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PETA offers money for new City Hall rugs

By Shawn Regan, Eagle Tribune

1657 days ago   Article ID# 942328
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BOSTON , MASSACHUSETTS (Eagle Tribune) - An animal advocacy group known for its controversial advertising campaigns has offered to help pay for new carpeting in City Hall in exchange for including a provocative pro-vegan slogan on the new shag.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, commonly known as PETA, contacted City Councilor David Hall after reading about Hall's efforts to have the dirty, lumpy, and by some accounts smelly and dangerous wall-to-wall carpeting replaced.

"We're always keeping an eye out for opportunities to get our message in the news and promote veganism," said Alicia Woempner, PETA's special projects coordinator, noting that PETA recently contributed money to build a municipal dog-walking park in the Florida Keys.

The ads, which would be emblazoned on the carpets, feature a blond woman wearing a bikini made of lettuce, with the message: "Tread Lightly: Go Vegan." The ads are a spinoff on the organization's Lettuce Ladies, women who gather in city centers throughout the world to hand out leaflets about veganism and vegetarianism.

"On behalf of PETA and our more than 2 million members and supporters, including thousands across Massachusetts, I am writing with a proposal that would help the city not only replace the aging carpets at Haverhill City Hall, but also save money by reducing the cost of health care for city employees," reads an email to Hall from PETA Vice President Tracy Reiman. "By encouraging Haverhill employees to adopt a healthy vegan diet, the City Council could help ground both high employee health-care costs and cruelty to animals.

"Our offer is a win-win for Haverhill: Not only will it help replace the smelly old carpets in City Hall, it will also remind Haverhill residents that, when it comes to nutrition, meat stinks."

PETA has long been known for its racy, tongue-in-cheek publicity campaigns. One such promotion is the "Running of the Nudes," in which activists run naked through Pamplona, Spain, in a parody of the annual Running of the Bulls tradition. Others feature supermodels such as Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell posing nude on billboards with the slogan "I'd Rather Go Naked than Wear Fur" across their chests.

Woempner said the amount of money PETA is willing to contribute to Haverhill depends on how many of the ads the city would allow in the building.

Hall said he's open to the idea of allowing a private group to advertise in City Hall. He said he intends to invite a representative from PETA to an upcoming council meeting to discuss ideas for replacing the carpets in what he has called "Haverhill's White House."

"I have to scrutinize it and see what my colleagues think, but I'm open to it," he said.

Mayor James Fiorentini quickly dismissed PETA's offer, however.

"I'm obviously not going to allow a scantily-clad woman in a bikini to appear on the rugs of City Hall," he said.

Noting that he rarely eats meat, Fiorentini said he agrees with PETA's vegetarian message, but called the Lettuce Lady ad inappropriate for a public building like City Hall.

Hall went public with his complaints over the building's carpeting two weeks ago, saying it is not only old and disgusting, but also smelly and dangerous due to rips and bulges.

"People who come in here to pay bills tell me it's a disgrace and the odor is unbelievable," Hall said at a recent council meeting, adding that he and other senior citizens have stumbled over the tattered flooring. "Workers shouldn't be subject to this environment. A woman who works in the basement got very sick due to the odor."

Fiorentini said he agrees the carpets need to be replaced, but the city cannot afford the estimated $70,000 to $100,000 to replace them.

The mayor said "Carpetgate," as some are calling it, has cast the city in a negative light. He recently sent emails to city councilors chastising them for the "tenor and tone" of comments they have made to the media about City Hall's rugs.

"I thought we were working together in this," the email reads. "The publicity the city received concerning the rugs was not helpful and did not portray our city in a good light. In the future, if councilors have maintenance issues, I respectfully request that you contact the maintenance department."

City Council President Michael Hart, who has said the city needs to find a creative solution for replacing the rugs rather than just saying it can't afford it, said Fiorentini has only himself to blame for the bad publicity.

"He's had plenty of time to address it before it got to this," said Hart, noting that Fiorentini has been mayor for more than seven years.

Copyright 2015 Eagle Tribune   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 1657 days ago   Article ID# 942328

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