On Wednesday the Dallas City Council will vote on council member Dwaine Caraway’s proposal to rename a six-mile stretch of Lancaster Road in honor of late South African president Nelson Mandela. He will need the support of three-fourths of the council. Caraway insists he has it.
Wednesday’s vote comes less than a week after the City Plan Commission recommended denying the name change by a vote of 13-1. The only commissioner to vote in favor of the name-change was District 4′s representative Betty Culbreath, Caraway’s appointee. The CPC’s vote came two months after its Subdivision Review Committee likewise recommended denial of the street name change. Said commissioner Bobby Abtahi in July, “There does seem to be a lack of support, and it doesn’t seem that this was a groundswell in the community.” But, he said then, this will ultimately be decided by the full city council.
“I believe in letting people have a voice and the right to their opinions,” Caraway says of the CPC’s vote. “But when it gets to the council I will make my points known. I expect to have the votes Wednesday to pass it. That’s the level where I’m hands-on. I don’t get into a big to-do about it. But I am a little disappointed with some of the planning commissioners, especially those that portray themselves to be of African descent.”
Some at Dallas City Hall say this is far from a sure thing, in part because of the sheer length of Lancaster — six miles, from Illinois Avenue all the way to Interstate 20, inside the Dallas city limits. That will impact hundreds living and working along that corridor, including the Dallas VA Medical Center, which has remained neutral, at least publicly, about the proposal. Several speakers at CPC Wednesday pointed out the sheer logistical nightmare of renaming a street that long.
But Caraway needs three-fourths of the council to sign off on the proposal for two reasons: Dallas City Code prohibits naming a street for someone who hasn’t been dead for at least two years; and there’s a 14-character limit on street names. Caraway says he isn’t concerned.
The name change to Nelson Mandela Boulevard is needed “if we’re going to grow south and change the attitude and give new hope and bring crime down and bring retail of quality,” he says. “All of the horrible conditions of Lancaster have been there forever. A new name brings about new opportunity. There are people who are excited about it. The rest who don’t want it, that’s the nature of the beast. Now I am lobbying for the votes, and I do have the votes.”