In between my jocular thoughts on the pickle that the City Council has got its collective self into on the subject of street renaming, I had a more serious idea about how to restrict street renaming. It's to prohibit renaming streets to honor people that were neither (a) in the street and highway field, or (b) connected to that particular street or neighborhood. The only modern renaming that qualifies is Naito Parkway, and even there, the City didn't rename the entire street but only a portion of it.
Until the renaming of SE/NE Union Avenue, Portland didn't rename a lot of streets. The state named the freeways after highway people (Baldock and Banfield) or geography (Stadium and Minnesota). Barbur Boulevard was named after A.L. Barbur, once Portland's auditor and later its commissioner of public works. Bridges were named after their streets (Morrison, Burnside, Hawthorne, Broadway, Vista, Terwilliger), their neighborhoods (St. Johns, Ross Island, Sellwood), or pioneers (Steel, Marquam, Fremont).
I'm not considering streets that were renamed for continuity, for convenience, or to fit into Portland's grid. (Examples include SW 4th Avenue in Burlingame, formerly SW Terwilliger; W Burnside Road, formerly Barnes Road; Cornell Road, formerly Gubser Road; and the northern part of NE 82nd Avenue, formerly Airport Way.)
The City Council should adopt this or some other simple rule to restrict street renaming. The reason to adopt a rule -- it was one of the reasons to adopt the prior rules that the Council has trouble following, and it's still a good reason today -- is that the time the Council spends debating what street to rename after whom is wasted time. It's time that doesn't lead to better and safer streets, more efficient land use planning, more jobs, affordable housing, or any of the other things that the City is supposed to be doing. (It doesn't even lead to more streetcars.) In my jaundiced and curmudgeonly view it's time for the City Council to tell the rest of us to learn to live with the street names we've got. Anyone who wants to build a new street that doesn't fit into the grid can name it after whomever he or she wants to honor.