Golden Orifices, Boaty McBoatface, and Half a Road
Many people are familiar with the story of Boaty McBoatface, a $287 million polar research ship built by the British government. The name, according to a New York Times story, was the clear front-runner in an Internet contest to name the ship. As the title of the story suggests, unfortunately this is what you get when the Internet names something for you.
Here on this side of the Atlantic, for reasons which aren’t entirely clear, Sterling Heights decided to dub its half of the section of M59 running through the north edge of town ‘The Golden Corridor’. Even a brief perusal of the city’s website will tell you the true ‘Golden Corridor’ runs right up between Van Dyke and Mound Roads. In my opinion, that’s where the name should have stayed. It wasn’t up to me, though, and they needed a moniker for a marketing effort being directed towards M59.
The strip, although heavily travelled, has fallen on some hard times as of late with Lakeside Mall’s troubles and the decay slowly becoming apparent on the Shelby Township side of the street. With 100,000 vehicles passing through the area each day, the city decided to try to capitalize on the commercial potential of their half of the strip.
So they appropriated the name, had some signs built, and for the pièce de résistance, approved the construction of a 35 foot tall golden ring designed to be the anchoring monument of the city’s marketing effort.
Unfortunately, the plans didn’t include a name for the giant golden ring.
Everyone knows nature abhors a vacuum. Everyone also knows the average mental age of the typical Internet user is 14. As we all know, ring was quickly dubbed ‘The Golden Butthole’ on Facebook, and it was derided far and wide as an example of government waste. Many drums of newspaper printing ink have already been devoted to the topic of the resident backlash, and I don’t care to repeat the gory details here.
Now, I’m a computer programmer, not a marketing expert. I must confess I wasn’t paying terribly close attention to what the city was up to back when this came up for a vote. I’m not sure I would have foreseen the problem caused by not getting in front of the naming effort which we all now know was inevitable. If asked, I would have opined the ‘Golden Corridor’ moniker belonged elsewhere, and certainly doesn’t belong on a strip of road of which only half is within the city limits. But my kvetching aside, the Golden Corridor is on M59, and we’ve got, um, a 35 foot tall Golden something-or-another to show for it.
The question is, what next?
From all appearances, the city is trying to just be a good sport about it and suffer through the joke. The mayor has rather sheepishly taken the ribbing in several interviews on the topic, and he’s defended the ring as having served its purpose of drawing attention to the area. Rightfully so, as it turns out: my 79 year old Aunt who lives on Long Island asked me about it the other day. But a few people connected to City Hall whom I’ve spoken with privately tell me there has been some consternation internally over the blunder. So far, nothing has been said about how the city plans to move on from here.
We don’t have a lot of appealing choices. But given the city’s equally unappealing situation of having its new monument deemed a golden, um, orifice, maybe some damage control is in order.
The city could retroactively name the silly thing, have a ribbon cutting party in the spring, and just try to put the entire experience behind it. In time, it might even work; fifteen or twenty years from now most people will probably have forgotten about the ‘Golden Butthole’ debacle and will just call the thing by whatever its official name is supposed to be. The trouble with this is the city has a short time preference on this one: they want their marketing effort to work, and they need it to work in order to give the maximum amount of lift to the very substantial, hopefully much better thought out effort to design a PUD ordinance for Lakeside Mall which we all pray will kick off the redevelopment so badly needed there.
Another option is to simply if not explicitly embrace the ‘Golden Butthole’ name, not bother to give the ring another official name, and hope the whole thing blows over. The research ship I started out telling you about will never shake the “Boaty McBoatface” moniker regardless of what the Brits decide the official name is, so throwing good money after bad on the ring might be ill-advised. Maybe some enterprising individual can sell T-shirts with an image of the ring emblazoned with the saying “Hey, leave our butthole alone!” There’s probably an upside there of a few kilobucks. Somehow this solution seems less than satisfactory. Look, we all make mistakes, and regardless of the official party line, this was a big one. It deserves fixing.
The city could simply admit their mistake and have the thing torn down. It would be hugely embarrassing, would give their political enemies more than ample ammunition for the upcoming election on how the current administration spends wastefully — even though it doesn’t — and make national news. Out of all of the unappealing choices, this one is the worst.
My suggestion is a redesign. The golden ring concept as a symbol to represent ‘The Golden Corridor’ wasn’t the best idea I’ve seen come from the minds in City Hall. Considering that we have some serious artistic talent in this town, a re-think of what the finished product looks like could be an economically feasible way for the city to save face, and it could even be spun in such a way to show that even though no organization is perfect, our city’s administration is not too proud to admit it has made a mistake and that it is capable of both recognizing that and then making a well considered effort to, um, rectify it.
If it was up to me, I’d solicit redesign ideas that reused the existing structure in whole or in part which could be achieved at a modest cost. I am certain this can be achieved and that the result would be much more appealing. I don’t know what I’d actually change, but I’m not an artist after all.
This accomplishes a few things: it puts “the Golden Butthole” behind us, it refocuses the visual part of the marketing effort so it is more to the point, it minimizes any additional cost, and it allows the city to gracefully admit its mistake, fix it, and move on, thus defusing the issue.
In my view, we either redesign this thing, or find a really large proctology office that’s looking for a new monument sign at a heavily discounted rate!