Both sides say they're fighting to retain history. Now, the day after a contentious election, the side that fought for the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. has lost that battle. The AP reports Kansas City voted "overwhelmingly"—almost 70% of the vote, per unofficial late-night returns Tuesday—to change the name of Martin Luther King Boulevard, located in a part of the city with mostly black residents, back to The Paseo. The Kansas City Star notes the former (and soon-to-be renewed) name came from Mexico City's Paseo de la Reforma thoroughfare, with one stretch of the KC street added to the National Register of Historic Places. That slice of history is what organizers of the grassroots Save the Paseo group says spurred them to fight for the name back for the 10-mile street. City Council had decided to change it in January.
"It holds kind of a special place in so many people's hearts and memories," one of the group's leaders says. "It's very important to Kansas City." The group, which says it supports honoring King by naming some other landmark or street after him, also notes local civil-rights leaders flouted procedure in changing the name without having 75% of residents give their thumbs-up to the moniker swap. Some advocates of the King name say the Save the Paseo group's efforts are racist (most of the group's members are white and don't live along the street), would send Kansas City back to being one of the largest US cities without a street named after the civil rights icon, and would strip the city of an important symbol. "I think that only if you are a black child growing up in the inner city ... can you actually understand what that name on that sign can mean to a child in this community," one supporter tells the AP. (Read more Kansas City stories.)