Controversy Rages Over Street Name Change

A proposal to change the name of Interstate Avenue in North Portland to Cesar E Chavez Boulevard has been met with growing controversy. The name change was soundly rejected in several neighborhood meetings this past week, and faces heavy opposition from neighborhood residents.

From the Oregonian:

Scores of Arbor Lodge residents added their voices Thursday night to the debate over renaming Interstate Avenue in North Portland to honor farm labor activist Cesar E. Chavez.

Dozens spoke and voted against the name change. A handful spoke in favor.

"A lot of things get dumped on North Portland, not this," one woman said.

"Why can't you guys focus on renaming the library that's coming on Interstate?" another woman complained.

"I'm against the Interstate name change," said a resident who introduced himself as John Manuel Martinez. "I worked as a migrant worker, picked beans, apples, peaches. I do not see how the high cost of the name change will not be passed on to us both as taxpayers and mass transit users."

A young Latino woman responded, "To me, this is an opportunity to embrace us in your community." When she strayed past the 30-second time limit to speak, she was hushed into silence.

Metroblogging Portland also has coverage of the neighborhood meetings:

Just returned from a lively Overlook Neighborhood association meeting. Approximately 100 or more people from Overlook and the adjoining Arbor Lodge neighborhood came out to hear the proposal to rename Interstate blvd. to Cesar Chavez Way. The presentation by the committee to rename Interstate was well done and centered around the accomplishments of Cesar Chavez and why we should honor him. One of the presenters, Sonny (not sure about spelling,) kept arguing that the rename is for the kids. He argued in a way that by renaming the street, we are giving kids a hero and that this would reduce violence, gangs and all the woes of north. I'm not sure I buy that.

In the end, the vote was 86-6 against supporting the rename. Further, another vote was taking to actively state the Overlook Neighborhood is against the proposal. That vote came in 92 in favor and 12 opposed. These numbers state unequivocally and passionately that Overlook does not want Interstate renamed. Next up is Arbor Lodge on Thursday evening. I wonder if that will be as passionate. I assume as much.

Meanwhile, Multnomah County Commissioner Jeff Cogen defends the proposed name discussion about the name change, and notes the ugly side of the debate:

What is clear to us now is that those who view a César Chávez Boulevard or park or school as an empty political gesture are wrong – some Portlanders clearly would benefit from a little exposure to other races, cultures and surnames with accents. We have to wonder if these same people would object to a renaming that memorialized a white historical figure. Would business owners be so quick to cling to Interstate’s “historic” name if their business cards could read “John F. Kennedy Blvd.” instead?

This question is particularly relevant in light of the direction some of the conversations around this issue have been taking. Some of us have personally experienced the ugly side of this debate at community and neighborhood meetings. We’ve learned that activists supporting the change have been publicly heckled and called names. This is not the way respectful, intelligent adults should be acting, and it is behavior that opponents of the change should not tolerate.

So, what's in a name?


  • jeff cogen (unverified)

    To be clear, my post wasn't arguing that the name should be changed. I think it's good for us to have a community conversation around this and even in my office we have different opinions about what the outcome should be.

    My main point was that while engaging in that conversation we need to be careful to avoid hurtful and racist language, and to be respectful of all of the members of our community. If we do that, the conversation can be a positive for our community. Otherwise it can be corrosive and divisive.

  • (Show?)

    I think renaming a street Cesar Chavez Blvd. is a fine idea - I'm just not sure it should be Interstate.

    I still think they should rename Killingsworth. With all due respect to the Killingsworth family (whoever and wherever they may be), it's an unfortunate name that doesn't help that part of the city overcome its history of violence.

    Either that -- or why not make the name a primary appellation for one of the numbered streets. Say, 39th Avenue into Cesar Chavez. If you double-named it (like New York's Sixth Avenue slash Avenue of the Americas, or Portland's 82nd Avenue of Roses) then there would be less confusion.

    It's an old comedian's cliche joke, but why DO we always put Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd in the "black" neighborhoods? If Cesar Chavez was a great man, worthy of all of our respect (and he was), then why not run the street bearing his name through the "white" neighborhoods?

    (Acknowledging certainly that the very notion of "black neighborhoods" and "white neighborhoods" is offensive - but you get what I mean.)

  • dieselboi (unverified)

    Thanks for the link. My frustration with the rename has nothing at all to do with Cesar Chavez. It is how the rename committee is going about doing the change. They were pushing it through the city council and Mayor's office even before talking with the neighborhoods. They are using the tactic that if they get Mayor Potter behind them, it is a done deal and that pisses me off. I want to have a say in what happens no only in my neighborhood (Overlook) but also in this city. There is a reason the building commission has open meetings to discuss zoning changes and such. Why didn't Potter follow the same tack and set this issue up as a city-wide discussion.

  • Joel (unverified)

    Chavez is a fine person to honor. So is Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. However, I feel that the renamers are being uncreative. Why can't we find somebody locally significant to honor, a distinctive name that would spur education and pride in Portland?

    I have no nominations, but a stroll down to the historical society or a chat with some locals would bring up nominations.

  • VR (unverified)

    People always like to play the race card - but this is hardly about race. We had the Rosa Parks name change surprise us. Most people in the city had no idea until they drove up I5 and saw the new signs. And that change did away with PORTLAND, the street that was named for our city.

    Every time we change a name of a street - whether it be to a historical person or a unicorn, it takes away the history that existed on that street before the name change.

    I live in the Brooklyn neighborhood, and during the two world wars they changed a lot of the names of the streets because they were German names, and no one wanted to have German things associated with them.

    Well, that was wrong then - and I belive that name changes now are wrong.

    Certainly we should honor people - but changing a name of a street just seems slimy and an easy way out. And the advocates ALWAYS play the race card. Oh, you don't want the name change? You are racist...

    But I love this city and I don't want to lose it all in the name of political correctness.

  • East Bank Thom (unverified)

    I still think they should rename Killingsworth. With all due respect to the Killingsworth family (whoever and wherever they may be), it's an unfortunate name

    If you have a legitimate beef with the Killingsworth family, then you ought to make that the focus of your idea to un-name the street, as opposed to any accidental etymology.

    Acknowledging certainly that the very notion of "black neighborhoods" and "white neighborhoods" is offensive - but you get what I mean.

    Not really. What do you mean? Why did you pose the question: "why not run the street bearing his name through the "white" neighborhoods?"

  • sean cruz (unverified)

    A perspective on honoring Cesar Chavez, “a treasured American…”

    By Sean Cruz

    As the drive to create a permanent, tangible remembrance in Portland honoring the great American hero Cesar Chavez gets under way, it is a good time to reflect on how Oregonians have or have not honored him in the past.

    “We draw our strength from the very despair in which we find we have been forced to live. We shall endure.” –Cesar Chavez***

    In 1999, KBOO community radio was one of the first entities in the nation to declare March 31, Cesar Chavez’ birthday, a national holiday (see related posting on

    “It’s ironic that those who till the soil, cultivate and harvest fruits and vegetables and other foods that fill your tables with abundance have nothing left for themselves.” --Cesar Chavez

    That’s right, the KBOO Board of Directors voted to declare a National holiday, and it was my proudest moment as a member of that Board.

    Woodburn High School hosts an annual Cesar Chavez Day celebration each Spring, although the local school board refused to name a new middle school after him.

    “There is so much human potential wasted by poverty, so many children are forced to quit school and go to work.” –Cesar Chavez

    In 2005, the Oregon State Senate passed Senate Resolution 1, honoring the late civil rights leader. Senate President Peter Courtney, Senator Majority Leader Kate Brown and Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli sponsored this bill.

    “My motivation to change these unjustices came from my personal life… from watching what my mother and father went through when I was growing up; from what we experienced as migrant farm workers…” –Cesar Chavez

    Legislative leaders traditionally reserve low-numbered bills for issues of particular significance, or to convey a sense of elevated honor and respect, hence the number one designation for the Cesar Chavez legislation.

    For example, Senate President Peter Courtney could not have made his commitment to the issue of mental health parity plainer than he did, by designating this legislation as Senate Bill 1 in both the 2003 and 2005 legislative sessions.

    “Our mother used to say there is a difference between being of service and being a servant…mother taught us not to be afraid to fight—to stand up for our rights. But she also taught us not to be violent.” –Cesar Chavez

    The day in 2005 that Senate Resolution 1 came to the floor was a proud moment for Oregon, for Oregonians, and for those of us who keep the memory of Cesar Chavez alive in our hearts.

    Senate Resolution 1 encourages Oregonians to undertake a day of voluntary service to others to honor “Cesar Chavez, a treasured American….”

    “There is plenty of love and good will in our movement to give energy to our struggle and still have plenty left over to break down and change the climate of hate and fear around us.” --Cesar Chavez

    While not officially in remembrance of Cesar Chavez, the 400 or so volunteers who turned out for Project Homeless Connect on Tuesday September 18, certainly captured that same spirit of voluntary service to others.

    “When you have people together that believe in something very strongly, whether it be politics, unions or religion—things happen.” –Cesar Chavez

    Here is the text of Senate Resolution 1: .


    “Whereas Cesar Chavez, a treasured American, was born near Yuma, Arizona, on March 31, 1927, and built a creditable legacy of achievement and service by working for economic and social justice for farmworkers; and

    “Whereas Cesar Chavez, working with the Community Service Organization in California, led voter registration drives that helped register native born Latinos; and

    “Whereas in 1962, when the Community Service Organization refused to create a farmworkers' union, Cesar Chavez resigned and founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers of America, bringing national attention to the plight of farmworkers through nonviolent protests, including fasting; and

    “Whereas Cesar Chavez led boycotts calling attention to health problems farmworkers suffered due to the use of certain pesticides on crops; and

    “Whereas Cesar Chavez was recognized by the United States and Mexico with each country's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Aguila Azteca respectively, for his enormous contributions to ending injustice; and

    “Whereas in 2003 the United States Postal Service commemorated the life of Cesar Chavez with a postage stamp because he was a man of strength and conviction whose life serves as an example of determination and humility to all of us (see related posting on; and

    “Whereas Cesar Chavez's example has motivated thousands of Oregonians to take up and to support causes that he championed and popularized, making a positive and lasting change for Oregon farmworkers; and

    “Whereas Cesar Chavez's work and legacy have been recognized by Governor John Kitzhaber via his proclamation on March 31, 2001, as well as by the Woodburn School District, the City of Woodburn, the City of Medford and other entities that have declared special observances; now, therefore, Be It Resolved by the Senate of the State of Oregon:

    “That we, the members of the Senate of the Seventy-third Legislative Assembly, encourage all Oregonians to undertake a day of voluntary service to others in honor of Cesar Chavez and encourage all Oregon counties, municipalities and school districts to join in recognizing Cesar Chavez's life and legacy through proclamations, observances and community and educational activities.”

    --End of Senate Resolution 1

    “There is no turning back. We are winning because ours is a revolution of the mind and heart.” –Cesar Chavez

    Eight states have declared Cesar Chavez Day of Service and Learning an official holiday, with a call for voluntary service to others in his memory: Wisconsin, Michigan, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, California and Texas.

    “Our struggle is not easy. Those that oppose our cause are rich and powerful, and they have many allies in high places. We are poor. Our allies are few. But we have something the rich do not own. We have our own bodies and spirits and the justice of our cause as our weapons.” –Cesar Chavez

    In addition to his work as a civil rights leader, it is important to remember Chavez’ legacy as an environmentalist of the highest caliber regarding the use of pesticides and exposure to poisons by farmworkers and their families, and his role in banning the backbreaking, crippling “short hoe.”

    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. acknowledged Cesar Chavez’s unique methodologies:

    “You and your valiant fellow workers have demonstrated your commitment to righting grievous wrongs forced upon exploited people. We are together with you in spirit and determination that our dreams for a better tomorrow will be realized.” --Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Cesar Chavez’ worn-out body gave out on April 23, 1993 in San Luis, Arizona.

    More than 40,000 mourners came to Delano, California to honor Cesar Chavez when he was laid to rest on April 29.

    But his spirit endures, and many Oregonians seek a permanent, tangible, physical presence in Portland.

    The honorings listed in the Senate Resolution do not quite get us there, and the historic 37-cent US Postage stamp honoring Chavez has largely gone to the Land of Outdated Postage stamps.

    “Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducated the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the person who is not afraid anymore. We have looked into the future and the future is ours.” --Cesar Chavez

    ….bringing us to the present day and the discussion about renaming Interstate Avenue, and one more quotation, titled:

    “Prayer of the Farm Workers’ Struggle” by Cesar Chavez

    “Show me the suffering of the most miserable; So I will know my people’s plight. Free me to pray for others; For you are present in every person. Help me to take responsibility for my own life; So that I can be free at last. Grant me courage to serve others; For in service there is true life. Give me honesty and patience; So that I can work with other workers. Bring forth song and celebration; So that the spirit will be alive among us. Let the spirit flourish and grow; So we will never tire of the struggle. Let us remember those who have died for justice; Help us love even those who hate us; So we can change the world.”

    May the words of the great man himself guide us through this local process.

    Viva Cesar Chavez!

    Meanwhile, if there’s a street in Portland that’s crying out for a name change, it’s Killingsworth.

    I have no doubt that a proposal to rename Killingsworth can meet the standard set in Portland’s city ordinances.

    2,500 signatures? No problema.

    The phone book indicates only one business on the entire street that bears the name, indicating its low desirability among business interests.

    At the eastern end of Killingsworth are the large populations of Latino apartment dwellers.

    The #72, busiest bus line in Portland, runs through much of its length.

    The educational nexus of N-NE Portland is located on Killingsworth, between Portland Community College Cascade and Jefferson High School.

    Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard (or Avenue) signs would appear on both I-5 and I-205.

    …And at the Interstate Max station….

    This is a good time to expand the discussion, involve the larger community, invoke the spirit of Cesar Chavez, and avoid locking ourselves into positions that will serve to prolong the effort and increase bitterness.

    Sooner or later, there will be a permanent, tangible, physical tribute to Chavez and the Spirit of Chavez in Portland. No question about it.

    The question is how we as a community will get there.

    (originally posted on and

    Updated September 21, 2007

    ***Quotations thanks to the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    Why NOT name something new for this man. He did some very important things for the environment, Hispanics and the Labor movement. Naming a street for him through two neighborhoods that do not want the name change seems disingenuous.

  • ben (unverified)

    True justice would IMO be to add the "Cesar Chavez Highway" apellation to OR 210 or 99W, but then, that's not so much a Portland thing, is it?

    Please pardon my sense of irony.

    I felt the impulse to say "but what about living wages etc." but then I remembered that Oregon actually tries to provide those things.

    Hmm. Maybe I've been living out of state for too long.

  • James X. (unverified)

    Just as an advisory, good netiquette is typically to link to the source and provide a short excerpt, not to quote in toto.

  • ws (unverified)

    Perhaps ben, (comment just above) has a better sense than most commenting here so far, of why and what in the public view should be designated as a memorial and reminder of the work of great persons. If I understand him, he suggests Cesar Chavez Highway" apellation to OR 210 or 99W because those roads run straight through the heart of the ag district, where many seasonal crop workers were the beneficiaries of the efforts of Cesar Chavez and many others fighting for agricultural workers rights. Tualitan Valley Hwy in Washington Co. might be another candidate. Or, how about something out in Multnomah east county where they actually still have cropland?

    What exactly if anything, does Interstate Ave have to do with Cesar Chavez or seasonal agricultural workers? It's kind of pathetic to just go around naming streets after notable individuals when the individual in question has no real relevance to the area. No wonder people aren't supporting the name change.

    And re; Killingsworth. Why not do at least a little research into the significance of the name before being ready to dump it from it's long held association with a paticular street, simply because the rootword 'Killing..' makes up part of the complete name? Who knows?...could be Killingsworth, whoever or whatever that may refer to, is due at least a little bit of the honor and respect that Cesar Chavez is.

  • (Show?)

    As some have pointed out, there are many ways popular figures could be rememebered/commemorated, certainly renaming a street or highway is only one of many possiblities. It's a matter of being creative in terms of what would be a fitting recognition.

    If the city is so set on opening a center for day labors, why not name that after Chavez?

  • (Show?)

    Kari's got an interesting idea. It's much more extensive than that in NYC - a whole raft of numbered streets are co-named after famous people (West 84th St west of Amsterdam Avenue = Edgar Allan Poe, part of 7th Ave = Adam Clayton Powell, Bowery & 2nd Ave = Joey Ramone Place, etc.).

    Co-naming is a nice compromise because the person is honored with street signs and awareness but businesses and individuals don't have to reprint all their stationery and go through change-of-address processes even though they didn't actually move.

    In Washington, DC, IIRC, for many years the state of Washington was the only state that did not have an avenue named after it (inasmuch as the whole city and the state are named after the same guy). But after some lobbying it was determined that Washington should get an avenue. So they found a street that had no buildings fronting on it (i.e. no addresses to change), and called that Washington Avenue.


  • Steve (unverified)

    What I'm sensing in North Portland is an ugly surge of white nativism. I can't tell you how many people have said unconsciously racist things in opposition to the name change.

    The typical refuge they take when confronted with their blatant racism is twofold:

    1) It's not about Chavez, it's about process. (See metblogs.)


    2) What significance did Chavez have to Portland? (See Portland Mercury Blogtown.)

    (or Would it really be an honor to him to name a street after him? or Why not a school or a park? or I'm not racist, I have a Mexican friend.)

    The quote in the Oregonian that sums up the attitude I'm experiencing in North Portland was "Some minorities do what they want to do, and they should go somewhere else."

    I think what we're seeing, and it ain't pretty, is a backlash against the inexorable slide toward a non-white majority in this country. The raging anti-Mexican sentiment on the blogosphere surrounding the Mexican curriculum in Oregon schools is another symptom of this resurgent nativism.

  • (Show?)

    I propose we rename Capital HWY Cesar Chavez HWY. It is bigger, longer and on the West Side of town. West Side people need to be reminded of people like Ceasar Chavez.

    We need to bring integration to the west side of Portland. We have done so well on the east side and I feel we can do better on the west side if we would only invest the effort. Naming a significant road way after a man such as this would be a powerful statement and show how deep we Oregonians are to embracing the cultures of the world.


  • Adrian Rosolie (unverified)

    EBT, I don't think anyone has a problem with the Killingsworth family, but from growing up and living right next to that area, I can tell you the unfortunate implications go pretty deep. It has a violent history and gangs feed off it like crazy. Though I don't think changing it would immediately transform it into the next Alberta.

  • (Show?)


    Renaming Killingsworth? Now that is about as novel as renaming Broadway street. You know when I think of Broadway Street, I think of all of the stories of my grandfather and his friends use to share with me and a few other lucky young people back in the 70's. Telling me about the white racist Portland Police officers of that day that use to rough them up because they were out to late or maybe they scared one of the white shop owners. And don't get me started on the Dude that is enough in itself to call for the renaming of the entire city let alone a street. If bad memories are a good reason to rename a street, then I hope we do not limit them to recent memories....LOL

    The last Killingworth moved out of Northeast Portland (Walnut Park) a little over 20 years ago. One of Mr. Killingworth's daughters sold her home ( The One Mr. Killingsworth Built) that is located on the corner of NE.Cleveland and Sumner in 1981 and moved on. Back in the 1950's she was one of the few people that stood up for integration in Northeast Portland. In fact she made it a point to welcome one the first black families in Walnut Park in the early 50's. (The Crumbles) Her leadership and her families history is one of the reasons people like me are proud to call inner northeast Portland home to this day. Nuff Said.


  • Jesse B. (unverified)

    Wow. Many of these comments have me at a loss for words.

  • Adrian Rosolie (unverified)

    I was just hit with a novel idea: How about we take the large amount of money that will get spent on ideas like this , and instead use it to start an educational program to teach kids about these great people and how they changed their world.

  • (Show?)

    EBT... To clarify and extend my remarks... I'm basically getting at what Fred was getting at. There's this odd thing that seems to happen where notable people of color have things named after them in neighborhoods that have high concentrations of people of color.

    If Cesar Chavez is worth naming a street after, and I think he is, then let's name a street up in the West Hills. I nominate Vista Avenue - here's my Google Map.

    Or would that upset the white power structure too much?

  • (Show?)

    Fred -- thanks for the history lesson. It'd be nice if more people knew about that family. Otherwise, we're just stuck with the "killings" part of it that Adrian referenced.

  • MCT (unverified)

    I'm with Ben....especially the living wages part. Honoring a man for improving the plight of migrant workers when their plight has not improved all that much in 30 years?

    But what about ALL minimum wage workers regardless of ethnicity or legality? YOU try living on $8 an hour. Try saving for retirement on that.

    To tell you the truth renaming a street for Chavez or any other activist seems kinda silly to me. Their dreams, our work, has yet to be realized. Changing a street name is a mockery, and something of a red herring to make us feel good about something we really should feel bad about. Actions speak louder than street names.

  • Jack (unverified)

    Joel and VR bring up some excellent points. The patronizing elitism of Cogen's and Kari's comments is unsurprising, but just one of a host of reasons I'm against this name change.

    What, pray tell, does Cesar Chavez have to do with Portland? True, he operated a bit here in Oregon, but he was an Arizonan who worked primarily in California. I like Cesar Chavez and think he did great work, but have you even bothered to look for local examples of prominent minorities? Who's brainfart was "Rosa Parks Blvd"? Had they never heard of Beatrice Cannady? Or McCants Stewart? Or Shinzaburo Ban? Or DeNorval Unthank? Did they/you even bother to ask any local historians or community members for suggestions? Or was it just another example of this "it's for your own good" orders from on high? And calling anybody who disagreed with you a racist?

    This name change is going down like so much else at City Hall. Ramming it down citizen's throats while clothing your elitism in populist rhetoric. Tell me, Councilman Cogen, what is the racial mix of YOUR neighborhood? Do you also live in $1.2 million mansion like that other great populist crusader Erik Sten? Not officially segregated, sure, but the property values sure do help keep out the, er, less desirable folks, huh?

  • Jack (unverified)

    David English wrote: If the city is so set on opening a center for day labors, why not name that after Chavez?

    Ha! That would be rich, especially considering that Cesar Chavez was not exactly a fan of illegal aliens. He turned plenty of them into the INS. He knew much better than the current union leadership that mass immigration undermines American workers, especially when those "immigrants" are illegal aliens or "guest workers" (braceros). The City's proposed illegal alien shelter is a lugie in the face of American workers, especially those of us who work in horticulture. But naming it after Chavez would certainly highlight the ignorance and hypocrisy of Portland's progressives, which I always find amusing.

    As I said, I like Cesar Chavez (and I also apparently know a hell of a lot more about him than your typical Portland liberal elitist), but this name change is just plain stupid.

  • Jack (unverified)

    Whoops, meant Commissioner Cogen. You all look alike to me anyway.

  • (Show?)


    Dr. Unthank and his wife are good examples of local people that made a difference in Portland. There are quite a few people white, black, and everything else that took the time and made the effort to make a difference in the lives of every Oregonian from their time and all time. Shall we ignore their contribution?

    I think I might have to start an effort to rename Interstate Avenue Neil Kelly Avenue. Mr. Kelly did more for Portland, more for minorities in Portland and more for Oregon than Chavez did.

  • (Show?)

    Jack asked, Tell me, Councilman Cogen, what is the racial mix of YOUR neighborhood?

    I don't know if Jeff's home address is public, so I won't reveal it for him -- but he lives roughly between Northeast Alberta and Fremont, in the 30s. According to, his census tract is 88% white, 12% non-white.

    (Full disclosure: I built his official Multnomah County website - - but I speak only for myself.)

  • (Show?)

    88% white? Hmmmm, I think that would qualify as a mixed race neighborhood in Oregon.....LOL I know where Jeff lives. Nice area, nice people and nearly all of them are white or can pass for white with a few shades of brown sprinkled here and there. Very close to the same mix of people that lived there 10 years ago. They are just worth more now thanks to people like Same Brooks, Eric Sten, Gretchen Kafoury and about a two dozen other people that invested a lot of time and effort into making that area of town a safer place to live and an attractive opprotunity for new people to embrace. Maybe we should consider renaming Alberta Street Sam Brooks Blvd or Eric Sten Avenue or the corner of Alberta and MLK Ray Leary Square....:) We can wait on the Ray Leary one until after VanPort Plaza is completed.


  • (Show?)

    While I think the idea of put a Chavez memorial designation on something on the West Side is a good one, speaking as a resident of SE 39th Ave. I'd be proud to live on Cesar Chavez Ave.

    BTW, Portland's numbered streets all used to have names, often of persons or families, but were changed in a modernization wave, I think in the 1920s or 1930s, but possibly more recently.

    Portland's strong commitment to localism in street names is easily seen in the commemoration of such famous Oregonians as Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Burnside etc. in streets, high schools for Jefferson again (I guess he did send out Lewis & Clark), U.S. Grant, and the estimable Grover Cleveland, among others.

  • East Bank Thom (unverified)

    True, Chris. We live on SE 35th which used to be "Marguerite" or something. I'm fuzzy on the spelling since they replaced the corner curbs a few years back and removed the old name forever (though a few horse rings still remain).

    Some guy wanting to change Killingsworth to Malcom X wrote:

    According to the Dep. of transportation one cannot change a street name if it is changed after a historical figure. William Killingsworth was a well known real estate agent during the late 19th century and was also involved in the Oregon State Legislature.
  • Terry Branch (unverified)

    I can’t help but to think that as Americans we are losing the big picture. We are getting so worried about the little things, like street name changes. When we should be worrying about losing our Country. I wish we could stand together and take our Country back, starting with our state. And keep it out of the hands of people that want to give it away. Why can’t we close our borders and keep our people safe. Terry L. Branch

  • (Show?)

    Terry, the only ones I see taking MY country away are those in and around the White House, with the complicity of others who back their attacks on the better parts of the Constitution.

    All of my great-grandparents immigrated to the U.S. in the era of more-or-less open immigration (excepting Chinese Exclusion laws which along with the Know-Nothings of the 1850s seem to provide the template for much of today's nativism).

    Since I suppose you would consider me one of the people who want to give our country away, you also apparently want to keep "our" country/state out of my hands, among others. Not quite sure what this means. It isn't my country any more? Should I be stripped of my citizenship? Right to vote?

  • Urban Planning Overlord (unverified)

    The solution for all of these controversies is not to rename an existing street - it is to name a new street after Cesar Chavez.

    Instead of petitioning Portland, advocates for Chavez should be petitioning the City of Hillsboro to name a new subdivision street after him.

  • (Show?)

    William Killingsworth was a bit more than a real estate agent. He use to own the original land grant that is now considered Inner Northeast Portland. The neighborhood he built along with the Lloyd and Frank families called Walnut Park is one of quite a few lasting gifts he invested in Portland.

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)

    Sean Cruz:

    That’s right, the KBOO Board of Directors voted to declare a National holiday, and it was my proudest moment as a member of that Board.

    Bob T:


    Bob Tiernan

  • ben (unverified)

    Put more distantly:

    Local opposition or no, such a name change is best suited to an area where the class of people for whom Chavez fought is vital to the smooth function of the economy. Like many other commenters here, I'm not convinced that's true in North Portland.

    Meanwhile, there are a few issues here that have been dimly addressed at best.

    The costs of a name change to business owners will be measurable and a huge PITA. Remember mandatory 10 digit dialling and its ahem rationale? (They could've at least waited a few more years, it turned out.) Same story, only writ small. Why put people through the hassle in the face of community opposition?

    Is anybody convinced that this proposal is categorically down to some other cause than a City Hall mukamuk who wants to feel good about himself? Yeah, me neither. I'm not saying that we shouldn't honor an historically prominent advocate for labor rights, but I don't believe that Interstate Ave is really the best place to honor this particular advocate, either. (The current name is generic enough, however, to make it an easy target.) Make a monument to Chavez in the Park Blocks, maybe even build a new public-use fountain or small ampitheater to go with it. Give people a reason to ask who the man was, and what he accomplished. However, apparently-generic it is, Interstate's an entrenched name, and to change it smacks to me of gratuitous dogooderism.

    If the purpose of a name change is to skyline labor rights, there are other historical candidates more relevant to Portland's economic history. Walter Reuther comes immediately to mind, but there are surely other names even more suitable (like, say, the name of someone with strong ties to the region). Meanwhile...

    Putting into motion policies to better integrate unskilled immigrants - and make them feel more welcome and useful in the process - will go a lot further than forcing changes to a boatload of business cards, letterheads, street signs, and GIS databases. Diversity of any kind is far more than a plank in some platform. It's a FACT, and communities can choose to embrace it or play the proverbial ostrich. It's up to them.

    It'd probably be just fine if the city could stay out of the business of RE-naming streets altogether, barring a strong community endorsement. But then, I'm still miffed about <mockingly>Naito Pkwy.</mockingly>

    Lurking beneath these points is another, over which I preach to the choir:

    Nativism and xenophobia are firmly rooted as ever. I'm damn proud of my ties to the state of Oregon, and I haaate playing the apologist when the subject of Portland's "whiteness" comes up. Apparently, forty years isn't long enough. (It also annoys me to point out to devoted Eastsiders that my mother's family were locals long before Eastern WaCo was transformed into colorless suburbs, but that's another rant entirely, and one of the few that will induce me to aim the F Word at a total stranger.)

    Ultimately we all need to face the reality that Oregonians are not only born, they are made. They make themselves, in the end. Even the most native of Oregonians come ultimately from serial-immigrant stock, ancestors who found a near-paradise and decided to mold it to human needs. Why should any of us denigrate the right of others to follow that example, as long as they can respect our social institutions?

    That question brings to light the reason why I feel the spirit behind the proposal is not entirely incongruous. By his efforts to secure decent wages for the workers he represented, Chavez fought for the right to the pursuit of happiness enshrined in the Declaration of Independence - the same right under which Oregon was settled by Americans and made part of this Republic, the same right that I believe is the strongest value of Oregonians.

    I feel even more strongly that if the city wants to commemorate the man and his work, it should do so in a way that will not irritate the hell out of so many people.

    P.S. to Kari - something's afoot in my bizdev channel, and I may seek to get MM involved if negotiations turn out to be worth a damn. If so, I'll be contacting you.

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)


    True justice would IMO be to add the "Cesar Chavez Highway" apellation to OR 210 or 99W

    Bob T:

    I hope not! I'm sick of having things named after people, particularly politicians.

    Worst example is the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse. Imagine that, this terrible over-serving senator who instered riders into bills that prohibited people from having their automatic say in court to protest each clear-cut authorized by Hatfield and friends, had a courthouse named after him.

    Bob Tiernan

  • Ava (unverified)

    I think that stating that people are "playing the race card" because they pointout obvious racial bias is a copout. I think we should ask who put that card in the deck in the first place. I think celebrating the history of the United States and Oregon is great but unfortunately the history that is often celebrated is white history. How many people know about York the African American who accompanied Lewis and Clark to the Great NW and was a significant reason why the expedition was sucessful? I think its funny that there are hundreds of streets in the State of Oregon that are named after whites and I can only think of two named after non whites. Oh, but I don't want to play the race card!!

  • Patricia (unverified)


    I am sick and tired of city council and the mayor renaming all our streets.

    I have lived in Portland for 57 years and live in North Portland. I travel Interstate Ave EVERY DAY. Name a street in the RICH PART of Portland for Chavez!! Quit messing with our history.

    I say.....put it to the vote of the people....all the people. Make CITY Government follow the rules. I say....throw the bums out if they can't follow rules and laws.

  • trent (unverified)

    I love all of the "veiled" racist accustations. If you don't want to change the name of a street, it is because you're a racist. (?) What if I am a white man who grew up in Nuevo Leon Mexico, and my wife's father is Black? Are we allowed to be racist by your rules? We don't want it to change because the current name represents a historical significance to the people there. If a new steet or highway or park or building gets Chavez's name, fantastic! I see it as another time that the people in charge have decided what is best for us, and will force feed political correctness. When the pri party was in control in Mexico, they also force fed us everything that they thought was best for us. Now you see the results of such government gone wild. The people have been forced to leave home, and come here for work, where my friends are astonished at how undemocratic the United States are. Give the people in that neighborhood a vote, THEN decide. Potter has those two steps confused.

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