After listening to yesterday’s testimony at City Hall I finally “get it”. I’d been thinking that a tribute to honor Cesar E. Chavez could take many forms. A community center replete with recreation, employment, housing, and social resources named in his honor was 1 idea I had. You know; let the city put its money where its mouth is. Another thought I had was to name a street in an upscale part of town after him. Make those rich folks squirm a little bit. I couldn’t figure out what the big deal about renaming N. Interstate was all about. My question was answered by folks presenting testimony.
One woman spoke of how N. Interstate runs parallel to N.E. Martin Luther King Boulevard, and that’s important because of the struggles the Black and Latino communities have shared in Oregon. That makes a lot of sense. Another point made by several people was that the Commissioners had given their word that this was going to happen, and had reneged on that promise. I wasn’t aware of this (which I’ll go into further), but that makes their word pretty worthless in general. I guess what really got to me most was a man who spoke of “wanting a win”. In his 2 minutes of testimony he was able to express the frustration of a minority group that seems to always be on the losing end of things. He articulated the feelings his people have about not getting to live self directed lives. He was talking about PRINCIPAL.
Having said that (to quote Randy Leonard), I want to share a few thoughts about the process involved, and how people in this state do things. I live 3 blocks west of Interstate on N. Emerson St. I heard both proponents and opponents of the name change saying they had each done extensive neighborhood outreach to find out what people on and around Interstate thought of it. No one came to my door. No one sent me any letter. No one left any flier on my porch. Perhaps if they had done so, I wouldn’t have been as ignorant and uninformed as to what both sides were thinking. I guess you had to be on the inside to have that information. The fact is, I didn’t even know there was a problem until AFTER a meeting with the Overlook Neighborhood Association had occurred. A quarterly newsletter they send out told me about a row that had taken place.
Why do Oregonians believe that secrecy and small groups of insiders is the best practice for improving the community? I’ve written about this phenomenon several times in regard to the developmental disability community here. It’s not only a weak modus operendus, but in my opinion it’s blatantly unethical. Open and honest dialogue is what gets things done in a sustainable way. If you’re going to run around trying to be Bush Junior, your karma/God will catch up to you, and in the end things will go belly up. I’m not a religious man, but I do believe in the Golden Rule. Do you want to be left out of the loop on issues you care about? Didn’t think so...
We have merely seen the tip of the iceberg on the issue of Cesar E. Chavez/N. Interstate Ave., and now S.W. 4th Ave. Ultimately there may be some serious discussion on race, class, and phony politics. I believe that may result in some healing. It will be painful but good; but only if it’s done in an honest, transparent way. In the meantime, I want to go on record as saying RENAME NORTH INTERSTATE AVE. to NORTH CESAR E. CHAVEZ BOULEVARD!!!!!!