Council wants city to fess up on ads
The city will be required to disclose that advertisements were paid with taxpayer dollars under a bill passed by a City Council committee last week.
The measure comes after the city paid for several advertisements on its $3.7 billion mass-transit system.
Councilman Charles Djou, the bill's sponsor, who also opposes the mass-transit system, said he believes "a line is crossed" when the city pays for advertisements on controversial, political issues.
Under the bill, the city needs to include a line in the advertisement that says, "Paid for by city taxpayers," that is reasonably clear to the viewer. It applies to advertisements published in magazines and newspapers, televised on radio and television and newsletters mailed to residents.
Jeff Coelho, director of the city Customer Services Department, opposed the measure, saying it would be an unwise way to spend taxpayer dollars. Coelho argued that on printed ads, the city's seal serves the purpose of telling viewers it is a City and County of Honolulu advertisement.
"We try to strive for using the dollars wisely and making sure that the message is out there," said Coelho, who added that most publicized city advertisements are free public service announcements. "When you have to allocate a certain amount of space to get a message across, space is space. It doesn't matter what the message is."
Coelho, a former radio executive, focused on radio ads and said a disclaimer would take up too much time for a 30-second ad that may force the city to buy a 60-second ad.
Councilman Todd Apo rejected that argument, saying the disclaimer would take only three seconds. Djou also noted advertisements that require disclaimers, such as congressional ads, are able to get their message across in 30 seconds.
The measure goes before the full City Council next month.