Renaming Interstate Avenue to César E. Chávez Boulevard seems like a no brainer to me.
Those opposed to the change cite things like losing the Interstate brand, and fret that customers will have difficultly locating the new street. The cost of replacing signage and stationary would burden small businesses. Plus, renaming Interstate so soon after renaming Portland Boulevard for Rosa Parks—a change that happened less than a year ago—is too much for one neighborhood to bear.
As a resident of Rosa Parks Way, I understand the impact of a name change. Our Oregonian subscription lagged for a few days, thanks to address confusion. Friends have to call to find the house, as online maps have yet to be fully updated. Some of my neighbors resent the change, which they say happened without their input.
But I've had the chance to speak with a few of those who pushed for the Rosa Parks rename, and their pride in the new name trumps my comparatively minor inconveniences. Change can be worth it—especially if it makes someone so happy.
The same goes for Interstate.
I've been lucky enough to hear directly from those championing the change. The passion they have for Chávez is infectious. Validating their desire to commemorate him is worth reams of reprinted stationary. Renaming the street isn't about honoring Chávez—it's about welcoming the Latino community's history and dreams into the fold. (Plus, it's hard to argue that anyone will have difficulty locating Chávez Boulevard, after all the press this issue has garnered.)
Then again, no one's insulted my community or culture, called me a racist, or accused me of screwing up the process. I'm not on the defensive.
City Commissioner Erik Sten—and his colleagues—may want this issue to end when it finally reaches city council chambers on Thursday, November 15. But a vote to rename the street won't end the debate: Interstate business owners are considering legal action, or a referendum. Neighbors are whispering plans of civil disobedience.
The council still has the opportunity to fix the mess they started. Signaling their support months ago preempted the process, killing the chances of heart-to-heart dialogue along Interstate.
On Thursday, if the council withholds their support, they clear a path for more conversations like the ones that have made me a rename supporter—conversations where the proponents treat neighbors like potential allies, instead of hurdles, and where neighbors feel they'll be heard, and in turn, will truly listen.
Starting things off on a light note: firstname.lastname@example.org