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Harry Baals With a Name Like Balls It's Hard to Get a Building

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by hearit

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In The News

Harry Baals: with a name like “balls,” it may make some wonder how the former Fort Wayne mayor made it through school – let alone winning four Indiana elections. Just don’t expect him to get a building named after him.

It’s not all ‘funny business’ – at least not for Fort Wayne, Indiana. Baals won four terms as mayor in the 1930s and 1950s and stands as the longest tenured mayor.

That still ain’t good enough – because the “a” ’s in Harry Baals aren’t soft. Online voters have voted Harry Baals as the favorite for the Fort Wayne, Indiana building: the “Harry Baals Government Center” suggestion won more than 1,300 online votes, tripling votes of its closest contender. But Deputy Mayor Beth Malloy says the name probably won’t happen, despite online favor of Baals for the naming of the new building.

The issue comes down to pronunciation but not mispronunciation – rather, the problem lies in the pronunciation used by the former mayor himself. Mayor Harry Baals pronounce his last as "balls." Perhaps understandably, descendants of Baals have purportedly changed pronunciation, though none could possibly have carried as much weight as Harry himself.

Current Baals family members have sharpened the edges a bit – to a pronunciation of "bales."

Supporters of former mayor Harry Baals say it’s unfair not to pay homage to the former Fort Wayne mayor – regardless of whether the building name could cause snickers, giggles or downright guffaw.

Opponents of naming the building after Baals fear being the butt – or other anatomical part -- of the joke. The argument stands, that Baals could inadvertently make Fort Wayne a target of late-night tv humor or Jay Leno-inspired joke.

So, despite the fact that Harry “balls” name didn’t hinder the mayor’s winning of multiple elections in Indiana – his name may preclude him from winning the current battle: "We realize that while Harry Baals was a respected mayor, [but] not everyone outside of Fort Wayne will know that," says current Deputy Mayor Malloy. "We wanted to pick something that would reflect our pride in our community beyond the boundaries of Fort Wayne."

Apparently Harry Baals is not that pride.

Jim Baals, 51, thinks it's unfortunate that his great-uncle's name won't be considered for the new building. "Harry served four terms and was a wonderful mayor. I don't know what the problem is," says Jim Baals. "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."

Fort Wayne city spokesman Frank Suarez says the city doesn’t regret its decision of opening the name selection up to people online. Suarez’s statement does tend to cause a head-scratching as to why – if the online votes don’t count – Fort Wayne would choose to even initiate the process.

"It is a new way of reaching out to the community," says Suarez. "The fact that 17,000 votes have come in tell us the buzz created by this is really good.”

Apparently the name is good enough to be used as “buzz” and marketing for the city, but the city doesn’t really care what citizens think.

The current Fort Wayne mayor, Tom Henry, will supposedly meeting with local groups to choose from up to 10 finalists from submitted suggestions. For those who care, online voting ends Friday – just don’t assume your vote will count. In one Indiana city, it appears “votes” are taken on an ‘as-needed’ basis.

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