Georgia Street fireworks/free speech

Dateline: Tue 13 Sep 2011

The city's efforts to rebrand Georgia Street -- rename it -- in time for the Superbowl has resulted in some fascinating feedback, including the disabling of comments by the Indianapolis Star regarding this story.

Talk about an inside job, and thanks to blogger Paul Ogden for reporting on this and a tipster for alerting me today.

But first, the larger issue, as explained by my friend Joan Hostetler, a well known preservationist and historian, who has mounted a campgain via Facebook and other venues to save the Georgia Street name:

"As you may be aware, Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. has petitioned to permanently change the name "Georgia Street" to another, yet-to-be determined name. I'm asking you to help stop this "rebranding." My lengthy letter below explains the reasons. In short, this is a historic name from Alexander Ralston's original 1821 plat of Indianapolis. It has worked for 190 years; why change it for some marketing-savvy, survey-induced, and probably sports-themed name?...

"IDI wants to give the venue a distinct identity and they feel that people associate the name 'Georgia' with the State of Georgia. This is silliness. Do any of you think of the State of Massachusetts when you are on Massachusetts Avenue? Are you confused when you visit the Indiana Historical Society on Ohio Street? Sign toppers or other interesting signs could easily promote another identity while retaining the historic street name."

No kidding. Read to the end to get info about signing Georgia's petition -- information you apparently will not read in the Indianapolis Star.

Reports Ogden, "On rare occasions the Indianapolis Star will disable the function allowing readers to comment on stories.  Usually it is when stories involve an unfortunate death or a racially-tinged situation.  Those stories provoke a number of insensitive and inappropriate comments that lead the Star to shut off comments entirely.  Today's example though is of particular note as it doesn't fit those types of stories.

"In a story which still appears in the on-line edition, the Indianapolis Star invited readers to contact Indianapolis Downtown with suggested names for the three block segment of Georgia Street near Lucas Oil Stadium that is being revamped to the tune of $12 million dollars. The segment will include heated street and sidewalks, as well as a boardwalk and outdoor dining options.  Advance Indiana recently reported on the project.

"When the Star first put the story up yesterday, readers immediately began criticizing the cost of the project and offering such derogatory names as "Boondoggle Blvd" and "Pay to Play Way."  There wasn't anything offensive in the comments...just criticism of the project.  In fact probably 90% of the comments were critical.

"Anyone who does not believe the Star has discarded its professional objectivity when it comes to these taxpayer-funded projects to support the downtown elites should take note of what the Indianapolis Star did.  They took down the comments and disabled readers from offering new comments."

Good Lord. I can picture it now: IDI's heavy hand in the form of the manicured Tamara Zahn reached into the editorial and publishing offices of the Star to issue its directive -- tell those pesky readers of yours to STFU.

Ogden concludes:

"If the Star's publisher wonders why the paper is losing readers, perhaps it should consider that people do not want a local newspaper that is nothing more than a cheerleader for the elites who run this City."

Ya think?

To sign Joan's petition, go here:

She adds:
"It is OK to write in Georgia Street, even though it says not to write-in an existing street name.

"Write a quick note to these folks (simply copy/paste these addresses): julia@indydt.com, Ryan.Schafer@indy.gov, GeorgiaStreet@indy.gov, marc.lotter@indy.gov

"Forward this to your friends, family, media contacts, neighborhood associations, etc."

Blogger Paul Ogden's post was on the CNN website, FYI.

Thanks to all who put this together.  Shame on you, Dennis.



Comments

Dave Crutchfield [unverified] said:

Is the Star purposefully trying to drive "paper" readers away, so as to transition to strictly online? I can imagine the demographics of who remains to buy and read the "paper" paper. Do you think these remaining readers are more or less interested in continuing their subscription when Sarah Palin emails are front page news, Charlie White's political residency problem gets big coverage while that of Senator Lugar and former Senator Bayh are ignored, and IPS literally leads the nation at one point in poor gradution rates (but there's no investigation)?
I know many factors have contributed to the decline of journalism. I'm stuck being a subscriber until my bride agrees with me. But, when you are given constitutional protection, and when you finally get around to reporting, you routinely defer to self-preservation, incumbent power, and political correctness- who exactly wants to stick around to remain a subscriber?

2011-09-13 10:58:03

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

I'm with y'all.

Renaming Georgia Street is beyond stupid: it's politically tone deaf!

2011-09-13 12:16:27

jersey [unverified] said:

History and tradition are becoming less and less meaningful. A few years from now, who will even know or care about the effort this country made during WWII?
Hijack-what is with the "Dynamic Duos" stories in Sunday's print edition? Not sure what that is all about...

2011-09-13 12:46:04

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

There is a lot to dislike about The Star, including its newspaper and website. But what irks me the most is this "cheerleading" crap for the city power elite and for the professional sports teams. Journalism is supposed to be about telling the truth, not about being a PR vehicle for the Chamber of Commerce. Lord, I wish I had a way to avoid reading that bird cage liner. Wish there was a real newspaper in Indianapolis.

2011-09-13 12:53:27

Joan [unverified] said:

Thanks, Ruth! The survey (http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/W8B3SQJ) ends September 13, but people can continue to learn more on the KEEP GEORGIA STREET Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Keep-the-historic-name-Georgia-Street-Indianapolis/283498898332005)

2011-09-13 13:06:33

Rita [unverified] said:

You mean you guys don't like my submission of Peyton Place???

2011-09-13 13:23:43

Seneca [Member] said:

How about Taxpayer Welfare Thoroughfare?

2011-09-13 13:43:05

Seneca [Member] said:

oops. Make that Corporate Welfare Thoroughfare.

2011-09-13 13:44:12

varangianguard [unverified] said:

I would have thought the City might have pushed for "Chinatown's End" or something similar?

My vote goes for "Ballard's Beach". They could paint the heated sidewalks a tan color. Then, perhaps Super Bowl attendees might be able to forget the weather they will likely be experiencing.


2011-09-13 14:01:52

B2 [unverified] said:

At the risk of enraging the naysayers (ah, what the heck), it should be pointed out that Georgia Street -- and I do favor retaining the name -- will remain as a city asset and unique community gathering place for years after the Super Bowl leaves town. Just sayin'.

2011-09-13 14:30:11

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

No, it won't, B2. After the Super Bowl is over, maintenance will be deferred and attention will flag...and it'll end up as just another neglected Indy street.

2011-09-13 15:09:59

B2 [unverified] said:

With all due respect Mrs. C, had you been alive at the time that Monument Circle was proposed, you'd probably say the same

2011-09-13 15:28:48

Matt Stone [unverified] said:

B2, not if no one goes to it. Massachusetts Avenue, Fountain Square, and Broad Ripple developed into go-to destinations and cultural districts because the community had a plan. Yes, the city did help them in some ways (removing parking meters in much of Ft Square, for example), but I see them as developing organically.

Despite the saying, just because you build it doesn't necessarily mean they will come.

2011-09-13 15:31:49

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

I've been saying that visitors to downtown during the Super Bowl should be issued bullet proof vests and should have purses and wallets attached to their persons with chains.

But who knows, the mayor may bring in the Indiana National Guard to protect the mostly well-heeled Super Bowl visitors from losing their Rolexes (and/or their lives). Then, when they leave, the city will go back to being the modern Wild West town that it is now.

Kennedy for mayor.

2011-09-13 15:34:47

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

The PR flacking was noted in another post yesterday or recently; it was dumb of Mr. Milz to intervene--if he did. If he didn't one of his minions likely did. Shameful.

But for the life of me I cannot get worked into a lather over this issue. If the street name had some historical significance, I'd be angry. But it doesn't. It's three blocks.

And actually, yes, I do think of Massachusetts sometimes when on MassAve. Happily. Fond memories.

Who cares what they name it? Honestly, we need to save our ire for more important subjects. We have a freaking election in two months. There are only a couple of businesses that front this short street--so changing addresses is a minor issue.

In Chicago they have "Honorary" street names on many streets. "Oprah Winfrey Memorial Way", etc. The merciless pandeirng to the 2012 Host Committee will be over none too quickly. And why is anyone surprised?

2011-09-13 16:09:45

hendy [Member] said:

I'd say: a tempest in a teapot. Molehill into a mountain. It does, however, dramatically demonstrate how much TheStar is in the backpocket of the good old boy power structure we have. Kind of sickening to see it so blatantly demonstrated, too.

A downtown mall street's not a bad idea. But naming it Georgia Street would be pimping Georgia, not Indy, and I think that's their point. Rotten execution of a simple idea, is what this amounts to. My vote: Wes Montgomery Plaza.

2011-09-13 19:14:31

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

The Cultural Districts (bless you, Bart Peterson) have an organic reason for existing.

The whole Georgia Street fiasco is a result of Ballard's "Chinatown" mentality.

Giving the street an honorary moniker is one thing. Changing the street name is another -- just ask the businesses whose addresses are Georgia Street!

2011-09-13 20:16:53

varangianguard [unverified] said:

TTT, there may only be a few businesses on Georgia St, but there is a large apartment complex down there by Conseco (Harness Factory Lofts?). There must be dozens and dozens of apartments there.

Still, it can't be worse than having to change one's area code, I suppose.

I would be less sarcastic about it all if the IDI had a little more creativity when it comes to alternate naming.

How about "Giveaway Gulch" since the street connects the two biggest recipients of tax dollars for millionaires in Indy?

2011-09-14 04:54:05

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Call it Hoagy Carmichael Street. He's the Hoosier native who wrote the song "Georgia."

By the way, Hoagy gets ignored in this state generally.
He was a major celebrity in his time and wrote a number of beautiful melodies including the classic "Stardust."

2011-09-14 13:24:10

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Ahhh, Whitebeard, a traditionalist in the musical sense...love Hoagy.

Varan: I was downtown today, and counted the number of businesses which front Ga. St.: two. The apartments you mention can just as easily rebrand themselves on Pennsylvania. Which is another state-street name with no known significance...but until the Pacers win the NBA, that street is in no danger oe being rebranded.

I've asked lots of folks about the historic significance of Georgia...still no answers. City fathers simply picked out some states, I guess, and named the streets.

I'm wondering if there's a Mississippi Street, and if so, if there's any civic pride attached. Alabama has long been known for bad schools, yet our Police Dept. is headquartered on Alabama St. Go figure.

I know where Ruth St. is--do you?

2011-09-14 15:26:55

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Georgia Street once extended west almost to White River.

Tennessee and Mississippi streets were renamed Capitol and Senate streets. (We kept Alabama and Kentucky as is.)

And, Monument Circle was not built for a monument, but for the governor's mansion.

2011-09-14 15:49:56

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Interesting.

Doesn't change a thing.

Woulda, coulda, Prada.

2011-09-14 19:58:10

varangianguard [unverified] said:

I really don't mind if the street name is changed, but could we keep the insipid replacements out of it?

WB, Hoagy Carmichael would likely be too many syllables for the current Mayor not to stumble over. But, good thinking.

Can't remember where, but someone suggested finding a catchy name that might brand the street. Something short and unique. The Walk, Bag End (oops, that's already taken), Sports Yard. Maybe "brand" it by corporate selloff? Omni Plaza, Lucas Lane, Simon Square?

2011-09-15 05:05:54

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