Yesterday's news from the city plan commission on the Ross-Industrial-Chavez imbroglio could very well be a political master-stroke that will set the tone for the next couple of years downtown.
With the entire plan commission voting not to rename Industrial to Riverfront — and with a plan commision subcommittee voting against renaming Ross, too — we're seeing a renegade group of volunteer citizens taking action to produce a new vision for Dallas rather than rely on the politically expedient route that seems to have been holding sway downtown lately.
The plan commission action empowered the Hispanic council members, who have been insisting that a street in Dallas be named for Cesar Chavez. The message to them: This is your chance to do what you've been saying you want to do in following the will of the people who voted in the now infamous poll. Since the DMN reports that the council now needs a 3/4 majority (12 votes) to rename Industrial, that means four council votes in favor of Chavez are enough to block renaming Industrial to Riverfront. And once Riverfront is blocked, I would expect that at least a simple majority of the council would see the political handwriting on the wall and vote to rename Industrial for Chavez.
The three Hispanic members of the council — Steve Salazar, Elba Garcia and Pauline Medrano — helped instigate the current drama when the traded away their votes on the Trinity River subcommittee, voting with the mayor for Riverfront. It appears they were promised another street (Ross, as it turned out) in a part of town that I guess is less important to the mayor, so they went along with the master plan, figuring they wouldn't have the votes to prevail at council.
Well, now they probably do. All they need is one additional member of the city council to vote with them against renaming Industrial to Riverfront, and they're probably on the road to a victory.
I don't know who will turn out to be the mastermind behind this little coup, although I notice that plan commissioner Neil Emmons (he of the "let's rename the Tollway for Chavez" soundbite) seemed to be at the center of it. But to whoever came up with this idea, let me say this: Thanks.
The council vote Wednesday on renaming Industrial to Riverfront will be a telling one. If the Hispanic council members wind up giving Mayor Tom Leppert a black eye on this one, we could get a chance to see how he reacts to defeat. Should be interesting, to say the least.