"Should the city of Parkersburg trade the placement of 'Long Tom' cannon from City Park to the county for Fort Boreman Park in exchange for a lease for a part of Bicentennial Park for community events?"
Sixty-seven percent of the 470 who voted in the News and Sentinel poll said "yes," the city should make the horse trade.
While 470 voters by far was not the largest number of participants the News and Sentinel ever has had in a news poll, the 67 percent in favor of the trade certainly was an overwhelming majority.
Interestingly, several members of Parkersburg City Council had asked city government reporter Jody Murphy if the newspaper ever had done a poll question on the cannon issue, which prompted it being put on the Web site Wednesday. My guess is council members wanted something to hang their hat on in telling the Wood County commissioners yea or nay on the trade.
The trade prompted serious discussion in the newsroom, with city editor Jess Mancini repeatedly asking why the commissioners just didn't do what was right and give the city the lease instead of making it a tit-for-tat deal. His reasoning was the county commission has a vested interest in downtown development, just as does city council, so why wouldn't the commissioners want to aid in that development?
The lease idea was first proposed by county commissioner Blair Couch, who also proposed the "trade."
With only two weeks under its belt, the Farmer's Market already has become successful and continues to draw vendors to the tents and surrounding area. Why would the commissioners want to hold that development and the city hostage in exchange for a cannon?
The commission, though, has given the city about $24,000 toward tents, etc., provided five parking spaces and altered vendor regulations for the market, Couch says.
So, why would the city be so reluctant to allow the county commission to move the cannon to Fort Boreman Park, where it probably is more appropriate to be and would still be within the city limits, although in a county-operated park? I would guess there is only a small number of people who know where the cannon is in City Park or have any knowledge of its role in area history. In fact, it may be little more than a climbing spot for children where it rests now on a concrete stand.
The county wants to refurbish the cannon and have a real stand built for the multiple-ton piece of heavy artillery, which sounds like a heck of an idea and a more historically accurate future for the piece.
While I agree with Mancini that the issue of the county leasing a portion of Bicentennial Park to the city shouldn't be a tit for tat horse trade, I also don't understand the controversy over moving a cannon from City Park that was not initially in City Park. It all seems like the city and the county getting into a disagreement over a nonsensical issue.
I had the pleasure last week of talking to the Parkersburg Altrusa Club and getting a good lunch at Colombo's restaurant in the process.
I rambled on about the newspaper industry and specifically about the News and Sentinel for probably longer than any of the attentive members wanted to hear.
Speaking to groups of readers is something I truly enjoy doing, probably because I like to talk and have a love for newspapers. The interesting part, though, is I was scared to death in high school and college to speak before groups. I was far too self-conscious and had something of a low self-image. All that had to end when I went to work for the treasurer of the state of Ohio while in college and immediately after graduation. The treasurer had me writing some of his speeches and traveling the state with him and for him, giving speeches on his behalf. It truly was a test of fire and made me learn to relax and just talk to people, instead of fumbling around trying to read a prepared speech.
So, if you need a speaker, I'm available.
Contact Jim Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org