Que Pasa: Howdy Rednecks!

Editor’s Note: An ongoing theme around our fair city is the negative perception that seems to stick to our town like stink on skunk, despite numerous awards for livability – for both retirees and families.

Just last spring, there was an initiative to change the name of the school district, proposed by well-meaning individuals who thought it would raise the district’s image – like putting on a new dress to impress people you’ve known all your life.

Recipients of the survey that was distributed to test the idea turned it down with a resounding voice. Apparently they knew that a new name, like a new dress, is less important than self-awareness, confidence and pride in who we are.

For this week’s editorial, we offer up some historical perspective on the topic – from none other than the founder and mentor of the crew at The News, Ed Barker.

Que Pasa – Jan. 16, 2006

Last Wednesday’s Arizona Republic carried a “smackdown” opinion piece on the front page regarding a Queen Valley man’s drive to change the name of Apache Junction. What was in the article was a statement by reporter Jessica Wanke that, through the years, Apache Junction has “picked up” the reputation of being the land of “trailer parks, rednecks and eccentrics. And it stuck.”

I suggest that the only reason the reputation has “stuck” is because reporters like Ms. Wanke keep sticking us with it.

All during the 1970’s, the landscape along Apache Trail in eastern Maricopa County was dotted with massage parlors. Not the legitimate kind, but the kind that were often raided by police. And after each raid,     the Republic headline would blare, “Apache Junction Massage Parlors Raided.”

It didn’t matter that not one single massage parlor was in Apache Junction or even Pinal County. They were all in East Mesa/Maricopa County, operating under a Maricopa County business license. That information never made its way into the news.

The misinformation about our city continued through the 1980’s, when articles about our city almost always included disparaging references to the numerous “junky” trailer parks and the “many recall elections” of elected city officials.

Well, we do have R.V. and trailer parks, most occupied by winter visitors. But they’re certainly not “junky.” And we do have a few eyesores, but many more are in East Mesa, which the Republic has always confused with Apache Junction (more on that later). Our eyesores were grandfathered in when the city was incorporated in 1978. They are slowly disappearing and hopefully will be gone in the next decade.

As for the “many recall elections,” we had exactly one, in 1987, and all the incumbents were kept in office.

The negative articles continued through the 1990’s, with the centerpiece being a front page article about desert dumping entitled “Apache Junk-tion.” Nice huh?

That story failed to note that the majority of those caught dumping in the desert around Apache Junction are residents of Maricopa County.

In 2004, the Republic editorial staff decided to interview Apache Junction City Council candidates and endorse those they thought worthy. I spoke with the head of the editorial board and asked him why they suddenly began offering endorsements for Apache Junction city races. He said they do it for all Maricopa County cities.

“But Apache Junction isn’t in Maricopa County,” I informed him.

“Yes, it is,” he replied.

“I’m afraid you’re mistaken. We’re in Pinal County,” I said.

“Well, most of it is in Maricopa County,” he countered.

“Approximately three square blocks are in Maricopa,” I explained. “The other 36 square miles are in Pinal.”

I couldn’t resist the temptation to point out that his editorial board was about to endorse city council candidates without knowing something as basic as where the city was located. He wasn’t amused.

Now comes Ms. Wanke’s opinion piece repeating the same old misinformation as her predecessors and again giving Republic readers a false impression of Apache Junction. Additionally, her article reported that our city “straddles the line of Maricopa and Pinal Counties.”

Apache Junction has both feet in Pinal County and a little toe in Maricopa. If that’s what she considers “straddling,” I’m afraid she’ll never be able to get on a horse.

Alas, about every five or six years, someone digs up this silly issue about changing the name of Apache Junction. And, alas, each time, some reporter who knows almost nothing about our community repeats the same old “junk” that some other uninformed reporter printed many years ago.

As for the name change, personally, I like the name of Apache Junction and think we should leave it alone… unless, of course, we change it to something really catchy, like Barkerville.

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