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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Historian Says Kirk Reeves Too Immediate and Too Portland To Earn Transit Bridge Honor

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 11:43 AM

Kirk Reeves
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Still non-plussed by the four names being floated for Portland's forthcoming transit bridge? Flummoxed that the most-popular choices—bridges named after deceased street musician Kirk Reeves and the rainbow bridge to Asgard in Norse mythology— didn't get the nod?

Chet Orloff, a local professor and director emeritus at the Portland Historical Society, toiled on the committee that selected the four finalists. And he's evidently sensitive enough to questions about the names that he's offering an explanation this morning on TriMet's web site.

"First and foremost, this has never been a popularity contest," Orloff wrote. "We are not naming a bridge merely by numbers."

The criteria for bridge names, he noted:

• Origin of name
• Meaning of proposed name
• Is it inspirational? If so, why?
• Does it reflect how bridge connects people? If so, how?
• Historical significance (if any)
• Biographical info (if commemorative)
• Any special cultural meaning?
•What will it mean 100 years from now?
• Spelling
• Pronunciation
• Sound/ring/flow
• Regional perspective (being Clackamas, Washington, and Multnomah counties)

Orloff didn't address Bifröst, that Norse rainbow. But he did explain why he feels Reeves, the people's champion, would not make a suitable bridge muse.

Several people advocated, for example, that the bridge be named after Kirk Reeves. For those of us who were familiar with him, Kirk’s name is closely associated with the Hawthorne Bridge in Portland. Do people living in Tualatin, Tigard, Hillsboro, Beaverton, Aloha, Gresham, Oregon City recognize the name now and what it means? What will be Kirk’s historical and cultural significance to all of us in our region in 25, 50, 150 years? Yes, he may have represented a certain type of individual—artist, independent soul, etc.—that we like to recognize. But, so was the case with all the other individuals and couples the committee considered. I, for one (and writing as a former Regional Arts and Culture Council commissioner), would love to see Kirk’s memory celebrated with a piece of public art, perhaps a sculpture of him near where he used to play, with music emanating from it. That would manifest his memory and relate to the particular place within the city where he made his own impact.

But, when it comes to naming such an icon as a regional bridge, I believe we want a name that represents, in substantial and substantive ways, something to us all, historically, now, and in the future.

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