César Chávez Avenue, Dallas, Texas
"A project to hold up a hero for ourselves and our children"

On September 29, 2009 three Dallas City Council members recommended studying the downtown section of Central Expressway between Pacific and Grand for renaming in honor of Cesar Chavez.  This was reported on by the Dallas Morning News.  Then, on 10-6-09 an editorial titled "Workable renaming solution for Chávez" was posted by the Morning News in support of that recommendation.  

Renaming Central Expressway in honor of Cesar Chavez will create the only downtown Dallas street named after a leader also honored with a Texas State Holiday in his name.  However, by stopping the renaming at Pacific, and not going north of Pacific, critical connections to Dallas Hispanic History will be lost. The renaming should continue north, from where Pearl connects with Central at Pacific, and include Moody.

Remember, the Dallas City Archivist can find no documented sources for the names of either Pearl or Moody.

This addition would connect Cesar Chavez Avenue with many parts of Dallas Hispanic History including St. Ann’s School in the heart of what used to be Little Mexico. This section of Pearl is the largest Hispanic gathering place in the southwest every weekend as families gather for one of the multiple services at Guadalupe Cathedral!  

Many of those who attended St. Ann’s are now either leaders in Dallas, or the parents, and/or grandparents of such leaders.

An acknowledgement of Hispanic History in Dallas is to the benefit of everyone, especially the 66% of DISD students who are Hispanic! That acknowledgement stops short with the current City Council recommendation that does not include anything north of Pacific to honor Cesar Chavez. The simple addition of Pearl will connect all the way to the center of what was once known as "Little Mexico." 

Our cities improvement must continue by fully honoring our history.

Below is a 2007 Dallas map of Moody and Pearl north of Pacific, and Central Expressway south of Pacific, all in white. 

The black line reflects the original Pearl recommendation and is not now being considered.

  • Below this line are documents archived as of 9-29-09 when the recommendation for renaming the downtown section of Central Expressway between Pacific and Grand was recommended by three Dallas City Council members.

  • (Frequently Asked Questions are linked here.)

    Reasons Pearl & Moody Streets should be renamed to honor César Chávez:

    The map below marks Moody & Pearl with a heavy dark line.

    A one page pdf copy of the above information can be downloaded and printed from here. A copy in Word format, that may print out better, is here.
    This form, with links active, is at http://www.MexicanDallas.com.

    The 1945 map below is colored blue for the Hispanic areas of Dallas and red for the African American areas of Dallas. A white line follows Moody and Pearl Street to about where they end in 2009. The split at Live Oak is where the roads splits in 2009 to go to Central Expressway.  Central is the yellowed line that was a railroad track when this map was made in 1945. The original map is in the files of the Dallas Public Library. Other landmarks along Pearl are indicated in the copy below.  This copy can be printed out in grayscale (click here) so multiple black and white copies can be made for distribution as needed. It also can be copied in color.

    The above photo is cut from the center of the Dallas map, below, secured from the Dallas Public Library.

    If you click on the thumbnail below of the 1945 Dallas map the full size map (28M in size) will (slowly) load.  Once loaded you will quickly see the monumental changes to our city over the past 64 years. The renaming of the contiguous section of Pearl and Moody will help our city to acknowledge the long history of the Hispanic citizens in our city.

    The above map clearly shows the major concentration of Hispanic families, the blue areas, were in the Little Mexico section of Dallas in 1945.

    César Chávez Avenue, Dallas, Texas (Written 11-21-08)

    Many months ago Pearl Street was considered as a street to use in honoring the César Chávez name.  At the time all parties were looking at other streets.  As of 11-10-08 that changed when the Dallas City Council voted against the first two proposals that had been developed for the other streets. After that vote the Dallas Mayor asked for his staff to begin another search for a way to honor César Chávez.  A task force is being formed. That brings us back to Pearl. The following facts make a good case for Pearl to be the anchor for a memorial honoring César Chávez.

    César Chávez Plaza in Farmer's Market was dedicated in May of 1995 from a one block section of Pearl Expy that was closed off and turned into a plaza. On the south side of the east door of Building #2 (the west side of the plaza) is a plaque with the image of César Chávez.  It tells the story of César Chávez and dedicates the plaza as César Chávez Plaza.  Pearl Expy goes out both directions from César Chávez Plaza, two blocks to the south, and two miles to the north, first as Pearl Expy, and then after crossing Pacific Avenue, as Pearl Street.

    Sadly an awareness of the César Chávez name being anywhere in Farmers Market is no more common in Dallas than was an awareness of the Ross Avenue name source a year ago. Almost nobody knows about it.  A search of the Dallas Farmers Market web site 11-16-08 resulted in no mention found anywhere on the site of the name César Chávez, or of César Chávez Plaza in the Farmers Market! 

    Such a lack of visibility for the César Chávez name would change immediately if the name Pearl was replaced with the name César Chávez all along Pearl Street and Pearl Expy. The name César Chávez would no longer be invisible in Dallas! Pearl could become a simple and powerful memorial to this great American.

    Since Moody is like Pearl, a street name whose source is unknown (even to the Archivist for the City of Dallas), the name Moody could also be renamed after César Chávez.  This would provide a connection with the St. Ann's School building constructed in 1927 on the south side of Moody. It was the first school to serve the children of Little Mexico in a time of segregated education in Dallas.

    These streets renamed in honor of César Chávez would provide a path from the center of Little Mexico next to the historic St. Ann's School building, south past the location where more Hispanics gather for worship each weekend (the Guadalupe Cathedral) than any other location in Texas, then on to the Farmer's Market. This memorial to César Chávez would run within two blocks of the Latino Cultural Center. It would not only make the César Chávez name visible from one end of Downtown Dallas to the other, it would also place it on the exits going both ways off Woodall Rogers Freeway. It could also lead to the renaming of the current Pearl Station on the DART Rail Line in honor of César Chávez. (The César Chávez DART Rail Station would be the first mass transit rail station in the US with the César Chávez name according to an Internet search.) The map below outlines this path along Moody and Pearl in red.

    The hurdle we face is that Dallas has a history of pushing the few minority names we have on streets and public structures into relatively invisible and hidden corners of our city.  There are only rare exceptions to this pattern. To follow recent suggestions made to limit the César Chávez name to only the Farmer's Market area continues the historic Dallas tradition to minimize minority names. (If there is no such tradition, where are minority names on Dallas streets and buildings?)

    The City of Dallas Archivist said he has searched for 7 years for the source of the Pearl Street name with no success. This makes Pearl a good candidate for the name César Chávez. There are also only 369 addresses on Pearl, half the number that are on Ross Avenue.  The large majority of them are not businesses, but private residences. Thus we have a street with only a small fraction of the number of business addresses as were present on both Ross and Industrial.

    Changing both Pearl & Moody will also positively raise the visibility of the Victory Park area surrounding American Airlines Center, especially with media and other support to acknowledge the history and work of the people of Little Mexico.  People with roots in Little Mexico have made many great achievements. Many could be seen returning to live in the area again due to the positively developing residential area there.  Many may already be there.

    To study Pearl Street in this area of Dallas go to www.maps.google.com and search for "N Pearl St, Dallas, Dallas, Texas 75201" in Google Maps. The above map is from that page. For more information you may study the Dallas County Appraisal District records on Pearl Street at www.dallascad.org.

    Please help to identify potential problems with the idea of renaming Pearl and Moody in honor of César Chávez. Sadly 50 or more businesses will still have expenses related to an address change, a small fraction of the businesses that were facing such expenses in the Ross Avenue change proposal. Hopefully such investments can be well managed to result in large, ultimately very profitable, benefits through increased visibility for those businesses.

    What are other problems that may be faced with this proposal?

    Bill Betzen

    The 11-29-08 weekend edition of Aldia, the Spanish version of the Dallas Morning News, had a front page article titled "Una Perla para Chávez." Here is a link to a copy of that two page Spanish article. Here is a second link to one English translation of "A Pearl for Chávez."

    The following is a lesson plan from www.Tolerance.org that uses the recent sad history in Dallas of the attempts up to 10-20-08 to honor César Chávez.  That recent history is used to promote a reflection for students on tolerance. May our children ultimately see a positive example from this time in Dallas History.  The process is not over. Many good people continue diligently working.

    ===== from http://www.tolerance.org/teach/current/event.jsp?ar=969  =======================

    October 20, 2008 – Despite a 2-to-1 vote in favor of the measure, Dallas city leaders may reject a bid to name a major street after labor and civil rights leader César Chávez.
    by Tim Lockette
    Dallas officials clash over a street's name

    When the city of Dallas launched an effort to revitalize its struggling Industrial Boulevard, civic leaders spent $20,000 on a survey asking local residents to choose possible names for the street. But when residents voted 2-to-1 in favor of the name "César Chávez Avenue," the city's mayor declared that the survey wasn't a binding vote.

    Questions for Classroom Discussion

    • Other cities have named streets and schools after Chavez. What did he do to deserve this honor? (Answers may include: Led a movement to stop inhuman working conditions in American agriculture, used nonviolent means to make social change, became an inspiration to other leaders in the Latino civil rights movement.)
    • What are some of the reasons civic leaders have offered for opposing the move to change Industrial Boulevard to César Chávez Avenue? (Answers may include: Doesn't fit the city's marketing plan, "not relevant" to Dallas history.)
    • What does the naming of streets say about a community? (Answers will vary but may include: Reflects the history of an area, reflects the heroes of the people who live there, reflects the values of the residents.)
    • For which historical figures are the streets in your town named? (Answers will vary but may include: Martin Luther King, Jr., various presidents, war heroes, founders or early industrialists in the town. Students may need to do research on street names and may come up with some surprises, including streets named for Ku Klux Klan members, slaveowners or other objectionable figures.)
    • Do the names of streets and public facilities in your town reflect the lives and values of the people who live in your town? (Answers will vary.)
    Additional Resources

    Viva La Causa
    Order our newest teaching kit for grades 7-12, which focuses on the farmworker strike and grape boycott led by César Chávez and Dolores Huerta.

    Latino Civil Rights Timeline
    Fill in the gaps in your students' historical knowledge with the Teaching Tolerance Project's short timeline of the history of Latino civil rights movements in America.

    César Chávez Across America
    A list of road, schools, libraries and other landmarks named for Chavez.

    Along Martin Luther King
    A journalist looks at the state of black America by exploring the 650 streets named after Martin Luther King, Jr.

    View the current events archive

    Everything below this line was archived on 11-12-08 as the efforts for a new street to use in honoring César Chávez were started. Sadly, all the efforts below only led to where we are now as we work on yet another location to use in honoring César Chávez.

    The web site below was an effort to renew the faded public memory of William W. and Andrew J. Ross
    with the first historical marker in their honor,
    and permanently rename the section of Ross Avenue southwest of Greenville Avenue in honor of César Chávez.


    The southwest end of the current Ross Avenue is marked in the photo above.  It runs within 6 blocks of the old St. Ann's school which was in the center of Little Mexico. The southwest end of Ross was originally an industrial area where many from Little Mexico worked. The first block of Ross southwest of the Akard intersection, to about the middle of the block occupied by Fountain Place Plaza, the large blue building north of the "Ross Avenue" sign above, was actually the southern boundary of Little Mexico according to this map from about 1940 that is linked here.  The northern boundary of Little Mexico in 1940 was Reverchon Park. In the photo above it is the northern edge of the trees seen north of American Airlines Center.

    Ross Avenue in Dallas was the gathering point for both the largest, and the most peaceful, public march in the history of Texas!

    A map from about 1940, linked here, shows the area covered by current Fountain Place Plaza, the large blue 40+ story building on the left side of Ross Avenue in the photo below. Fountain Place Plaza is now located on some of the land that used to be part of Little Mexico.

    The first photo above was taken at about 1:00 PM on 4-9-06  The march had started about 10 minutes earlier than the 1:00 PM planned start time due to the unexpected crowds that were gathering around the Cathedral for many blocks.  Organizers were worried.  They started the march earlier than scheduled so as to relieve the crowd pressure that was mounting. It is estimated that it took about 10-15 minutes for the march to reach this point on Ross, walking past the southern border of the former "Little Mexico" area of Dallas. The second photo above is from the eastern end of Ross Avenue looking past the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe where the march started.
    The above photos are from the LULAC photo album where there are many other photos from this wonderfully peaceful day.
    Another album online is at the Dallas Morning News web site.

    This photo was taken from the corner of Ross and Griffin, from a location about under the 'u' in the word "Avenue" that was inserted into the photo at the very top of this web page. It was an exceptionally peaceful march with virtually no negative incidents reported! Ross Avenue was filled with people for many hours as a half a million people marched.

    It is very appropriate that Ross Ave be renamed in honor of a national leader in using such non-violent methods to support basic human rights.  That leader, César Chávez, also happens to be Hispanic, as were the large majority of the marchers that peaceful day in April of 2006.

    Reasons to Rename Ross Avenue as César Chávez Avenue

    People ask what César Chávez did in Texas. The best answer is found when you go to the Texas Handbook web site (www.tshaonline.org) managed by the Texas State Historical Commission. When you search this Texas State Historical Commission web site for the name César Chávez you will find his name and/or his work in Texas mentioned 9 times in the Texas Handbook. Search for Harry Hines, after whom a major north/south Dallas street is named that goes by Parkland Hospital, and you only get three hits. It is certain, with 9 mentions, that the name César Chávez is more often present on the Texas State Historical Commission web site than the large majority of other names on downtown Dallas streets. Sam Houston is an obvious exception. César Chávez was last in Dallas in 1991, 2 years before his death, visiting supporters. His connections to Dallas were the subject of a Dallas Morning News article titled "Supporters of naming Dallas street after César Chávez cite his ties to city."

    Jim Schutze has a wonderful opinion piece on the César Chávez street naming chaos at www.dallasobserver.com/2008-07-31/news/what-s-in-a-nombre/. His opinion was only slightly wrong: the move of the name change process from Industrial to Ross, while it may have started as an "accommodation," is ultimately resulting in a much better solution for many reasons. Here are some of those reasons, most of which have been shared with the mayor and city council:

    Anyone who is interested in being involved in these efforts to rename Ross Avenue may want to go to www.cesarchaveztaskforce.com for more current information.

    The one thing this street renaming process has exposed again is the absolute need to better educate Texans about their own history. The history of this wonderful state and it's people is the most powerful tool we have for positive changes into the future. Our true history, not necessarily the recorded one, is powerful. When history is not recorded it is almost always due to political reasons, prejudice against minorities and the poor, and mistreatment thereof. We endanger our children and grandchildren to repeat that painful past if we ignore or hide it. We will not change until we can admit the factual, sometimes painful, truths of our past. The lack of change caused by a falsely positive image of our past will allow our grandchildren's generation to still suffer in ways too similar to those our grandparents generation suffered.

    The process of exploration as we consider changing a street name helps us admit our past and build to a new and more positive future. We must leave behind the anger, hate, and ignorance of history, that has been reflected on blogs all over the Internet discussing the effort to put the name of César Chávez on a street in Dallas. Dallas Morning News staff have even shut down at least one blog, refusing to take more comments, due to the anger and less than civil dialog reflected on that blog. (See http://cityhallblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2008/07/industrialcesar-chavez-votes-h.html#comments. You can also google blogs for “César Chávez Dallas” to find other sad examples.)

    César Chávez would never have wanted us to respond with the same verbal violence that far too many bloggers have used to angrily attack the idea of placing a Hispanic name on a Dallas street. Fortunately, verbally violent counter-attacks by those supporting the César Chávez name change have been rare. We are keeping with the spirit of César Chávez.

    We must continue the peaceful process we have begun to honor César Chávez by only using the same peaceful methods he himself used. We have all benefited from his peaceful work.

    Let's engage in a process that will say much about Dallas and how our beliefs are reflected in the way we change street names in our city to reflect our values.  It will say more about us than it will ever say about César Chávez.  His legacy is already firmly established in the History of the USA. The history of Dallas is being built, day by day.

    Be strong. Be firm. Above all, be peaceful.

    Bill Betzen
    www.studentmotivation.org - a dropout cure

    Perhaps Ross Avenue is due for change - Steve Blow


    11:12 AM CDT on Sunday, August 10, 2008

    It's nice to find that life can still bring some surprises – especially when it's inside your own head.

    On this whole Ross Avenue/César Chávez name change, my inclination was to oppose it.

    After all, I'm the guy who argued for respecting history and leaving Industrial Boulevard alone.

    Well, you see how influential I am. Industrial is now on its way to becoming Riverfront Boulevard.

    If the name has to change, that's a good call. The whole point of this exercise was to build a little riverside synergy.

    And let's give credit to Latino leaders for understanding that and not waging a battle over Industrial, despite that dialing-for-democracy poll.

    So now we turn our attention to Ross Avenue, where those leaders do appear ready for a fight.

    My first reaction was just like with Industrial: You don't mess with history.

    Besides, Ross Avenue is named for someone. That makes the name even more sacred. Ross Avenue is named for ... uh, wait a minute. Let's see ... Ross? Ross?

    And here's where I hit my first mental snag. If you haven't got a clue whom a street is named for, is that really a name worth fighting to preserve?

    Well, it turns out that Ross Avenue is named for brothers William and Andrew Ross. And as far as I can tell, their major accomplishment was owning the land where the new avenue was platted. That's it. They were landowners.

    So Ross Avenue's name pays homage to wealth. Like we don't already have plenty of that in Dallas.

    But what does César Chávez have to do with Dallas? Important figure, sure, but hardly someone you associate with Dallas, Texas.

    Hang on a minute, my little mind said to me. What did the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. have to do with Dallas? Or Malcolm X, for heaven's sake?

    Or Jefferson, Madison, Adams or Van Buren, for that matter?

    Truth is, we have no problem using names with no relation to Dallas – Seaside Drive, Oceanview and Mountain Valley, to name a far-fetched few.

    But street names should have a permanence about them. We don't go changing street names just to suit changing times.

    Well, yes we do. Just ask Francisco Luis Hector Baron de Carondelet. Dallas once had a short street named Carondelet for the Spanish colonial leader. But when it was extended, it was renamed – guess what – Ross Avenue.

    Of course I have already mentioned MLK and Malcolm X – a couple of streets that got new names to better reflect our full history.

    Dallas once had a Germania Street. But during World War I, that named seemed just a little too, uh, Germanic. It was changed to Liberty Street.

    And back in the 1920s, when aviator Charles Lindbergh was the nation's sensation, Dallas named a street for him. Then in the 1930s, when Lindbergh was just a little too fond of Hitler, Dallas renamed his street for a local banker, William Francis Skillman.

    OK, so maybe we could rename a street for Chávez. But wouldn't Singleton or Live Oak be better?

    Yes, they would be better, I had to admit to myself, if the goal is to find a more obscure, out-of-the-way street.

    Somehow that doesn't seem like a good argument: We'll honor Chávez, just not too much.

    So after thinking it through, I surprise myself by saying, sure, let's rename Ross Avenue. Let's honor Chávez. And in doing so, let's honor the changing makeup of our city.

    Respecting history doesn't mean being stuck in it.

    Thursday, August 7, 2008

    Changing Ross Avenue to César Chávez makes logical sense

    By Marisa Trevińo of Latina Lista



    Tell us your story

    Comments (18)

    Old postcard of Ross Avenue when it had big grand houses.

    Old postcard of Ross Avenue when it had big grand houses.

    The tug-of-war currently happening in Dallas over whether or not Ross Ave. should be renamed César Chávez is not going to end nicely. On the one hand, if city officials renege on their olive branch gesture to allow the city’s Latino community to honor a man recognized for fighting for the rights of Latino farm workers, bad feelings will undoubtedly ensue.

    On the other hand, if city officials ignore the critics opposed to relegating the Ross family name only to the dusty annals of city history, more bad feelings will ensue. It clearly is a no-win situation for the Dallas City Council.

    Or is it?

    An editorial in today’s The Dallas Morning News would like to have us think so. According to the paper’s editorial board, the city’s Latino community would do the whole city a favor if we would just forget about changing Ross Ave. to César Chávez Blvd. Their solution is to pick another street and choose someone who has more direct ties to Dallas’ Latinos.

    There’s nothing wrong with that suggestion and, in fact, it’s long overdue. There should be recognition for any of our hard-working Latino and Latina politicians, business entrepreneurs or non-profit trailblazers with a street named in their honor, but there should also be a street named for César Chávez too.

    For The Dallas Morning News’ editorial board to arbitrarily declare that César Chávez has no real meaning for Dallas Latinos shows a gross insensitivity to the community. Perhaps if they had a Latino/a editorial writer within their ranks who could have clued them in as to why Chavez is significant to all Latinos, then maybe they would have thought twice before publishing their ill-thought piece.

    For starters, while it’s true that César Chávez fought for the rights of farm workers, his legacy is that his memory has evolved into a symbol for standing up for the civil rights of all Latinos. His example of non-violence to get his message across is one that is replicated today by new generations of Latinos.

    To many of us, he symbolizes the “every-Latino” who rose from humble beginnings, who never forgot his roots and always defended and spoke up for those who had no voice.

    César Chávez’ impact on today’s Latinos is something we’re constantly reminded of, especially whenever we hear a politician borrow Chavez’ most famous words: “Si se puede.”

    Chavez, by virtue of his deeds, was and is able to bridge the wide variety of Latino cultures and unite us under one proud banner — no small feat.

    And why Ross Ave.? There has been so much condemnation voiced over this selection that no one has examined the reason why this street was chosen.

    Speaking for myself, the most important reason is because Ross Ave. is home to one of the most important landmarks for Dallas Latinos — the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

    The Cathedral is home to the largest Latino parish congregation in the nation. It holds a significant place in the history of the Dallas Latino community, not to mention that the building is not going anywhere.

    It would be far easier to rename Ross Ave. César Chávez Blvd and choose another street to rename for Ross Ave. In reviewing a 1901 Dallas city street directory at the Dallas County Texas Archives website, I discovered it wasn’t the first time Ross Ave. had been renamed.

    In fact, in reviewing a Google map of downtown Dallas, the first thing that became apparent was that out of all the streets that wind throughout the heart of the city, there’s no street with a recognizable name that means something to the Latino community.

    While there’s Malcolm X, Ervay, Griffin and Ackard to name a few, there’s no street, in a city that is majority Latino, that reflects our presence.

    It’s time to change that and understand that there are plenty of streets to go around.

    8-14-08: The good news is that yesterday a very good history of the Ross brothers was posted on the Dallasblog at http://www.dallasblog.com/200808151003357/dallas-blog/the-ross-brothers.html. The sad news is that this posting, and a related new web site at http://www.saveross.com/ appear to be directed at stopping this effort to permanently remember the Ross brothers and also add evidence of the Hispanic influence in Dallas to the Dallas infrastructure. Again some of the people in Dallas want to accommodate minorities.

    Professor Darwin Payne has provided many very positive and needed reports on the history of the Ross brothers in Dallas. Sadly it is a history that probably fewer than 100 people in Dallas were aware of 6 months ago. The best thing about the process we are now engaged in regarding the renaming of Ross Avenue is that more people are becoming aware of the impressive history of the Ross brothers. 

    It is the type history that could probably be written about many of the people whose names are on the streets of Dallas, and also many of the people who did the actual labor building those streets and the city of Dallas, but whose names are unknown. Our culture is blessed with many honorable ancestors we too easily forget.

    One goal of the César Chávez Avenue Task Force is to document, on at least one permanent historical marker along Ross Avenue, details from the lives of William and Andrew Ross. The goal is that every day more people will read and learn about the lives of the Ross brothers than even knew of that history the half century before 2008.

    In the process of remembering history we also want to remember the history that was never written about the thousands of minority families who lived along Ross Avenue working in the factories and homes of Dallas. Thus that minority community wants to place the name of one of their own greatest modern Hispanic leaders, César Chávez, as the street name. The goal is to expand our cities acknowledgment of the many ethnic groups who helped build Dallas.

    It is no accident that the ethnic groups who have the history that is least acknowledged in the Dallas infrastructure and street names are also the ethnic groups who have the highest dropout rates in Dallas ISD.  This is a common characteristic among high school dropouts: they have little or no connection to their own personal histories.  That is what helps also disconnect them from a focus onto their own futures. 

    A dropout prevention project now in its fourth year in one Dallas ISD school is working to reconnect students with their histories.  It is helping students document their heritage, their past, and also their goals for the future.  It is a dropout prevention project that is documented as lowering 9th to 10th grade dropout rates by over 25%.  As the School Archive Project matures the dropout rate is anticipated to be cut in half! Such is the power of history!

    However, unless the history for all the children in Dallas ISD, especially the majority, is better reflected in the major street names in our city, we have a tragic disconnection. The dropout rate will never go as low as is possible.

    We have work to do.

    Bill Betzen

    Backers of renaming Ross Avenue for César Chávez face long road

    12:00 AM CDT on Wednesday, August 6, 2008


    By RUDOLPH BUSH / The Dallas Morning News
    rbush@dallasnews.com Brad Watson of WFAA-TV (Channel 8) contributed to this report.

    A plan to rename one of Dallas' oldest thoroughfares for civil rights leader César Chávez took a significant step forward Tuesday, but it has a long and likely difficult path toward becoming reality.

    Sidestepping a controversy over renaming Industrial Boulevard for Mr. Chávez, a Dallas City Council committee voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend that Ross Avenue bear his name.

    But that proposal – which also includes renaming Industrial as Riverfront Boulevard – succeeded mainly in shifting the controversy a few blocks east and several weeks or even months down the road.

    Council member Steve Salazar, a key proponent of changing Ross to César Chávez Avenue, acknowledged as much moments before Tuesday's vote was taken by the Trinity River Corridor Project Committee.

    "This is only one part of the process, and it's going to be a long process," he said.

    The proposal next must go before the Dallas Plan Commission. A date for that meeting will likely be scheduled after a 10-day review by several city departments and other agencies.

    At the plan commission stage, the public will have the first of at least two chances to be heard on the issue.

    And if the calls and e-mails that came into City Hall on Tuesday are any indication, there should be quite a crowd.

    The plan commission will have a chance to approve or deny the name change recommendation.

    But no matter what the commission decides, the City Council will have the final vote.

    The only question is whether approval of the name change would require a simple majority of the council or a three-quarters vote.

    A three-quarters vote – 12 council members – would be required under two conditions: If the plan commission denies the recommendation or if 20 percent of property owners along Ross file a written opposition to the name change.

    Alberto Ruiz, chairman of the César Chávez Task Force, a group of elected officials and Hispanic leaders pushing for the name change, said Tuesday that he expects his group will need to win a three-quarters vote of the council.

    "I think it's going to be very difficult. We have to work hard. We're going to sweat a lot in the next few weeks," he said.

    So far, only the council's three Hispanic members, Mr. Salazar, Mayor Pro Tem Elba Garcia and council member Pauline Medrano, are fully behind renaming Ross. All three are on the city's Trinity committee and voted in favor of the recommendation Tuesday.

    Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, who initially opposed renaming the street, also sits on the committee and voted in favor of the recommendation. Afterward, he said that he is likely to vote in favor of the name change when the issue reaches the full council.

    But the rest of the Trinity committee, including council members Carolyn Davis, Linda Koop and Dave Neumann, hedged when asked what they will do when the issue comes before them again.

    "I'm supportive of letting the process go forward," Ms. Koop said.

    In clear opposition at this point are council members Jerry Allen, Ron Natinsky and Mitchell Rasansky.

    Mr. Allen said he will listen to all sides but is reluctant to change a street name that is entrenched in Dallas history.

    "It's like anything, it's hard to change that, and those are my memories, too," he said.

    Indeed, more so than Industrial Boulevard, Ross Avenue seems to represent something deep about Dallas.

    Cutting through the heart of downtown, it passes shining skyscrapers and rolls northeast into the neighborhoods of East Dallas where many Mexican immigrants have made a home.

    The changes in the street from downtown to Greenville Avenue reflect something about the changing face and politics of Dallas.

    That is one reason Ross is the right choice to be renamed for Mr. Chávez, Dr. Garcia said.

    "What we are asking for today is respect. What the Latino community wants today is respect. How do you tell the community that César Chávez isn't good enough when this city has a 60 percent Latino population?" she asked.

    Answering that question is sure to be complicated for opponents of renaming Ross.

    Council member Angela Hunt, whose district includes much of Ross downtown, said she has already received calls from business owners who oppose changing the street's name. No business owners have called her in support, she said.

    Calls from The Dallas Morning News and WFAA-TV (Channel 8) to several major businesses on Ross Avenue went unreturned.

    "We don't have anything to offer you on that," said Jill Bernstein, spokeswoman for the Dallas Museum of Art, before abruptly hanging up.

    A spokeswoman for Crow Holdings, which owns the Trammell Crow Center at Ross and Field Street, had no comment.

    A spokeswoman for the company that manages Fountain Place at Ross and Pearl Street didn't return a call.

    The Catholic Archdiocese said the church had yet to finalize a position, a spokeswoman said. The Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe sits on Ross and has been cited by supporters of the name change as a major gathering place for Dallas Hispanics.

    John Crawford, president and chief executive of Downtown Dallas, said his group hasn't had a chance to fully review the proposal.

    Mayor Tom Leppert and many on the council took the same position Tuesday.

    "Clearly on something like this you want to listen to all the groups in the community," Mr. Leppert said.

    Ms. Hunt agreed but added that she has some concerns about changing the name of a street so tied to Dallas history.

    Brothers William and Andrew Ross were prominent Dallas residents at the time of the Civil War, and Ross Avenue cuts through land that once belonged to them.

    But like others on the council, Ms. Hunt said the process needs to play out fairly before a final decision is made.

    "I am just now at the point where I can start talking to my constituents. We are very early in the process," she said.

    Brad Watson of WFAA-TV (Channel 8) contributed to this report.

    On about June 15, 2008 it was confirmed that Dallas civic powers will ignore a $20,000 survey they paid for that resulted in 52% of respondents wanted César Chávez as the new name for Industrial Boulevard. Second place, with less than 20% of the vote, was the apparent winner.  The battle to name César Chávez Avenue was shifted to Ross Avenue, a street even closer to the heart of the area known as Little Mexico,
    and much more central to Hispanic History in Dallas!

    The photo below shows Industrial Blvd in relation to the area formerly known as Little Mexico.

    Little Mexico, like many other laborer communities in the history of Dallas, has been virtually erased from the Dallas landscape. Industrial blvd was the major transportation artery through the industrial area of the city where thousands of workers from Little Mexico, and similar communities, worked or traveled every day. It was very appropriate to consider honoring such workers by renaming Industrial Blvd in the honor of a national leader in workers' rights. For the same reasons it is now even more appropriate to rename Ross Avenue to honor César Chávez.  Ross Avenue is significantly closer to the area once known as Little Mexico.

    It is easier to ignore workers' basic human rights when we keep the names of such leaders hidden within their own communities, or somehow even try to turn a basic worker rights issue into a racial issue. Who benefits from such a distraction?

    The School Archive Project - Preventing Dropouts
    Bill Betzen: bbetzen@aol.com
    updated 10/11/2009