07 January 2009

Cesar Chavez Blvd Renaming Plan Not Going Smoothly

1895.What's that, you say? Yeah, you know, you've heard it?

It's not Portland's Interstate Avenue ... it's Dallas Texas's Industrial Blvd (note, this verbiage was current as of about seven months ago (and the full story at that time is here–courtesy The Dallas News):

The choice of Mr. Chávez – a U.S. native who became the nation's leading advocate for farmworkers – has generated strong feelings around Dallas about the region's ongoing demographic shift, illegal immigration and the legacy of Mr. Chávez himself.

And this morning, as the council's Trinity River Project Committee gets set to vote on the new name, many of those issues could sit through the meeting like elephants in the room.

Here's a view of the street they wanted to rename courtesy Google Maps Street View:

Yes, that is a bail bondsman's shop on the right there. No, I didn't go out of my way to find one; reading on the subject characterized the road by describing its run of parking lots and bail bond shops (here's a link to the view). This from the Wall Street Journal:

"Industrial Boulevard" is an apt name for the gritty strip of warehouses, bail-bond offices and liquor stores that runs parallel to the Trinity River on the western edge of this Texas city's urban core.

Where the process (which, apparently, they actually followed one) went off the rails (depending on where you stand on this) was when a survey of Dallas citizens returned a poll of 43% of the population favoring honoring the labor movement legend. This possibly generated fear and loathing amongst the 57% of Dallasaisans (Dallians? Dallasers? Ewings?) who weren't so hot on that idea (again, WSJ):

The name game did succeed in garnering local interest -- just not in the way officials had hoped. Instead, it sparked a rancorous power struggle between the city's growing Hispanic population and its entrenched Anglo and black leadership.

Dallas officials' 'uh-oh' moment came when they received the results of their summer survey. Having favored scenic-sounding names such as Riverfront and Trinityview for the waterside development, officials were stunned by the top choice: "Cesar Chavez Boulevard."

I love it that they called it an 'uh-oh' moment.

Anyway, this turned the easy, breezy process into a drama laden thing.

The vote was had, and what did they choose? Let's turn to the WSJ one more time for the answer. Fast-forward to roughly the present:

Last month, the 15-member Dallas City Council put an end to at least part of the debate by voting to rename Industrial Boulevard "Riverfront Boulevard," with only the three Hispanic members opposing.

The council also voted to allow Ross Avenue to keep its name. The city now hopes to assuage Hispanics by finding another suitable street or landmark to bear the Chavez name, though Hispanics leaders say they will sign off only on a suitably prominent thoroughfare.

You think we have enough trouble getting things done with a five member city commission? Imagine if we had 15 members ...

At least, here in PDX, we're all bickering about the process. I don't think anyone would have a problem with a Cesar Chavez Blvd somewhere in Portland if people would just follow the rules (that, in the advocates' defense, have been routinely broken from Naito up through Rosa Parks). If a city where more people than probably live in Portland voted in favor of Sr. Chavez can't even name a street after him, in a city whose land used to be in Mexico, what about that?

Food for thought. Irony of ironies.

Oh, here's the WSJ article I was referring to. Compelling reading.

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stan said...

Dallasites. According to this.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Thanks, Stan.

Although I was kinda hoping it would be something like "Ewings".

"Dallasites" sounds like something you need the Orkin man to get rid of.

Anonymous said...

I don't know my geography/history too well, but I think Cali was Mexico too. Was Oregon?

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Actually not. While Spain has a significant history of Pacific Northwest exploration (as witness Heceta Head, the Strait of Juan de Fuca (who was actually a Grecian who adopted a Spanish name), Fidalgo Island and the San Juans) there never was any Spanish settlement of the territory.

As a matter of fact, the Adams-Onis treaty of 1819, which settled the division of western North America between British and Spanish colonial claims, set the border between what would become the Oregon Territory and Mexican California at 42 degrees north ... where it is today.