TucsonBreaking news on the front page of today’s Arizona Daily Star is a 20″ story about dumping Tucson’s “Old Pueblo” nickname. Leaders of the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce think Tucson needs a new nickname that reflects our bustling, business friendly city– not a “dusty, old desert town”. From the Star

“Tucson has a choice,” the chamber’s board Chairman Kurt Wadlington and CEO Mike Varney wrote in the program for the chairman’s lunch.

“We can remain the ‘Old Pueblo’ or we can do whatever is necessary to propel ourselves forward to grow, prosper and compete with other cities and regions for the bounties of free enterprise,” the duo wrote. ” ‘The Old Pueblo’ is great for history buffs, but a new mind-set and attitude toward prosperity is long overdue.”

Most of the story  is dedicated to marketing and business types making the case for dumping the “Old Pueblo” because it’s an “archaic marketing motto”. More on the nickname controversy after the jump.

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At the end of the story, the Star solicited opinions from Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. Rothschild,the only pro-Pueblo voice quoted in the article, says the “The Old Pueblo is part of who we are”– kind of like thosehistoric homes that the business community also wants to get rid of. Huckelberry– in true bureaucratic form– says the old and new can co-exist

“We can embrace the historic nickname that has served us for more than a century while still energetically moving forward to promote prosperity and change,” said Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. “I am not particularly concerned about what we call ourselves. I am more interested in how we perform as a community.

“Old Pueblo, New Pueblo, Real Pueblo, Science Pueblo. Who cares as long as we are moving to expand our employment base, increase regional wage rates and respect our environment?”

TucsonI am not generally one to agree with the Chamber of Commerce or Huckelberry, but on the “Old Pueblo”… eh? In the past, I have complained about the old Metropolitan Convention and Visitors’ Bureau (now Visit Tucson) selling Tucson as cowboys, cacti, and sunsets and ignoring the art, music, culture, and progressive values our city offers. I’ve also suggested dumping our archaic logo– which, thank God, no longer has lasso around the mountains and the saguaro– but it’s still pretty stodgy and still has a saguaro.

I kind of don’t care about the “Old Pueblo” nickname, but I don’t support hiring a marketing crew and spending thousands of dollars to rebrand the city, and the idea of a community contest, as suggested in the article, is stupid. According to the Star, that’s how we got “The Sunshine Factory” as a nickname in the 1980s. Personally, my favorite nickname is “The Baked Apple”; it was often used by Tucson Weekly editorial writers in the 1980s.

I see Tucson as a progressive, quirky, artistic, urban hipster kind of place– which is why I like the “Baked Apple” as a nickname. (Seriously, think about it. Aren’t we sort of the opposite of the Big Apple? We’re not slick and flashy. We are dusty and hot– and proud of it. 100 days over 100– bring it on!)

But even with Tucson’s hipster edge, it is also as a place where history and culture are embraced– which is why I agree with Huckelberry.

The Star article ends with some past Tucson nicknames and slogans that have come and gone. The “Old Pueblo” outlasted all of the marketing-slogan nicknames. I think that is a message for the Chamber of Commerce.

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