, Salem, MA


September 30, 2013

Our view: Proceed with caution in naming public properties

The idea to name a street around the new Higgins Middle School in Peabody “Liacos Way” is a tribute to the respect and affection that City Councilor Jim Liacos has earned in his 34 years of service on the School Committee and City Council.

That public service deserves to be honored, and Liacos can feel justly proud of the esteem in which he is held.

That said, however, we urge his former colleagues on the school board to proceed with caution when it comes to naming public properties. Naming a school, an athletic field or a public street is a singular honor that lasts for decades. Often, it is an honor bestowed on those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the public good — war heroes like the Kiley brothers, who were killed in action 16 days apart from each other in 1945.

Naming public properties after living politicians is a more awkward prospect. It’s uncomfortable for their colleagues, who may wish to honor someone else but don’t want to offend the fellow who sits next to them. It’s hard for the public to gauge just how significant one’s contributions are in the light of history. And it raises questions about just how such honors should be decided — should there be a process in which the public gets to make suggestions and everyone is considered, or is it just the prerogative of public officials who can nominate each other?

Salem schools wisely set a policy some years ago that, when naming buildings, no one be considered who has not been deceased for at least 10 years. It’s an idea Peabody might want to consider.

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