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Generally, not a good idea to spend money carelessly

Thursday, January 17, 2013 - 12:01 am

But that doesn't mean we should let the federal government in.

It’s no fun being bullied, especially by the arrogant, all-powerful federal government. So the natural reaction to the federal officials who are upset over Mayor Tom Henry’s plan to move Gen. Anthony Wayne’s statue from Freimann Square to the Allen County Courthouse Green is, “Shut up and go away – we’ll do whatever we want to with that sculpture.”

But we should avoid the temptation to be so reactionary and consider the move on its own merits. There are reasons other than the concern expressed by the National Park Service to be skeptical of relocating Mad Anthony.

The park service says putting the statue on the Courthouse Green would be “insensitive” because it would “damage the historical integrity” of the careful restoration done by the Allen County Courthouse Preservation Trust. If the move is made, the government would re-evaluate whether the space should remain a national historic landmark, park service architectural historian Michele J. Curran said in a letter.

Well, good grief. Take away our historic landmark status, and see if we care. The green is a lovely place to sit and watch downtown traffic, and it’s a pretty sight. But it’s not so precious that we must be fussy about keeping it precisely as is. Anthony Wayne is a pretty important piece of our history, too.

A better reason to leave the general where he stands is that to move him would be spending money that doesn’t need to be spent – a point made by several letters to the editor. Henry says the move could be done for about $100,000, while a contractor told the trust it might cost as much as $600,000. Either way, it’s small potatoes, sure, but it’s still money that could be spent on something else.

Henry wants to move the statue because Freimann Square’s thick canopy of leaves hides it from view. “Here’s the namesake of our city,” he said in December, “and you can’t see him.” At the southwest corner of the green at Main and Clinton, on the other hand, there would be an unobstructed view from the 40,000 vehicles that pass through every day.

But Freimann Square is a lovely spot, too. Why not just trim back a few trees for a better view at a reasonable cost? And what’s wrong with people walking downtown discovering the general as a nice surprise? What’s the value of seeing him for a few seconds from a passing car?

This may be much ado about nothing. But those are the issues it is instructive to debate about. We can all make good arguments and not feel too upset if the other side wins. And it is our nothing, so – well, you know: Shut up and go away.