A City, If You Can Keep It: What’s in a name?

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A Winters Express opinion column

By Richard Casavecchia
Special to the Express

New development, new homes, new streets, new street names.

In 2005, City Council established the five-member Winters Street Naming Committee. The committee drafted a 57-name list of street names for the city to draw from as needed upon the creation of new streets. As of today, 35 names remain unused from that list.

Inevitably, the members of any committee will have biases. This is neither necessarily good nor bad, but will likely result in street names without a lot of variation. Names of people they are friends with or like, some crops and fauna found in the area, and other predictable themes.

What if we created a different process?

For small towns, there are always more projects than money. At the onset of the pandemic, we had to decide if the community pool would be funded for $60,000 for the year. The Senior Center is one current project that is funded to be built but not managed, run, or furnished.

New streets represent an opportunity to shake two trees with one shaker. An entrepreneurial approach would be to auction or accept specified donations from organizations or individuals who would like to select a name for a new street. The legality of selling street names and putting money in the general fund is probably dubious. Donations, however, to the senior center, the pool, the fireworks fund, Youth Day, or the Tractor Parade could be the way.

There would have to be guidelines for names. No business names — so no Buckhorn Boulevard, Express Court, or El Pueblo Lane in the future. The businesses in town that are named after a family name,  like Turkovich Wines or Martin Trucking for example, would also have to be excluded under the no business names rule so there are no loopholes for advertising. Names should be relevant to Winters, a resident, a crop, a landmark, an event (i.e. Earthquake Lane), or something similar, but not limited to, those examples.

The City could accept donations from individuals, groups, businesses, or organizations so we can assuage any concerns about equity and this being a wealthy person program. A low, minimum donation should be specified to remove financial barriers to entry. Although, if specific streets have multiple parties desiring to name it, then let the bidding commence.

Yes, I know this sounds like a libertarian choose-your-own-adventure type idea, selling quasi-governmental action to the highest bidder. But it is not graft, it is a fundraising effort for specified community programs and projects.

There are likely some legal concerns to work out. Some people will be opposed to this idea simply because it is not how things have been done and the outcome is unknown. But we as a town need to start thinking novel and nimble.

The Senior Center needs money. If we have another community park project that will need money, too. The community pool is an extremely popular program that could use an injection of capital. The 4th of July Fireworks fund always needs augmentation from the general fund.

All of these programs and events could receive supplemental funding through street name donations. What is in a name? Anything you want.

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