After a short but contentious Council debate that had Councilman Quinton Lucas on the receiving end of some admonishments from Mayor Sly James as well as fellow Council colleagues for not following process nor allowing public comment on Lucas’ Paseo name change ordinance, the item was held yet again.
Lucas recommended holding the ordinance again until a stronger passing margin could be attained.
“I’d prefer this not pass on a 7-6 vote”, Lucas said, recommending holding the ordinance until the first week of January so that more discussion could occur in regard to the ordinance. Sixth District at-Large Councilman Scott Taylor questioned holding the ordinance noting that sufficient discussion had already taken place.
Lucas then mentioned his being “editorialized as a very bad guy” for his sponsorship of the ordinance, referencing a recent bunny the Newshound piece in The Northeast News that questioned the motives behind the ordinance. Lucas also noted he had been in a room in the Northeast area of the city recently where “general consensus was against the name change.”
A majority of the debate however centered on the lack of public input on this ordinance and the bypassing of council processes and procedures in advancing city ordinances.
First District Councilwoman Heather Hall, who represents some of the city’s Northern environs, questioned why the results of last spring’s Mayoral Committee and the recommendations from the Parks Board, neither of which was in favor of the Paseo name change, would simply be overturned.
On the name change itself, Hall indicated that she has received “at least one hundred emails on the matter and at least 85 percent of those are against the name change.”
Hall also expressed discomfort with not adhering to the processes set forward for the passage of ordinances, referring specifically to how this bypassed the processes the council follows in adopting ordinances.
“This is about the process” she stated very matter-of-factly. “We follow processes. If we change our minds every time we want to do something different, what good is the process?”
Hall also cited a rule or city ordinance already in place that states the city may have only one thing named after someone of note.
“We already have a park named after Martin Luther King so what do we do now, do we flip-flop on that?” she asked.
Fifth District Councilwoman Alicia Canaday echoed Councilwoman Hall’s concerns, adding a number of conversations she has had with her constituents, a majority of whom don’t support it.
“My role is to be a voice of my constituents and I can’t vote for something that bypasses their will,” she said, stating that the way this legislation was brought to the Council bypasses the will of the people.
Mayor James also questioned whether the group sponsoring the ordinance had talked to anyone who lives on the Paseo about the name change.
“I’m talking about Sally Jones and Bob Jones and Jack Johnson who actually live on The Paseo, and I can tell you every ten emails I get on this subject, eight of them are against it.”
James then questioned whether the group sponsoring the movement has actually spoken to the people on the street about the name change, citing the city’s 75-percent consent rule in which 75-percent of the property owners along the affected street must approve the name change.
Lucas responded by admonishing the 75-percent property owner consent rule that was written out of his ordinance. Lucas also called the Parks Board rules on changing the name of a Boulevard “impediments” to his ordinance and his will, specifically calling the 75-percent consent rule “super exceptionally challenging” and a “phantom requirement – we’ve not used it before, we’ll not use it again.”
Lucas said the name change to Martin Luther King Jr. on the Paseo is a “blending” of cultures and a “bridge” between the African American community and the Latino community despite the Latino community’s lack of input in this ordinance.
Councilman Jermaine Reed moved that the ordinance be held until the end of the year to allow for more public comment on the matter. In response, Mayor James asked what happens between now and then.
“Talk to some people, go knock on some doors,” said James. “Sit down with them, have a cup of coffee and say this is what we want to do. None of that has been done here and until that’s done, I’m not with you.”
James then called for the vote to hold the item until the end of December and ultimately cast the tie breaking vote, passing the hold measure by a 7-6 vote.
The one humorous moment in the ordinance’s debate was when Fifth District Councilwoman Kathryn Shields, citing the day’s marathon legislative session and this measure being placed last on the docket joked that when the ordinance is heard late in December that it again should be tacked to the end of the docket so that those council people “who are sick of the B.S.” could leave prior to the vote.
Ultimately, the Paseo name change will be held until late December and will be discussed further by the Council.