News

Will Menlo Park go nuts for new mascot?

'Nutty the Squirrel' debuts to help city 're-brand' itself

The choice may seem a little odd for a city that once covertly hired an exterminator to take out the squirrels at Bedwell Bayfront Park, but Menlo Park now has a new official mascot: "Nutty the Squirrel."

The theory is that the costumed character may induce more participants to join the city's already popular community programs, some of which, like gymnastics classes, have waiting lists.

Nutty cavorted at the city's tree-lighting ceremony in December. Community Services Director Cherise Brandell said that creating a mascot had been on the department's "to do" list for several years before being finalized at a team meeting several months ago.

"That same group approved the purchase as an additional way to build (a) sense of community and draw families and children into our programs," she said in an email. Children participating in the city's after-school programs chose the mascot's name, according to Ms. Brandell.

The costume, ordered from MaskUs.com, cost $1,846, including a pack to adapt it for hot weather, a tote bag and shipping.

It caused a bit of a kerfuffle, according to internal staff emails obtained through a public records act request, when it seemed the bill would be split among programs within the department at $246 each.

"This seems like a large amount for programs that will not use the mascot service or who have tight budgets. Should we have a discussion regarding who will actually use the 'costume' and how billing of the person inside the suit works?" a Menlo Children's Center supervisor asked.

A manager with the recreation program said, "I really don't see us using it, but am willing to chip in some to pay for it if that is what we need to do. Although I can think of other things I can use the money towards, too! Whatever is decided, we will go with it."

A gymnastics supervisor commented, "At this point, I don't really see any times that we would use Nutty. Unless we are doing something in conjunction with a special event."

In response, Community Services Manager Derek Schweigart wrote that the cost had been divided between the special events budget and funds for the city's current re-branding efforts, describing Nutty as a marketing expense that would benefit the entire department.

"Most of us operate various special events and other functions where we could possibly see Nutty making an appearance. It might be difficult now to see where Nutty may add value or help to promote our department, but there is much potential," Mr. Schweigart wrote.

Paying a staff member to don the costume and frolic at the tree lighting cost $17, billed to the special events budget, according to the city's records.

Menlo Park, known for cutting edge technological industry, is now leading the charge with Nutty the Squirrel as well, compared with other Peninsula cities both smaller and larger, including Palo Alto, Foster City, Redwood City and Burlingame: Officials in those cities, bemused by the Almanac's inquiry, said that their towns did not have official mascots, but did have logos.

Comments

Posted by fun, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 7, 2014 at 8:51 am

I'm glad to see the city have some fun and not worrying about the perpetual negativity from this angry newspaper.


Posted by Glad we have a media that asks questions, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 7, 2014 at 9:46 am

"Fun," I'm not too concerned about the squirrel, but I am thankful we have a local media that asks questions and keeps the city cautious about spending. This paper is doing its job. Thank goodness.


Posted by no fun, a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2014 at 10:48 am

The Almanac is like a mentally ill relative that shows up at family gatherings to nag and complain about everything.


Posted by whatever, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 7, 2014 at 12:16 pm

For $1800 where's Nutty's tail?


Posted by self-diagnosed, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 7, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Has ever a mascot's so aptly reflected a city's leadership?


Posted by whatever, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 7, 2014 at 12:46 pm

self-diagnosed said -
"Has ever a mascot so aptly reflected a city's leadership?"

Squirrely, Nutty or both?


Posted by self-diagnosed, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 7, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Whoops, sorry, major typo.

Has ever a mascot's NAME so aptly reflected a city's leadership?

I am definitely going to sign up my kids for all sorts of classes that don't interest them at all just because of this costumed squirrel. Finally: our city has succeeded in topping Palo Alto, which normally owns the stupid-ways-to-spend-money franchise.


Posted by lesson learned, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 7, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Would residents really prefer a city manager that does nothing? Young families are paying top dollar to buy houses in Menlo Park so their kids can be in our great schools. These new residents are paying the highest property taxes, so I hope families with young childten enjoy Nutty and appreciate that the city is thinking about community building.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 7, 2014 at 1:42 pm

This whole enterprise of finding a mascot for Menlo Park is embarrassing. It's condescending to children -- there's no other word for it -- and unimaginative in the worst way.

It's said that children came up with the name. Well, the children that came up with this name are suffering in the imagination department. But they're kids in a world of electronic screens, and so not that surprising. The adults in charge should have defined "cliche" and "trite" for them and asked for more and better ideas, asked them to stretch their imaginations.

Does this mascot have a purpose outside the realm of children -- as ill fitting as it is for children? What does it say about a city that is already accused of rolling up the sidewalks at night?

When you're already in a hole, stop digging? But when you've got yourself into a mess with your imagination, how can you then use it to get out?


Posted by self-diagnosed, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 7, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Anyone who thinks this name was selected by adorable lisping preschoolers has never visited the afterschool program. I've had two kids in that program, and I imagine that the name was proposed by some very cynical and worldwise 10-year-olds who thought the whole thing was a joke. In fact, "Nutty" is probably a sanitized version of the name they originally suggested.


Posted by "Has ever a mascot's NAME so aptly reflected a city's leadership?", a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 7, 2014 at 2:29 pm

"Has ever a mascot's NAME so aptly reflected a city's leadership?"

Perfect.

What a waste of taxpayer's money yet again. The reporter finds the evidence that the "TEAM" did not have input on this expenditure and FYI, the children DID not come up with the name, City Staff did. Talk about NUTS.


Posted by Nutty , a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 7, 2014 at 2:46 pm

I'm going to be here for a long time, get use to it.
If the Almanac would have something positive to say no one would read this sad sour news paper.

Cheers,
Nutty


Posted by Tired of the Shenanigans, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 7, 2014 at 3:03 pm

I don't need my tax dollars going to pay for Nutty or for City staff to waste time fluffing up their nutty ideas here.

If you don't like what the Almanac reports about the City Staff antics, cut out the antics. I am glad to see the Almanac doing it's job and exposing waste.

get back to work or start looking for some other place to work.

and if City Staff is going to get paid to do PR here, at least let be transparent about it "NUTTY".


Posted by Chip and Dale, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jan 7, 2014 at 3:26 pm

On behalf of squirrels everywhere, I think it is important to point out that Menlo Park was already squirrelly BEFORE Nutty arrived. I can only hope that you all treat Nutty with all the respect that he deserves. Also, please refrain from violence because we don't want our Nutty assalted.


Posted by Leave Nutty Alone!, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 7, 2014 at 3:43 pm

meanies. What part of rebranding don't you get.

Our City Manager and Community Services director are working hard on projects like this and a new logo. How about some appreciation for their,valuable contributions to the City?


Posted by Tony Hay, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 7, 2014 at 8:35 pm

It looks more like Mickey Mouse than a squirrel.


Posted by Finny, a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2014 at 10:59 pm

I like Nutty.


Posted by Nuts , a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 8, 2014 at 8:16 am

It like the tooth fairy.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 8, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Speaking for squirrels everywhere, I resent the happy face portrayed by this "squirrel."

Life for squirrels in this burgh is difficult every damn day and here these humans are making light of our plight. (I know; it's a rhyme. What can I tell you? I have a certain talent.)

I'd like to wipe that smile off that "squirrel"'s face, I'll tell you that. We may be smiling when we're wrestling, but then one of us falls out of a tree! Right into the middle of a road, where we can get squashed to bits! Nobody's smiling then. It's cryin' time.

And what about the hawks, and the owls? My god, the owls! Whoever gave them life ought to spend 24 hours as a squirrel and see how he or she likes it.

And anyway, that's not a squirrel. It's some mutant groundhog that's stood up on its hind legs and trying to be cute. Cute. I have to laugh. Humans and their ideas of cute. That word ought to be be banished from the language. Try being a squirrel. It'll change your mind about what's cute and what isn't. Try being chased by an owl. You'll sing a different tune.

Reminds me


Posted by Peter, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 8, 2014 at 3:56 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Journalist doing their jobs, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 8, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Investigative journalists do tend to annoy those that are trying to hide something and not be transparent.
Regardless, welcome to Menlo Park, Nutty. Long may you run.


Posted by Alan, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 13, 2014 at 11:32 am

Joe: thank you for speaking the cold, hard truth. Our children should be presented with the harsh reality of squirrel life, not some cartoonish fantasy. A dead squirrel would be a better mascot ... it would prove that the city's leadership has a grip on reality, and does not shy away from it.


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