Renaming Ross Avenue

Yesterday the Plan Commission voted against renaming Ross Avenue “Cesar Chavez,” and now this debate comes before the City Council. Since much of Ross Avenue is in my council district, I wanted to share my position on this issue.

Some have implied that the looming threat of renaming Ross Avenue should be used to force the City Council to change the name of Industrial Boulevard to Cesar Chavez. I cannot emphasize how strongly I disagree with that argument. Under no circumstances should Ross Avenue be used as a political pawn in the Cesar Chavez debate. Doing so is an insult to the property owners along and near Ross Avenue, the very constituents I was elected to represent. I have heard from them loudly and clearly that they do not want to change the name of the street because of its historic nature. I share those concerns and will not support changing the name of any part of Ross Avenue.

Frankly this debate has taken time away from more important city issues. The residents I talk with are concerned about crime, code enforcement, and the poor condition of our streets. That is not to diminish Mr. Chavez’s accomplishments or his worthiness to have a street in Dallas named for him, but no street renaming should consume this much of the council’s time or energy.

This debate has also become unnecessarily divisive, when it didn’t need to be. The blame for this falls squarely on the shoulders of the city. First of all, if the intent was to give Industrial Boulevard a “riveresque” moniker, the Trinity River Committee should have stated upfront that only such names would be considered. That would have eliminated this whole debate about Industrial being named after a person.

Second, the Trinity River Committee made a mistake by approving (on Dwaine Caraway’s motion, seconded by Elba Garcia) a public survey about proposed names for Industrial Boulevard (Mr. Rasansky voted against doing so, and I’m not on that committee). If the committee wasn’t going to respect the outcome of the survey, or make it a legitimate vote with real ballots, then it shouldn’t have taken a vote at all. There were already signs at that meeting that this was becoming a divisive issue, and at that point, the city should have nixed the public poll.

Third, the Trinity River Committee had no business proposing that Ross Avenue — which isn’t anywhere near the Trinity River project — be renamed for Cesar Chavez. That was a cheap political trade to “protect” Industrial.

Lastly, once it became apparent that there was support within the Hispanic community to name a street in honor of Cesar Chavez (or another Hispanic leader), the mayor should have pulled together a small, racially diverse group of leaders from across our city, representing all parts of Dallas. He should have tasked them with proposing to the council at least three streets for renaming, with the following caveats: The proposed streets could not be historic and the property owners on the streets must be supportive of the change. This would have headed off the devisive Ross debate and prevented an “all or nothing”/”you’re either with us or against us” mentality that is pervading what should have been a collaborative, celebratory discussion.

Dallas’ Hispanic community is an integral and important part of our city and their heritage should be honored. Some have argued that renaming a street for Mr. Chavez is not appropriate because he doesn’t have strong ties to Dallas and because we have so many great hometown Hispanic leaders we could honor with this distinction. I greatly respect Mr. Chavez’s legacy, but I, too, would prefer to see a Dallasite honored in this way. We are so lucky to have so many Hispanics who have made remarkable constributions to our city, and I’d love to see us preserve their legacies by naming a street after them. However, I defer to those in the Hispanic community to decide who they believe is most deserving of this honor.

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“Dirt Skirt” Ordinance Approved

Do you know where the ground is? Some unscrupulous builders don’t.

To help them out, today the City Council unanimously approved a new ordinance that would prohibit “dirt skirts.” What the heck is a “dirt skirt,” you say? It’s a mound of dirt that some builders have used to let them build their structures taller than is legally permitted. They mound up dirt, usually at the four corners of the building site, to redefine where the ground is. That’s important because the city measures height from the “ground.” You mound up some berms around your building, measure from the top of the berms instead of the real ground, and voila! You’ve squeezed out an extra 12 feet in height. That’s great for a builder, but it’s terrible for surrounding neighbors who suddenly have a gargantuan building beside them that exceeds the legal allowable height.

Many residents in East Dallas are familiar with the property on Oram that underscored the need for this change. Today, we closed this loophole and adopted a definition to describe where the ground is.

This change in ordinance had passed the Plan Commission last December, so I pushed to get it on the agenda without further delay. I am proud to have gotten this ordinance passed today with full council support.

Proposal to Change the Name of Ross Ave. — What’s the Process?

I’ve received a number of emails about the signs along Ross Avenue indicating a proposal to change the name of the street to Cesar Chavez (between Live Oak and Houston Street). I wanted to explain the name-change process so those who want to participate in the decision-making process have the opportunity to do so.

Last month, the Trinity River City Council Committee unanimously passed a motion to recommend that Ross Avenue be renamed Cesar Chavez. The committee is comprised of Councilmembers Dave Neumann (Chair), Dr. Elba Garcia (Vice Chair), Dwaine Caraway, Carolyn Davis, Linda Koop, Pauline Medrano, Steve Salazar, and Mitchell Rasansky (who abstained due to a conflict). I am not on that committee and did not vote on this.

The name change proposal must now go through several more steps before it is finally approved or denied. The next step is for the Subdivision Review Committee to vote on the matter on September 18, 2008 at 9:00 a.m. in council chambers (1500 Marilla St., 6th floor). The Subdivision Review Committee is a subcommittee of the City Plan Commission, a board appointed by the mayor and city council that usually hears zoning cases.

The members of the Subdivision Review Committee are Plan Commissioners Clarence Gary (Chair), Sally Wolfish (Vice Chair), Michael Davis, and Tom Lueder. Prior to the hearing, each property owner on Ross Avenue will receive a reply sheet to advise the Committee of their position on the name change. Note that these reply forms are NOT ballots, and do not in themselves decide the outcome; they are provided to the Committee to advise them of the community’s position. The Subdivision Review Committee hearing is open to the public and the public is invited to make comments.

Whether the subcommittee votes in favor or against the name change, the next step is a public hearing before the full City Plan Commission on September 25, 2008 at 1:30 p.m. in council chambers. Ross Avenue property owners will again receive reply forms. This meeting is open to the public and the public may make comments. After that, a public hearing will be held before the City Council, but that has not been scheduled at this time. Because Ross Avenue is an historic street name, a three-quarter vote of the council is required to approve any name change.

Here is a page that more specifically explains the next steps in the name-change process as well as the governing city law.

Mosquito Spraying Scheduled Thursday, Sept. 4

A resident of East Dallas has become the season’s first victim of mosquito-carried West Nile Virus. As a result, mosquito control spraying is scheduled to begin Thursday night at 10 p.m. (Sept. 4) and end at 3 a.m. Friday morning (Sept. 5). (It was postponed from Tuesday night due to high winds)

The area to be sprayed is bounded by Carroll Ave., R.L. Thornton Fwy., Garland Ave., Graham Ave./Beacon St., Abrams Rd., Fulton St., Junius St., Beacon St., Swiss Ave., Fitzhugh Ave., Gaston Ave. back to Carroll Ave.

While the insecticide is considered safe, residents in the above areas should avoid contact with the spray by staying indoors. Persons inside a vehicle while trucks are actively spraying should remain in their vehicles with the windows up and the air conditioner on until the trucks pass and the spray is no longer visible. Persons out when spraying is to take place should be alert for trucks and should not follow them. Residents who come in contact with the spray are advised to wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water. The spray breaks down quickly in the presence of sunlight and has no residual effect. Fish ponds should be protected and pets should be brought inside during the spraying period.

Prevent mosquito breeding. Residents should eliminate standing water to prevent mosquito breeding and the spread of West Nile Virus. Breeding places for mosquitoes include swimming pools that are not kept clean, stagnant ponds, pet watering dishes, birdbaths, potted plants, old tires, empty containers, French drains and clogged rain gutters. Standing water should be eliminated promptly, as mosquitoes can grow from egg to adult in as little as seven days.

To report standing water or mosquito problems Dallas residents should call 3-1-1.

Last Chance to Attend District 14 Budget Meeting!

The Dallas City Council will adopt next year’s budget on Sept. 24 (the city’s budget year runs from Oct. 2008 to Sept. 2009). It’s your last chance to experience the exciting and captivating city budget presentation. Okay, so it may not quite reach the heights of “captivating,” or even “interesting,” but don’t you want to know how the city is spending $2.7 billion of your money?

Seriously, I really do appreciate your guidance and input on the budget, so I hope you’ll join me. Later this month, I’ll have an opportunity to suggest amendments and changes to this draft budget, and your feedback will be of great help.

You can also take a look at the very same budget information that I have by visiting www.dallascityhall.com. (This year, I requested that the City Manager also post the line-item budget, which contains much more detail. Enjoy.)

Thursday, Sept. 4, 2008
6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
The Latino Cultural Center
2600 Live Oak St.