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In with the Old: Kesey Square becomes official

Kesey Square is now, officially, Kesey Square.

The Eugene City Council settled the battle for Kesey Square’s name Wednesday, Oct. 18. The council voted 5-1 in favor of renaming the central downtown area from Broadway Plaza. 

Councilor Mike Clark, the sole opposed vote, was a member of the ad hoc naming committee, which recommended the name change to the council. Alan Zelenka and Greg Evans were absent from the meeting. 

The work session convened in the Tykeson room of the Eugene Public Library while county union members were on a picket line downtown. 

Mayor Lucy Vinis explained that out of respect for the workers this and future meetings would be held off-site. 

Colloquially referred to as Kesey Square since the “The Storyteller” — a statute of Ken Kesey reading to children — was unveiled in 2003, Broadway Plaza’s name is now officially changed. 

“I don’t think we needed the committee,” councilor Betty Taylor said, referring to the ad hoc committee that recommended the name be changed. “The public named it before that. It wasn’t as if we had something brand new to name.”

Emily Semple, representative of Ward 1 agreed with Taylor that there didn’t need to be so much action around renaming the space. 

“I don’t really think that naming it Kesey Square is going to change anything,” Semple said, “it seems like when we decided to make it official there was an outcry about it. I think that it has been accepted by the entire city and maybe we should have asked for other names but really it’s already called Kesey Square.”

Clark was obviously frustrated by a lack of options. While the committee was formed on his recommendation, he said that the charge the committee was given did not align with what he thought he proposed. Rather than considering naming options, the committee had the binary choice of whether the plaza should be renamed Kesey Square or not, Clark said. 

“It was brought up, ‘should we consider another name,’” Clark told the council. “No other names were considered or we were instructed not to have other names considered.”

Chris Pryor, representative of Ward 8, agreed with Clark that he would have liked to see the committee consider other names but determined that if they wanted to consider them they would have made more of an effort. Despite the limited nature of the committee, Pryor thought that its work allowed the council to “measure twice and cut once.” 

“I don’t want to second guess the committee,” he said. “I think this was measuring twice so we can now make the cut.”

Vinis contended that considering other names would have caused the committee to work past the 45-day window they were assigned. 

Now that the name is official, the city will work to address the unanimous feeling of the split committee — to make downtown the welcoming and inviting place that everyone believes it should be.