The East Hampton School Board approved a pitch from its athletic director on Tuesday to allow advertising signs around the perimeter of the football field. Talk followed that the baseball field might also be encircled by ads come spring. Initially, the money, estimated to bring in about $6,000 a season, would be split between the youth football program and the district.
Stephen Talmage was the most outspoken critic of the plan among board members and he cast the lone no vote, saying it represented the commercialization of public property. He was correct.
Signs have been a hot-button issue in East Hampton for nearly 50 years, with contentiousness dating at least as far back as the early 1960s ban on billboards, which still stands. In recent years, there has been an increasing willingness among elected officials, and perhaps the public, to tolerate commercial come-ons where they once would have been unthinkable. An example is East Hampton Airport, where high-end products have been hawked on brightly lighted placards in a revenue-sharing deal.
With an East Hampton school budget in excess of $64 million, it hardly seems worth it to place ads in front of kids this way. If the district is short $6,000 for its athletic programs, there have to be better ways to raise the money.