Monday, October 26, 2009

No to Council on Street Naming - Patrick McPherson

For many reasons, naming a street or any other government owned property after former Mayor Fahey, or former Mayor Daub, or any former living mayor or office holder is a bad idea without an objective, rational and fair process.

In the case of Mike Fahey, he has barely been out of office for 120 days. He continues to be involved in Omaha politics, Democrat politics and many other community activities. Fahey may not plan on running for office, but he certainly could in the future and having any city owned property named after him could very well be seen as a tacit, if not overt, endorsement. A case in point is that former Mayor P.J. Morgan is now a candidate for the Douglas County Board.

It is frankly much too soon to evaluate Fahey’s overall contributions to the City. Certainly, he deserves credit for his work in securing the twenty-five year contract with the NCAA for the College World Series and certainly the new stadium, which he helped promote, will be a great addition to downtown. However, not all Omahans are happy with it, with its cost, with the fact that they didn’t get a chance to vote on whether to construct it, or with the demise of Rosenblatt.
One might argue that had it not been for former Mayor Daub’s hard fought efforts to clean up this area, build the Qwest Center and redevelop the riverfront and much of downtown that former Mayor Fahey would never have had an opportunity to construct the CWS Stadium and obtain a long-term contract.

The city’s current financial dilemma also brings into question the appropriateness of naming a street after Fahey. Many in the community believe that much of the city’s financial problems stem from Fahey’s administration. For this and the reasons noted above, many citizens rightly question the rationale for such a naming initiative.

Beyond the above, one can’t help but wonder what the motivations of Creighton’s Father Schlegel and Union Pacific Chairman Young are in proposing this idea? One could speculate a great deal about potential motivations and certainly many in the community are doing so.

However, this isn’t meant to demean the former Mayor.

What is important here is the process—whether it is naming something for former Mayor Fahey, or for that matter naming something for former Mayor Daub which has been suggested by others as a reaction of surprise to the proposal to rename Webster Street for Fahey.

For the City Council to acquiesce to a proposal such as this just because a couple of leading citizens ask is simply the wrong. When the city names a street or any other property there should be an objective process that vets not only the individual’s worthiness but the appropriateness, business sense and fairness of so doing. Questions should be asked to avoid unintended consequences. Is it appropriate to name/rename a facility for a living former office holder? If it is going to be done for one person, what are the criteria that merit that honor and decision over others who have served in the same capacity? If it is acceptable to name a facility after a former elected official, should there be a pre-determined length of time after the completion of his/her service? Is it appropriate that such an action be taken at the behest of a couple of citizens or should there be a committee process where input comes from many in the community and where the rationale for such is discussed and debated?: Does the process ensure that it is free from partisan politics and other potential influences?

While many might make a case as to whether this initiative is about former Mayor Fahey and whether he deserves this recognition or not, the reality is that this is a much bigger issue with many ramifications and potential consequences that should require a process that ensures fairness and appropriateness. It’s about more than whether someone likes a former mayor whether it is Mike Fahey or Hal Daub or someone else.

The Omaha City Council should do its homework and establish a fair and objective process before rushing into virtually spontaneous feel-good decisions that create long-term consequences.


Dennis said...

So true, so true. Keep in touch and thanks for the info. I think Fahey might be up for the Nobel Peace Prize also.

Jerry said...

A Good Diatribe, Pat; I think we ought to name a couple streets after the Presidents of the Police and Fire Unions. Look what all they've done for Omaha

Gregg said...

Considering the source, extremely well stated

Nick said...

I am totally unimpressed with Fahey and his friend Suttle. What galls me even more is that they got the Tax-and-Spend Sarpy County politicians to find a way to do him one better. I think they should call the road in front of the unemployment office "Fahey Square."

Mike said...

Creighton’s property value (they own everything west of the new stadium) has doubled in value over the last few years and so has the value of the U.P. land just north of the stadium. That is why Schlegel and young stuck their noses into this. I also wonder if the Creighton Baseball deal was actually negotiated before Fahey left office? It is simply payback time.