Jeff Jardine

Modesto’s city flag contest idea comes with usual ripple effect from critics

When it comes to ideas, there are two kinds of people: Those who have them and those who rip those who have them.

Such became obvious when The Bee’s Kevin Valine wrote about the city of Modesto’s contest to create a city flag.

“One of the major problems we have is (some) people bash Modesto too much, and we need more civic pride,” Community and Economic Development Director Cindy Birdsill said.

That Modesto officials think the city should have its own flag is by no means outrageous. The problem would be if they really believed a flag or slogan or song would cure what ails the community. I cannot believe that is the case, or at least I certainly hope not. But they do put themselves at the mercy of the critics. Orchestrating a city flag design contest simply hands the bashers yet another chance to, well, bash. That is exactly what happened among those who commented on The Bee’s Facebook page. It became the self-fulfilling prophecy, or at least an invitation to tee off as desired. Some were pretty vicious:

“Put on the flag a 20-something male riding a stolen bmx bike with a backpack on full of burglary tools riding to his homeless camp!!!”

“Gang violence, bandannas, guns, needles, dope and hookers should be on the flag ... that’s what Modesto has turned into.”

“Happy to see the city is getting its priorities in order. A flag is just what we need.”

“Yeah ‘civic pride’ that’s the real problem. Wake up and solve some real issues.”

“How about a seal depicting a house with dead grass. Or how about a seal with kid guitar rocking out on the corner of McHenry and Standiford”

“A giant line of meth.......lots of homeless. Plus some dollar sign for the raping we’re getting with the new water rates........”

There you have it, folks: Crime, drugs, gangs, homelessness, drought. They stopped just shy of suggesting the white flag of surrender, and probably only because they didn’t think of that, too.

They simply don’t see the upside to having a flag specific to the city, or more specifically, seeing the city’s staff spend time and taxpayer dollars in developing a contest for one.

Mayor Ted Brandvold gets it by asking staff members to solicit contributions to cover the projected $2,000 it will cost the city to run the contest. (Please, no corporate logos on the flag.)

The majority of California cities do have city flags, many bearing the city’s logo, as do hundreds of other cities across the nation. When Provo, Utah, decided to update its city flag, students at The Daily Universe, Brigham Young University’s student-run newspaper, went through the nation’s city flags to pick the ones they deemed the best and worst. The best: Buffalo, N.Y. The worst: California’s Town of Los Gatos, whose flag bears two cats (dos gatos, comprende?) that can’t bear looking at each other.

“The feline flag. Enough said,” the author commented.

The second-worst? San Francisco, which the paper applauded for its symbol of the phoenix rising from the ashes but ripped for its artistry. “We just wish the flag didn’t look like clip art.”

In Stanislaus County, Oakdale, Ceres and Turlock fly city flags. Turlock updated its city flag after updating its city logo in 2008. It flies outside City Hall. Oakdale’s flies not at City Hall but instead at the Gene Bianchi Community Center a few blocks away on F Street (Highway 108). Riverbank has a city flag, but no longer flies it for whatever reason, and phones at City Hall aren’t exactly ringing off the hook with calls from citizens demanding its ripple in the wind on city-owned properties.

Lodi’s flag features a bunch of Tokay grapes. Stockton’s bears the kind of tule elk that hasn’t been seen in the Valley since the late 1800s. Merced’s features the Merced River and Bear Creek.

Therein lies the challenge for those who accept it in Modesto: To create a flag with a design that depicts something about Modesto that neutralizes the naysayers. The downtown arch. Graffiti-era cars. Agriculture. The McHenry Mansion or museum or any combination thereof.

Assuming the council votes to pursue the contest, the adult winner will get $500. The winner among the kids will get theater tickets or other prizes.

A few folks, meaning the winners and the city officials who wanted a flag, will get excited and proud and look at it every day. Others will bash it to shreds.

What so proudly we hail ...