Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom is expected to introduce a motion at tonight’s City Council meeting designed to immediately overturn a policy where Big Blue Bus is no longer running non-commercial ads on buses.
The motion comes after the AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) protested the policy as it has previously purchased paid advertisements on Big Blue Bus for its annual AIDS Walk Los Angeles for the past five years.
“This absurd new policy targets not only AIDS Walk Los Angeles ads, but all other non-profit ads which help foster community spirit and provide valuable information to the public,” said Craig E. Thompson, Executive Director of AIDS Project Los Angeles. “Santa Monica city leaders are in effect providing an economic advantage to corporate interests and a disadvantage to community advocates. We’re calling on our supporters to join us in speaking out against this twisted set of priorities.”
Coincidentally, AIDS Walk Los Angeles founder and producer Craig Millers is a 29-year resident of Santa Monica.
“I love Santa Monica. I’ve lived here my whole adult life,” said Miller. “I don’t believe we are a city that says ‘yes’ to advertising jumbo-sized sodas, but ‘no’ to advertising breast cancer awareness, initiatives to keep Santa Monica Bay clean, or the fight against AIDS.”
Miller also pointed out that the current banning of AIDS-related advertisements troublingly recalls the early years of the epidemic, when those promoting HIV/AIDS awareness were hampered by the government.
“All these years later, to be dealing with this discrimination again, just shows that whoever changed this policy has no concept of history, and no concept of the important role that organizations like AIDS Project Los Angeles play in society,” Miller said. “And they really don’t know the residents of our City, because no Santa Monican I know would ever approve of this short-sighted ban on valuable public service messages.”
APLA has encouraged residents of Santa Monica to phone City Hall and also attend the meeting tonight to let the City Council know that this policy “is unfair, arbitrary, a possible violation of free speech,” and “puts AIDS Walk Los Angeles and other non-profits at a further disadvantage in a marketplace that is already saturated with commercial messages.”