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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 11, 2008 8:00 AM. The previous post in this blog was More computer corruption of language. The next post in this blog is They also make great judges at your secret prison camp. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Portland street renaming proposals: Chávez group is behind

As noted here Saturday, there are now two street renaming proposals floating around in Portland -- one to rename NE and SE 42nd Avenue after fantasy writer Douglas Adams, and another to rename a street that has not yet been identified for César Chávez. It would be shocking if the City Council didn't eventually reject the Adams proposal, which it will likely deem frivolous, and accept the Chávez proposal, which it was planning to do last fall before the affected folks on N. Interstate Avenue raised a big enough stink to kill the deal. Although it's theoretically possible that both renaming ideas could pass, they are in one sense in competition with each other, as the city code states that only one application can be processed at a time.

This time around, in contrast to Chávez Round 1, the boys on the City Council are strutting around making a big deal about how yessir, they are going to do things by the book. Late last week, the city's crown prince-elect, Sam the Tram, proudly proclaimed on his website: "Portland City Council To Follow Existing City Code for All Street Renaming Applications." Sad to say, that proposition is actually big news.

But is it true? Already the more paranoid among us see potential signs of favoritism. For example, Commissioner Sam states:

At the moment the Office of Transportation has received two renaming proposals. One proposes to rename NE 42nd Avenue for author Douglas Adams. The other seeks to rename a street to be determined for Cesar Chavez. Transportation has received each proposal, and the renaming advocates are now responsible for completing the application process, which includes review by a Historian Panel and the Planning Commission. Once each step has been completed Council will make a final determination. The documents attached here explain this process in greater detail.
He makes it sound as though the two initiatives are currently at the same stage in the process, doesn't he? But is that correct? The Adams Boulevard proposal actually appears to be at least one major step ahead of the Chávez Boulevard proposal at this point, because until the Chávez folks have identified the street they're after, under the City Code it appears that they haven't done anything of any legal significance.

Here is what the code says about getting the ball rolling on a street name change:

17.93.030 Application Procedure and Fees.

The applicant must conform to the following procedure in applying to rename a City street:

A. The applicant shall submit evidence to the City Engineer that the street renaming proposal is in compliance with Section 17.93.010 A. 2. and A. 3., and Section 17.93.020 B. and C. If the City Engineer determines the submittal does not comply with these sections, the applicant will be so advised and the City shall take no further action. If the submittal is in compliance with the above referenced sections, the City Engineer shall issue the application materials described in Subsection B.

And what is the "evidence" referred to in the first sentence of part A supposed to show? There are four conditions. Here are the first two (from section 17.93.010):

A. Any individual or organization may apply to the City to rename a City street. City streets may only be renamed after a prominent person. Such prominent person must be:

* * * * *

2. a real person; and

3. a person who has been deceased for at least five years.

Both camps are obviously in compliance there. But here's what else the city engineer must be shown before anything else happens -- that the proposed change complies with these two additional conditions (from section 17.93.020):

B. The street proposed for renaming must start and terminate entirely within City boundaries.

C. The name of any street shall be the same for its entire length. Renaming only portions of a street shall not be permitted.

Until the Chávez folks come forward with the street that they wish to rename, it seems that they haven't "submitted evidence" that their proposal "is in compliance with" these last two criteria. Note that they must show that their proposal "is" in compliance -- not that it will be if and when they reveal the street that they want.

And if they haven't "submitted" proper "evidence," then the city engineer should not be "issuing application materials" (petition forms, an application form, and instructions) to them yet. Indeed, it would seem that until the "evidence" is "submitted," any signatures obtained in support of the proposal would be invalid. Moreover, to their benefit, their 180-day deadline hasn't started running yet.

Assuming that they have "submitted" their "evidence" and duly received their application materials, the Douglas Adams folks are now off and running to collect signatures -- under the 180-day deadline. But the Chávez folks don't seem to be there yet, and they apparently won't be until they show their hand as to which street they want to rename, and submit the requisite evidence that it complies with the four conditions specified by the code.

If our reading of the code is wrong, we hope someone will jump in and straighten us out. Because if, as Commissioner Sam promises, these two proposals are going to be done by the book, then let's all be clear on what the book says.

Comments (4)

laws smaws

Are those "laws" or merely "policy" which the Council thinks it needed to follow at some earlier point in time?

If it's policy, the Council readily ignores any and all policy statements they find to be impediments to pleasing those with influence.

If it's law, they can change it easily. If their influential sponsors so desire.

Well, I'll be damned: if the Douglas Adams fanboys get moving, we'll finally see petitioners out in front of the Burnside Powell's store who actually have a connection with books. Not much of one, but then Adams was pretty much the Denis Leary of science fiction.

I wonder if we could rename a bridge after Chavez, a man very worthy of public recognition. Maybe the Marquam or Freemont Bridge since both of those names are well represented elsewhere in Portland. Also, a bridge is a structure more symbolic of the work we all need to do to understand and accept the "other side" of things....Just a thought.


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