New neighborhood name echoes past

East Calhoun votes “ECCO” as new name

East Calhoun Community Organization voted to change its name to ECCO
After a year and three separate votes, the East Calhoun Community Organization voted to change its name to ECCO, its longtime acronym stripped of the words it represented. Photo by Nate Gotlieb

The East Calhoun neighborhood has a new name. Kind of.

Residents of the neighborhood have voted to change the name of the East Calhoun Community Organization (ECCO) to ECCO, its former acronym stripped of the words it used to represent.

The neighborhood is the latest organization to remove Calhoun from its name since local officials redubbed Lake Calhoun to its Dakota title Bde Maka Ska as part of a movement in Minneapolis to disassociate from the 19th-century Southern politician John C. Calhoun, a proponent of slavery and the Indian Removal Act.

ECCO’s decision came after three neighborhood-wide votes over the course of 2019: the first asking residents if they wanted to change the name, the second a ranked-choice vote asking residents to narrow a list of ten potential names and the third asking their preference between two final options, ECCO and East Bde Maka Ska.

In the end, ECCO won out with 52.6% of the 502 votes, according to a report released by a committee charged with reviewing the neighborhood name.

While “Calhoun” was removed from the name, the new title isn’t the change some in the neighborhood were hoping for. If someone new came and asked what the neighborhood was called, the background would still need to be explained, said Ryan Brown, who sat on the name review committee.

“To me, personally, ECCO echoes East Calhoun,” Brown said.

Throughout the process, the neighborhood organization worked to get the highest possible turnout. In the final ballot, 20.4% of the neighborhood’s total population voted (though only adults were allowed to vote), higher than the participation rate for most neighborhood organization actions across the city. When neighboring Calhoun Area Residents Action Group (CARAG) rebranded as South Uptown in 2018, about 9% of residents voted. Brown hopes other neighborhood boards across the city will use the example to get more voter participation in their actions.

“The thing that I am most proud of is the level of engagement we were able to get,” Brown said.

The organization spent $5,600 sending out postcard notices, flyers and other communication efforts about the vote. The name review committee logged about 600 volunteer hours over 2019. The group said it was proud of getting 502 votes. Only two of those voters cast their ballot in-person, with 71% voting online and 28% of voters mailing in postcards.

“I think they created a very strong process and followed it,” said ECCO board president Dane Stimart.

He said he was impressed by the perspectives shared at three community-wide meetings discussing the name. Although the new name is very similar to the old one, Stimart believes most residents are looking to move on to other issues. The outreach efforts of the name committee resulted in more residents learning about the work for the neighborhood board, Stimart said, and could provide a model to get more engagement on future initiatives.

East Calhoun community members shared their opinions
East Calhoun community members shared their opinions on changing their neighborhood’s name during a May meeting. File photo

What the future holds for any rebranding or new signage to reflect the name change is currently unclear, Stimart said. The neighborhood organization will look to appoint a new committee to figure out those next steps in February.

The Minnesota Supreme Court is currently reviewing a case determining whether the Department of Natural Resources had proper authority to rename Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska without legislative approval. Local governing bodies and the U.S. Board on Geographic Names previously approved the name change.