Racial division influences Nov. 5 vote on MKL Blvd.

October 23, 2019 - 9:04 am

The citizens group Save the Paseo is gearing up for a public vote Nov. 5, when members hope to restore the name of one of the city's most historic thoroughfares.

Members of Kansas City's African-American community are expressing doubts about the group's motives.

The group's campaign is designed to reverse a city council vote renaming The Paseo after Dr Martin Luther King. The signs are already up, but Save the Paseo says there wasn’t enough community engagement. The 10-mile roadway was named after Mexico City’s Paseo De La Reforma more than a century ago.

The campaign contains an element of racism, said Dr. Vernon Howard, president of the Kansas City chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Howard said most of the petitioners for the public vote do not live along The Paseo, and as many thoroughfares named for Dr. King  across the country run through historically black neighborhoods, maybe the real color issue is green.

"Folks that desire to come in, take control of the land, take control of the community, including street names that would not be as appealing if they were named after an African-American hero," Howard said.

Save the Paseo says the real issue is about community-wide inclusion, across all ethnic and cultural lines, and that is what they say Dr. King was all about.

Voters will decide by a YES or No vote whether to change the name of the boulevard back to The Paseo. The ballot language reads, "Shall the City of Kansas City change the name of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., which is approximately 9.98 miles in length from the center line of Lexington Avenue south and east to a point south of the center line of East 85th Street, back to The Paseo Boulevard?"

See a sample ballot here.


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