Northampton, Massachusets officials have greenlit a plan to create and install four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle-themed manhole covers to celebrate the fact that the massive franchise was originally created there. And to pay for it, the town is using funds intended to help rebuild towns and businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The pandemic (which is still a thing, even if a lot of people are trying to pretend otherwise) devastated cities and businesses across the United States starting in March 2020. So in 2021, congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 aka ARPA. This was a nearly $2 trillion economic stimulus package that was designed to help the country recover faster from the various effects of the pandemic as well as to try to deal with the ongoing recession. After barely passing in congress, President Biden signed it on March 11, 2021. As a result, Northampton, Massachusets received $4 million that the town and its officials could put toward its Covid-19 recovery efforts.
And that’s, I guess, how we ended up here: With a city spending $20,000 on TMNT-themed manhole covers.
As reported by WCVB, the four manhole covers will be located along Main Street and each one will represent a different turtle. This isn’t just a random choice, as the city was the original home of Mirage Studios, the place where the TMNT franchise was born. Since their creation in 1984, the turtles have expanded beyond comics into movies, cartoons, games, toys, you name it. So, I get it. TMNT is a big deal to the town. But it still seems odd.
According to the city’s breakdown of where all the ARPA money is going, the idea behind the custom manhole covers is to “invigorate downtown arts” via a “public art tribute to the Northampton-born Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” That’s all well and good and checking the list of other grants, it’s clear more important projects are getting far more resources from the city. But I can’t help but wonder if that $20,000 could be better spent on helping more people directly. Or creating a tribute to a far superior show, Disney’s Gargoyles.