Bridge name: Not on the money, and there’s no Cash

By: Jim Ratajczak
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It was almost all too perfect. Folsom’s new $117 million bridge needed a name, so city officials held a “Name the Bridge” contest. Residents submitted more than 800 possible names and Johnny Cash-related entries were so popular a council subcommittee gave them their own category. It doesn’t hurt to mention Cash’s groundbreaking album “Live at Folsom Prison” is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, either. So when the city council announced the Man in Black would join Folsom Lake, Granite City and Folsom Dam as the contenders for the bridge’s official name, it seemed like the planets had aligned and the city would honor the man who put Folsom on the map. But not so fast. In a 4-1 vote, council members chose to name the new bridge Folsom Lake Crossing at Tuesday’s meeting. Council member Kerri Howell, the dissenting vote, was in favor of naming the bridge after the iconic American singer. “I’m disappointed they chose what they chose,” she said. “We’re losing what I think could have been a very good opportunity. It’s unfortunate.” Citing a potential boon to local tourism, Howell lobbied unsuccessfully for the council to stay away from choosing a “mundane” name. “I honestly believe we would get national recognition,” she said at the meeting. Mary Ann McAlea, vice president of the Folsom Tourism Bureau, spoke at the meeting and echoed Howell’s thoughts. “Tourism, as Folsom continues to grow, is an important part of economic vitality,” she said. Even Cash’s kin came out in support of naming the bridge after the famed singer. Howell managed to get a letter seeking permission to use the man’s name into the hands of recording artist Rosanne Cash, Johnny’s eldest daughter. In a reply to the inquiry, Rosanne wrote, “I think he’d be delighted. We do indeed receive a lot of proposals for a lot of ways to use my dad’s name, very few of which engender enthusiasm in me. But this is an exception. I think it’s a wonderful idea.” However, the rest of the council could not be swayed. They agreed honoring Johnny Cash would benefit the city but felt he was more deserving of something along the lines of a statue at the prison. Because Folsom is footing the bill for the bridge, they said, it makes perfect sense to name it after the city that’s paying the big bucks. “The city of Folsom has contributed tremendous money,” said Council member Jeff Starsky. “I think it is important that Folsom be in the name.” Vice Mayor Steve Miklos expressed shock at the Folsom Tourism Bureau for suddenly wanting to use Johnny Cash for marketing purposes, something it had not done in the past. “We have never marketed this town with Johnny Cash or the prison,” he said. “Why would we promote a prison? We are known for a lot more things than the prison.” Starsky, Miklos and Mayor Eric King all maintained their own impromptu surveys showed most people were in fact opposed to a Johnny Cash-related name. In regards to the Folsom Lake Crossing name, King said “just about everybody I’ve talked to is happy.” Scott Farquhar, the resident who submitted the winning entry, will be invited to participate in the bridge’s opening ceremonies in spring 2009.