Saturday, December 13, 2008

Riverfront Way? Not okay! We'll picnic on Cesar Chavez, or maybe MLK!

Memories of my time spent deep in the heart of Texas (Coppel!) do not include anything like this:

DALLAS -- "Industrial Boulevard" is an apt name for the gritty strip of warehouses, bail-bond offices and liquor stores that runs parallel to the Trinity River on the western edge of this Texas city's urban core.

But the name didn't fit the ambitious beautification project planned to upgrade this part of town. So in a bid to whip up citywide support for the $2 billion development, the city conducted a survey asking residents to help pick the perfect new moniker for the street.

The name game did succeed in garnering local interest -- just not in the way officials had hoped. Instead, it sparked a Rancorous power struggle between the city's growing Hispanic population and its entrenched Anglo and black leadership.

Dallas officials' 'uh-oh' moment came when they received the results of their summer survey. Having favored scenic-sounding names such as Riverfront and Trinityview for the waterside development, officials were stunned by the top choice: "Cesar Chavez Boulevard."

Walking Cesar Chavez Boulevard sounds about as enticing as walking Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard does. A great place to take the kids, no? When formulating ways to draw surbanites into the urban center, city leaders should resist input from the urban dwellers who live there as much as possible. At least the paseo is probably vibrant, anyway.

'Turnout' was low, and the labor leader won an overwhelming victory:
Cesar Chavez Boulevard won handily with 52% of the vote. Riverfront Boulevard was a distant second with 19%.

Almost immediately, Anglo and African-American council members on the City Council's Trinity River Corridor Project committee began backpedaling. Among the charges: that the survey results were nonscientific. Dave Neumann, the committee's chairman, questioned the survey's validity since there was no way to tell whether some people may have voted multiple times.

"I don't think it should bear someone's name. It should be
something that is branded to the project," said Councilman Dwaine Caraway at a recent meeting, adding he'd wanted a Trinity River-related name all along.

The perceived slight rankled Dallas Hispanic leaders, who created a task force headed by Mr. Ruiz to lobby for the Chavez name. "Our community was disrespected," said Brenda Reyes, a political consultant who helped organize the Chavez campaign. "When the Anglo community wants to rename something, nobody gets input from us; when it's our turn, we have to get the Anglo community to let us first."
Who says Hispanics don't create things? They'll put together a task force as well as the next community organizer will! Notice too in a city that is 42% Hispanic and 24% black, whites are not the unspecified other--they constitute a racial group of their own. The Anglos are a force to be reckoned with, too!

Perhaps a compromise:
The project committee attempted to calm the storm by suggesting another prominent Dallas street be renamed after Mr. Chavez. That only inflamed tensions further. Business owners and residents along the selected street, Ross Avenue, furiously rejected the proposal.
Why ever would business owners oppose something so surely good for business? Where is the correcting hand of the WSJ op/ed page to set these entrepreneurs straight, to dictate to them what's good for their Dallas businesses from atop the paper's offices in New York City, to stop a cadre that "demonizes the undocumented"?

The city council ended up stepping in to settle the matter. The name has been changed to Riverfront Boulevard. O the very embodiment of oppression!

4 comments:

Sgt. Joe Friday said...

One thing you can always be sure of, any street named "Cesar Chavez" or "M.L. King" is not in a good part of town.

Now, I wonder if some of the the previously named "King" streets and avenues are going to get changed to "Obama" this or that? After all, King was just a civil rights leader, Obama's the president. Or maybe some visionary will propose we put Obama's likeness on our money. That's what they do in 3rd world countries, the leader's mug is on the money. To oppose having a black man's pitcher on our monies, that's racist, ain't it?

Anonymous said...

This sort of thing makes me sad.

Something related--Chinese Americans were apparently upset with the selection of Richardson as commerce secretary because as energy secretary under Clinton, he was responsible for the apparently unsatisfactory handling of the Wen Ho Lee case.

I didn't follow the Wen Ho Lee case. For all I know, he could be a Hatfill type figure.

It's the fact that that there's an ethnic conflict at all that bothers me.

Peter said...

What many people have forgotten is that the Arizona-born Cesar Chavez was not much of a supporter of immigration. He favored reasonable restrictions as opposed to open borders. Another interesting tidbit is that the grape pickers whose strike catapulted Chavez to national fame were not Mexican, or other Latin American, but Filipino.

What might have been a reasonable compromise in the Dallas situation would have been giving Industrial Boulevard a less-controversial Spanish name, something like Paseo del Rio. On the other hand, there's something honest and forthright in a no-euphemisms name like Industrial Boulevard.

Audacious Epigone said...

Sgt,

The Alabama county holiday didn't replace, it complemented. Celebrate now near the end and near the beginning of each year!

Anon,

There are going to be more going forward, not fewer.

Peter,

Edifying points. I'm sure you've read some of the research Steve Sailer's done on this, but if others haven't, it's worth taking a look.