Writings and observations

It seemed like a good idea

Portland has a reputation of being a city where a variety of people can co-exist peaceably, without major uproar. But maybe we need to readjust that view: The heels seem to be digging in, and if the furies are getting this intense over the naming of a street, you have to wonder what will happen when decisions have to be made about something, you know, important.

We’re referring, of course, to the city civic issue in town for the last couple of months (maybe the city should be delighted that nothing more important has had to seize its attention), the proposed renaming of Interstate Avenue in Northeast Portland to Cesar Chavez Boulevard. Several Hispanic groups had sought the name change (noting that major throughways had been renamed for Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks), and Mayor Tom Potter jumped in with them.

But the proposal drew big resistance and angry meetings at the neighborhood, where Interstate Avenue had just in recent years become (owing to a MAX train line and revived commerce) something of a local brand name. The rest of the city council has been trying to deal with the situation for months now.

We thought they might have found an elegant solution in the proposed (four council members loosely expressing support for) A Chavez renaming of Southwest 4th Street, the street on which sits City Hall. How could the Hispanic activists, or even the mayor, dis that idea? Turned out, they did. And so did another ethnic group, the business and other people of the city’s Chinatown, through which 4th runs (for a short distance). (Potter, who declared himself “irrelevant” at one council session on the topic and consistently has rejected any but the Interstate option, seems to be ever more determined to lock in his own description as accurate.)

So now the report is that the city council is bagging the whole Chavez rename idea. Maybe just as well, at least until the concept of compromise returns to the discussion.

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One Comment

  1. Renamed streets are a PIT
    It screws up maps, turns address oriented goods into wastepaper, wrecks address based names, makes mail and other address oriented services problematic. Beyond that, long established street names achieve some form of status that creates alienation. Finally, the whole issue becomes race, the reason for it, some of it against, so finally rather than honoring someone you’ve created a racism stew in their name.

    Leave the existing streets alone, there are such things as parks, plazas, statues, etc. Oh, and new streets – though Portland might find that one difficult.

    Disclaimer: I don’t live in P-land, never have, never will, nor anywhere near it.

    November 21, 2007

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