First, the City Council considered re-naming Industrial Boulevard to honor Caesar Chavez, the Latino civil rights icon. Then, it was going to re-name Ross Avenue in honor of Chavez, because it had other plans for Industrial. And now, it’s not going to re-name Ross, but will find another street to call Chavez.
And people wonder why I call this one of the least sophisticated group of politicians I’ve seen in my 20-some odd years writing about this stuff.
There are no winners in this, even if Dallas’ Only Daily Newspaper anointed Mayor Park Cities: It’s "an important political victory for Mayor Tom Leppert and others in the city who are eager to give the Trinity River corridor – and particularly the land along Industrial – a new image." Leppert, in fact, was one of the losers. His south-of-the-Trinity coalition started to unravel the moment Mayor Pro Tem Elba Garcia walked out of the council chambers after the two votes — to re-name Industrial to Riverfront and to keep Ross — were taken.
Leppert’s political success so far — defeating the Trinity referendum, getting the convention center hotel on a fast track, and passing a city budget that has very little do with reality — has been based on getting everyone but Angela Hunt (and, to a lesser extent, Mitch Rasansky) to do what he wants them to do, whether it benefits them or not. The question now is whether the Hispanics on the council, who have had their faces slapped in public, will continue to do this. They might; I’ve seen stranger things happen. But if I’m running for re-election in May, the last thing I’m going to do is support a mayor who embarrassed me in front of my constituents.
Yes, Leppert’s effort in twisting arms to get Riverfront was impressive. It’s one of the things he does best. One day, perhaps, I’ll understand how he convinced so many people in Oak Cliff that they needed a tollway to go through their park. That was as impressive a piece of political legerdemain as I’ve ever seen.
The problem, though, is that arm twisting is a short-term solution. It doesn’t pay off in the long run unless the people whose arms have been twisted benefit. Case in point is Oak Cliff councilman Dave Neumann, who has marched in lockstep with Leppert since last May. He was even loyal enough to take much of the heat during the Chavez foolishness. But Neumann may well face a very challenging re-election campaign next spring. Ed Oakley, who used to hold that seat, is considering running again. Will Neumann’s support of Leppert help him beat Oakley, should Oakley run?
The other frog in the re-naming throat? It makes the city look silly, to say nothing of unfriendly toward Hispanics. Yet Leppert is seemingly obsessed with making Dallas look good in the eyes of the world, and especially Hispanics. How he is going to reconcile those two realities?