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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sioux Falls Goes Old-School Red, Names Neighborhood Pettigrew Heights

The Red Tide Returns! After a month of feverish voting (actually, just 1142 votes, fewer people than bother to read the Madville Times in a week), "Pettigrew Heights" has emerged victorious as the new name for the Irving neighborhood, The Loop, Hell's Kitchen, or whatever you like to call the historic central residential district of Sioux Falls.

However, the neighborhood's new namesake, Richard F. Pettigrew, one of South Dakota's first senators and one of Vladimir Lenin's favorite authors, might not approve. "Pettigrew Heights" was not the public's first choice. Actually, the name placed third, 93 votes behind "Old Town" and "Historic Heights." The Mayor's Neighborhood Conservation Area committee overruled public sentiment and decided to recommend the third-place finisher to the City Council. (Take heart, Douglas: maybe John Edwards can get a break like that at the convention!)

Senator Pettigrew might see more subversion of the popular will by the elites here. If there is some plutocratic plotting afoot, we can all revel in the splendid irony of their undemocratic choice on behalf of the author of Triumphant Plutocracy, Pettigrew's blistering 1921 critique of government corruption, corporations, and especially lawyers (read at your own peril, Todd!) that gained him Lenin's favor.

And in this case, the elites on the committee may actually have shown more sense of style than the proletariat. According to Walker, the committee felt "Historic Heights" didn't distinguish the neighborhood from other historic parts of town, while Old Town had no unique connection to Sioux Falls. Pettigrew Heights at least memorializes a unique and significant figure in South Dakota and Sioux Falls history, something town marketers all too often fail to do in their "community branding" efforts.

Still, democracy means trusting the people and getting the government we deserve. If folks vote for a rotten governor or a rotten neighborhood brand, well, they should have to live with it. But even if "Pettigrew Heights" is yet one more sign of elites imposing their will on the masses, we can find some solace in seeing that the powers that be in Sioux Falls are willing to forgive Senator Pettigrew his political apostasy and honor his name on the map.

Now, when will the Sioux Falls Roosevelt Socialists Club start having house parties there?

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