rename Ashland Ave?
At our city council meeting on Tuesday night (July 2, 2013), we’ll vote on a proposal to change the name of Ashland Ave to Mike McCarthy Ave. This was an idea started by Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt just 2 days after the Packers won Super Bowl XLV in February 2011.
Ashland Ave is the most significant north/south road on the west side of the Fox River in Green Bay (it’s designated part of Business Hwy 41 and has speed limits reaching 45 mph). It’s about 6 miles long. The northern half is in Green Bay. The southern-most mile is in De Pere. The 2 miles in between is in Ashwaubenon. So the intent is to have all three municipalities approve the name change.
It should be noted that in De Pere, there are no homeowners or businesses on the east side of Ashland Ave, it’s all railroad right-of-way. But there are a couple of homes and a few businesses on the west side of the road.
To date, I haven’t heard anyone in De Pere pushing this or saying that they want it. I’m somewhat indifferent about the whole thing. If our property owners on Ashland say they want it, then I’ll vote for it. But I do want to clear up a few things though.
A local tradition?
After Mayor Schmitt suggested this name change, a couple of local elected officials made questionable statements about the idea. According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, in 2011 Alderman Tom De Wane said “it has become a local tradition to recognize Super Bowl heroes with street names, including former coach Mike Holmgren, quarterback Brett Favre and defensive end Reggie White.” Brown County Supervisor Patrick Evans said, “People need to realize that this wasn’t a revelation by Mayor Schmitt — it’s what the people of Green Bay do for their Super Bowl champion coaches.”
Those two statements were simply not true, not in 2011. In 1968, 7 years after Vince Lombardi’s first championship, Green Bay renamed Highland Ave to Lombardi Ave. That’s it. That’s the only change they’ve made. And in those 7 years, Lombardi won 5 world championships. Mayor Schmitt wants to rename a major street after Mike McCarthy after only one Super Bowl. I understand the impact and importance of that Super Bowl win. But seriously, of all the men and women who have made a difference in our community over the years (i.e. Dick Resch, Don Schneider, etc), Schmitt wants to rename the street for McCarthy? Where are our priorities?
Now, since those statements were made, Green Bay renamed a small street after Donald Driver. I’ll say two things about that. First, that’s a small street that did not involve other municipalities; Green Bay can do what they want there. And second, this renaming certainly does not make the action a “tradition”.
As for the specific streets that Alderman De Wane mentioned, Brett Favre Pass is in the Village of Ashwaubenon, not Green Bay. Same thing for Reggie White Way. And as for Coach Mike Holmgren, that road is similar to Ashland, in that it spans two municipalities. In June 1997, the Ashwaubenon Village Board voted to change Gross Ave to Holmgren Way. But Green Bay said no. So if you’re driving north on Holmgren Way, as you cross Lombardi Ave into the city of Green Bay, the name is still Gross Ave. So it’s certainly not what the “people of Green Bay do for their Super Bowl champion coaches.”
All that said, let’s talk about the decision at hand. Do people like McCarthy and Driver deserve a street named after them? Sure they do. I don’t question that for a moment. As a season ticket holder and a big Packer fan, I appreciate their contributions to our area. But when you’re talking about a major thoroughfare designated as a business highway that spans three municipalities, you’d think that would be named for someone who has made much more of an impact on the community. We certainly have many examples.
The price tag
As for cost, such a name change will have a price tag. For De Pere specifically, it won’t be significant, but we will have to change street signs on a mile of road. And for state of Wisconsin taxpayers, we’ll all have to pay for updated highway signs that currently direct drivers to Ashland Ave. Any ancillary publications like maps and directions through town will need to be updated. Property owners will also have their costs.
Impact on De Pere
The overall impact to the city of De Pere will be minimal. We do need to maintain a good working relationship with our neighbors. But I don’t want to make this change just because Mayor Schmitt asked us to, especially when Green Bay and Brown County elected officials have made the statements I pointed out.
Origin of Ashland Ave name
Lastly, I don’t know where the name Ashland Ave came from. Was that a person who made an even bigger contribution to our community than McCarthy? Is it named after the city of Ashland, WI? It was certainly named Ashland for a reason, and I’d like to know what that was. Similarly, why were other nearby roads like Ridge Road ruled out?
So yes, I’m somewhat indifferent about the whole thing. I have my concerns and unanswered questions. But I’ll vote according to the wishes of our Ashland Ave property owners.If you live in the city of De Pere, I’m interested in your feedback. Please leave a comment here, or contact me directly.