City Council members spending thousands in taxpayer dollars to buy new garbage cans bearing their names should think twice about the stink such a move might make, branding and political image consultants say.
Linda Passante, the managing partner of a New York-based brand development agency, the Halo Group, said that if she were advising council members, she'd tell them to steer clear of promoting themselves on waste receptacles.
"I don't subscribe to the idea that any publicity is good publicity," she said. "If I'm walking by a garbage pail and I'm smelling garbage and seeing a name associated with it," it wouldn't leave "a positive impression."
The CEO and founder of Political Capitol, Kathryn Mahoney, said the idea that politicians would mount their names on garbage cans has "that desperate, sort of used-car sale feel to it, as if they are doing everything they can" to get their name out there.
"It gives you that automatic, negative feeling," Ms. Mahoney, who said she advises members of Congress, said. "It feels kind of slick. And that's the last thing you want as a politician."
The Department of Sanitation said 21 council members, two former members, and President Scott Stringer of Manhattan have spent about $811,914 in public funds to buy 2,025 garbage cans with their names on them. The proliferation of the council-sponsored trash bins first was reported in the Daily News.
The executive director of the government watchdog Citizens Union, Richard Dadey, is calling for an end to the practice, which he said is "shameless self-promotion that goes on using taxpayer dollars."
Speaker Christine Quinn, who does not have her name on any garbage cans, is reviewing Citizens Union's stance on the matter, her spokesman, James McShane, said.
A spokesman for the Department of Sanitation, Vito Turso, defended the program and said any private citizen can pay about $400 to sponsor a city garbage can. He said he is not aware of anyone other than elected officials and business improvement districts purchasing the bins, he added.
Elected officials also can purchase trucks used to clear snow and salt roads from the department. A council member of Queens, Leroy Comrie, has used public funds to purchase three trucks, which cost about $45,000 each. Mr. Comrie has since requested that his name be removed from the sides of the trucks.
A council member of Queens, Peter Vallone Jr., said having his name on garbage cans was not the reason he purchased them. "The neighborhood is constantly requesting more and better cans from my office," he said.