Bill Shakespeare asked, what’s in a name? Well, if you’re a long-serving mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana, your name’s the kiss of death if you ever hoped to have a government building named after you.
Harold Baals was twice the mayor of Fort Wayne, and served a total of 15 1/2 years — making him the second longest-serving mayor in the city’s history. His first tenure covered the entire Great Depression and World War II. He died in office in 1954.
Despite that, his name is less than popular with modern-day city leaders – killjoys who say they probably won’t name a new government center for him because of the jokes his moniker could inspire.
Fort Wayne, which is about 120 miles northeast of Indianapolis, is opening a new city/county building to house administrative offices. They foolishly opened up the naming process to the public, and let people vote online for their favorite name. The result? Well, apparently Fort Wayne is populated almost exclusively by 12-year-old boys, and “Harry Baals Government Center” came in first, with almost 24,000 votes.
The runner-up, with a mere 2,200 votes, was “Thunder Dome.” OK, I like Tina Turner as much as the next guy (unless the next guy is Ike Turner) but naming your new government building after a “B” movie starring Australian nutter and anti-Semite Mel Gibson seems like an even worse idea than naming it after — well, you know.
Other names were suggested but none with the weight of Harry Baals. One possibility, which scored a meager 527 votes, was the Eugene Johnson Memorial Center; this seems to have slightly less potential for provoking sniggers – apart from the johnson thing, I mean.
Another possibility was Chief Richardville. A great idea — until you remember how “Richard” is usually abbreviated. So, scratch that.
Despite crushing its nearest competitor by a margin of more than 10 to 1, Fort Wayne probably doesn’t have the … well, you know … to put “Baals” on the center. Deputy Mayor Beth Malloy was quoted in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, saying, “We love Fort Wayne, too. We’re not going to make any decisions that look bad.” But the people have spoken, and it seems to me that the city fathers (mothers, whatever) need to grow a pair.
I think it’s a good thing these folks weren’t involved in naming the planets in our solar system; no telling what they might have named the seventh planet from the Sun. Probably Seventh Planet from the Sun.
It’s also a good thing that these faint hearts don’t live in France, and so will never be confronted with the possibility of having to name anything after that country’s greatest novelist. If they’re getting their panties in a twist over Harry Baals, imagine how they’d react to Honoré de Balzac.