Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Shaking The Shackles

I was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but my family hails from Marshall, Missouri and spots thereabout. Last week I spent some time researching Marshall for a book I am writing about my family, in fact, a good deal of the book is set in Marshall. I have a brother who lives in Marshall, not in town, but owns a decent size cattle operation on the outskirts and a distant great aunt who does live in town.

I discovered some things about Marshall that peaked my interest. For instance, did you know that Marshall was the site of the Nicholas Beazley Airplane Company? Ask any aviator worth his salt about the famous Nicholas-Beazley airplanes. Marshall is also smack dab on the route of the Santa Fe Trail and little nearby Arrow Rock sports a really neat museum dedicated to the archaeology and history of the region.

Did you further know that Marshall is the home of “Jim the Wonder Dog?” Jim, who passed in 1937, is memorialized in the town because of his world re-known gift of understanding several different languages, including Greek and Morse code, accurately predicting the re-election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and picking the winner of the 1936 World Series.

Marshall also has its own municipally run water department. In fact they’ve been running it since 1901 after the New York Store burned to the ground. According to the Fire Department’s website:

“Questions were raised after the fire about inadequate water pressure provided by the local private water company, The Marshall Water Works Company. The City refused to pay their water bill from the fire and eventually bought out the water company. This led to the development of the Marshall Municipal Utilities.”

Now one hundred and four years later, Marshall is considering providing municipal cable and the usual suspects are lining up in force to prevent it from happening. The cable industry even hired university professors to gin up numbers to convince the citizens to vote against the proposal. Meanwhile the American Public Power Association conducted research that showed exactly the opposite.

According to the Marshall-Democrat News:

“By offering the cable TV service, MMU states that it hopes to lower the cost of such services to Marshall residents, improve the availability of high-speed Internet, stimulate economic development, as well as improve the safety and security of the city's utility systems.”

Missouri law requires voters approve municipal utility and communications projects. Next week Marshall residents will get that chance. And once Marshall builds out its system and begins delivery of cable and high speed internet, the residents will get the chance to have lower cable bills, more responsive service and the freedom to shake the shackles of Time Warner.

I wonder how Jim would predict the outcome of this ambitious undertaking if he were among us? Would he buy the arguments of the cable industry or would he trust that Marshall just might know what they are doing? Given a more than one hundred year history of running a municipal water system with success, I’d say Jim would probably put his money (or his paws) on Marshall. Me too Jim, me too.

(to learn more about Jim the Wonder Dog, go to

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