By now there isn’t a political wag worth quoting who hasn’t weighed in on the dilemma facing the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The City asked its citizens what its new government center should be named. When former Mayor Harry Baals (yes, it’s pronounced exactly like you think) emerged as the front runner, the online poll inevitably went viral. This news report from Fort Wayne television station WANE captures the Harry Baals phenomenon.
Despite Mayor Baals’ overwhelming victory, city officials said it wasn’t ever going to happen. Now they’ve appeared to reconsider and are willing to at least think about it. We’ll get their final decision later this month.
Considering how strapped most municipalities are for funding, the good leaders of Fort Wayne need to put aside any fear of embarrassment, embrace Harry Baals and see it as a golden opportunity. This is a merchandising juggernaut waiting to be exploited. Two local Fort Wayne entrepreneurs aren’t waiting. Graphic artist Aaron Steele and his business partner Eric Rupp have already started rolling out Baals merchandise. They’ve got a website, www.gotbaals.com, and they plan to sell their wares through a local chain of stores. They’ve only scratched the surface as to the possible merchandising tie-ins. I hope they end up rolling in dough.
Think of the revenue the City of Fort Wayne is letting slip through its civic fingers! If the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office can sell brand name merchandise through its gift shop, “Skeletons in the Closet,” it would be a shame for the City of Fort Wayne to lose out on a way to put some money in its treasury that could prevent cutbacks in services.
I admit to having my share of punster fun with this. But there’s a serious point to the post. This situation confirms exactly why we need more business leaders and entrepreneurs in public office. They’d know exactly how to embrace the nation’s fascination with Harry Baals and turn the opportunity into an effort that would benefit the entire community. Profits could be invested in essential civic services. Screw any possible embarrassment. Where there’s a buck to be made and invested for the greater good, real businesspeople have the Harry Baals to do it. Instead, two Fort Wayne citizen entrepreneurs have grabbed this opportunity by the… well, you know.
Should San Diego’s civic leaders be faced with a similar situation, I hope they’d have the big brass ones to make Harry himself proud.
I will confirm that I composed this accompanied by a fine glass of something, which may or may not have been lemonade.