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.