The Long Arm of the Law: Constable Jaime Cortes Talks Cesar Chavez

Constable Jaime Cortes

Twice in the comments affixed to Sam's Ross Avenue item from yesterday, folks mention that a constable was spotted along Ross trying to gather signatures for the Cesar Chavez Task Force. But even before we posted the item, on Wednesday morning a Friend of Unfair Park mentioned the very same thing, only he named names: Precinct 5 Constable Jaime Cortes. Said Cortes had been spotted this week on Ross Avenue, in uniform, getting signatures. Which is why I called Cortes.

And, yes, he absolutely was on Ross talking to store owners about the petition, among other things, he says, like how to deal with hot-check writers and other crime-related issues. It was Monday. Yup, Monday. But, no, he said, he wasn't in uniform. "I was wearing a black suit," he told Unfair Park. "I don't remember what color tie I had on." He laughed. Because, Cortes said, not only has he endorsed the task force, but he's on it. And, sure, while out making the meet-and-greet rounds with his constituents, he was talking up Cesar Chavez Avenue.

"I was out introducing myself to the businesses, telling them I am their constable, and I did ask them if they knew about Cesar Chavez Task Force," Cortes said. "And I said, 'Well, I am on the task force, and we are asking them to rename the street.' I asked if they wanted to know more, and if they didn't I moved on. And we also talked about hot checks and any other concerns they had about crime, and I told them to feel free to call on me any time. It's important for me to be a presence in the community."

We spoke for a long time. Cortes, a Sunset High School graduate who will turn 40 next month, said he got involved with the task force for two reasons: He felt like the city council, which polled residents about the name they wanted for Industrial Boulevard and promptly dismissed the results, betrayed those who took part in the process. And his parents, Mexican immigrants, "always taught me if you believe in something, then fight for it."

Far as Cortes is concerned, this fight over Ross has "gotten bigger than the name Cesar Chavez." It's about how some council members asked for input, then promptly ignored it.

"The city council committee gave us 12 names to choose from after they decided they were no longer going to rename Industrial 'Cesar Chavez,'" Cortes said. "And when we picked one, they went forward with it, and now they're saying, 'Well, that street's a little too big.' When's it going to end? We're taking a stand.

"Within the community, we felt slighted that [city council member] Dave Neumann and others had put a poll out there and then, well, you know how that came out. I was a little ... I guess ... what's the word? ... perturbed about the way this was handled. And it could have been Stevie Ray Vaughan Boulevard, which was also originally mentioned. But they took a vote, a poll, and they didn't acknowledge it, and when they did, the mayor and other council members said, 'We acknowledge this is a screw-up, we'll get another street and go forward.' When does it end? If they tell us to choose another street and then say, 'Not that one, try another,' when does it end? If it had been Stevie Ray Vaughan -- whose music I love -- I would have been fine with it. My thing is, the democratic process was ignored. And we will not stand for that." --Robert Wilonsky