How to Create a City Image

April, 2013

Have you noticed Salinas is going through a renaissance of reinvention? Or are we just re-venting the same old gas trap? Last year we were thrilled to learn that a wise marketing firm, not from around here, had been enlisted to redefine our city image despite all those decades of thinking we already knew ourselves. We were assured, as I recall, that we’d no longer be thought of as a gang-ridden nest of lawlessness and violence. Also, our new image would attract commerce of every stripe, entrepreneurs eager to build their fortunes amid the lettuce fields and Steinbeckia.

Now that our image has arrived in the form of a logo and a slogan about “values,” I can hardly contain myself. There it is: a striped produce field and a flat skyline against a couple of mountains. Full disclosure: I know a little about logos and slogans, so I may not be the most objective observer. I also know a hack, formulaic design when I see one. A lettuce field, or is it a strawberry field? No matter, that’ll be $219,000, please. Hey, City Council, I know you’ve been dealing with your own resident gangsters but we’ve been robbed. Besides, I liked the cowboy stuff better.

Maybe I’m not seeing the big picture. If those striped fields were orange it would make more sense. Almost any night we see fellow Salineros in orange stripes on TV. The skyline must be the jail. They could’ve added a lowrider silhouette, just to keep it real. The mountains could be a crumpled gangster bandana with a couple of empty, stoned eyes, shaped like strawberries, glaring at you. Add a couple of gun barrels and you’d have an image of Salinas most people could relate to.

Meanwhile, out at the mall, another image of Salinas is taking shape.  You remember Northridge, that’s where they are “targeting” Latinos and treating the East side like an economic piñata. We’ll they’ve got a cool new paint job right out of The Three Amigos. What are those colors, La Paz Pink and Yucatan Yellow? Soon it’ll start to peel and take on a classic TJ Chic patina. They should stick a ‘63 Chevy on blocks in front of Penny’s to complete the look.  They could use any leftover paint on the new school the board of trustees has dedicated to its outlaw patron saint.

Our criminal underground has been balancing our new civic appeal with its own form of identity theft. In addition to the daily parade of shootings and robberies, we’ve enjoyed two full-blown SWAT team standoffs just in the last couple of weeks. Downtown, our infamous city council member insists on illegally keeping his two elected seats simultaneously ‘whether we like it or not.’ Doing things legally just doesn’t fit his values or those of his idiot acolytes, already trying to oust Mayor Gunter because he doesn’t want to play by their non-rules. At least the Big Hats sculpture has been trucked off to be refurbished by someone also not from around here. I’m sure that’ll please the bums who share the same park by the Rodeo grounds. Adding to the fog of gang war, now the Airport tower is in a fog as to whether it can stay open. My wife was even complaining about getting shoved around by rude families at Walmart. Can you imagine that?

Look, Salinas is what is: a lot of spectacularly good, hard-working people sharing a gorgeous valley with a lot of people who just don’t care what you think about their illegal values or are too dumb to know better than to shove people out of the way at Walmart. Sometimes they shoot at you. In that regard, the deck is stacked against the shovees. The good guys lose when the bad guys push them around and businesses and politicians are in on the hustle. That’s how you create an image.