Group seeks road to be named after Gandhi

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by By DAVE LEVINTHAL / The Dallas Morning News

wfaa.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:44 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 16 at 1:32 PM

In the midst of Dallas' contentious debate about whether to name Ross Avenue after labor leader Csar Chvez, is Main Street or Swiss Avenue now destined to become Mahatma Gandhi Drive?

Unlikely, perhaps.

But that's not stopping a Nevada-based group of clergy from trying to persuade large U.S. cities - including Dallas - to rename a major roadway after the Indian leader they consider underrepresented among public memorials to notable people.

"Gandhi was not a controversial figure. He was a figure of peace, and Dallas, we hope, is amenable to honoring his memory," said the Right Rev. Gene Savoy Jr. of the International Community of Christ in Reno, Nev. He's also a member of the Gandhi Monument Council, which bills itself as a multireligion organization dedicated to promoting memorials to Gandhi.

"It's important to have remembrances of people who stood for peace, for social justice and social change," added the Rev. Alan Dorway of Nevada's First Presbyterian Church of Carson City.

The organization says it is sending a letter to Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert urging him to support renaming "one of the major streets" within the city after Gandhi.

The organization also plans to inquire with city planning officials about initiating a formal street renaming process, Mr. Savoy said. He added that he has not yet identified a specific Dallas street to attempt to rename.

Mr. Leppert has not yet received the organization's letter but will read it with interest upon receipt, said Paula Blackmon, the mayor's deputy chief of staff.

Some City Council members, however, expressed concern with the Gandhi Monument Council's request. Dallas is already embroiled in a protracted and racially charged fight at City Hall over renaming Ross Avenue, one of the city's oldest thoroughfares named after two of the city's earliest settlers, brothers William and Andrew.

All the same, several council members welcomed the Gandhi group to pursue its goal through established city street renaming channels - a lengthy and often labyrinthine process involving at least two public hearings, review by various city departments and the U.S. Postal Service, and votes by the City Plan Commission and City Council.

It's enough to test Gandhi's patience.

"The question is, do we start renaming all of our streets, or wait and put people's names on a list to honor them when new streets in the city are built?" asked council member Ron Natinsky, chairman of the body's economic development committee.

"There are certainly a number of people worthy of having a street named after them or having their life honored with other public accolades," said council member Angela Hunt, whose District 14 includes portions of embattled Ross Avenue. "If people want to rename a street, there is a process in place to facilitate that."

As president of the Indian Students Association at the University of Texas at Dallas, Deepak Ravindran says he's intrigued by the Gandhi Monument Council's request.

"We would definitely like to chip in. We'd be interested in speaking to them," Mr. Ravindran said.

"His simplicity was admired by civil rights leaders around the world. He is seen as an icon for protecting the basic fundamental rights that any human being should be allowed to possess," added Thimmaiah Chetranda, an information technology and management student at the University of Texas at Dallas.

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