Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis took a page this week from Robert Kimmitt, a U.S. Army general who served as President George W. Bush’s deputy treasury secretary.
Kimmitt wrote to his fellow West Point graduates: “Trying to achieve consensus … must be avoided at all cost. Divergent opinions and conflicting analyses should be tolerated, listened to, and even encouraged.” Consensus, he argued, encourages groupthink and punishes strong ideas.
“Milquetoast” refers to neither milk nor toast, at least not directly. Cartoonist H. T. Webster created Caspar Milquetoast for his 1924 strip, “The Timid Soul.” His inference was clear: If consensus was demanded for a breakfast choice, the solution would satisfy no one.
Vinis saw that consensus would not satisfy anyone. Broadway-Willamette Plaza — a true milquetoast solution — should be renamed Ken Kesey Square. It’s already how people describe the square. It’s time for leaders to follow.
That doesn’t mean we can’t also encourage divergent opinions. City Councilor Mike Clark has recommended genericizing the name to “Authors Square.” The ad-hoc advisory committee convened by Vinis voted 7-2 to recommend the Kesey Square name. The City Council will receive the recommendation at a work session on Oct. 18.