Some of you know that I serve as an elected board member on a neighborhood council. Right now, there's a debate over corporate presence in the form of bus stop kiosks, billboards, etc.
This argument really goes to the heart of the "Small is Beautiful" point of view of EF Schumacher vs. the mega corporations that have tons of lobbying moolah, politicians in their back pockets, and stampede through communities obliterating entrepreneurs.
Here is my recent message to the board:
1) At the heart of this debate is the fundamental question of property and ownership, and the right to do what one wants with one's property. If Viacom (or Clear Channel, or...) pay the money, then they have the right to do what they want with their real estate. The counter to that is that that's an abstract argument, devoid of context.
2) As we can easily see with, to take a gross example, Walmart, these giant corporations come into communities and don't give a fig about local entrepreneurs. Case study after case study has shown the degradation to local entrepreneurs. The question then becomes - do communities REALLY want to live in a world where, no matter where one travels, there'll always be commercial entities like a thousand others?
3) Think about the xxxxxx Corridor right here in our own neighborhood council (NC) district. Who in their right mind would want to change this charming, personal and unique part of the country for, say, a Starbucks, a McDonalds, a Cingular/Verizon/Sprint... and yet, we see the encroaching presence of corporate America clamping down just across the street south of Olympic and on the north side as represented by Public Storage.
4) Entrepreneurs provide more jobs than corporations but lack the political clout of the mega corps. I see NCs as being at least a body that can offer up some voice for local entrepreneurs, and even perhaps organize them. The fact that entrepreneurs provide more jobs than corporations is an un-leveraged point in politics, because they have no lobby, no PAC and essentially no (organized and managed) money. Mega corps, on the other hand, funnel huge sums of money into campaigns and thus can have a politician in their back pocket. That's an unfair advantage and, I think, not only highly unethical but un-American.
5) So, if Viacom wants to come into bus stop kiosks (and wherever else) and bludgeon us with their spam, then at the very least local entrepreneurs should be allotted some kind of a fighting chance. But that's an ideal world that doesn't answer only to money. The sad fact is, if I'm Clear Channel, my billboard goes to the highest bidder.
At the very least, the community should be made aware of these points, among others. And I think the NC could do its part in disseminating this information.