Dallas Officials Clash Over a Street’s Name

Paul J. Weber, AP, October 20, 2008

Some Hispanics in the nation’s ninth-largest city are suspicious of why efforts for a “Cesar Chavez Avenue” in Dallas have stumbled.

The name of the famed labor leader and civil rights activist won handily when the city asked residents to come up with a new name for Industrial Boulevard, a dull strip lined with liquor stores and bail bond offices

“Cesar Chavez Avenue” beat such names as “Riverfront” and “Trinity Lakes,” but Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert said the survey wasn’t binding.

Cesar Chavez Task Force leader Alberto Ruiz believes the city would have accepted the choice had it been someone other than Cesar Chavez.

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Some question whether Chavez, who rallied fieldhands over low wages and exploitation, is relevant to Dallas history. Others say his name doesn’t fit the marketing plan behind the surrounding $2 billion Trinity River sector revitalization.

Developers envision Industrial, a gritty three-mile strip, becoming a destination of condominiums and upscale shopping.

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Leppert said he wants to find another street to honor Chavez. Latino leaders say they won’t compromise.

Ruiz and his supporters accuse Dallas leaders of brushing off the results of the survey, which cost the city $20,000 and came back with Chavez as the 2-to-1 favorite. A key city planning commission vote on the renaming is expected in mid-November.

Ruiz, who calls the Chavez campaign a symbolic community battle in a city that is 43 percent Hispanic, now has his group going door-to-door on Industrial trying to shore up support ahead of the vote.

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Leppert, a first-term mayor and former CEO of construction giant Turner Corp., said the city will find a street to honor Chavez. Just not Industrial, where the top destinations now are mostly auto scrap yards and the county criminal courthouse.

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