A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle examined how an increasing number of cash-strapped cities are accepting corporate sponsorships in order to provide local government services without implementing tax hikes.
Taking their cue from stadiums and sports teams who have a history of engaging in corporate sponsorship, cities such as Oakland, and San Diego in California have pursued deals with major corporations. Oakland recently signed a deal with Coca-Cola, which prohibits any other soft drink company to sell its products on city property. The ten- year deal will bring a projected $500,000 back to the community and will support youth programs. And San Diego just named Verizon as its "official wireless partner," giving the company a contract for city cell phone services in exchange for $200,000 a year for up to five years.
While cities and corporations are eager to make contracts with companies on everything from computers to camera film, the deals have attracted a fair amount of criticism. "It's a telltale sign that corporations have wormed their way into government so well that they're now even official partners," commented Gary Ruskin, executive director of the watchdog group Commercial Alert. "Turning government into a tawdry huckster corrupts the integrity of government. There's an inevitable conflict of interest."