Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Blowback for renaming streets in honor of a person's accomplishments when the broader truth is revealed

Recently I wrote ("Marion Barry: ceremonial vs. real name change of a street") about the calls for naming streets in DC after recently ecased former mayor Marion Barry, saying this is a difficult issue because communities have to be concerned about what such statements say about what they value--and Marion Barry's legacy is checkered.

All the various suggestions have led Mayor Gray to form a committee to consider ideas systematically ("Committee will vet potential Marion Barry memorials, Gray says," Washington Post).

Photographer unknown.

In light of the recently released US Senate report on the post-9/11 CIA torture protocols, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorializes ("Street-sign honor for Gen. Hayden should be taken down") that the City of Pittsburgh should take down the street signs renaming a stretch of North Shore Drive in honor of General Michael Hayden, a Pittsburgh native.

This has been an issue for awhile according to the 2010 article, "Residents want North Side sign honoring general removed," which makes sense because the nature of US "enhanced interrogation" techniques used on "terrorists" is not a new revelation.

 From the article:
When you next visit Heinz Field, you might notice the “Gen. Michael V. Hayden Blvd.” sign on North Shore Drive facing the Carnegie Science Center. To find out who he is, just turn to the Senate report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s detention and interrogation programs.

The final appendix, 38 pages in all, details the inaccurate statements Gen. Hayden has made defending the programs in his capacity as the former director of the CIA. The CIA’s own internal communications show both the effectiveness of the “enhanced interrogations” and the intelligence they produced were greatly exaggerated. Some of Gen. Hayden’s assertions are directly contradicted by the record, suggesting he either intentionally lied to the public or was not fully briefed on the programs he supposedly oversaw, both completely unacceptable scenarios for someone in his position.
They raise a good point, and ought to provide some cautioning to other communities about such reflexive renaming of public buildings, streets, and spaces.

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At 11:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing should be named after anyone or any memorials sited until they've been dead for at least 20 years.

At 11:40 PM, Anonymous Christopher said...

Jefferson was a statutory rapist and slave owner. Talk about a checkered past. We should rename the memorial.

At 8:01 AM, Blogger Mari said...

Naming things after dead people is good. Naming things after dead people who have been dead awhile, 5+ years, is better. Naming things after living people is risky. But then it is common that if X gives a boatload of money for your building fund or whatnot, you name a building, hall, wing, space after X.


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