Water Tower Paint Job Causes Public Flap

FRIDAY, APRIL 28, 2017

The controversy over the painting of a new city slogan on a Sacramento, California, water tower continues to roil, as an online petition to revert to the old phrase has garnered more than 3,000 signatures.

Many Sacramento residents are unhappy with the decision to alter the words on the Freeport water tower, which stands along Interstate 5, from “Welcome to Sacramento, City of Trees” to “America’s Farm-To-Fork Capital.”

“It was like a slap in the face,” Sacramento native Brandon Shimabukuro told the Sacramento Bee. “They didn’t really bring it to anyone. Nobody knew why it was happening.”

New Identity

The Sacramento Visitors Bureau was behind the push to change the slogan on the 130-foot water tower, and the painting of the new phrase was completed in March. The rebranding of Sacramento as “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital” was spearheaded by former Mayor Kevin Johnson in 2012.

Mike Testa, chief operating officer of Visit Sacramento, told the Bee that the new slogan provides long overdue recognition to Sacramento as one of the most productive farm areas in the world, along with the culinary scene that has developed in the city.

Local historian William Burg disagrees, telling the Bee most of Sacramento’s “locally grown” food comes from farms outside the city limits.

“The problem is that we are just fork,” Burg told the newspaper. “Every city is ‘farm-to-fork.’”

Expecting Some Backlash

Visit Sacramento, the renamed Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau, paid the $23,500 cost to repaint the tower, Testa said.

Testa told the Bee that many cities claim to be the "City of Trees" around the world—and in California. But Sacramento is now known around the world for popularizing a new food concept.

“The reality is there are 25 cities across the globe known as the 'City of Trees' including Woodland and Chico, but there is only one 'America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital,'” Testa added.

Sign of the Times

Sacramento resident Kelan Johnson started the petition. As of Thursday (April 27), it had 3,724 signatures.

“Many Sacramento natives, including myself, grew up seeing ‘City of Trees’ on that water tower almost every day of our lives coming and leaving from home,” Johnson wrote in a statement accompanying the petition. “The water tower is not just a billboard advertisement to funnel tourists in to spend their money at our local restaurants.”

Johnson said the petition will be delivered to Sacramento Vice Mayor Rick Jennings and Ray Tretheway, executive director of the Sacramento Tree Foundation.

Tretheway said there is room on the water tower for both slogans.

"You can change city hall if you have the trees and people behind you," Tretheway said.

Editor's note: This story was one of our most popular "Off the Wall" articles of 2017, and appeared in our Readers' Choice issue on Dec. 29.


Tagged categories: Government; North America; potable water; Program/Project Management; Water Tanks

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