It's hard to find a metaphor that accurately conveys the enormous financial trouble our state
click to enlarge
finds itself in. I know you wouldn't know it to look at what's going on in the state legislature, but people are hurting and we need to raise revenue.
It's a little exasperating, when we need to raise revenue, to hear people talk about raising taxes. Folks, let me clue you in on something. An income tax doesn't mean diddly if folks don't have incomes to tax. And a sales tax doesn't mean squat if people can't afford to buy stuff.
That's just the truth of the matter. If Tennessee is going to be saved, it's not going to be by taking money from Tennesseans who don't have it.
No, we have to take money from folks who do. So, we have to get folks with money to come to our state and hand it over to us.
The question is how to do this.
Of course, I have an idea.
On Friday, the Philadelphia Inquirer
ran this story
about Fort Mifflin. For those of you too lazy or confused by the internet to click over, let me give you the skinny.
Last Fall, Fort Mifflin was in deep, deep trouble. State and city funding to the site had been slashed and salaries cut and people laid off. So, in desperation, they embraced the one community who was anxious and excited to get into the Fort and explore it--ghost hunters.
You laugh, but I did some research and Fort Mifflin gets those ghost hunters to pay them $50 a night to hunt ghosts at the Fort. And I quote from the Inquirer
story, "Last weekend alone, a paranormal group brought in $6,400, donating the
fees from participants in a program that seeks to record evidence of
spirits at the fort."
I repeat, $6,400 in a weekend.
We have, sitting empty at the far end of Centennial Boulevard a building ghost hunters would love to get inside--the old Tennessee State Prison.
Why isn't that facility open to the public, at least the ghost-hunting public, and drawing in folks willing to pay $50 a pop?
I talked to Blake Wylie (I know, I did research AND interviewed someone. Look what this place is doing to me.), who has been in the old prison with the permission of the Tennessee Film Commission and I asked him about the practicality of using the old prison in this manner. Is the prison an interesting destination?
He said, "The size of the place is enormous and there's a lot of stuff to see. You could spend several days there exploring." (For instance, one cool thing he told me is that the insides of the cells are still covered in old prisoner graffiti).
He thought that, at the least, the state was missing out on a great space for a really interesting museum.
I asked him what he thought might be potential obstacles to giving the prison some kind of new life and he said that there are concerns about the potential presense of mold, lead, asbestos, and other environmental hazards like decades' worth of bird crap. When he toured the facilities, he had to verify that he had suitable insurance and he wore a mask as an added precaution.
Still, the Department of Corrections can't house prisoners there anymore and the main building is one of Nashville's most striking landmarks. It should be put to use, just out of general principal. And if we can charge folks to tour it looking for ghosts, we can use some of the revenues to keep up the place and some of the revenues to keep up the state.
I dare say that if ghost hunters can save some old fort, there's no reason they can't help save the state of Tennessee.