Yakima council may OK petition to name street after World War II MOH recipient
Yakima Herald-Republic, Wash.
YAKIMA, Wash. — After putting on hold a petition to rename a street after a local Medal of Honor recipient, the Yakima City Council appears ready to approve it Tuesday.
The proposal to rename A Street as “Sgt. Pendleton Boulevard” hit a bump at a recent public hearing when a resident objected, saying the city hadn’t fairly considered his group’s 2006 proposal to rename the street after civil rights and labor leader Cesar Chavez.
Some council members were caught off guard by the objection and said they wanted to make sure the earlier petition had been duly considered.
“It was about due diligence and common courtesy,” Councilman Dave Ettl said.
Like other council members, Ettl said he supports the Pendleton proposal, which was requested by a local veterans group.
Army Staff Sgt. Jack James Pendleton is the only Yakima native to receive the Medal of Honor, the country’s highest military honor. He died in 1944 in Germany, sacrificing himself to help knock out enemy machine guns that had pinned down his unit.
He is buried in Yakima’s Tahoma Cemetery.
City officials say the earlier petition to rename A Street in honor of Chavez was duly considered and rejected by Yakima City Council at the time.
At the Aug. 20 public hearing, Alonzo Marquez, one of the backers of the Chavez petition, accused the city of passing over his group’s proposal, which, he said, was backed by more than 4,000 signatures collected in 2006.
But the signatures were never submitted to the city and it wasn’t clear back then that Marquez and other proponents of a Cesar Chavez Way were speaking for Yakima’s Hispanic community, said Dave Edler, Yakima’s mayor at the time.
Some members of the city’s Hispanic community spoke against the proposal, and suggested other locations, including Miller Park, to rename after Chavez, according to meeting minutes and news articles from the time. Chavez led marches from Granger to Yakima in support of farm workers in 1986.
The council twice rejected the petition.
Edler said he wasn’t against naming something after Chavez, but there needed to be broad support about the location from the Hispanic community.
However, the proposal never came back to the council.
More than 20 years after his death, Chavez can still be a divisive figure in Yakima, where there is still a divide between the Hispanic and white communities.
Some white residents would “absolutely” oppose naming something after him “because of racism,” Edler said.
Some Hispanic community leaders approached city officials about the process for renaming Miller Park after Chavez, an option that was proposed in 2006.
City code explicitly discourages changing park names.
Marquez said he doesn’t want to take that honor away from the park’s namesake, Andrew Miller, a prominent businessman and philanthropist who left his thumbprint on early Yakima.
Among his many contributions to Yakima, Miller was a strong supporter of the YWCA and YMCA, funded local scholarships, developed downtown real estate and contributed substantially to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital — the forerunner of Yakima Regional Medical and Cardiac Center, according to John Baule, director of the Yakima Valley Museum.