evannichols (evannichols) wrote,

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Deep Thoughtiness

Friday morning's drive-time radio had a discussion of the proposed name change of Portland's Interstate Avenue to Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard. My biggest problem with this issue is that the process seemed to have been:
1) City Council decides to change the name.
2) A bunch of "community feedback" events are held, although they have absolutely no impact on the final outcome.
3) Name change happens.

I can understand some resentment by the people impacted most by this decision, as they didn't appear to have any influence. It's not a matter of whether labor-leader Chavez deserves to be honored or not. The same problem would arise if the proposed new name was "Jennifer Love Hewitt Parkway."*

This weakness in the process overshadows a larger problem. Yes, in the last few decades, Portland has named three streets for notable historical figures who weren't dead white dudes; Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and now Cesar Chavez. But seriously, only three? This isn't showing a commitment to honoring people, it's a token gesture. To be fair to both those who are inconvenienced by name change AND all those people who have contributed to this country's social, scientific, artistic or cultural growth, they should rename ALL the streets.

A thorough rename has many three benefits:

1.The honorific potential of our roadways is severely underutilized. Sure, we have a street named for rock-music icon Jim Morrison, but right nearby are Pine, Ash and Oak. What does it say about us that we're wasting honor capacity on trees?

2. We could achieve an appropriate balance of representation. Critics of this current plan can point out that while these three streets honor three People of Color, only one honors a Person of Gender. And there are whole categories of race, national origin, religion and sexual orientation that aren't honored at all. There are thousands of people who have made significant cultural contributions to our society, and the only way not to leave someone out is to give them all a street.

3. It would annoy everyone. Any politician will tell you that if you can't make everyone happy, then the best compromise is to make everyone equally unhappy. I think this would accomplish the latter.

While the City Council would make the unilateral decision to enact these changes, the Public could offer input by nominating people. So even if they aren't happy with the outcome, they'll at least feel they had some influence over the results, which is better than what's happening right now.

* Who doesn't love the beautiful and talented Jennifer Love Hewitt?

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