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Yuba City Cashes In on Bad Publicity--They’ll Even Buy It

Associated Press

When Rand McNally last year named this town the worst place to live in the United States, city officials saw red. Then they saw green. Now they want more of it--and they’re willing to pay to get it.

In the aftermath of a bombshell of rotten publicity, tourists descended upon this tranquil agricultural hub 100 air miles northeast of San Francisco. News reporters yapped at their heels. Life magazine sent a reporter-photo team. Motels filled up. People had their pictures taken in front of the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet.

After riding the crest of miserable fortune all the way to the bank, Yuba City has hired a public relations firm to take up where bad publicity left off. For $22,000, the Sacramento firm of Coppola & Sava has agreed to help bolster Yuba City’s image.

Pamphlet on Virtues

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Charles Coppola says his firm will prepare a brochure extolling Yuba City’s virtues.

“Rand McNally gave Yuba City a bad rap in my opinion,” Coppola insisted. “I think the people at Rand McNally don’t know anything about Yuba City. Possibly they don’t know anything about Pittsburgh, either.

“I mean, I’ve been to Pittsburgh and I’ve been to Yuba City, and if I had my druthers, which I do, I’d go (to) Yuba City.”

Pittsburgh was Rand McNally’s choice last year for most livable city in the United States. Yuba City was 329th--bottom of the list. And although Coppola has a monetary stake in the matter, it is difficult to argue with some of his logic.

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In its “Places Rated Almanac,” Rand McNally lauded Pittsburgh’s climate, low crime rate, cultural amenities and quality of life.

But while the cultural hot spots of Yuba City, pop. 21,600, may never approach Pittsburgh’s--perhaps not even New York’s--city fathers say their town is every bit as red, white and blue.

The main thoroughfare through Yuba City boasts a Baskin-Robbins, a Winchell’s doughnut house, a McDonald’s, a Burger King, several pizza parlors and a Cadillac dealership. There is also a K mart, two hardware stores, a Best Western Motel that sells lottery tickets in the lobby and a sterling example of 1980s budget Americana: a Motel 6.

‘This Terrible Thing?’

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William Fuller, assistant to the Yuba City administrator, recalls dealing with “people coming from everywhere saying to us, ‘Hey, what about this terrible thing?’ ”

“We looked them in the eye and said, ‘What terrible thing?’ It was almost like a great trick was played on these people, and we took it to the limit. If they were fool enough to come here and talk to us, we were going to play the game.”

Why seek a public relations firm?

Yuba City, Fuller said, has cheap housing. “If an employer brings his business out here, he doesn’t have to worry about his employees living elsewhere, like the San Francisco Bay area. We’ve got a water and a sewer plant. We’ve got the facilities. What more could you want?”

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“We’re going to go to trade shows, realtors and clearing houses with the brochure,” said Fuller. “We’re getting ready to bust out and do something.”

And with good reason.

The era of free publicity appears at an end.

Rand McNally recently unveiled its 1986 list of desirable--and undesirable--places to live. With an air of resignation coupled with a sigh of relief, Fuller looked up.

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“Pine Bluff, Ark.,” he said. And then he smiled.

In Yuba City, things are looking up.

It now ranks 326th.


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