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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Chavez Hearing Packed At City Hall

Posted by Matt Davis on Tue, Jun 23, 2009 at 7:41 PM

There's an overflow chamber next door. So far the hearing has been going for an hour and three quarters. Council isn't even scheduled to vote tonight. The list of folks signed up to speak against the change is longer than the list of people signed up for it.

"Karla, how many more people do we have signed up to testify, more or less?" asked Adams, at 7:47.

"About 140," said council clerk Karla Moore-Love. Laughter.

"There are two ways we can do this, we can shorten the time or we can have a cutoff time," said Adams.

Council moved to shorten the time of each person's testimony to one minute, with a cutoff around 9:30 pm.

There were loud groans in the chamber, with the Save 39th folks seeming to view the change as an obvious attempt by council to silence their dissent. Personally, I viewed the cutoff as an opportunity to finally watch the last two episodes of Breaking Bad when I get home. But it's a question of perspective, I guess.
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SAVE 39TH: DEBATE IS FEISTY AND SPIRITED IN PORTLAND TONIGHT...

OPB's April Baer is Twittering the meeting next to me, and most engaging it is, too:
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"The divisiveness that this has created is sad," said one Save 39th testifier, a veteran with a deep voice. "When we could honor the man and educate the citizens of Portland and the tourists of Portland by naming a bridge or any other thing."

"Has anybody ever told you you have the voice quality of, like, God?" asked Adams. More laughter. And a little surprise, too. Evidently the mayor is more relaxed following his acquittal by the Attorney General.

"I don't know how I could top that," said the next person up to speak.

"We really have to put some perspective to this in terms of how we live," said Judith Mowry, with the city. "People talk about renaming a street pushing them over the edge. And that concerns me. We have to cope with global warming, a changing economy, all these things."

"It has been a long road to get to where we are today. We have worked hard, learned a lot of lessons and met some amazing people," said Marta Guembes, with the committee to rename the street. "Sometimes it has been hard to endure the hostility...yet I continue to support this cause. I truly believe this is a good thing for Portland. Today I have more than 4000 signatures of people who believe this. If this application is approved, this will bring honor to Portland. Not a disgrace."

"How do you get those seasonal vegetables that you trot out for your party guests?" asked Jeff Cogen's staffer Karol Collymore, who was speaking only for herself. [I spent the last five minutes looking at her food blog, it's been a pleasant diversion]. "The renaming should matter to foodies, but it should also matter to people like me. People who are shades lighter and shades darker. 39 is just a number, Cesar Chavez is about our community."

A few people have applauded, to which Adams has responded: "No, we're not getting into the clapping game, even though it's getting late and people are getting kinda cranky."

Update: After a five minute break, there were just 104 people left on the sign-up list to testify at 8:28.

"We believe that this is a defining historical moment," said the Reverend Doctor Leroy Haynes, from the Albina Ministerial Alliance.

Another person said she resented being called a "racist" for opposing the rename.

"People that oppose this are not necessarily racist," said Adams. "It's getting late at night, and I appreciate that people are getting kind of cranky, but I want to cut off the back and forth that these hearings have gotten into in the past."

"Even though I found out tonight that Cesar Chavez was a vegan, I still think it would be fitting to honor him," said another rename supporter. Yeah! Go, vegans!

In the weirdest testimony so far: Former city council candidate Martha Perez urged Mayor Adams to vote for the renaming of the street because if he voted against it, then he might encourage communities of color to support the recall. Loud boos all round.

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