Editorial: What about public input for Paseo re-naming?

 

Kansas City City Hall

 

Michael Bushnell

Northeast News

 

On October 18th, 2018, Kansas City Council members Kathryn Shields, Quinton Lucas, Lee Barnes Jr., and Scott Taylor introduced Ordinance No. 180828, effectively changing the name of the The Paseo Boulevard to Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard. The ordinance was amended in November to change the name of The Paseo to— wait for it— Dr. Martin Luther King on The Paseo.

Since that time, the ordinance has been hotly debated during Council Legislative Sessions with the result being the same: holding the ordinance to allow additional public input.

To that end, and as a public service, The Northeast News reached out to Councilman Lucas to schedule a public meeting on the ordinance in order to allow the public to weigh in on the issue since the language of the ordinance did away with the 75 percent surrounding property owner approval in order to secure passage.

The Northeast Chamber of Commerce on Independence Boulevard was secured as a venue and Councilman Lucas was offered two dates in late November in which to hold a public forum

Sadly, by the time we heard back from Councilman Lucas, one date had already passed and it was within 24 hours of the second date, not giving adequate public notice to allow for scheduling.

Each time the matter has been held by Council, it was done ostensibly to allow public comment. But public input is exactly what Councilman Lucas isn’t allowing.

As for the overwhelming opposition to the ordinance, Mayor Sly James, Councilwoman Heather Hall and Councilwoman Alissia Canaday all expressed concern that the conversations they had with constituents were at least 80% against re-naming the Paseo.

Based on those responses, The Northeast News launched a Facebook poll last week to see where our readers stood on the matter. As of 4pm on Wednesday Jan. 9, 2019, over 395 votes had been cast. The outcome is a whopping 93% oppose the re-naming of The Paseo and a scant 7% supporting the measure.

Some questions remain unanswered. What about the historic designation that was bestowed on The Paseo in 2016? That process took close to two years and the total cost ran into six figures to secure that prestigious designation. Do we now roll that back because of this legislation? The Department of Interior has very strict regulations on changes to a historic listing after it’s been officially designated.

What about the existing Martin Luther King Park and the city ordinance that limits naming rights to a singular location within the city limits? The Parks Board has strongly argued against this name change given there’s already a park bearing King’s name at Swope Parkway and Woodland Avenues.

What about the homage paid to Kansas City’s proud Latino community that The Paseo is named for, The Paseo de la Reforma, a grand Boulevard that bisects Mexico City, Mexico. Do we wipe away over 100 years of Hispanic heritage in the name of patronage to a select few?

What about the Mayoral appointed Martin Luther King Committee that met and actually did engage the public? The results of their committee showed re-naming The Paseo the least popular among three options explored, the first being naming a terminal at the new, single-terminal airport after Dr. King. The committee’s second choice was to re-name 63rd street in honor of Dr. King.

Last but certainly not least, what about the overwhelming citizen opposition to this ordinance, expressed not only in unscientific social media polls but also stated during Council Legislative sessions by the Mayor and two council members? As a sidebar, public testimony has been promised by Councilman Lucas on the ordinance but never delivered. Certainly begs the question as to why.

It’s time to put this ridiculous ordinance right where it belongs, squarely on the scrapheap of history never to be seen or debated again.

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