Petition to change MLK Boulevard back to Paseo presented to council, taking next step

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The debate over the Paseo's name change to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard Jr. continues.

An ordinance was introduced Thursday before the Kansas City Council to bring the historic street's name to the ballot.

That came after more than 2,400 people signed a petition to change the street name back to the Paseo. Helen VanHecken brought the petition before city council Thursday.

"To be honest with you, it was easier than we could have ever imagined. People came to us. We did not have to go knocking on doors," VanHecke said.

Now, the decision will move forward to the finance committee Wednesday morning where it will be decided whether or not it will go before voters on the ballot. That meeting and discussion will be open to the public.

If it advances out of committee, it will go to the full city council for approval.

The Paseo name debate has been going on for months.

In January, the city council voted to rename The Paseo to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard by an 8-4 margin. Signs started going up in February with a formal ceremony celebrating the event.

Mayor Sly James was a supporter of the name change.

“There’s always going to be critics,” James said. “The bottom line is there is significant movement and, I think, significant support for doing something to honor Dr. Martin Luther King. We had community forums where these people sat and asked for community input from citizens, and I sure they heard someone come up to say ‘I don’t like that idea.'"

But Paseo business owners' opinions appear to be split.

"To me, people do not really understand the history of Martin Luther King," said Allie Toney, owner of Vee's Sweets and Treets. "Don't look at a black man. Look at a man who wanted the world to change for the color of everyone."

Toney opened her shop along the Paseo 11 years ago and says it's now time to move forward.

"Don't stick on Paseo. What is the Paseo? Let's move to a new name. Let's do something positive. Let's not stick 100 years ago," she said.

But others worry the name change has already been a major inconvenience.

"It hurts my business, especially when someone looks you up on Google," said Fred Pouncil, manager of Fresh Start Barbershop. "It is still saying Paseo, and there is no Paseo."

Now that conversations are continuing again at City Hall, it looks like the debate will continue for at least a few more months.

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