Monday, September 26, 2011

Renaming Georgia Street...

There's been plenty of discussion on the renaming of Georgia Street.  It has been one of the heated topics currently circulating Indy politics that I have thus far been silent on.  Sunday the Indy Star's Matthew Tully and Erika Smith offered a unique "he said, she said" on the topic that I felt made it easier to address the issue.

Why?  Because both "sides" of the issue basically said the same thing. You see, neither seems to be a fan of any of the current suggestions to change the historic name of Indianapolis' "Georgia Street."

Tully immediately fills his role of "Keep it Georgia Street" supporter.  And many of his points feel valid.

First: Why bother changing the name?  Because of the Super Bowl? That's just silly.  Even if you are updating the street for the sake of the upcoming NFL Championship, that shouldn't mean you have to change the name.  As Tully points out, do you think another major city would change a major street name for a Super Bowl? Of course not.  This is just another case of Indianapolis bending over to seem super-cool and awesome for their upcoming seven days of NFL visitors.

Says Tully:
We need to stop sounding puzzled as we ask newcomers from the coasts: "And why did you move here?" We need to stop treating every major convention or event that lands in our city as some sort of miracle worthy of leading the 6 o'clock news. We need to stop playing small ball on issues such as mass transit and education. We need to stop thinking that marketing strategies -- and, in this case, goofy name changes -- are what make us special.

Some advocates of the change have said it's problematic that Georgia Street, which will soon become one of the city's premier spots, is named for another state. Can you imagine such skittishness coming from the residents of Chicago (Michigan Avenue) or Washington, D.C. (Pennsylvania Avenue)?

News flash: This is a damn good city. A uniquely livable city. Enough of the self-conscious knee-shaking.

Smith offers her own perspective.  She doesn't sound convinced, though, that name change is such a great idea.  She more offers the perspective that name change isn't horrible if the name chosen isn't horrible. Early in her writing, she says:

I'm not opposed, that is, with two important caveats.

No. 1: City leaders have to make a real effort to solicit and then vet suggestions from residents about potential names. And I'm talking about a lot more than putting a survey on the Web for less than a week, and counting on bloggers and media outlets to promote it. That's lazy, arrogant and shortsighted.

No. 2: Once a new name is selected, most residents can't think it's stupid. (And yes, the suggestions of "Hospitality Way" and "Peyton Way," or any variation on those themes, count as stupid. I'll speak for the community on this one.)

In theory, if caveat No. 1 is handled correctly, then caveat No. 2 shouldn't come to pass. But if for some reason it does, then I vote for letting the Georgia Street name stand.

As Smith is well aware, one of the "stupid" suggestions she mentions here seems to be leading the way for potential new names.  The chance of some new suggestion being offered at this point having the ability to become the new name is slim.  If Georgia Street gets renamed, it's probably going to be one of the "stupid" names that Smith point out.  She later suggests putting off the name recommendation to some later date, but with both the Super Bowl and the election looming, that seems unlikely.

So, I guess it's time where I finally submit my perspective on all this.  First, I wonder about the City's (read: Ballard administration's) point-of-view on renaming the street to begin with.  With all the other changes the City has been willing to make for the Super Bowl, many without local residents' support, I am forced to wonder if renaming the street wasn't part of some hush-hush promise made to the NFL in the bid to get the Super Bowl.

Even if that is not the case, I must admit I find the Ballard administration's commitment to name change curious.  Some issues are worth fighting for, even if they are political suicide.  A street's name change does not qualify.  For the current administration to be so adamant about proceeding, in the face of enormous amounts of public outrage and just before an election, is confusing.

If changing the name for the sake of the Super Bowl was so important was so necessary, then why not make a temporary change like they have for NCAA events in the past?  I clearly remember street signs downtown getting changed to things like "Final Four Blvd" for the duration of the city's events.  Why are such changes out of the question for Georgia Street in this case?

Mayor Ballard, there is no good reason to change the historic name of this downtown street.  The citizens of your city have made it clear that they vehemently oppose such a name change, even with the massive face lift that is underway and even with the upcoming Super Bowl.  Leave the name the way it is.  Georgia Street can be just as impressive a name as Championship Boulevard or Hospitality Way or whatever other stupid name you want to consider.  Please, Mr. Mayor....just leave it be.

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