I am as eager as anyone to see Portland create a permanent, physical presence honoring Cesar Chavez, but I confess that I am confounded by the flawed process more than I am angered by the racist taunts.
Growing up Mexican-American in California, the son and grandson of farm workers, I learned early on that many Americans do not like foreigners, that many do not like Mexicans in particular and, lastly, that most do not distinguish whether your presence is legal or not.
They don’t like you either way, and they will make that point clear.
But I’m not going to give into the racism diversion in the public argument about renaming Interstate; it comes with the territory.
I want to speak to the flawed process on several points:
First, the Cesar Chavez Committee consists of some of my own local personal heroes, so far as I know, because even at this late stage I’ve never seen a list of committee members.
Marta, Jose, Sonny, Armando –you each have inspired me for more than a decade with your giant hearts for la comunidad, and I share your passion for Cesar…but I did not become aware of your effort until after you had already locked in on Interstate.
If I have left out any names among my local heroes who are serving on the Committee, it is because I do not know who all the members are.
Secondly, the residents of North Portland have felt left out and unheard for many years over a great many issues, and I can understand how the Interstate Max line and the development associated with it would arouse passions that have little to do with race.
Third, the Committee appears to have passed on considering renaming Killingsworth as an option, because the Committee felt it was named after a historical person.
To this point I would say that becoming deceased does not make a person “historical.”
Fourth, you must own the flaws in your process. It is not enough to point to another flawed process and demand the same. There is no moral leverage in that. Please do not compound the flaw by refusing to listen objectively, by refusing to be open to compromise.
You already have the victory, the Mayor and City Council have voted unanimously to honor Cesar Chavez in a significant, permanent way, but you do not own the moral high ground.
Fifth. to my thinking, Killingsworth would be an obvious choice for a broader public discussion, and I believe that you could probably get the 2,500 signatures that the City charter requires from people that live, work or frequently travel on that street itself.
Sixth, Killingsworth is full of low-hanging fruit:
Villa de Clara Vista, Hacienda Salon de Communidad, Aero Vista Apartmentos, Clara Vista Townhomes, Villa de Suenos, Multnomah County’s La Clinica de Buen Salud, the Baltazar Ortiz Community Center, the Villa de Clara Vista Oficina de Administracion, Villa de Suenos, Los Jardines de La Paz, Taqueria Mendoza, Trinity Lutheran Church (with its multiracial signage “Your Child Deserves the Best”), Villas de Mariposas North, Villa de Mariposas South, Portland Metropolitan Workforce Training Center….
Several retail establishments on the street sell Corona Extra openly.
At the corner of NE 42nd and Killingsworth, one finds banners hanging, reading “Color de la Comunidad” and “NE 42nd Business Community,” and several businesses: Ole Frijole Delicious Mexican Food, Taqueria Oaxaca, Novedades Santo Domingo.
Have you discussed the issue with the NE 42nd folks?
At 33rd and Killingsworth is the New Seasons store.
At 30th and Killingsworth are Milagros and Autentica Mexican Food.
The list goes on, the point is that there is much low-hanging fruit here and I wonder if the Committee actually ever contacted residents and businesses on the street. I have no idea, and that points again to the flawed process.
Seventh, TriMet could play an important role here and participate in the discussion. The # 72, Portland’s busiest route, traverses the length of 82nd and much of Killingsworth, and I can see the appeal of putting some paint on those buses and promoting the 82nd Avenue of the Roses/Cesar Chavez Boulevard route.
Eighth, there is only one business on Killingsworth that uses the street name in its business name, indicating the low appeal to the business community.
My last point on this post is one of puzzlement:
Hacienda CDC owns much of the low hanging fruit on Killingsworth, and I both wonder why they haven’t championed renaming that street (why it isn’t already renamed). and why Bertha Ferran of the Hacienda CDC Board of Directors was at the Ockley Green meeting, supporting the renaming of Interstate and chiding local residents not to be so resistant to change.
I’d rather hear her say why she doesn’t support renaming Killingsworth. Sure beats me.
Viva Cesar Chavez!
October 8, 2007