By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer
A resounding cheer took over at Thursday’s city commission meeting after the board unanimously voted to rename Jefferson Street to Cesar Chavez Drive.
In attendance were several of the Bella Vista Elementary students who spawned the project back in September, their teachers and their parents.
“He was part of our culture and he respected the Hispanic culture,” said 11-year-old Tanya Romero, explaining why the sixth grade class took this project so seriously. According to school officials, Bella Vista is about 65 percent Hispanic.
Teacher Ann Corsey said the road to change began in September during a civics lesson about the Hispanic leader and labor activist Cesar Chavez.
During the lesson, her students made an adept observation.
“That’s when two of my kids asked ‘Why don’t we have a street named Cesar Chavez?’” she told the commission.
They researched the labor activist, Corsey said, and learned his impact. As the project went forward — and hit occasional snags — they always found themselves asking, “What would Chavez do?”
The answer was to persist, Corsey said, and that’s what they did.
The project passed through a number of harrowing episodes along the way, most dramatically when the Clovis School Board approved the project by just one vote in April.
However, the city commission fully supported the plan, and members underscored the importance of the civics lesson.
Even former city manager Raymond Mondragon stood in support of the students.
“I used to work in the fields when I grew up,” Mondragon said. “I know what kind of dignity these people deserve, what kind of dignity Cesar Chavez deserves.”
When dissenting opinions were sought, no one objected to Chavez Drive.
Commissioner Robert Sandoval commended Corsey.
“I think you are a true asset to the Clovis school system,” he said, “and I would like to applaud you.”
Now the students and the school will have to come up with nearly $1,500 to change signage on the street, and residents will have to change their addresses.
Also at the meeting:
• The commission disbarred a company called Waste Systems Supply from bidding on any city projects for a period of 18 months. The company, according to officials, failed to provide a piece of machinery according to the guidelines set out in the bid. Mayor pro-tem Kevin Duncan told the company’s owner his coming to the meeting to apologize was appreciated.
• The commission proclaimed June 18th “Juneteenth” day, in honor of the end of slavery in America, and to recognize the past and continued struggle that black people endure.