This evening I was planning to speak only about the fact, that the Historian Panel
(questionable in it's own right) the Planning Commission and those that work for the
City of Portland simply ignored city codes and decided to make up the rules or
ignore existing ones as they went along. I was also going to talk about the fact with
the City being in such financial dire straights that we should not be needlessly
spending money on this while we are cutting back in critical services that affect the
entire city of Portland.
When the Planning Commission approved the renaming of the historic and
significant 39th Avenue, Commissioner Lai-Lani Ovalles depicted the decision as a
question of courage, and said, "We have to make decisions that will hurt people
Why does the city and more importantly the many residents and business directly
impacted by the decision have to be hurt when it is completely unavoidable? Does
Ms. Ovalles and others really think Cesar Chavez himself would want his name and
legacy to divide rather than unify us? This does not show courage - this shows a
mean-spirit and vindictiveness that is not or should not be part of the fabric our city.
At that same meeting, Commissioner Irma Valdez said. "This change is really for the
children and future generations of Portlanders. "We're in the position of doing the
right thing for future generations."
I and many, many others say quite the opposite. When my children ask me about
the 39th Avenue name changed, I will not tell them that is was to honor a great
American, but rather it was a time when I and many others completely lost faith in
our elected and unelected officials to serve the city of Portland in the best interest
for all Portlanders. - not just a very small, but vocal few who have displayed
absolutely no respect for the process and communities impacted.
I will tell them it was a time when our elected and unelected officials decided that
laws and processes were meant to be skirted and ignored for political expediency, to
save face from previous mistakes and simply for some, a way to exhort power.
When an overwhelming of people say No to this process like the 90% who oppose
any street naming, our voices were ignored. Democracy simply died.
When talking about doing the right thing – Chavez committee member Sonny
Montes spoke in 2007 to residents and businesses of Interstate "We're not going to
stop there. One of the ideas for down the road is to secure private funding for a
cultural center. It’s been two years – where are the plans to fund a cultural center
because there is NOTHING mentioned about that in the current process. Was that
lip service to win a few votes?
What has really struck a nerve for me and many others is what Marta Guembes, co-
chair of the Chavez committee said, "We are in the process for a street, not for
anything else but a street." Does she or anyone really believe Cesar Chavez
himself would want to be remembered in such a controversial way? His own words
strongly indicated he would not want. He once stated "We want to be recognized,
yes, but not with a glowing epitaph on our tombstone." There are many great
alternatives to honor Cesar Chavez, to which have been completely ignored by all
those involved in forcing this issue. It is painfully obvious that there is much more to
this than finding a way to honor Cesar Chavez – it is really about a one or two
I am directly appealing to both the Commissioners and to the Cesar Chavez
Committee to embrace the spirit and legacy of Cesar Chavez and find a way to
appropriately honor this great American hero without unnecessarily dividing our
City. Education of the next generations was a crucial part of Cesar Chavez. Why not
name the soon-to-open Portland Public School after him? I cannot think of a more
If you, the commissioners vote in favor renaming the historic and significant 39th, I
will tell my children that indeed this was really for the children and future
generations of Portlanders - it was the moment that their voices and aspirations as
citizens of Portland meant nothing.