Alaska Editorial: Changing the name of Fairbank’s Terminal Street a waste of time

  • Thursday, May 12, 2016 1:01am
  • Opinion

The following editorial first appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

A Fairbanks City Council vote last week finally put to rest one of the most needless controversies in local government this year. Exercising veto power over the borough planning commission, the council opted against changing the name of Terminal Street, where the Borough Administrative Center is located, to Citizens Way.

The proposed name had an innocent origin: At an all-hands employee meeting a few days after Borough Mayor Karl Kassel took office late last year, a borough staffer asked if the administrative center’s address could be changed from its inaccurate listing at 809 Pioneer Way to something that accurately reflected the building’s location and purpose. The administration liked the idea, and chose to pursue the renaming of Terminal Street, the road the vast majority of residents use to access the building, as Citizens Way.

As sometimes happens with issues that by all rights should be contained in teapots, a tempest brewed. Local historical societies and railroad enthusiasts fought back, protesting that the Terminal Street moniker recalled the days when the road was the northern terminus of the Alaska Railroad. Several meetings, complete with public comment and debate by members of borough commissions, took place, with the name change first being rejected, then reconsidered and approved. Finally, the city put its foot down and said no to the idea, bringing an overdue end to a process in which too much time and effort had already been invested.

The idea of changing the borough building’s address was worthwhile, but spending so much time on so minor an issue was needless. The ordeal is an example of how the bureaucratic process can lead to an outcome reflecting the community’s values — but it was also a demonstration of how circuitous and drawn-out that process can be, soaking up time better spent on more meaningful priorities.

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