November 21st, 2007 | by COREY PEIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics

Council Takes A Breather On Chavez Boulevard

Cesar ChavezSo much for that idea.

Today the City Council voted 3-2 against renaming North Interstate Avenue aver Cesar Chavez--an outcome that was expected but long in coming. More surprisingly, they also voted unanimously against last week's last-minute compromise to rename Southwest 4th Avenue after Chavez.

Leaders of Portland's Chinese community made a strong showing in the council chambers. Over the past week they expressed their displeasure with the 4th Avenue proposal. Today, they got public apologies from commissioners, who copped to not having considered the impact of having Chavez Boulevard run through Chinatown.

Commissioner Erik Sten said it would not necessarily have been an insult to the Chinese community. Nevertheless, he scrapped the 4th Avenue proposal, which he had devised with Council colleague Dan Salztman.

"It was a well-meaning idea, but not a good one," Sten said, drawing applause from the Chinatown delegation of about 20 people.

Mayor Tom Potter was happy be in the majority, for a change, in voting down 4th Avenue. He promised to continue a discussion around the underlying racial tensions that the Chavez debate stirred up.

"Because this is off the table, don't think that the subject of race is off the table as well. We do need to talk about it," Potter said.

By contrast, Randy Leonard said the Chavez debate had resulted in "the largest racial showdown in Portland since the summer of 1968."

"This is not a good discussion, and it needs to stop," Leonard said.

So, what now?

Next week, Sam Adams will roll out a draft ordinance to change the way streets are named in Portland. The existing process, as Leonard pointed out after today's meeting, has never been properly followed by City Hall. If the process revision passes, Chavez could return sometime in 2008 to look for a home. But now, of course, he's got competition.

It bears noting that the Council has taken a seasonally appropriate approach: Take a long break, have a drink, eat a big meal and worry about the dirty dishes tomorrow.
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