The choice the Vienna Town Council faced Monday night touched on the core of American values: Should the town accept Kodak Corp.'s gift of a scoreboard for the municipal ball field if it has a Kodak logo and slogan displayed?
"As you look at the scoreboard, you see a glimpse of Americanism there: Kodak," said council member Robert Robinson, arguing for accepting the advertising the company set as a condition for the $5,000 gift. "I very much favor this kind of Americanism."
But other council members worried whether the display on a municipal sign was legal under town ordinance or desirable for a municipal park. "Certainly no one can be against a scoreboard, but the precedent, as far as I'm concerned . . . would this be the beginning of Coca-Cola, Coke, any other form of advertisement being attached to this?" said council member George Lovelace.
Caught in the middle were the members of the Vienna Youth football team, who use Waters Field, where the present 16-year-old scoreboard has not worked since the start of the season in September.
After more than an hour of sometimes confused debate, the council rejected the sign by a 5-to-2 vote, but decided to hold a public hearing on changes in the town's ordinance on advertising on municipal signs that might make it acceptable.
The scoreboard would measure 18 feet by 8 feet, with a 12-square-foot section displaying an advertisement. It could say either "Start with Kodak, finish with Kodak," with two company logos, or "Catch it on Kodak," with a single picture.
Council member Richard Fisher said he had traveled through "hundreds of towns" across the country, and seen advertising signs at their ball fields. "You see Coke, you see Pepsi . . . . Private industry has joined together for the betterment of the community."
"This could have been Toshiba," said council member Robinson, who praised Kodak, a Rochester, N.Y., firm, for "bringing a little Americanism to Vienna, Virginia."
But Mayor Charles Robinson Jr. said, "I think what we're considering is the precedent of whether to allow advertising in our municipal sports organization."
Town ordinance prohibits advertising on municipal signs, so the council either would have to modify the ordinance, or determine the scoreboard was not advertising, council members said.
"If the council approves this, we're going to be faced with requests to put up Coca-Cola signs and things like that," said council member Rodger Seeman. "It would really be in the best interests of the town if the town paid for the sign."
Vienna Youth President Angelo Salera said he would oppose a gift of town money for his independent youth organization. "I would much rather see that go to the Special Olympics," he said.
The council voted on an amendment by member Vincent Olson to determine the scoreboard was not an advertisement, then voted to reject the scoreboard. Council members Fisher and Robinson voted to accept it. Mayor Robinson, Olson, Seeman, Lovelace, and Mary Jane Cronin voted against it.
Some council members said they were confused by whether they had voted to decide the sign was an advertisement. The council voted unanimously to set a public hearing in November on changing the sign ordinance and whether to accept the sign.