City officials in Fort Wayne (Indiana) fail to support swell of support to name new government building after ex-Mayor.
As we Irish are well aware, online polls are never the safest or most scientific way to gauge public opinion as they’re more than a little prone to being hijacked by pranksters. Now Stateside, city officials in Fort Wayne (Indiana) are finding out, much to their annoyance, that same home truth.
The city leaders of Fort Wayne decided to put the naming of the a new government building to an internet vote. but the frontrunner by an overwhelming majority, with almost 24,000 votes to the next nearest 2,000 votes - in the online competition is the Harry Baals government centre, named after a former mayor of the city.
Pronunciation is the key to this hairy mess. Harry – who was mayor of Fort Wayne for four terms in the 1930s and 1950s - pronounced his Christian name Hay-ry (close to Hairy) and was quite proud to pronounce his surname ‘Balls’ (though his descendents have since gone on to change the name to Bales). Hence the snigger inducing Harry Baals Government Centre.
There’s already a street named after the ex-mayor - though that had to be changed from ‘Harry Baals Drive’ to ‘HW Baals Drive’ as the street sign was constantly being stolen. Harry Baals’ many supporters feel it’s sad that he can’t be celebrated purely because his name may invoke laughter in some quarters.
His great-nephew Jim Baals, 51, who has lived in the city his entire life, said that his great-uncle was " a wonderful mayor. I don't know what the problem is. I understand people are going to poke fun at it. That's OK. I've lived with that name for 51 years now, and I've gotten through it. I think everybody else can, too."
City officials however do not agree with the bulging support for Baals. Afraid of being the butt (sorry!) of TV/internet jokes worldwide they have come out and said that the new center will not be named after Baalls even though he leads in the online polls.
"We realize that while Harry Baals was a respected mayor, not everyone outside of Fort Wayne will know that," Deputy Mayor Beth Malloy said in a statement to The Associated Press. "We wanted to pick something that would reflect our pride in our community beyond the boundaries of Fort Wayne."
Funnily enough the trouble all stems from the current mayor’s office of Fort Wayne who hired a Chicago consulting firm in the last six months to teach the city how to use social media, and they came up with the idea to put the vote up online. A couple of local bloggers seem to have started the Baals vote that has swelled from a local to a national and now international story.
We're itching to see how this balls-up turns out.