One Sided Discussion On Furor Over Renaming Interstate Avenue For Chavez

As most people in Portland are aware, a hot issue in Portland lately has been the attempt by Tom Potter to change the name of Interstate Avenue in NE portland to Cesar Chavez Boulevard. For some reason, he didn't anticipate the response he got when he tried to ram it down everybody's throats. There were heated community meetings, and when a couple of the city commissioners started talking about alternatives, Potter stormed out of a City council meeting last Thursday in anger.

Of course, behind all this is the desire of the Latino community to have the street renamed. And, true to form, the Fish Wrapper does its best to write a one sided article about the situation. Anna Griffin spends most of the article laying out the Latino side of the story, and manages to neglect the side of the opponents.

You can get a good sense of the entire article right from the beginning:

Somewhere along the line, the push to rename Interstate Avenue after Cesar Chavez stopped being about a street and started being about everything else:

The national debate over immigration reform. The federal raid of a fruit packing plant in North Portland in June. Memories of years spent struggling to find a decent job and a place to live.

Frustration at living in a city that is, at once, so very liberal and so very white. The desire among members of Oregon's largest and fastest-growing minority group to have one thing in the state's biggest city to call their own.

That's why the Latino activists behind the renaming effort have refused any suggestion of compromise. And it's one reason the conversation has grown so personal and so heated -- hot enough that Mayor Tom Potter responded to talk of a compromise last week by walking out of a City Council meeting in the middle of the debate.

"I don't know what people mean when they talk about finding a compromise, when people in my community feel like we have compromised, we compromise every day,"said Marta Guembes, co-chair of the Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard committee.

"What does 'compromise' even mean in this case? We'll let someone else decide which of our heroes to honor? We'll let them decide how to honor him?"

In addition to the one sided-ness of the story, the arrogance of the activists comes through loud and clear. How exactly do they compromise every day (notice there is nothing to explain that)? Why is this about honoring their heroes? Having lived in Mexico, I know there are communities of Americans living there. Are there tributes to American heroes in Mexico? I certainly never saw any when I was down there. Why should it be any different up here? But I digress...

She continues:

When they discuss the fight, supporters talk about how their parents and grandparents scrambled across the border with Mexico. They talk about relatives who marched with Chavez for immigrant and workers rights, how even today every white person they meet seems to assume they're here illegally.

The contradictions in this one paragraph amazes me. When you "scramble" across the border, that doesn't sound like coming here legally, does it? And then they complain that everybody assumes they're here illegally. Now why would people wonder that? Hmmm....

Griffin does manage to squeeze in a little of the opponents side of the story, but not much:

But that comment period brought a flood of opposition, much of it from business owners who complained that changing the street name would cost them money and time. Many North Portland residents already feel abused by City Hall: City leaders ignored them for decades, neighbors say, then rammed through construction of the Interstate light-rail line and the Portland Boulevard renaming. Now this.


Some name-change supporters suggested that arguments against the idea contain at least a subtle form of racism, though leading critics have repeatedly said they have no underlying motives other than preserving a street name they like.

Interstate, opponents say, carries a lot of history despite its generic sound. Changing the name, they note, could cost business owners hundreds or thousands of dollars to change advertising and signs, mailing labels and menus.

And, of course, she manages to slide in the racism charge, the one that gets thrown around when anyone dares to oppose what the Latino activists want. Heavn forbid the people who live and work on Interstate might actually have valid reasons other than racism for opposing the name change!

So, to recap, we have a 27 paragraph article, with 24 paragraphs promoting one side, and 3 promoting the other side. Balanced writing, anyone?



And what of it?

I may very well be a racist but I'm also a resident of NE Portland and a human being with an opinion. If I feel that the renaming of a street does nothing more than allow politicians to pander to an increasing demographic, and further allow professional victim/activists to exercise their ability to tease out white guilt, what business is it of anyone else's?

There's two options on the table and only one of them carries any action. There is the option of allowing the street to remain unchanged and then there is the alternative option of changing the name. If I choose the former, I needn't give any reason for my choice. If I choose the latter, I'd better hope to sell the idea to my fellow citizens who may not share a vested interest in the same alternative. In that case I'd better explain the philosophy behind my decision. If my decision for a name change is based solely on the idea that the honoree was a great American, human being, communist, horseback rider, milk drinker, or wearer of fine slacks, than I'd better work extra hard to differentiate that honoree from a list of thousands that equally qualify. In the history of American labor relations, one need only throw a stick to hit more than a dozen worthy candidates for veneration.

Ah, but that's not the issue. We aren't simply looking for a blue-collar arbiter, we need a person of color first. All other qualifiers must follow behind. I won't call it racist, but it sounds race-specific.

This is how majority opinion is magically marginalized. The rule, as it has developed in the fertile womb of rhetoric-rich identity politics states if you disagree, you must be suffering from some sort of social disease and are therefore unfit to take part in public discourse. From whence did this destitute line of reasoning spring forth?

Folks, you won't appease your neighbors by giving in to their obsequious flattery of all persons, places, or things of color. It doesn't work. Portland will develop new streets, parks, monuments, and neighborhoods better suited to honor the dead. Wait for, and seize upon, the opportunity to affix the name of your affinity group's leader when that time comes. That way you won't have to conjecture over whether your diabolical neighbors are plotting their racist subterfuges without you.

Interstate Avenue Article Biased

I was shocked at how biased Anna Griffin's article was toward the name change. Portlanders need to stand up now and demand a street name change policy reform. Currently, officials can change street names at their own whims without regard to or feedback from the public. Citizens need to have a say and not be subjected to such blatent abuse from so called public officials. And don't you get tired of being called a racist just because you don't agree with this name change? Protecting our street names is not racist it is just protecting our own history. These politicians don't even care that ninety-some percent of all the polling going on ARE AGAINST STREET NAME CHANGES. What kind of special interests do these elected officials have? People need to contact city officials and tell them what they think of this crap because it is going to continue. Send all your emails directly to officials via

User login


Syndicate content