A Road by Any Other Name

On June 29 the Star Tribune published a story rife with acrimony. Minneapolis City Council members Lisa Goodman and Natalie Johnson Lee were battling over Johnson Lee's proposal to have a new street named after Sharon Sayles Belton, the city's first black and first woman mayor. An offshoot of the Heritage Park development (which in turn grew out of the landmark 1992 Hollman racial-discrimination lawsuit), the street will connect Dunwoody Boulevard on the near north side with Seventh Street North downtown.

Johnson Lee's proposal inspired debate around town and generated a lively thread on the Minneapolis Issues Internet forum. Sixth Ward council member Dean Zimmermann may have summarized the argument best when he posted: "I am quite convinced that it is good policy to not name things after people who are still alive." (Consider Kirby Puckett Place for a moment.)

Perhaps, though, Zimmermann is wrong. Given that just three days earlier a committee of St. Paul leaders finally unveiled a list of streets that might be named after Martin Luther King Jr., one might argue that it's never too early to honor our local notables. Here, then, are some suggestions:

Fancy Ray Route: The local pitchman, who alternately describes himself as "The Human Chocolate Orchid" and "The Prettiest Man in Comedy," has lately been seen on TV spots for an adult video store. So how about a bike lane running past all the "gentlemen's clubs" in downtown Minneapolis, in honor of Fancy Ray McCloney?

Joe Soucheray's My-Way-or-the-Highway: The neoconservative Pioneer Press columnist and angry-white-guy radio host makes no secret of his love of pavement--and his right to drive whatever gas guzzler he chooses on whatever sprawling suburban thoroughfare he sees fit. The "mayor" of Garage Logic often argues that we have plenty of room for more roads, so let's give him one in Eagan, that bastion of white, upper-middle-class elitism. No doubt Soucheray will mist up at the dedication when he realizes his name to be in company with "Yankee Doodle" and "Pilot Knob" roads.

Louie Anderson's Corporate-Buffet Way: While stuck in traffic in Eagan, why not pull over at the intersection of Buffet Way and Corporate Center Drive? Seems like a natural for a public plaza, complete with an all-you-can-eat Old Country Buffet, named after Minnesota's favorite oversized comedian.

Purple Pride Plaza: Nobody chokes quite like our beloved Minnesota Vikings. And nowhere does the traffic flow choke more than where Lyndale and Hennepin avenues meet just east of Walker Art Center.

Paisley Parkway: Speaking of purple, remember Prince? This four-lane expanse will head west from his hometown of Chanhassen and feature doves, "no profanity" billboards, and absolutely no Top 10 hits from the past decade. As it approaches South Dakota, it will vanish.

Clem Haskins Bypass: Who could forget the former head coach of the University of Minnesota men's basketball team? The NCAA can take away our championship banners, place our program on probation, and quite literally erase our Final Four memories from the record books. All of which makes it more important than ever to remember sweet-talkin' Clem, who took $1.5 million in taxpayers' money when he skipped town. (Now that he has to return most of the money, let's put it toward transportation!) The parkway will circle the university campus, with one extremely hard-to-spot exit ramp. By the time you manage to get off, a Golden Gopher hoopster may actually have received a diploma!

Murray Slaughter Court, Ted Baxter Boulevard, Rhoda Morgenstern Drive: What Minnesotan doesn't love television? And who penetrated our collective heart more deeply than Mary Richards, TV's original independent-woman-who-had-swanky-digs-near-Lake-of-the-Isles? Still, it hardly seems fair that only good old Mare should be singled out and honored by Minneapolis. Let's at least remember her prime-time pals with street names. Heck, we've already got a Grant Street, no doubt in honor of the gruff-but-lovable Ed Asner character. "Oh, Mr. Grant," indeed!

Ventura Highway: How could we forget our goofiest governor, or the Seventies classic rock he so loves? This no-brainer will be constructed in lieu of the light-rail commuter route the guv pushed for, running from St. Cloud straight to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

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