway, the point is that I was a younger, more idealistic columnist in those days.

I believed in fairy tales like Lance Armstrong not being a cheater or hair restoration products actually working or ordering a footlong at Subway and actually getting something that was 12 inches long.

How naïve can you get?

Now I’m older and balder and have accepted that nothing is sacred and everything’s for sale.

The name-change game has hit stadiums, fairgrounds and concert venues.

The Nike swoosh rules all sports.

Selling out is a sacred tradition in government, too. Historians note that whenever George Washington smiled you could see the Polident trademark on his wooden teeth.

With the economy as trashed as it is, House Bill 1051 just makes good fiscal sense.

The bill isn’t perfect, mind you.

Its language forbids “religious, political, discriminatory or X-rated content,” which seems like a real waste of opportunities to me.

But while “marijuana and tobacco sponsors” are banned, booze merchants are OK, which means the Palouse Highway could become the Anheuser-Busch Cougway.

That would not only be lucrative, but apt.

Hooters’ Steptoe Butte also has a nice voluptuous ring to it.

I have to thank readers Brett and Norsat Whipple for making me aware of House Bill 1051, which was filed last week.

The Whipples have also done some quality thinking about this.

Spokane businesses, they suggested, could sponsor a pothole repair program where a fixed pothole could be embossed with a logo much the way lilacs get painted on the streets during festival time.

This could also be the way to pump funds into our cash-strapped public libraries.

Sponsors could get their names and corporate trademarks plastered all over the outside of our branches for all I care.

But why stop there?

Branding rights could even be sold for sections within the library.

“Fiction, sponsored by the Spokane Police Guild.”

I sure hope this House Bill 1051 goes somewhere.

(Today’s message is brought to you by The Nut Factory, as always.)

Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or

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