Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Interstate or Chavez Blvd?

By Brian Rohter

There’s been a bunch of press over the past couple of days about the proposal to change the name of Interstate Avenue to Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard. ("Slow down on Interstate" and "City mulls changing Interstate to Chavez") Since our store on Interstate is in the heart of the neighborhood, lots of people have been asking for our opinion about this.

We think on issues like this our role is to support the desires of our neighbors who live in the community. If the neighborhood associations endorse this proposal we’ll get behind it too. We hope they do, because we feel that local recognition for the great civil rights work that Cesar Chavez did is overdue.

Whatever the outcome, it’s important that the process is set up in a way that all the stakeholders get their voices heard and have an opportunity to understand the various opinions of others. I know that Bill Mildenberger, from the Nite Hawk Café, which is located across the street from our store, has some different perspectives on this proposal and I’ve just left him a message inviting him to share his thoughts on this blog.

Here’s a copy of the letter that I sent to Mayor Potter after meeting with the organizers of this campaign in July:

July 19th, 2007

Mayor Tom Potter

City of Portland

1201 SW Fourth Avenue

Portland, Oregon 97204

Dear Mayor Potter,

I am writing about the suggestion to change the name of Interstate Avenue to Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard. New Seasons Market looks to its neighbors for guidance on questions such as this and it is my understanding that all of the adjacent neighborhood associations have expressed their support for this proposal.

New Seasons Market operates a store at 6400 N. Interstate Avenue. We would be very honored to tell our customers that they could find us at 6400 N. Cesar Chavez Boulevard, especially since we could also tell them that we’re located at the corner of Rosa Parks Boulevard and Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard. What a great way for Portland to recognize these two outstanding American role models!

Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help move this project to completion.

Best Regards,

Brian Rohter, CEO

Cc: Marta Guembes, Celedonio Montes


don said...

I find it surprising that New Seasons supports the name change from Interstate to Chavez. Interstate is a dirty rundown street that while millions have been pumped into it, it still has the feel of a rundown neighborhood. Tri-Met and the city should work on cleaning up the steet before millions are spent on a name change. When the name change goes thru then I want to see a sign at the Arbor Lodge New Seasons chaned to: The Cesar Chavez Blvd and Rosa Parks Way New Seasons located at Arbor Lodge. That is mouth full but something you should do. Keep Interstate Interstate.

Karen Jensen said...

I am a long time (14 years) resident of North Portland and I am against the renaming of Insterstate Ave., regardless of what the name is going to be. I have talked to my neighbors in the community and have yet to find anyone who supports this change. I think th thing to do would be to have a statue or maybe rename the Interstate farmers market. I live right off of Interstate and Port- whoops- Rosa Parks Way. I just don’t agree with the changing of street names that have been here for years.
Thank you-

Marija said...

I too am against the renaming of Interstate Avenue. Wouldn’t the funds needed to make this kind of change be better directed to the sinking school budgets? I am a Portland native, and can’t put a finger on when we got so engulfed in how we might appear to the public through street names. Do you think visitors to our fine city are going to remember Portland’s great nod to civil rights activists on a street sign over all the bad press given to our public schools? What is going to speak louder to the outsider?

When Portland Blvd changed to Rosa Parks Way, it just absolutely felt wrong, and still does, especially since the renamed street was PORTLAND Blvd! I believe there are many less-costly alternatives to respecting important historical figures, which will not leave a sour taste in the mouths of residents. Portland will continue to lose residents to Vancouver if the city remains this defunct in their priorities.

scott said...

I’m sorry, but renaming a street after a person in no way honors that person. It is a very efficient way to funnel money away from the community into things such as street signs and a cleaner conscience.

my hood said...

2 of the 3 neighborhood associations have yet to vote in support of this, both seem to be leaning NOT in favor of renaming…and the one neighborhood association that DID give its’ letter of support in favor did so without any discussion with the community.
They never even gave anyone a chance to weigh in before sending in their support…not much of a democracy there.
I agree with previous posts:
spend the money on cleaning it up, ridding us of trash and crime, and perhaps *gulp* asking us what WE want.

I am disgusted that New Seasons would be so short-sighted as to think that this is a good thing.
You JUST moved in and now you want to tell us how we should support this because you think it is a good thing?!?!?
Come on, there are people who have lived and worked in this ‘hood for decades, have some respect.

carter said...

Well, the Overlook Neighboorhood Association has spoken. Last night, after listening to a presentation by members of the Chavez Committee (who disingenously suggested that New Seasons has come out in support of the name change), the association members voted overwhelmingly against the name change. A motion to support the name change was defeated by a vote of 86-6, and a motion to actively oppose the name change passed 92-12. (Don’t ask me why there were two separate votes on this issue.)

Your most frequent customer said...

Overlook has spoken… this is massively unpopular, poorly researched and Interstate has a rich history of its own that deserves attention… How about an “Interstate Lights” festival.

I really love New Seasons but I was angry when it jumped in on this culturally insensitive plan. Interstate already stands for diversity and we love the name. Also can we get rid of the 2 crime ridden houses 1 block North and South from New Seasons too?

Things are getting better but we need smarter efforts not poorly conceived initiatives.

Brian Rohter said...

Hello. Brian Rohter here. I just wanted to jump in and add my two cents to the last comment. The Chavez Committee was correct in stating that New Seasons Market had come out in support of the name change. I did so in a letter to Mayor Potter in July, in an interview with the Oregonian earlier this month and in this blog. What perhaps was lost in translation was that our support was dependent upon the approval of the neighborhood associations.

Rebecca said...

You said the following Mr. Rohter:

“it is my understanding that all of the adjacent neighborhood associations have expressed their support for this proposal.”

Now you are saying:

“our support was dependent upon the approval of the neighborhood associations.”

Were you misinformed, or did you not check, and recheck your facts before you fired off that letter of support to Mayor Potter? Maybe you should question your customer base as well, as you might find your bottom line may well be affected should you think your customer base is in overwhelming agreement with you.

I for one, no make that two, with my husband, are not.

Bill Jr The Nite Hawk said...

To our wonderful neighbors and our favorite neighborhood store, Arbor Lodge New Seasons:

Please know that I am a novice when it comes to blogs and in fact this is my first attempt to blog.

Let me be clear! We endorse the concept of honoring Mr. Cavez in the most approriate way and are willing to lend our help and support to that end. What we take great exception to is the fact that in honoring a great amercan hero Portland looses a significant historical thouroughfare. Since 1917 Interstate Avenue was the only way between the cities of Portland and Vancouver and the states of Oregon and Washington. It was a bustling, energetic and busy arterial with a wide range of businesses that thrived as Americans continued to discover the advantages of the automobile. It was THE INTERSTATE!

In the early sixties the Interstate-5 freeway system essentially bypassed the thriveing Interstate Avenue community leaving it to the typical hollywood type ending of a small town bypassed by the dreaded “expressway”. Traffic was diverted, customers left, businesses closed and Interstate Avenue went downhill for several years, check that, several decades.

Fastforward to now. North Portland, once the least desirable neighborhood in the city due to crime, gang activity and a general perception that north Portland was dangerous is now experiencing a rebirth!! Longtime home owners, neighbors, businesses and community centers that were for all these years neglected are now benefitting due to their patience and resiliance. The city’s investment in the Interstate light rail line, while controversial, has been a wonderful development for our North Portland neighborhood .

Why now!!!!! Renaming our historic Interstate Avenue means we lose on many fronts. Historically we lose our identity that attaches the significant role that our wonderful Interstate Avenue played in the early development of Portland. The many businesses along Interstate Avenue lose thier newly “improved” identity, name recognition and familiarity that essentially is our brand name. Intersate Avenue once again has customer recognition throughout the region. The unitended cost of losing Historic Interstate Avenue to stand alone businesses could be devastating.
Hard earned tax dollars would be spent, unwisely, to make the necessary changes such as street signs, etc.. while most importantly undoing the hundreds of millions of dollars investment that the city of Portland has made in the Interstate Light Rail System and the Interstate corridor. Please note this. Tri Met and the City of Portlands regional transportation “blueprint” both call for connecting our light rail system to the city of Vancouver. This truly forward thinking blueprint restores and should be promoted as the “New Interstate”. Capitilizing on the investments made by the hard working small businesses, the investment made by our city leaders and by our new neighbors and friends. To lose our name looses this entirely.
Why would you change our name??? Finally, one of the many historical reminders that truly highilghts what our neighborhood looses should Historic Interstate avenue become extinct. Jerry Beall of Beall Transport and a gaduate of both Ockley Green grade school and Jefferson High school, operates a successful business in north Portand that traces its beginnings to 102 years ago recalls as a young child, seeing busloads and busloads of young americans going north on Interstate Avenue to boot camps in Washington to prepare for World War II. All the while busloads and busloads of workers were going south on Interstate Avenue to build the ships in north portland and Swan Island that eventually led to victory and the ending of the Second world war. Several years later, Mr. Beall, rode a similar bus up Interstate Ave to report for his service in the Korean conflict. Fortunately, Mr Beall survived the Korean conflict but many of our fellow americans did not return from these wars. This legacy and the many many more, too many to mention, highlights and further demonstrates what we lose when Interstate Avenue becomes extinct!!
We once again reach out to the Cesar Chavez committee to work together so that we find a solution that is win-win. Win win means that the community retains its historic Interstate avenue, doesn’t incurr unneeded costs, hard earned tax dollars aren’t spent to make the necessary changes and Mr Chavez gets recognized appropriatly. Honoring Mr Chavez means doing it in a way that is significant, will stand the test of time and commemorates his contribution to our country. Lets honor Mr Chavez in a way that galvinizes our community, honors him as a truly american icon and role model.


Bill The Nite Hawk Cafe and Lounge

thisKat said...

Something I wish more neighbors understood is the role and function of the neighborhood associations. They are not representative entities. They’re mainly run by boards composed of a handful of devoted citizens who donate their time and energy to founding and supporting programs that benefit their neighbors. They don’t claim to represent any majority of neighbors. At the Kenton Neighborhood association all monthly board meetings are open to anyone who wants to attend. Of the meetings I’ve attended (full disclosure: my husband is the board chair), very few neighbors attend. If more people participated in board meeting or joined committees the associations could do more to make our neighborhoods great places to live.

Most news reports on this issue aren’t clear that it was the *board* of the Kenton neighborhood association, not a majority of the residents of the neighborhood, who offered their support for the name change. And the board makes no claim to represent the majority and has tried to clarify this many times. The only way the entire neighborhood could vote on this is to call a General Meeting. These types of meetings require public notice, which takes time, money (for mailers), all of which is in short supply when you’re run by volunteers. The board is asked for their support on issues all the time on issues ranging from the awarding of liquor licences to the design of business signage. The request for support on this street name change is one of many the board receives. And again, when they weigh in on a matter, they’re doing so as the board, not as representatives of the majority of residents.

Also, the neighborhood association boards really have no power in this process, other than to have their say, just the same as individual citizens. There is no legal mechanism that give them any power to make this name change happen or not happen. If neighbors feel strongly about this they need to take their concerns to the city who will make the final decision.

And finally, I find this entire conflict so, so sad. We all know who Rosa Parks is and what she symbolizes: The power of one person’s determination to not be marginalized. But do people really know who Cesar Chavez was and what his work means to all Americans? As a traditionally working class, union-supporting neighborhood, I would think more people would proudly support a man who fought tirelessly for the rights of American farm workers. How many people know he was American-born? Was a WWII Navy veteran? His work to get fair wages for workers, to keep out the illegal immigrants he viewed as taking away American jobs, and reduce workers exposure to toxic chemicals in farms benefts each and every one of us.

(For a brief biography of Chavez go to

When I’ve talked to my neighbors about this I hear their protests. Their resistance is either rooted in fear of change or fear that this area of North Portland, with streets named for MLK, Rosa Parks and Cesar Chavez,will be seen by outsiders as a dangerous ghetto, I suppose because these streets are named for racial minorities (I’ve only asked my white neighbors about this, incidentally.) I hope in time people of North Portland come to appreciate the hard work and sacrifice these great Americans made for all of us and honor Cesar Chavez for his contributions.

And Mr. Rohter, I respectfully request that you provide your *unconditional* support to honor this man who represents the values your company says it stands for.

pk said...

Now that the surrounding nieghborhoods have made it clear that they do not support the renaming of Interstate, I am wondering when New Seasons will be updating or clarifying its position on this matter?

Interstate Neighbor said...

My wife and I live across the street from the Arbor Lodge New Seasons and more or less behind the Nite Hawk. Having a great place to buy gourmet groceries as well as a wonderful blue collar bar and diner a stone’s throw from our front door were major selling points in purchasing a home in this diverse neighborhood. We consider New Season’s and the Nite Hawk to be great neighbors.

That said, I would like to thank Bill the Nite Hawk owner for his pro-active response in the re-naming controversy.

Brian, it would be really nice if you would be a little more clear about New Season’s position in this matter. Your support was one of the major factor’s cited in the re-naming committee’s request to the city. You seem to be wanting to have it both ways here on your blog.

Have you clarified that your company’s support for re-naming is dependent on the neighborhood’s support with Mayor Potter’s office, or only here on your blog?

Do you feel that the re-naming committee was truthful with you in regards to the neighborhood associations’ support?

To the poster “thisKat”: You stated that it would have been too much work for the Kenton Neighborhood Association to ask for input from your community. Why on Earth did your husband want the job if he didn’t want to put any effort into an issue as important as this one? Here in Arbor Lodge somebody put a flyer on everyone’s doorstep inviting us to the meeting on the name change. As strongly as people feel about this, you couldn’t find anyone willing to do something similar? Sorry, I’m not buying it. If you feel that re-naming is such a great idea, why not invite your neighbors to a public forum and try to persuade them to your position.

I think you’d rather sit behind the relative anonymity of your keyboard and call everyone opposed to the name change racists. That is a very ugly accusation to make. As one 1/2 of a mixed race marriage I find this personally offensive.

Do you really think that the 90% of Interstate Corridor residents and business owners opposing this idea are racists? If so, why do you continue to live here? If I thought 90% of my neighbors were racists I would move. Perhaps you should examine your own close mindedness before you make claims to knowing what evil lurks in your neighbor’s hearts.

If 90% of the community wanted this name change I would not be so bent out of shape like you are “thisKat”. After all this is how a democracy should work.

The sad reality is that our community is having this forced upon us by back room deals with the Mayor’s office who has inferred that name change opponents are racists as well. Manipulation, deception, and name calling does not endear this community to your cause “thisKat”.

Brian,thanks for letting me vent here. I hope you will do the right thing. I would like to continue to spend my hard earned money at a store which supports the community’s wishes.

Also, I hope to see New Season’s represented at the October 3rd & 9th meetings at Ockley Green school. See for yourself how the community feels.

Brian Rohter said...

Brian Rohter here again. Thanks to everyone else who is participating in this conversation. We’ve had a few people ask for clarifications about some of the issues regarding the proposed name change. I’ll do my best to answer those questions.

First, in regards to the information that I received from the committee suggesting the name change–it was my impression from our conversation that the neighborhood associations had come out in support of the name change. For whatever reason, it’s now obvious that was not correct. I’m not inclined to blame anyone for this. I have no reason to believe that anybody was acting in bad faith and I certainly accept my share of the responsibility for this confusion.

In regards to sending another letter to the Mayor’s office–I would like to point out that from the very beginning, including in my initial letter to Mayor Potter, I stated that, while I personally thought it was a good idea, New Seasons Market’s support was dependent upon that of the neighborhood associations. I also said that in an interview with the Oregonian and in this blog. I think it’s obvious to the city where we stand on this particular point. All that info is at the very top of this blog if you’d like to review it.

In regards to the idea that New Seasons Market’s support for this proposal was somehow some huge factor in advancing the idea–it’s flattering that folks think we’re so influential, but I have to tell you that I haven’t seen anything in our interaction with the city of Portland government that leads me to believe that our opinion counts for more than anyone elses. I can tell you for certain that we’ve had no conversations with any elected officials or anyone who works in city government about this. I think we’re just one more factor that is considered.

In regards to the requests that we take an “unconditional stand” on this issue one way or the other–here’s what I can tell you; while I have my own opinion about this (which I would hope everyone engaged in this conversation would agree I have a right to) we unconditionally support whatever decision the neighborhood assocations make.

thisKat said...

Brian, thanks for your clarification. But there’s still a little problem–and it’s not yours, by the way. I’ve seen this happen before when people ask for support of the “neighborhood associations.” They’re just not set up to be truly representative like, say, our state government is.

People who want NA support go to one of the monthly board meetings, which, at least in the case of Kenton, are often attended almost exclusively by board members, though all meetings are open to the entire neighborhood (or anyone else for that matter). They make their request, and whatever the outcome of that meeting is considered (sometimes erroneously) the word of the entire association. The problem is that the boards just can’t always accurately represent the majority opinion of all members of the neighborhood (which include residents, property owners and businesses).

Portland government doesn’t have representation at the neighborhood level. All council members are “at large.” So, often people ask the NAs for their opinion, as a matter of political expediency (I don’t mean that in a negative way, it’s just reality). But really, do we want NAs to try to act like our representatives to the city? They would have to get a professional staff and funding to do so, tying up taxpayer money, and would, in the end, be redundant. I would rather ask my NA to work on the projects that are special to Kenton so we don’t have to try to navigate the city’s bureaucracy. I don’t mind that people ask the NAs their opinions; I just wish their feedback was not made out to represent more than it actually does.

So Brian, I completely see where your heart is and your intentions and I thank you for the open and forthright manner in which you’ve conducted yourself. I just think that NAs aren’t the best place to look for consensus. Perhaps next time you could offer up your store as a meeting place of all the NAs…with BBQ! Mmmmm….

And Interstate Neighbor, to clarify: I did not mean to imply that my husband or any other board member didn’t think this matter was worth the time. *And please also let me make it clear that I do not at all speak on behalf or claim to represent the opinions of anyone on the Kenton board, my husband included!* My husband, I assure you, does his fair share. I suspect the meeting you went to was an official general meeting, not a board meeting. What happened in the case of Kenton, as I understand it, is that the committee who is asking for the name change came to a board meeting and asked for support. They committee didn’t give more than a few hours notice that they were coming (not entirely unheard of, and allowed). The board gave their support. What its members didn’t anticipate, I suspect, is that this issue would be so incredibly controversial.

I suppose the KNA could call a general meeting and hold a vote of all residents. The Kenton by-laws require 7 days advanced written or telephone notice to “all members of KNA,” which means all residents within the neighborhood boundaries. The only practical way to ensure that the by-laws are followed is that they send notice through the mail, which costs money, upwards of $1000 or more. (Incidentally, Overlook and Arbor Lodge have to give 7 days notice to “active members” and I’m not sure if that’s the same thing as all residents & businesses. Perhaps it is. Perhaps they have more volunteers to put fliers on all doorsteps.)

But if the KNA did hold a special meeting, what would this accomplish? In the end the neighborhood associations aren’t the ones with the power to make anything happen, they can only give feedback. As you know, it’s the city that has that power. And since there are already meetings scheduled, I personally would rather the KNA save the money and let the residents take their opinions to the city where they will have real, direct influence, instead of using the KNA as a conduit. At this point, it just doesn’t make sense.

Interstate Neighbor, you said, “Do you really think that the 90% of Interstate Corridor residents and business owners opposing this idea are racists?”

Of course not, and you’re putting completely inaccurate words in my mouth. I’m relaying the sadness I felt when I’ve had very uncomfortable conversations with some neighbors who are against having streets named after minorities because they are afraid of what it says about the neighborhood. I found their words shocking, and I bet you would, too.

The majority of people I’ve talked to–and it’s been a lot more since my first post–is that they’re worried about costs. I’m in the process of asking questions about this so I can better understand the concerns. As a business owner myself, I’m sensitive to unexpected costs from which you likely won’t see income. Years ago I worked at a business that is on Naito Parkway and was there when the street name was changed from Front Avenue. We had 5 years to comply with the name change and since we went through all the printed material with the old name on it faster than that, it didn’t costs us anything, at least that I was aware of. I really want to know more about the concerns about costs to individual businesses. (Brian, what are your thoughts on this?)

Many others say they simply don’t want more change. I don’t know exactly how to address that. I’ve seen lots of change living here for the last 10 years, and it’s been overwhelmingly good.

Interstate Neighbor, I do know this neighborhood. I believe its people are hard-working, independent-minded and generous. I think Cesar Chavez represents those values. Though believe me, I’m not kidding myself in thinking that there is a chance in hell that this name change is going to go through. And since I still haven’t heard a really good reason why, I’m sad and confused.

And hopefully I’m not entering into petty territory here, but Interstate Neighbor, you said: “I think you’d rather sit behind the relative anonymity of your keyboard and call everyone opposed to the name change racists.”

Again, putting words in my mouth, but you’re also wrong. I’m not at all anonymous (see the link at my name). You are the one using a pseudonym without a way to contact you directly. Otherwise I’d send this to you to make sure we can continue a healthy and open dialogue.

And incidentally, you haven’t stated *why* you’re opposed to the name change. I’m sincerely curious.

SuzanneO said...

It’s heartening to see that New Seasons’ support of the name change is based on the views of its customers (the people and businesses, like me, who live here and will be affected by the Interstate name change). So, it’s obvious that New Seasons can no longer be in support of the name change.

Brian, you indicated that in your opinion, New Seasons doesn’t carry clout with city government (I’m paraphrasing, but hopefully I got the gist of what you meant). Well, unfortunately, I’m not sure that any of us carry any clout with city government–not sure they’ll ever listen to anyone… But, that’s a different issue :)

New Seasons, I believe, represents the hopes and the aspirations that this neighborhood has. I look forward to the day when Interstate is lined with neighborhood shops, restaurants, bars, coffee houses, etc. I look forward to the day that businesses like Fat Cobra are replaced. I see (and I don’t think I’m alone here) New Seasons representing the front-line of this change from seedy to city-like.

That’s why I believe that New Seasons’ views on the Interstate name change ARE important and that they ARE listened to. Believe me, the groups in favor of the Interstate name change advertise the support of New Seasons.

With that said, and since the neighborhood associations have spoken (not to mention the neighbors who attended and spoke at last nights’ meeting), it’s time for New Seasons to come out formally against the proposed name change.

Disgusted Parent said...

I was at the Public Meeting at Ockley Green school. My family was subjected to hearing racial slurs as well as impolite treatment from the folx against the proposal. My daughter was very upset because she has never been that close to unbridled racial hatred.

Everyone I talked in to anti group admitted that there were racists amongst them but somehow wished to gloss over it.

Neighborhood Assoication have NEVER been a representative sample of the residents of any neighboohood. They are generally more educated, well-heeled, moneyed, with a lot more leisure time than most folks. The NA that has claimed to represent me when dealing with a particular local business, had never spoken to me or anyone within 2 degrees of separation from me. I know literally hunders of Portland residents, homeowners and renters, yet not one of them is a member of an NA. In my experience, it’s more of a bully pulpit than anything else. With the racial component inherent in this issue, I am reminded of the Citizens’ Committees in the South. They were all about preserving heritage and traditions as well.

I am very disappointed that New Seasons has decided to kow-tow to this aggregate of bullies and racists. Our business will go elsewhere.

Suzanne Obermire said...

Wow, I’m not sure that I attended the same meeting that Disgusted Parent did… I am one of those Arbor Lodge residents that is opposed to the name change. Not because I am a racist and not because I do not honor Cesar Chavez. I am opposed because I do not believe that changing a historical street name accomplishes anything.

At the meeting I attended last night, the only racial slurs I heard were from people that want the name change calling those opposed “racists.” This is NOT a race issue. Why do the people who are trying to change a street name continue to make it a race issue?

I will continue to bring my business to New Seasons if they continue to listen to the majority of their customers who oppose this name change. And, you have pretty darn good product, too :)

Clark Ortiz said...

Disgusted parent must not have been at the same meeting. The only thing disgusting is the way this proposal is being played as a race card to further their cause. Anyone who opposes it is a racist. I for one am disappointed that “disgusted parent” hides behind anonymity. Mr. Chavez would not want this. The struggle is over. I was born in Arizona, raised in central Calif. You don’t represent “our people”. This is a historic corridor for the Northwest. Don’t sell honoring Mr. Chavez so cheaply. The new farmers market downtown would be great! People would remember him every time they went. The people organizing this proposal are proffesional activists. They do not have our best interest at heart. You oppose, “racist”. You disagree, “racist. That’s how they scare political officials into these proposal with strong arm tactics. This is tearing our community apart. The people say No. End of story. If I were NEW SEASONS, I’d stay neutral. It’s a no win for you. They label you racist a store next. Si se puede? NADA! Power to the people!

Disgusted Parent said...

Actually, I was at the same meeting at Ockley Green and my child and her friends were called names by your compatriots. That makes it a racial issue, no matter how much you try to deny it. Sorry, but as a person of color it would figure that a racist would say something to me, my child and her friends at the school that they attend that they may or may not say to you as white person. Since I did not see one person of color testify against the renaming, I am assuming that your are white.

Racial slurs called out in front of the school prior to the meeting and during the meeting. To schoolchildren. We are NOT liars. I’m sorry if it ruins your self-concept, but you have indeed thrown your lot in with racists. Um, some segregationists were perfectly nice, church-going folks that just wanted to preserve their tradition and history. You can proudly stand shoulder to shoulder with them. If it was about majority rules we would still have slavery, segregation, women without the right to vote, etc. The mob is not always right. Martin Luther King was a “professional activist”, as was Fannie Lou Hamer, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Pedro Albizu Campos. As a person of color, a parent whose child was victimized by your compatriots, I proudly attempt to stand their shoes. Even if they are too big. Y’all stay over on the Bull Connor side. And folks wonder why the Hammerskin Nation is having a 20th anniversary three day hootenanny in Portland. Because their beliefs are not too far off from those expressed on this page. It is all about tradition. Isn’t it?

Disgusted Parent said...

not everyone at the meeting was a racist. My contention is that if you join in with racists and don’t hold them accountable fro their racism, you are as bad or worse. I met some nice people on the other side, not one of them confronted the folks who made anti-Latino slurs tot hem at previous meetings. Remember the parable about nazi Germany, “When they came for the Jews, I said nothing because I was not Jewish. . . . .”. Same deal here on an admittedly much, much, “head-of- a-pin” smaller scale. Many of the folks joining in this are the same anti-immigration, english only folks. Until the NAs and other neighbors expressly tell those racists to hitch their wagon to another issue, you will be an aggregate group with shared values in many brown and black peoples’ minds. Especially those who heard Mr. Reinhold say that he would NEVER call Union Street, Martin Luther King Blvd. But it’s NOT about race, riiiiight.

Wacky Mommy said...

What gets me the most is that no one is admitting, yeah I’m being a racist. No one. Own up to it. If that’s what you are, I can’t change your mind, but I can hope you change your mind. And I can ask you to own up to it and stop pretending it’s something else.

The other thing that gets me is all the fuss about signs, stationery (hello? who writes letters anymore except me?), business cards, etc. You don’t have to change your name, Interstate Lanes, Interstate Dental, etc. Keep the name! Your grandma can write you letters from now on into infinity and address them “Portland Blvd.” or “Interstate Ave.” and your mail carrier will get them to you. How many people still say Union Ave. instead of MLK? Whatever.

Suzanne, of course it’s a race issue. I’m not saying everyone who opposes the name change is a racist, but I will say that anyone who calls an African-American a “coon” and a Cadillac a “Coonillac” is a racist, and that’s what I heard a couple of years ago from someone from my “non-racist” neighborhood. Lemme see — yeah, it was someone who posted an earlier comment on this site.

Own up to it, if that’s how you talk and that’s what you think of blacks.

I will say that anyone who says, “We already had Rosa Parks shoved down our throats” is being a racist.

I will say that the white moms I talked with who refused to send their kids to Ockley because, “We’d be in the minority!” are racists. I cannot believe the hideous things I’ve heard people say since we’ve lived over here. And I’m a girl who grew up in NE and heard plenty of racist talk her whole life.

Maybe you’re not a racist. Let’s say your great-great-great Grandpa was named “Mr. Interstate,” and darn it! You hate to see the family name disappear, then I will say, “That’s valid.” I have heard no valid reasons for *not* changing the name.

White people in my neighborhood (not all white people, dig? but many white people) don’t like or care about Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, Asians, anyone who’s not white. You caught it from the President, maybe, this sickness.

“George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” (Kanye West)

You feel that way? I can’t tell you how to feel. But I can ask that you admit it.

John Reinhold said...

I oppose renaming Interstate.

It is so easy for “Disgusted Parent” to call us all racist. But Disgusted Parent doesn’t know me, or my family, or my history.

In fact I am a “Disgusted Parent” too. I am Disgusted that the city is violating city code, that the city is not involving the community, that the people in the “for” camp can’t come up with any argument better than calling us racist.

If all people look for is racism - that is all they will see.

SuzanneO said...

Yes, please don’t put words in my mouth or head. This is NOT a race issue for any of the people I have talked to about opposing the name change. Why can’t we just oppose it without being labeled racists? I like the historical aspect of Interstate. This little bit of Americana in my back yard does have significance to me. I oppose changing the name. Period. End of story. Again, I don’t oppose this because I do not honor CC. Wacky Mommy, you ARE wacky. And you are close-minded. You can’t see any side but your own. The Rosa Parks name change was, indeed, shoved down our throat–without any neighborhood comment or input. Tell me you can’t understand why this would make ‘the people’ mad? What am I missing here?

In any event, it appears that some sane commissioners who AREN’T afraid of being labeled racists by the racist groups may be seeing the light and bringing a different city gov perspective to this. We can only hope so.

thisKat said...

How would you (anyone) feel about this:

The Cesar Chavez Interstate Avenue

…Drawing on the tradition in NYC to keep the old and add the new when renaming streets.

Kevin Fitzroy said...

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 at 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 therefore are 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 cease 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.

JoséOnDenver said...

OK, let’s get one thing clear– one can be against the proposed name change of Interstate Ave. and be the furthest thing from a racist. I was myself born in Guatemala of a Salvadoran mother and an (Anglo-)American father who was a hispanophile since his early teens. I grew up in a bicultural, bilingual household, and make my living as an English to Spanish translator. I have more than once contributed to the César Chávez’-founded United Farm Workers’ Union. I am a bicultural American citizen just as Chávez was.
I am not happy with the proposed renaming simply because it’s not being left to US, the people who live in the neighborhoods surrounding N. Interstate Avenue, an arterial with landmark status, a historic name that isn’t a dead white guy’s name, to boot! If it’s put to a vote of the people who live in N. Portland, and WE approve it, great. I just don’t want the name change imposed on us by the City Council, that’s all.
And may I add, why is it that North and Northeast Portland are the only parts of the city where name changes of major arterials are being proposed and implemented? Why aren’t Powell, or Canyon, or Burnside, or Foster, or Barbur being considered? Is it because it was thought that our part of town would make relatively little fuss about it? That’s sure how it feels.

You Don’t Say said...

I Agree with Jose, but what gives with the unwillingness of the Chevez group or our Mayor to look at other options????

Richard De Wolf said...

As another business owner on Interstate, I applaud New Seasons’ stand on this matter. It is very diplomatic to support the neighbors’ opinions. They are your customers and you wish to provide products and moral support to the public that supports you. I wish the mayor and the remaining city council members are that supportive and diplomatic. As a board member and business owner that works towards the history of our city, it is against many of our beliefs to change the name of existing streets or facilities.

1. It is the history of a city. Interstate does not have negative connotations. Please stop comparing it to Nazis and the KKK. That makes the proponents look weak.

2. It is a financial burden on the city and the businesses along Interstate.

3. It is wasteful in a city that wants to be environmentally friendly.

My suggestions have been posted elsewhere, but I would like to reiterate the strongest comment I heard for both sides. “Why change history when we can make our own? Honor something new for Chavez.”

pixie said...

I am not in favor of the name change, It does not make me a racist because I am against the name change. I wish it to stay Interstate and keep my tradition and my customs. I am offended when my history has been changed for the sake of illegal immigrants so they can justify their breaking the law by coming to my country illegally.

Chris Wheby said...

I have been following this issue for some time and have some thoughts. A: Now that several polls have found that 80-90% of area residents do not want the name change, why has New Seasons not come out against the change as promised? B: Why has the city council not followed its own rules on street name changes? C: This is not a race issue, and I am not a racist, I just want due process. If it turns out that Interstate is the best choice, it’s cool with me. D: Why won’t the CACBC return my emails and comments? And why is it Interstate or nothing? E: If this is shoved down my throat, it will leave a very bad taste. I love Portland and Chicanos, and Mr. Chavez as in particular, but if it is all or nothing I choose nothing…because no one asked me.

Sinclair Jennings said...

I've heard anger and "reason", but very little that makes sense.

If you're afraid that the names of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and Caesar Chavez will make people from out of town view the area negatively...why?

What do you think of us?

Is my mere presence enough to anger and/or disgust you?

Do you think nothing of our heroes and role models?

Well, I have some things to tell you:

We don't need your validation.

We've lived in this country since we were dragged here. We helped build it. We have our culture stolen and are treated as if it isn't ours to use and cherish. We've never never received an apology for any attempt at genocide or institutionalized racism or sexism.

We just hear smarmy things from smug, out of touch Portland.

"If you look for racism, that's all you'll see."

(And most of the badly written post by Kevin Fitzroy. You're trying too hard.)


Nobody wants to take blame, especially generations after the initial act.

Isn't that why our parents resisted (and still resist) change regarding environmental issues?

It won't be a lot of fun to be the first generation to truly have to admit ongoing fault and begin to fix it.

If this Earth exists in 100 years, your people will have relinquished the coveted majority over 50 years. All of this pushing back is obvious as Botox.

I hate to think of any of us being treated as less than human, but our kids and grandkids won't enjoy it here at this rate.

We're not looking for your praise or acceptance in a street name.

(And stop pretending to know us. We have little interaction in this town. Your one black friend you went to high school with hasn't talked to you in years.)