Name change gains steam at city council meeting

Published on Wed, Apr 30, 2014 by Brandy Kiger Shreve

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You’re not going to have to sell Blaine City Council member Clark Cotner on the value of renaming the city Blaine Harbor. As far as he’s concerned, it’s the best thing that could happen for Blaine, and he’s ready to make it happen. 

“We either want to grow this town, or we don’t,” he said. “That’s the bottom line.”

At the regular city council meeting on April 28, Cotner shared the details of the discussion that took place at the last Economic Development Committee meeting on April 29, and assured councilmembers that the committee thought it was in the best interest of the city to move forward to make the name change official. 

“It’s pretty much the consensus that it should be changed to Blaine Harbor,” he said. City manager David Wilbrecht said his research showed that changing the name to Blaine Harbor would be a fairly straightforward process. “You have to make a decision as to whether you want to put it on the ballot and that has to be accomplished by August 5,” he said. “And for it to pass, you’ll need a majority of the popular vote; 50 percent plus one.”

Wilbrecht said there were two ways the measure could be added to the ballot. Either the councilmembers could petition the citizens and collect signatures in favor of the measure, or the council could simply make a resolution. Councilmembers would have to collect 165 in-favor signatures for the measure to move forward to the November ballot. He noted some time will be spent reconfiguring the logo, changing logos on vehicles, signs and uniforms. Wilbrecht said for the city, with all the sign changes, it could cost around $10,000 to make the switch. “But we don’t have to do all those things at once. They can happen over time.” 

But he cautioned that while there might not very many upfront expenses for the government, the change might affect others in the community.

“There will be a cost to others,” he said. “Those who use our name may have to decide whether to change their names or not. We don’t know the extent of that.” 

Ultimately, the name change would come down to what the council thought best for the city. “The purpose of the name change is to direct people here – and changing the name is really part of that branding process. What are we trying to communicate to our existing customers or new customers? It’s not simply a matter of just changing the name, but how you are going to use it.”

Cotner agreed. “It’s a matter of selling it to the community,” he said. “I received a letter that said it succinctly. ‘You can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to market your city, or you can use one word – harbor – to tell the whole story.’” While Cotner was ready to move forward by putting the measure through by a council resolution, the other councilmembers were hesitant about jumping the gun.

“I’ve got mixed feelings about it,” said councilmember Bonnie Onyon. “I think it’s good for the citizens to know that the council is behind this name change, but I do see the value in a petition. With all the support that’s been shown so far, I would think it wouldn’t be too hard to gather signatures.”

Councilmembers Olason and Greenough wanted to know more about the expense involved, particularly with what it would cost to put it on the ballot. “How much is it going to cost overall,” Olason asked. “I think we need to gather more information on that before we make a decision.”

Tabling the decision until the next city council meeting, they asked Wilbrecht to further his research on the expense of the endeavor. “At the next meeting we can decide to move forward by petition or resolution,” Mayor Harry Robinson said. “In the meantime it gives everyone a chance to talk to their neighbor or enemy or people they don’t know and find out where people are on the matter.”

Councilmember Clark Cotner was not satisfied with the non-decision.

“I’m not going to sit around and wait,” Cotner said. “I’ve got two more years on this council and I want to see this happen. I’m going to go out and gather signatures myself and talk to everyone I can about it. This is good for Blaine and we need to act on it now. We can’t sit back and keep waiting for something to happen.”