Sign says: Haifa billboards not making enough money

The city comptroller said there were serious flaws such as failures to register payments by advertisers and failures to issue receipts to them.

City treasurer Jacky Vakim is furious that poor management of the municipal signs department has already cost the city of Haifa millions of shekels, and that now the municipal engineering department is preventing the city from making money by limiting the places where public billboards can be erected, reports Yediot Haifa. Vakim said Haifa was making just NIS 14 million per year from its public billboards and signs at a time when Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were making three times this sum. According to the report, the municipal signs department first came in for criticism by the city comptroller, who said the department was operating improperly, with serious flaws such as failures to register payments by advertisers, failures to issue receipts to them, and the unauthorized giving of discounts. Vakim told a recent council meeting that in the wake of the comptroller's criticisms, most of the department's staff had been replaced. He said the signs department had been "one big mess," with advertisers "putting signs up wherever they want and paying as much as they want," and the department had not made nearly as much money as it should have. "We are speaking about a significant loss to the municipality. I believe we can reduce some of the losses and change the rates even retroactively in certain cases," Vakim said. But he said he was now being frustrated by the engineering department, which was limiting the places where public signs could be put up. "At the moment we earn one third of the amount that Tel Aviv and Jerusalem earn (from public signs). Engineering management cannot decide that every second house in the city is designated for preservation (and therefore cannot have advertising signs placed on it). The policy has to change and become more flexible. Signage is a good source of income for every city and should be maximized," Vakim said. But a municipal spokesman said the limits on the placing of signs were designed to preserve order and esthetics, and to prevent a "wild competition" from breaking out between advertisers. The spokesman said it would be easy to maximize profits by allowing signs to be posted everywhere, but this would come at the expense of the quality of life of residents and of the beauty of the city.