This is what I said at the Council meeting on July 8, 2009, before voting in favor of changing the name of 39th Avenue to César E. Chávez Boulevard.
I have been very impressed with the way Portlanders have conducted this debate. As the Commissioner in Charge of Neighborhood Involvement, I am very happy so many residents and business owners on and near 39th, and many citywide, feel so strongly connected to the street they know as home as well as 39th, and that so many other Portlanders want to establish a new connection with the street we now know as 39th Avenue. Thank you sincerely to everyone who has participated.
I have considered and responded to hundreds of contacts from Portlanders on this issue, some from as far away as Prinveville and Germany. People truly care about this, and I am grateful for your passion for our city. I also realize that with my vote today I will disappoint thousands of citizens, no matter which way I vote. I don't vote by guessing which position on a topic is more popular, or by evaluating which testifiers are nice or adversarial. I try to figure out whether voting for or against a proposal better serves the long term public good
Use of the Code process does not ensure a favorable outcome. It does mean the Council should vote on this motion, yes or no, rather than naming or renaming something else as some have suggested.
The process may not be perfect but it exists to provide guidance in making a decision for this purpose. I believe the process has provided me with all the information and public input I need to make a decision on the merits of this renaming request.
The administrative decision I am making today is whether the name 39th Avenue, or the name César E. Chávez Boulevard, better serves the long term public good of Portland.
Ultimately, I think back to the renaming of Union Avenue for Martin Luther King Jr. I was angry at the time, angry that due process wasn't followed and that some participants didn't feel they had been heard. And yet today, 20 years later, I am so glad we have a street named for Martin Luther King. I did not know about César Chávez before this process, and because of the street renaming request, I know a lot more.
We currently have a houseguest from LA who tells me she first heard of César Chávez through asking her mother about the street named for him. I believe in the future, in 50 years, Portlanders will be more appreciative of a street named for César Chávez than having a street named 39th. I believe adding the name of César Chávez to an important and beautiful street running north and south through the east side serves the long term public good of Portland.
I have carefully considered input from hundreds of Portlanders. After much thought, I have come to the conclusion that the values and benefits of renaming outweigh the considerable impacts to current residents and business owners on and near 39th, and the costs incurred by taxpayers. I vote Aye.
Additional issues affecting my decision:
Both the State of Oregon and Portland City Code allow citizens to request street renamings. Council asked the applicants to use the process, after the Interstate Avenue attempt failed. Portland citizens have not attempted to repeal the Code since its adoption in 1989, despite Council-initiated renamings of Naito Parkway and Rosa Parks Way.
Some of the factors I considered in coming to my decision:
Keeping the name 39th:
- Respects the wishes of the majority of residents and businesses currently on the street, who want it left as is;
- Saves $86,000 in street signs, and costs to businesses and residents to make changes;
- Ensures that non-local travelers can continue to find their way between 38th and 40th;
- Responds to citizens who state the process was flawed;
- Responds to citizens who state that the Council should be spending our time and money on more urgent issues of citywide importance;
- Responds to citizens citywide who do not want any streets renamed;
- Saves residents and business owners from having to make changes on multiple legal documents and business signs;
- Responds to Neighborhood Associations and Business Associations who feel the name is part of local identity.
Changing the name to César Chávez:
- Honors an American hero;
- Stimulates conversation about who this hero was and what he did for the United States;
- Reminds Portlanders on a daily basis that this hero contributed to our quality of life, by his advocacy for farm workers and for workers in general which helps all employees;
- Provides a street name with high visibility and value. Choosing this particular street is a true honor, since it is so beloved by so many;
- Diversifies Portland's street names, most of which honor early European settlers yet we are a nation of immigrants from many areas of the world, as well as an area rich in native peoples;
- Responds to those making the request, and those citywide who support the request;
- Gives people who honor César Chávez a street name they can relate to and delight in, and shows we are willing to make changes to welcome the diversity that many believe enriches us all;
- Shows that laws in state statutes are intended to be used by all citizens;
- Supports those who celebrated previous changes, by re-affirming the value of the Martin Luther King Jr., Naito, and Rosa Parks street renamings;
- Shares this public street and its name, reminding us that all public streets belong to all Portlanders, and all Portlanders should feel welcome on any public street in Portland.
I did not make this decision lightly or carelessly. I heard and considered the views of current residents and businesses on and near 39th. On balance, I believe the benefits of renaming outweigh the impacts, and therefore that the cost of new signs using taxpayers' money is an investment in the long term public good, in the best interests of the city as a whole.