our Ashland Ave discussion, the real story
We discussed the possible renaming of Ashland Ave at the City Council meeting on Tuesday night. I’ve seen various news reports, most of which give you a pretty good idea of where we’re at, but none of which give you the full story. So, I want to tell you exactly what happened, who voted for what, and offer my feelings on a number of points. I also wrote about this in my blog post from last Sunday titled “rename Ashland Ave?”
First, the measure before us, as requested by Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt, was to rename the southern mile of Ashland Ave which falls in the city limits of De Pere to “Mike McCarthy Ave”. The plan is to have both the city of Green Bay and the village of Ashwaubenon do the same later this month. Ashland is a 6-mile road that spans all 3 municipalities. We discussed the issue for 52 minutes. Here are the votes (Ald Lueck was absent, so we only had 7 alderpersons voting).
Vote #1: Ald. Boyd moved that we change the measure so that we consider naming it “McCarthy Ave” instead of “Mike McCarthy Ave”. One of our businesses requested this as it would just be easier in daily usage. This would also make it more in line with other similarly named streets (Lombardi Ave, Webster Ave, etc). Green Bay recently named a street Donald Driver Way. Ashwaubenon has a few (Brett Favre Pass, Reggie White Way) that use first names. I liked the one name option. This motion passed unanimously.
Vote #2: Ald. Bauer moved that we only do this if the costs are privately funded. Not only would the funds pay for changes to city street signage, but a grant would be given to the affected property owners; businesses would receive $500, homeowners $50. I found it interesting that we don’t have an outcry in our city to rename this street. No one is out their shouting the praises of this idea saying that we should do it. The mayor has contacted most of the businesses and one was in favor, others seemed indifferent, like we could change it and they’d be okay with it. This whole measure seems like something we’d be imposing on our property owners. I’d feel differently if they were pushing this, but they’re not. So, I thought this was a good idea, to make sure that funds would be provided to pay for it all. Ald. Donovan stated that he feels street signs are the city’s responsibility. I agree. But we accept donations all the time to pay for things that the city would otherwise have to pay for. This measure passed; voting for it were Bauer, Crevier, Rafferty, and Kneiszel; voting against were Boyd, Donovan, and Heuvelmans.
Vote #3: Ald. Rafferty moved that we send this issue back to staff for further consideration. This was the result of extensive discussion on the issue, not the least of which was the fact that we were acting on it before Green Bay. I do agree with the fact that since this is Green Bay’s idea, they should be acting on it first. We should not have been the first municipality to decide. We don’t even know if Green Bay will pass this. They might change their mind and consider a different street. Their citizens might show up at their meeting in favor or against it. This is not a done deal. Green Bay’s City Council has a say in this too. We just don’t know. However, by this time we had already discussed it at length, several community members had spoken at the meeting, and I had already received the feedback I needed to make a decision. Therefore, I did not want to send this back to staff. I wanted to vote “no” on the measure and be done with it. But the vote passed with Bauer, Rafferty, Boyd, Donovan and Heuvelmans voting for it, and Kneiszel and Crevier voting against.
So now the issue is back at the staff level, waiting for further action.
There were a number of points raised at the meeting, some of which I had not thought of. So, I just want to run down a list of points, in no particular order, along with my feeling so you know where I stand. I’m only numbering these for reference purposes:
- The most dominant point made was by Ald. Bauer, who suggested that for such a large road, there are many military heros that we should consider for naming honors instead of Packers personalities. He also suggested Purple Heart Ave. Ashland Ave is a major north/south road on the west side of the river. And for such a road, we need to have high standards for naming. I couldn’t agree more with Ald. Bauer’s ideas.
- Mayor Walsh (De Pere) told us that Mayor Schmitt (Green Bay) said that if they rename Ashland Ave in Green Bay, the new name would only go north to Dousman Ave. The section north of Dousman would remain Ashland. I don’t understand that at all. If this is true, then why would Green Bay be so concerned about De Pere renaming our southern mile of the road?
- There was discussion about the possibility of the road ending up with different names in different municipalities. While this would not be ideal, it certainly would not be the only one. If you drive north on Fort Howard Ave on the west side of De Pere, it changes to Broadway as you get into Ashwaubenon. If you drive north on Broadway on the east side of De Pere, it changes to Riverside Dr as you enter the village of Allouez, and then Monroe Ave as you enter Green Bay.
- Allyson Watson, the executive director of Definitely De Pere spoke at the meeting. She said, “De Pere has its own distinct identity. We have enough heroes in our own community right here in De Pere, maybe we could pick the name of someone from our community.” I couldn’t agree more.
- Dean Raasch, one of my neighbors, also spoke. He made several good points, including, “Keeping those names around the Packer district makes more sense. Ashwaubenon has taken the lead on that, I think Ashwaubenon should stick with it. That’s where the names belong.” I agree. Ashwaubenon has been working hard on a district around Lambeau Field. They have been naming small streets around that district after Packer personalities like Favre, White, Canadeo, and Starr. Lambeau Field is 5 miles away from De Pere. I don’t see why we should be involved in naming a street like this. However, if we were to consider a Packer player or coach who has made a difference in De Pere, it would easily be Lombardi (no first name needed). He’s the one who brought training camp to De Pere over 50 years ago.
- I stated that Ridge Rd might be a good road to change since it borders Lambeau Field to the north and only goes through Ashwaubenon and Green Bay. Mayor Walsh said that Ashwaubenon was not in favor of it and the Green Bay alderperson in that district also did not want it. This was actually good to hear, as it is evidence that those municipalities will understand when we say we don’t like it either.
- Ald. Kneiszel suggested that when naming a street after a Packer personality, that we wait until that person is enshrined in the Packer Hall of Fame, or eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. US Postal Service creates a stamp for someone only 10 years after they’ve past away. Ald. Bauer suggested that Coach McCarthy’s legacy is incomplete. These are great points. I don’t understand the urgency here. Green Bay renamed Highland Ave to Lombardi Ave 7 years after Lombardi’s first championship. What’s the hurry? If the Packers haven’t even considered a Hall of Fame honor for McCarthy yet, then local municipalities should wait too.
- Mary Jane Herber, a local historian, mentioned that we no longer have a road named for Arnie Herber. Here’s a guy who is Green Bay through and through. He was born and raised in Green Bay, attended and played football at Green Bay West High School (my alma mater), played quarterback for the Packers where he won the NFL championship 4 times, and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Great point!
- I also asked Mary Jane Herber if she could explain the origin of the name “Ashland Ave”. My concern is that if Ashland was an important person in our history, then I wouldn’t want to change it. As it turns out, the road was one of a number of roads whose names were changed after Green Bay and Fort Howard merged back in 1895. They changed roads that were named for trees so as not to have confusion or duplication. So they ended with with names like Ashland and Oakland.
- Mayor Walsh said that if we don’t do this, the issue is dead. I was certainly not involved in the conversations with Green Bay mayor and Ashwaubenon president like the mayor was, but I don’t know if I agree with that. I’ve been following the Green Bay city council for years. I feel that if we don’t do it, Green Bay will just say “to heck with De Pere, we’ll pick a different road and go it alone.” And if they do that, I couldn’t agree more. That’s what they should have done in the first place.
Last, I just want to say yet again how much I appreciate the feedback I’ve received on this issue. It’s the reason I write this blog in the first place. I’ve received a number of comments here and on my Facebook page and also by e-mail and text message. I can’t do my job as a representative without your input. So now, we’ll wait together to see what Green Bay and Ashwaubenon do about it.