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Does the name “Dixie Drain” need to go? Councilwoman Sanchez thinks so.

Does the name “Dixie Drain” need to go? Councilwoman Sanchez thinks so.

Matt Tobeck
September 29, 2020
September 29, 2020

The Dixie Drain Phosphorus Removal Facility has a very serious problem — at least according to Boise City Councilmember Lisa Sanchez.

Sanchez believes the Parma facility needs a new name. 

Built at Dixie Drain and treating groundwater from the Dixie Slough, a tributary of the Boise River, one might think the facility’s name makes some measure of sense. Apparently not, not in the age of endless triggers. According to Sanchez, the name needs to be changed. 

At the city council’s September 1 work session, during a briefing on Boise’s Water Renewal Utility Plan, the now-infamous phosphorus removal facility was addressed by Public Works Director Steve Burgos. Sanchez wasted no time taking the opportunity to ask the important question of the day, namely, the prospect of any “ideas we may have about perhaps changing the name of that, considering the times that we’re living in at the moment.” 

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, Burgos responded that he, in fact, had a conversation with a different councilmember a few weeks prior regarding the origins of the name “Dixie Drain.”

Who knew this issue was so top of mind?

Burgos noted, when he was working on the treatment facility there were “rumors it related back to folks that came from the south, relocated, and it was somewhat symbolic of the Confederacy.” He then explained to Sanchez how after speaking with the other council member, he had staff from the Boise City Department of Arts and History do some research and, “Sure enough, we did find that.”

After conferring with Arts and History, they provided me with that research.

Though not addressing the facility’s name itself, it confirmed that the Dixie Valley, which the facility is near, was seemingly named so because of an influx of Missourians to the area during the Civil War era. Further, it stated that the Dixie Slough may have been named by Peter Rush, of Idaho City. The name being possibly inspired when Rush happened upon another cattleman, who was singing the song “Dixie.” Thus the slough was named Dixie Slough. Are you outraged? Me neither. 

If the city council members continue on course and successfully eliminate the word “Dixie” from the treatment facility’s name, however, that action would join a long chorus of recent social justice achievements. Whether such actions actually make the world a less bigoted place, particularly in this case, is doubtful. 

It’s disturbing that with the government mandated shutdowns, the resulting economic hardships, the longstanding problem of rising cost of housing in Boise, and the increasing political violence of late – just to name a few substantive issues — that councilmembers actually think it is necessary and proper to expend even more time and resources on this issue than they already have. 

“Dixie” is simply a geographic reference to the southern U.S., especially those states that seceded from the U.S. during the Civil War. Why is it that use of that word, even if not used in a pejorative way, must be abolished from the public consciousness? Is it because anything less than doing so and someone somewhere might be triggered? 

If simply using the word “Dixie” in a sentence were somehow racist or bigoted or improper in any way, one could make an argument that the time spent on changing the name of the Dixie Drain Phosphorus Removal Facility, as well as the cost to taxpayers for doing so, might actually be worth it. The problem is, it isn’t.

Sadly, in this case, unlike with private consumer products or private sports teams, the city’s brand refresh will be a government-mandated one. As such, it will eat up precious taxpayer money and waste the time and effort of our city’s employees. 

Ultimately, attempting to abolish the name of this facility reeks of pointless virtue signaling in an age of pointless virtue signaling. I can only hope the city, city council, and city employees somehow find better things to do with their time moving forward. I doubt it, however.

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