Readers of this newspaper have spoken: The West End of Billings begins at 24th Street West.
This is according to the poll that was attached to last week’s column, which was devoted mainly to answering the burning question of what people actually mean when they refer to the West End.
The online poll gave readers seven choices, much like the GOP presidential race. The options for the eastern boundary of the West End were Division Street, Fifth Street West, Eighth Street West, 17th Street West, 24th Street West, 32nd Street West and “somewhere else.”
By the time the poll was concluded Thursday, 1,718 votes were cast, and 24th Street West was the clear winner, with 44 percent of the votes. The poll was unscientific in the extreme, meaning one guy in his PJs could have cast all those votes. But I was tracking the poll several times a day during the five days it was live, and the percentage choosing 24th Street West was consistently in the range of 40 to 45 percent.
It hovered at that level so consistently that one editor here suggested we call the West End “Romneyville.”
In second place was 17th Street West with 19 percent, followed by 16 percent in favor of Division Street. This was the choice of the literal-minded, who reasoned that Division clearly was intended to divide the city, right?
Just try it
Maybe, but if you can describe someone living on the 100 block of Alderson Avenue as a resident of the West End, without cracking a smile, you have more self-control than I do.
Eight percent chose Eighth Street West, 6 percent went with 32nd Street West, 4 percent with “somewhere else” and 3 percent with Fifth Street West.
I wish now we had made the “somewhere else” option a fill-in-the-blank, more or less like a write-in candidate in the presidential contest. Without that option, we have no idea where “somewhere else” might be. Skypoint? The YMCA? Daylis Stadium? Laurel?
So, where does that leave us? About as muddled as we were before the start of this exercise. Forty-four percent is only a plurality, after all, not a majority, and even a clear majority wouldn’t have settled anything.
In this country, the majority rules, but individuals still have rights. People would have been free to use any name of their choosing to designate sections of town. Even here at The Gazette, I don’t expect any noticeable diminution in the confusion over geographical identifiers.
If we did draw the boundary at 24th Street West, that wouldn’t answer the question of what to call the huge area between the downtown and 24th Street West, or the industrial area off Monad Road, or the neighborhoods, say, around Amend Park.
Goes to show you
Let this be an object lesson. It is almost impossible to get a group of human beings to agree even on seemingly innocuous matters. Just try cutting the deficit, ending poverty or deciding whether a taco stand should be allowed to park on a downtown street.
More than a dozen people wrote in with additional thoughts on the naming mess, by the way, most of them by email but two in the form of actual letters, God love them. Many of these correspondents zeroed in on what to call the area of central Billings I referred to. Their ideas included the West Side, the Mid-West End or Midtown.
I think it is partly a reflection of my simple nature that I work, live and mostly amuse myself in that area of the city with the homely, traditional designation of “downtown.” Of course, my neighborhood is officially known as the North Elevation, which is nearly as bland as “Southeast Montana.”
That is the new name of the Montana tourism region formerly known by the name of a famous, or infamous, cavalry leader you may have heard of.
That name change prompted a suggestion from Don Jore, secretary of the West End Neighborhood Task Force, who certainly seems qualified to weigh in. He said his neighbors regard the West End as everything from King Avenue to Grand Avenue between 24th Street West and Shiloh Road.
Beyond Shiloh is considered the Far West End, he said, but maybe that could be changed to Custer Country, “as that is now available.”
I’m all for it.