DALLAS –– In 1993, Kay Bailey Hutchison became the first woman to represent Texas in the United States Senate. Now 20 years later, she’ll be the first woman in the country to have a convention center named after her.
The Dallas City Council unanimously voted 11-0 Wednesday to rename the 2 million square foot center after the Dallasite who, as councilmembers regaled for nearly an hour, represented the interests of both her city and state.
“Let me be the first to say that much of Dallas’ success –– and I believe that Dallas is one of the most thriving cities in the nation –– is due in no small part to Sen. Hutchison’s leadership and commitment,” said Mayor Mike Rawlings before turning over the floor to the 11 present members of the City Council.
Rawlings, a Democrat, joined council members Vonciel Jones-Hill and Dwaine Caraway in setting aside their political affiliation to honor Hutchison, a Republican.
“In our spirit of reaching across the aisle, we should honor people who have a different political point of view than we have,” Rawlings said.
The city will pay an estimated $200,000 to replace three signs to say The Kay Bailey Hutchison Dallas Convention Center. The pricetag wasn't the issue for those who asked the council to delay the vote.
Former councilwoman Sandra Crenshaw suggested the city hold a public hearing before taking a vote, saying a debate is necessary prior choosing to rename a public building after a person.
Kermit Mitchell, a District 3 City Council candidate, asked the council to defer the renaming out of fear that Hutchison’s political affiliation may deter some guests from choosing Dallas as a host city.
But, to the council, it seemed Hutchison’s accolades muted or overcame these concerns. Each present member –– four were absent –– praised the former senator for a slew of projects that they say benefited the state and city. For instance, she helped secure funding for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit system, which is the nation’s largest light rail system.
Councilwoman Linda Koop praised her for pushing Congress to give the state a higher percentage of the gas tax that each of her constituents paid when they visited the pump. Councilwoman Delia Jasso thanked her for helping divert federal funds to pay for a streetcar in Oak Cliff.
The decision was of such import to Caraway that he stopped mid-sentence to address a group of students from Townview Magnet Center who wandered in as he was speaking.
“I want to say to Townview, you all are here on a historical day and you happened to walk into City Hall as the Dallas City Council are making one of the greatest moves in history that you can write down in your legacy that you’ve been apart of,” he said.
Hutchison took the floor after the vote and thanked the council for the personalized speeches, which were draped in gratitude. She vowed to be an ambassador for the city of Dallas, saying she would “never be in a controversy that would affect the economy and the strength of this city.”
“I want to be the 21st century bridge builder that does something good for this city every time I open my mouth or walk across the street,” she said. “I want to welcome every person who wants me to come to the convention center and say, 'you picked a great city, and we welcome you here. We're Texas, we're Dallas and we're very, very special.'"
The council did not set a timeframe for the replacement of the signs.