There was some discussion here yesterday about the whole Industrial Boulevard-Cesar Chavez-Ross Avenue controversy, and — even though it rarely happens here because we like to believe our readers are a more civilized, level-headed lot than those who post on some other blogs around town — the discussion took a bit of a nasty, name-calling turn.

Suffice it to say that Mayor Tom Leppert has really screwed this issue up big-time, and he’s going to take a lot of people down with him — including his likely aspirations for higher political office — if he doesn’t get out in front of this thing immediately.

A quick review of the situation to date: A few council members decided to have a little fun promoting the idea of renaming Industrial Boulevard to something more reflective of the grand Trinity vision, so they set up a vote-online and by-telephone survey asking Dallas residents to vote for prospective new names for Industrial. Then, in what I imagine was a clear bow to being "inclusive", one of the possible names listed was Cesar Chavez, the late California migrant worker organizer whose Dallas and Texas links are imaginary, at best. Clearly, the council members had a couple of new names for Industrial in mind, figured their opinion was representative of anyone who would vote in their little poll, and didn’t even contemplate the fact that a vote might not go their way.

This one didn’t, with Chavez the clear winner of the poll, which was quickly labeled by the same council members as unofficial and nonbinding. Naturally, city Hispanic leaders — perceiving pressure on a sensitive topic and not want to look toothless to the Hispanic voters in their districts — dug in and said the council needed to follow the vote and rename Industrial in honor of Chavez.

Yesterday, a Solomon-like solution was put forth at the council’s Trinity subcommittee meeting — we’re not changing Industrial’s name to Chavez (Riverfront is way better), but how about changing the name of Ross Avenue, since a few Hispanic-dominated businesses and organizations have offices on that street? And in a pathetic display of city leadership, that proposal — simply a desperate attempt to satisfy a small but vocal group in favor of the Chavez name change — passed the council’s subcommittee unanimously.

In a nutshell, that’s where we are today. As the DMN noted, there are literally weeks of obstacles on the road to changing the name of Ross Avenue to Chavez, including (but not limited to) a City Plan Commission vote, a survey of businesses and organizations with Ross Avenue addresses right now, and an eventual council vote on the whole thing. A whole lot of innocent people are going to be forced to take a stand on this issue, thanks to council subcommittee’s "leadership".

It’s pretty clear where this is going to go, isn’t it? Name calling among city leaders, demonstrations fit for the TV screen, handwringing editorials in the DMN on both sides of the issue, and — when it’s all said and done — a lot of angry and unhappy people who, but for the lazy leadership of the city, would never have even raised an eyebrow about the whole idea.

The main question in all of this: Where’s Tom Leppert? He has been vocal in the DMN, insisting that Industrial won’t be renamed to Chavez, and he apparently has been spending quite a bit of time meeting behind closed doors with the people who have locked-in on the Chavez change. But he’s not demonstrating any public leadership, and into that vacuum is about to step a small but loud mob. Remember those DISD meetings a few years ago when there was more action in the crowd than behind the horseshoe? That’s what we’re looking at here, thanks to the mayor’s horrible political miscalculation and his inability to keep the whole thing behind the closed doors where he has been hanging out.

Bottom line? This will be the issue where the grand coalition of the council, eerily strong up to this point, will break down, and this will be the issue that shatters Leppert’s Teflon image. I don’t think he’s going to get this one put to bed without angering a whole lot of people, including a bunch of the people who paid for his campaign. This whole thing is going to be very interesting, but even worse, it’s going to be very damaging for the city because we’re likely to experience a few months of free-for-all name-calling on a city-wide basis.

We’re interested in your thoughts, but please keep it clean here. And cross your fingers that the politicians will come up with some reasonable alternatives — or just do the right thing and drop both name changes, leaving Industrial and Ross intact and Chavez disenfranchised until a new street in a new development comes along. But does anyone think that will really happen?

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