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Santa Clara County rebranding: You make the choice

File Photo The Santa Clara County administration building

On its agenda Tuesday, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors is proposing to spend more than $1 million for a New York PR firm to rebrand the county, telling citizens all the wonderful things that county government does.

The supervisors are paying far too much. I’ll do the job for a tenth of the price. After brainstorming the matter, I have three ideas that you, dear reader, can choose from online. I promise my proposals will be more honest and memorable than anything from New York.

First, let’s deal with the concept. If you need proof that county government has too much money, this is even more persuasive than the $355 sterling-silver badges the coroner’s office ordered, or the cadre of $200K-plus deputy county executives on the 11th floor.

Proposal Number 1

The county doesn’t need a new “narrative,’’ as the memo to the board suggests. It doesn’t need to redefine its brand structure or articulate its message “in a consistently impactful manner.’’ All those words are just hot air from folks who want to pull down a million bucks.

Here’s a revolutionary idea: The people who run county government — the five supervisors and County Executive Jeff Smith — should do their jobs. They should be the envoys to the public. And they should avoid fiascos like the ridiculously expensive coroner’s badges.

Remember, the county already pays around $1.3 million yearly — and my estimate is probably conservative — on salaries and benefits for people whose primary job is delivering information to the public. The county executive’s office alone has three people in its public affairs office.

Proposal Number 2

I don’t mean to suggest that the county stands by itself in this errant impulse to brand itself, or rebrand itself. Union City, for example, spent $49,000 last year on a new logo for the city — essentially varying shades of blue in the shape of the letter “U.’’

But the county, which has about 19,000 employees, proposes to do this in a particularly lavish and carefree style. The appropriation, which would add $950,000 to an existing $200,000 exploratory contract with Keating, a New York PR firm, is on the consent agenda.

That means it won’t even be discussed unless one of the supervisors agrees to pull it for further talk. A million bucks? Puhleeze. It’s not even real money, particularly when you’re talking about a narrative “including the County’s passion for social reform.’’

“This will assist the County to be viewed as a trusted County; will communicate an identity that connects the County of Santa Clara with the greater Silicon Valley region, and will attract and retain top talent in the County workforce,’’ the memo states.

Right. You might need to ask why the county needs to establish trust. Or why it can’t attract and retain top talent when it’s paying $200,000-plus for deputy county executives. Or why taxpayers should pay to be sold on how their money is being used.

So what are my ideas? The first plays on the idea of the county as a deep pocket, its coffers filled with new taxes or money that used to go to redevelopment agencies. Atop a deep Western pit, the simple but elegant words say, “Santa Clara County. Bottomless.’’

The second is a play on the whole coroner-badge fiasco. Below, the $355 badge that Chief Medical Examiner Michelle Jorden chose, the words would say, “Santa Clara County: We don’t need no stinkin’ badges. But we wear them anyway.’’ Colloquial, but salient.

Proposal Number 3

My last offering has a formidable vintage. In the old days, Santa Clara County was known as “Santa Claus County’’ because of the generosity of its social services. It’s flush once more. My rebranding? A picture of Santa with the words, “We’re back!’’

Go to www.mercurynews.com/scott-herhold to vote. Do so early and often. If we get enough of a popular mandate, maybe, just maybe, the supervisors will discuss this issue before throwing away a million of your dollars.