Due to our current circumstances, I have walked my neighborhood more times than I can count. This has provided me the opportunity to find intrigue in the smallest of details.
The recent increase in signs for mayoral candidates staked in my neighbor’s lawns is one such detail. Seeing these signs led me to a place of deep introspection, and I write this letter from the self-appointed position of poster design critic of the highest order. Here is my takeaway from the design of our current mayoral candidate’s campaign sign.
Scott Sedgley: Classic political lawn sign. The candidate’s name and a reminder that he’s running for mayor. The colors are tried and true red, white, and blue. Napa, is in fact, part of America. One “creative” flourish is a line that gives some Oxbow vibes. A subtle reference to our local destination? If so, nice touch. The sign isn’t saying much regarding the candidate’s political views, but, with limited real estate, simply getting your name out there is a pragmatic use of space.
Gerardo Martin offers up another classic design. His name, followed by “Napa” and “mayor,” with a little star between the two words. Nothing particularly ripe with meaning from what I can tell. The colors are blue, yellow, and white. Is he a Napa High alumni? The biggest divergence here from Sedgley is the statement, “A voice for all.” In these divided times, I appreciate the inclusion of that statement, and the suggestion that Martin is inclusive in his politics.
Finally, Doris Gentry: Wow. There is a lot going on. If the criteria for who wins the election was based on the question “which sign is yelling at me the loudest?” Gentry would be the victor.
On the sign, there are a number of racially diverse children jumping with excitement for Gentry as a candidate. I can’t recall being informed about local politics as an elementary school student in Napa. Three cheers for Napa’s increased level of youth civic engagement? Before I move on, one last question: Are they local, or do they exist in some internet photo database? Is this a true representation of Napa’s youth, or disingenuous tokenism?
Gentry’s sign prominently displays a half-star. Stars are powerful symbols, often signaling upward trajectory. “Reach for the stars!” But what happened to the other half of this star? Oh wait. There are three smaller stars. That makes a total of 3 ½ stars. Is the sign giving itself a mediocre review? On Yelp, this would not pass muster.
There are three words featured prominently on the sign: “Family,” “Safety,” and “Locals.”
It’s heartwarming to see Gentry keep families central to the conversation. Especially since we all have them, biologically-speaking. Can’t blame her for casting a wide net. A closer read might warrant the examination of the historical connotations of the nuclear family championing heterosexuality as the norm. Only Gentry’s public record can reveal which interpretation best fits the candidate. Have her actions favored greater equity and inclusion for our LGBTQ community?
“Safety.” I’m glad someone mentioned that. In this pandemic I’ve been just as worried about staying safe from COVID-19 as I have been those roving bands of criminals Napa is known for. Just kidding, I don’t recall Napa having notable issues concerning the safety of its citizens. Maybe my lifelong experience in town has left some underground crime rings unturned.
Finally, let us not forget, “Locals.” Like “Family,” it’s great, because you know what? If you’re voting for the mayor of Napa, you definitely are one.
Another interpretation of the word could be referring to our town's heritage, or rather its public face. One that, despite our racial diversity, is presented as very white. Anyone who isn’t white is seen as not being local. But that would be a lazy read of this sign, remember the racially diverse jumping kids?
A third interpretation of “Locals” could be she cares more about locals than our many tourists. Which leads to an important question for all the candidates. What can they do to address the concerns of locals, including, the ever-increasing cost of living that is forcing locals to seek affordable homes elsewhere?
Jokes aside, Doris Gentry’s signs say so much, yet so little. Every word could be interpreted a number of ways. Bright colors. Kids jumping. Powerful symbols misused to the point they’ve lost all meaning. Language that is at best, hollow, at worst, dangerous. I’d prefer a campaign sign that says nothing than one that is saying so much while having so little substance.
When it comes time to vote, let’s move past the superficial and engage on a more substantive level with our local politics. Let’s make that jumping rainbow coalition of children proud.
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