It looks like the Continental Avenue Pedestrian Bridge, one of Dallas' more pleasant recent additions, will be getting a new name. The City Council's transportation committee voted unanimously Monday to recommend naming the bridge after former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk.
The recommendation might be unremarkable — there's nothing new about naming public works for well-remembered former city leaders — but for the fact that Kirk has thrown his full weight and support behind the Trinity toll road, project that would destroy the end of the bridge/park. If the toll road gets built, the eastern part of the bridge, the section closest to downtown, will feature an exciting mix of "pedestrians, traffic and cyclists" thanks to an exciting exit ramp that would be built over the top of the Trinity River's levees.
The Observer's Jim Schutze pointed out some of the issues with naming the bridge, which is one of the first elements of the long fought over Trinity park to actually get built, after Kirk in April.
"Kirk and [former Dallas County Judge Lee] Jackson have believed for 20 years that a proposed six to eight-lane high-speed limited access expressway along the Trinity River is an essential ingredient in providing for the vehicular needs of the future. I have disagreed with them for 20 years.
Kirk’s a lawyer and diplomat. Jackson is a university system chancellor. I am an old hippie. In the field of vehicularological logisticality, I think we’re about even, and each of us is entitled to his opinion. I’m actually not talking about that, for a change.
I think what I am talking about is simple history. Since the campaign for the great Trinity River project got underway in 1996, the historical role of Kirk and Jackson has been to fight for a highway along the river first, and, wherever that proposed highway’s interest’s collided with the interests of the park the rest of us wanted to see, their role has been to fight the park.
I think they may want to say they have been for the road and not against the park, but, yeah, that’s like saying you’re for the Cowboys but not against the Redskins — good argument until game day."
Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston, who is not on the transportation committee, showed up at Monday's meeting to speak. Even though council members are commonly granted the privilege to do so by the chairs of committees of which they are not a part, Transportation Committee Chairman Lee Kleinman turned his colleague down, something Kingston says had never happened to him before.
Kingston wanted to tell the committee how inappropriate he believes naming the bridge after Kirk would be, and to offer a solution to a problem that could lead to vociferous debate when the topic reaches the full council later this month.
"I think Ron Kirk was the greatest legislative mayor that Dallas has had, but I think he used his powers for evil," Kingston says.
Instead of naming a park that serves as a marker of Dallas' burgeoning urbanism after Kirk, Kingston wants to name a project more in line with Kirk's interests after the former mayor.
"Let's not rename Continental and pick a fight while we're all trying to come to an agreement. Let's name Victory Avenue after him," Kingston says. "It makes a ton of since. [Kirk] delivered Victory [Park and the American Airlines Center]. He absolutely delivered Victory. If any one person can claim credit, it's Ron Kirk."
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