Let Monterey have its Washington, Jefferson and Madison streets. Seaside’ll take Obama.
More than a dozen city residents have formed an ad hoc committee on adding the name Obama Way to Seaside’s Broadway Avenue.
Changing the street name outright would be too expensive in tight economic times, says committee member Don Jordan, a former Seaside mayor. Instead he proposes an “add-on,” with Obama Way signs posted above or below those for Broadway. Leaving the former name intact allows businesses and residents to keep their addresses; the Post Office would deliver to both street names.
“Our goal is to honor the president, and also save costs for the city,” Jordan says. “He’s the first African-American president, and that in itself is remarkable enough.”
Rev. H.H. Lusk of Seaside’s Bethel Baptist Church says the idea originated at a ministers’ alliance meeting after Obama’s election. “We thought about Broadway because it’s center to the community, and a lot of things go on there,” he says. “This is for history. This is for our children. We just want to be a part of the first.”
Lusk and Jordan say if the City Council approves the add-on, the committee will help raise funds for it.
On Aug. 20, the City Council directed Deputy City Manager Diana Ingersoll to streamline the city’s 5-year-old policy for naming streets, parks and buildings. The current policy requires name changes to pass through two committees, the City Council and a 90-day public review.
“That’s too cumbersome, so I’ve been asked to shorten the process,” Ingersoll says.
Mayor Ralph Rubio said the update should anticipate renaming streets on the former Fort Ord, and possibly adding commemorative plaques to the columns of City Hall. Consistency is needed: Broadway Avenue west of Fremont Boulevard has technically been re-named West Broadway, Ingersoll noted, but the street signs were never changed.
Councilman Tom Mancini said he’d prefer to name streets after Seaside notables. “Granted, President Obama is the first African American to become president of the United States, but I can think of local people who can meet the criteria,” he said. “Let’s keep it in-town.”
The comment caused Councilman Ian Oglesby to bristle. “No matter how you honor the people that serve in this city, or any city, you can’t compare that to the 44th president of the United States,” he said. “That’s just a little disrespectful.”
Resident Ann Marie Pagan suggested naming something after the late former mayor Jerry Smith, and Joy Lucido raised concerns about spiraling costs and confusion.
Ingersoll says she hopes to have a draft policy ready for the council’s Oct. 1 meeting.
Meanwhile, members of the ad hoc committee are already dreaming of Sotomayor Street.
“We’re proud of the fact [Obama] appointed the first Hispanic [Supreme Court] justice, and even more proud of the fact that she’s a female,” Jordan says.
And Lusk isn’t stopping there: “We’ve got a lot of streets.”