I never understood why Portland Boulevard was named that; it was just too far from the heart of Portland to make much sense to me. I admit, I’m still getting used to it now being called Rosa Parks Way, and I often slip in forgetting to state the new name when I am referring to the street. Anyway, now there’s all of this controversy regarding the re-naming of Interstate to Cesar Chavez. Personally, I’m on the fence about the idea. On one hand, I’m very much for the idea of honoring the former labor leader – I think it’s an important idea – yet, on the other hand, I question the method of how this is being done, and wonder why it’s being applied to a street that already has a historic name and exists in an area that has little to do with the man in question. Maybe some place in Produce Row would be more relevant? Or perhaps somewhere in the Northwest Industrial Triangle? I don’t really have any good suggestions.
What I do wonder, though, is how many of these proponents and opponents involved remember that MLK Jr Boulevard was once named Union Avenue? Union was named, I believe, in order to honor the uniting of Portland proper with the then-city of East Portland. The change to MLK makes symbolic sense to me. What I an curious, and unknowledgable about, is how that renaming process was initiated, and what the public reaction was. This renaming happened less than twenty years ago, and doesn’t seem to have incurred any long term pain.
Regardless of whether it remains Interstate or becomes Cesar Chavez, I know one thing for sure: by 2025, people will call it whatever’s decided, and no one will remember what the drama was all about.