The Dallas Plan Commission voted Thursday to approve changing the name of Lamar Street to Botham Jean Boulevard, but with reservations. The proposal, which commissioners sent on to City Council for a vote, called for renaming only a portion of Lamar, but they, the Jean family and the activists who initially pursued the change want the whole of Lamar to bear Jean's name.
Extending the street name change dominated the discussion at yesterday's meeting.
Mayor Pro Tem Adam Medrano filed a memo in July that brought the name change to the commission. The memo was also signed by council members Omar Narvaez and Adam Bazaldua. “Renaming the street in honor of Botham Jean would show the citizens of Dallas that his death was not in vain and show the world that his life mattered,” the memo read.
The filing requested that South Lamar between Interstate 30 and South Central Expressway, a 3.7-mile stretch, be renamed to memorialize Jean, who died in September 2018 after being shot in his home by Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, who was later convicted of murder. Guyger claimed that she mistook Jean's apartment for her own, entered it and shot him, thinking he was an intruder.
The fact that only a portion of Lamar was up for a new name was made clear in Medrano's memo, but Allison Jean, Botham's mother, said it wasn't until recently that she realized the committee wasn't voting to change the whole street.
"Our wish is for all of Lamar Street to be renamed," Allison Jean said.
The commissioners said they wanted the same thing.
Commissioner Timothy Jackson initially wanted to deny the motion because it wasn't for all of Lamar. "This has been my concern from Day 1," Jackson said. He said that I-30 has been a dividing line in the city since it was built and that the idea Jean would be recognized in the south and not the north is just sad. He said he was disappointed that none of the council members who signed the memo for the street name change had filed for an extension.
The portion that would remain Lamar Street under the proposal runs across the west side of downtown. Initial efforts by local activists Yafeuh Balogun, Pamela Grayson and Davante Peters, which had support from the Jean family, were for all of Lamar. It wasn't until Medrano filed for the change that it was shortened.
Medrano dialed into the meeting to explain why the memo only called for the portion of Lamar to be renamed. He said the activists had reached out to him, but he wasn't sure if they had the family's support. Under the impression that they didn't, he made the request on behalf of the Jean family. He said he thought leaving the portion north of I-30 unchanged would be easier to get City Council's OK.
"It is political. It always is," Medrano said during the meeting. "We wanted to make sure that this got through smoothly. We wanted to remember Botham. We don't want any type of drama."
Some plan commissioners didn't seem to mind the potential drama. Or perhaps they anticipated the even greater drama the could come when Dallas residents realize that the city is looking at segregating the memorial for Jean while keeping the portion downtown named for Mirabeau Lamar. The latter was the second president of the Texas Republic and an ardent supporter of slavery and the extermination of Indian tribes in Texas.
"I will support the motion, only to hope that we get ourselves out of this embarrassing, silly situation and make the change to the entire rest of the street," Enrique MacGregor, vice-chair of the commission, said.
The commission unanimously approved the name change, but said they will be filing a memo to initiate the extension. The memo only requires signatures from three commissioners, but it is likely to get more.
During yesterday's meeting, Balogun told the commissioners that changing all of Lamar could be the beginning of the healing process for the Jean family and the Dallas community.
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