Monday, November 3, 2014

The dreams come out at election time, or, the Empoprises Rule of City Importance

It is time for yet another Empoprises Rule - the Empoprises Rule of City Importance. This follows my previous Empoprises Rule of List Length, from October.

Your city is not as important as you think it is.

I wrote about one example of this rule over a decade ago, in a comment to an Inland Empress blog post.

[W]hen I lived in Upland years and years ago, I'd attend city council meetings on occasion. I happened to attend one at which IHOP's building permit was under consideration. Today the IHOP in Upland seems like it's been there forever, but back in the 1980s it had not yet been built.

Rosalie Kamansky (since deceased) was then on the Council. (If I recall correctly, her day job was in real estate.) As the IHOP rep made his presentation, she had a little teeny question:

Did IHOP really have to put that blue roof on their restaurant?

The IHOP rep had much more patience than I would have had. He simply stated that he could check with IHOP, but that he thought that IHOP sort of liked their blue roofs.

Let's just be thankful that the designers of the Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower, and Mount Vernon didn't have to get Upland City Council approval.

Think about this. The International House of Pancakes was, and is, a major corporation with a distinctive marketing message. And why was IHOP asked to modify its distinctive marketing message?

To borrow a phrasing structure from this decade, "because Upland."

Certainly IHOP would be willing to bend its silly little rules for the City of Gracious Living, would it not?

(The comment, incidentally, was part of a rant on what the Upland-controlled parts of Upland look like - a long expanse of unending beige roofs, all Council-approved.)

However, thoughts of a town's self-importance and well, even today, as the San Bernardino County Sentinel notes. In preparation for this week's election, the Sentinel has been covering a number of local candidates, including one with a familiar name - Joe Baca. And no, the name isn't familiar because of the son - in this case, it's the father who is running in a local election. Baca, who once represented the region in the House of Representatives in Washington, DC, wants to be mayor of Fontana.

And Baca has a vision for Fontana. As part of this vision, he said the following:

I would like to see an opera theater outdoors to attract people from the surrounding communities, Redlands, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Upland and, of course, Fontana. I would like to see a California University in Fontana. In San Bernardino County we have community colleges and a Cal State University and private universities but we don’t have a UC system campus. I was instrumental in helping Merced when they got the University of California to come in there and I believe I could utilize my experience with the state legislature to get Fontana a University of California campus. We have access to the 15 Freeway, the [10] Freeway and the 210. I would love to see downtown Fontana become a cultural center for fashion and the arts. We need an amphitheater.

Why Fontana? Because, according to Baca, Fontana is now the largest city is San Bernardino County, and thus is deserving of an "opera theater," a branch of the University of California (Riverside schmiverside), and culture.

But Baca continued:

With the right retails stores we can make it so we have something like Rodeo Drive and Palm Springs.

Yes, that's right - Baca just compared Fontana with Beverly Hills and Palm Springs. Never mind the fact that Fontana's residential income is slightly lower than those other two cities.

But Baca and Kamansky aren't the only politicians who have overestimated the importance of their cities. All of the politicians - and, frankly, all of us residents - believe that our cities are deserving of stellar retail presences - if not Rodeo Drive, then at least a business that doesn't attract any traffic, but does magically attract outside spending.

In reality, however, we're lucky if we can get a swap meet to locate in our city.

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