The Time the City Argued About a Street Name

For the first time in over 20 years, street names are a subject of actual debate at city hall! In this video we unpack the Moscow city council’s discussion on the matter, and we also give you a quick update from Latah County!

Read the full transcript of the video below:

Did the action item on paper seem pretty straightforward? 

Was it actually straightforward?

How’s it going y’all? Aiden Anderson here with the Moscow Minutes. I did not ask for a streak of spicy government meetings, but boy are we getting them. Let me try to ease you into it. Let’s start with the county.

Every month, the county hosts a meeting with all of its elected officials and department heads to receive county-wide updates from the past few weeks and go over important items with leadership as a whole. This month, the commissioners and the head of ITS focused on reviewing the county’s internal technology request form, a form which all departments need to submit when purchasing new tech with their own budget money, and which acts as a safeguard on the county when it comes to tech security. Among the meeting’s other highlights, the clerk gave a brief overview of the turnout from the recent primary election in May, and the Solid Waste department head reminded everyone about Tire Amnesty Day, which falls on June 29th.

Beyond that, the county commissioners had a brief discussion about a possible correction to the approved salary for the District Court Staff Attorney position at the county. While it was originally their intention to update the salary based on numbers they had previously laid out within the parameters of the county budget, they realized that in the process of speaking to the local court judges recently, they had actually provided another different salary estimate. With the two salary numbers being held in conflict for the purposes of this meeting, the commissioners decided to hold this item for a future date where a decision could be made with a more complete data set.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s look at this here city meeting.

What we had at the start of this Moscow City Council meeting was a genuine novelty decision. Back in 2016, the Board of Adjustment approved a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for the construction of a school and church on Mountain View Road, along with public improvements to support the development, including the construction of a new public street adjacent to the property as part of a “right of way dedication”. Typically, when a new street is created, a street name would be approved through the CUP platting process, but since this new road was created as part of a right of way dedication, the street name was not a part of this platting process, and so needs to be approved separately. 

Let me just emphasize that this separate approval of the street name is the new thing here. All new street names need to be approved by the city at some point, and that’s usually together with all the other development and construction plans. But, with the way this new street was created, the council ended up with a unicorn on their hands.

The initial name proposed by the applicant was Logos Street. That name was found to go against the city’s street naming guidelines, which include rules such as no duplication of names, no close spelling or varieties of similar names, and no references to individual persons, businesses, or organizations, except those with significant historical or civic interest. As the school in question being built is called Logos School, the name Logos Street would therefore not meet the criteria. So the applicant proposed the name Dominion Way for the street, and that was the name which was up for discussion.

Let’s turn to the council for their initial impressions of the name, Dominion Way…

…These comments were immediately followed by a motion to deny the name by Hailey Lewis, with a second from Bryce Blankenship. This motion failed to pass on a 4-2 vote, and was followed by a motion to approve the name by Gina Taruscio, which, because there was no second to the motion, also failed.

The council turned to deliberate further. Drew Davis asked about the history of the city’s denial of street names. City Supervisor Bill Belknap answered that in the past, street names have changed due to similarity of names and changes in street direction. However, name changes due to the substance of the name itself had not taken place in the past 20 years. Warbonnet Drive and Indian Hills Drive were cited as examples of potentially controversial names that were in fact approved in the past.

Sandra Kelly asked for clarification on future actions if the council did not want to take action on this particular name tonight, and received the answer that inaction would be, in effect, a decision on the name itself. Bryce Blankenship expressed concern over setting a dangerous precedent for future controversial street names if they were not careful with this one. 

Again Hailey Lewis made a motion to deny the name, and again this motion failed to pass 4-2. This was shortly followed by a motion to approve the name by Drew Davis, who got a second from Gina Taruscio. This motion passed 4-2, with Hailey Lewis and Bryce Blankenship being the dissenting votes, and with some additional comments from Julia Parker about the possibility of revising the city’s street naming requirements going forward.

The remaining items on the agenda were a good deal simpler to process. Firstly, the acceptance of a grant award in the amount of $45,000 to help the city purchase electronic ticketing equipment for police vehicles. Second, the filing of a grant application for a grant worth $100,000 to help fund the city’s water meter replacement project. Both of these items were approved unanimously by the Moscow City Council.

That street naming item has to be one of the wilder rides I’ve seen the council take in recent weeks. It just goes to show that you can never quite anticipate what direction a particular discussion is going to take. All the more reason to pay attention to your local goings-on, which is why I’m here. As always, we’ll have the relevant links posted with this video, and if you have any questions, please reach out. This is Aiden Anderson with the Moscow Minutes. See you next time.

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