15 November 2007

[pdx, pdx_politik] Commish Randy Swaps Out The Chavez Gameboard

1116. The most notable thing about Portland politics is that, sometimes, it isn't over even if it's over, as witness the strange turn in the "let's name something after Cesar Chavez" slo-mo train wreck

It's by now old news that Commissioner Randy Leonard not only sprang on us all the prospect of renaming the street City Hall is on SW Cesar E Chavez Blvd in favor of doing it to N Interstate Avenue. It's kind of become a game that the board gets changed out randomly. At first, it was some sort of strange cross between poker and "I've Got a Secret". Now, it's suddenly chess.

In suggesting not only a major downtown Avenue but the one that City Hall is located on, Commish Randy has not only changed the gameboard but, somewhat, the terms of the conversation. In this chess game, he's put the city's King on SW 4th in a way that the rename-Interstate advocates have to answer. And, in having the support of four out of five of the City Commission (save, of course, Mayor Tom), he's positioned his pieces well to support his move.

Quoted by The Big O:

It's the address of City Hall. There's a lot of symbolic value, and I think it reflects the pride the council has in wanting to honor Cesar Chavez

So he not only has the support of an overwhelming majority on Council, he's also putting the City's prestige on the line as well, which, politically speaking, is a master stroke. While all this is a surprising turn, this is perhaps the logical ultimate expression of the realipolitik involved in the quest to rename Interstate Avenue embodied in ramrodding through the process with no regard to existing policy and, at best, disdain for the feelings of the neighborhood involved.

I'm not in favor of renaming any of our streets any more, actually. It's not out of any fear of a name like "North Cesar E Chavez Blvd" (or "SW Cesar E Chavez Blvd" if it come to that), and, actually, ultimately, it wouldn't bother me much if one of them were renamed. I have no fear of a brown planet (or black, or what have you; our policy is to be as nice as possible to other people, in as much as other people outnumber us over 6 Billion to one).

I'm not in favor of renaming any of our streets in favor of anyone right now because, after the MLK renaming, the City devised a careful, methodical process that does its best to make sure that if a street does get renamed, it doesn't happen unless a majority of the people involved are on board with it, but latterly, if someone in City government gets the proverbial wild hair, it gets utterly and completely ignored, rendering the lessons we all learned about uniting community in the wake of the MLK renaming irrelevant.

If Mayor Tom promised renaming advocates that they could have thier way without going through the process, then that was a promise he never should have made.

That this and the last few renamings (Naito Blvd, Rosa Parks Way) were to honor people who were all about community (Naito about building the physical community, and Rosa Parks about the fact that we've all got to be respectful of each other – a lesson we probably haven't learnt after all), are in honor of people whose lives were about building and reinforcing the things that make us a human community just adds a great deal of irony to the whole thing.

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