The internal memo of the PBOT that named the Ned Flanders Crossing

(Photo: Jonathan Maus / BikePortland)

What’s in a name? When it comes to Portland’s newest bridge; a lot.

When Ned Flanders Crossing’s name was released earlier this month, the story of how the name was chosen was not revealed. And most people didn’t care because it was such an obvious choice for so many reasons. After all, some Portlanders already think of the Simpsons character when they think of Flanders Street. There are several NE Flanders St signs that the vandals added a “D” to say “NED Flanders St”, and Simpsons creator Matt Groening attended high school nearby. He also named this character after the street, as he did with the characters and streets of Kearney, Lovejoy, and Quimby.

Ned Flanders was also offered as an option in local neighborhood talks, as Willamette Week reported in October 2019.

But since there was no public process or naming contest, the full story of how PBOT arrived at the name has been kept under wraps.

A few weeks ago, I heard that there was a detailed internal memo written by a PBOT employee setting out the arguments for choosing Ned Flanders. I received a copy of this note (PDF) a few days ago and thought it would be fun to have it on the public record so that we have more clarity on why PBOT and the Commissioner municipal Jo Ann Hardesty have made their choice.

The memo was dated November 11, 2019 and was written by PBOT Transportation Planner Zef Wagner and Capital Projects, Assets and Maintenance Communications Coordinator Hannah Schafer. It was sent to former PBOT commissioner Chloe Eudaly and office manager Chris Warner.

Wagner and Schafer also proposed the “simple and subtle” plaque at the entrance to the bridge. Their design mockup is almost identical to what was ultimately created and installed (above). They also proposed to name it after Ned and his historical namesake, Captain George Flanders, with plaques at each end of the bridge.

Here is the flesh of their memo:

Arguments in favor
Ned Flanders’ brand slogan “hi-diddly-ho, neighbor” is indicative of the value he places on being a good neighbor, and what better way to represent this new connection between two neighborhoods cut off from one another. on the other by the I-405 freeway? Naming the bridge after Ned Flanders would also honor a character with a clear connection to the street we are reconnecting, as it is named after NW Flanders Street, and would serve to celebrate the thriving comic book and animation scene. of Portland by highlighting one of the most important forces to emerge from this city. In addition to the arguments in favor of the name of the bridge after Ned Flanders in particular, there are also many good reasons to keep the name of Flanders in general, in order to celebrate the east-west grid of the Alphabet district and to facilitate the orientation in the neighborhood. I’ll outline each argument in favor in more detail below.

Reconnect the network of historic streets
One of the primary goals of Flanders Crossing is to reconnect Northwest Portland’s historic highway system that was cut off by the construction of Interstate 405. Many of the streets that originally connected the Pearl District and the Northwest District were abolished in 1969 during the construction of the highway. Burnside, Couch, Everett, and Glisan still exist on freeway overpasses, but they each have only sidewalks on one side and are dominated by freeway ramps and high traffic volumes. The Flanders Bridge is intended to reconnect the network and make the motorway less of an obstacle for people on foot and by bicycle, and it would be appropriate to celebrate this first step in reconnecting the network while retaining the historic name of Flanders . Concretely, it also retains a name that people already know and use to refer to the upcoming bridge, which helps orient people moving through Northwest Portland.

Tribute to Northwest Portland
This bridge has been in the plans for Northwest Portland for decades. While it has an obvious city-wide advantage, it is also a connection between two neighborhoods and should ideally have a name that reflects the neighborhoods around it. Ned Flanders has a strong link with the neighborhood and with the street that this bridge reconnects because his name was inspired by this same street. Matt Groening grew up in Portland and attended Lincoln High School, and when he created The Simpsons he drew on Alphabet District street names as sources for his character names. In addition to Flanders, he named characters after Kearney, Lovejoy and Quimby streets. Surprisingly, there are currently no monuments to celebrate this connection between Northwest Portland and The Simpsons. Another way this name would honor Northwest Portland is to connect historical eras, to celebrate the history of Northwest Portland while celebrating the recent past and the future. Flanders Street would still bear the name of Captain George Flanders, one of Portland’s first prominent residents who lived over 100 years ago on what was then known as “F” Street. The Flanders Bridge would in turn be named after Ned Flanders, a Portland-inspired cartoon character named after Flanders Street who has entertained Portlanders and so many others for 30 years.

Celebrate Creativity
Portland has had a thriving comic book and animation scene for decades, and it may have both contributed to and been influenced by The Simpsons, created by an artist from Portland and heavily associated with Portland. Since then, Portland and the surrounding area have been home to comic book companies like Dark Horse Comics, Oni Press, Image Comics, and Microcosm Publishing, as well as animation studios like Will Vinton Studios, Laika, Hinge, and Shadowmachine. Some of these companies are even located in Northwest Portland. Nearby, the Pacific Northwest College of the Arts has a strong animation arts program, and Portland State University also offers comedy and animation programs. Many well-known comics have been created by Portland writers and artists, and some have been made into movies or TV shows that celebrate Portland, most recently the Stumptown show adapted from The Resident’s comic book series. Portland Greg Rucka. In addition to creating great animated and comic book works, Portland enjoys celebrating this work through its many well-organized comic book stores, multiple annual conventions, and animated film festivals at its many local theaters. By naming the Flanders Bridge after Ned Flanders, we will not only honor the cultural phenomenon of The Simpsons, but also the creative spirit that has driven Portlanders for so long and will continue to do so in the future.

Promote good neighborliness
Ned Flanders has been a quintessential emblem of good neighborliness for over 30 years, keeping his cool and doing his best to be a good neighbor even when confronted by his rather difficult neighbors, the Simpsons. He is always ready to give a warm “hello” to his “neighbors” and is more likely than not to respond to a request with a warm “okily-dokily!” He’s willing to do it even for the Simpson family, with whom he shares little in common in terms of political philosophy, religious belief, or general temperament. In these difficult times, when people seem more divided than ever on political or cultural lines, and less and less willing to speak even to their neighbors with whom they may disagree, we think Ned Flanders is a symbol of the type neighborhood bond that we should be striving for in Portland. Just as this new bridge will connect two neighborhoods through a physical division, we should promote the idea of ​​this bridge connecting real neighbors together across everything that divides them.

Keep Portland weird
Portland’s unofficial motto has long been “Keep Portland Weird”. While this attitude is not appreciated by all Portland residents, we see it as a statement that we want to keep certain elements of our uniqueness alive even as the city grows and changes over time. We don’t want to lose what makes Portland look like Portland, and keeping things “weird” is one way to achieve that. For this reason, we pride ourselves on having the smallest park in town (Mill Ends Park), the strangest donuts (Voodoo), the craziest bike ride (Zoobomb), the most whimsical sidewalk layouts. (small toy horses attached to historical rings), and our very own flamethrower Unpiper. Naming the Flanders Bridge after Ned Flanders and including an official plaque at the end of the bridge with his name and image will continue this tradition of keeping Portland weird. Like many weird things in Portland, it will appeal to locals and visitors alike, drawing people to view the bridge. And there is already evidence that people around the world enjoy visiting Portland’s Simpsons-related sites, despite the absence of any official landmarks. Many people enjoy visiting Bart Simpson’s sidewalk sketch near Lincoln High School and taking photos next to the road signs in the Alphabet Quarter corresponding to the names of the characters. And for years people have altered the road signs along NE Flanders St by adding a ‘D’ to make it ‘NED’ Flanders St. It’s time we officially honored Ned Flanders, as many have. unofficially over the years.

As one of PBOT’s flagship projects to promote walking and cycling as healthy and sustainable transportation choices, this bridge deserves high public and media attention. While the bridge certainly gets a lot of attention when built, no matter what name we give it, we believe naming it after Ned Flanders will bring more awareness on an on-going basis than if we had to name it. according to a political or historical event. figure. We already have many bridges that honor these people in our history or today, but we do not yet have a single bridge named in honor of a beloved cartoon character. This will arouse the curiosity and interest of residents and visitors year after year. New residents of Portland will be more likely to hear about the bridge and want to try it out due to its association with Ned Flanders. This will provide continued benefit to the City by generating interest in the bridge and helping people find and enjoy it for decades to come.

So now you know!

– Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and [email protected]
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