Voters in Kansas City on Tuesday approved changing the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard back to Paseo Boulevard after the Kansas City council voted to change the name in January.
Supporters of reversing the name change say the name “Paseo” has historical significance. The Southern Christian Leadership Council pushed the initial measure and said racism was fueling the drive to remove the slain civil rights leader’s name.
“This issue was much bigger than race,” said former city councilwoman Alyssia Canady about the results. “It was about the democratic process, integrity, and trust in the civic process as well.”
Canady voted against the measure because the council bypassed a requirement to get majority approval from residents before voting.
Mayor Quinton Lucas was a councilman at the time and sponsored the ordinance, saying the city was long overdue to honor the civil rights icon
SCLC President Rev. Vernon Howard spoke to Up To Date’s Steve Kraske last month. He said business leaders outside of the city told him they won’t travel to Kansas City if the signs are taken down.
“We believe this represents a major setback,” Howard said in October about the potential reversal.
Activist group Save The Paseo collected more than 2,000 signatures on a petition filed with the city in May to put the issue to a citywide vote.
The city, awaiting the outcome of the election, kept the Paseo Boulevard signs. They’ll begin rehanging them, but it’s unclear whether the vote will end the long debate over what street Kansas City should name after King.
Avery Gott is an intern at KCUR.
Michelle Tyrene Johnson is a reporter at KCUR 89.3 and part of the public radio collaborative Sharing America, covering the intersection of race, identity and culture. This initiative, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, includes reporters in Kansas City, St. Louis, Hartford, Connecticut and Portland, Oregon. She can be contacted at email@example.com.