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Nakadaira: Street-naming process ‘not racist'

June 27, 2001|By MARIO RENTERÍA, Staff Writer

CALIPATRIA — Facing a room full of local residents, City Councilman Robert Nakadaira insisted, "It was not meant to cause stress. It was not racist."

Nakadaira was referring to the city street-naming process in which the name of well-known local Hispanic merchant Francisco Quiroz was considered but ultimately rejected as a street name.

"I believe you!" Elsa Downs, a Calipatria resident and a daughter of Quiroz, told Nakadaira after he made his comment. "I believe you when you say it wasn't racist, but it's injustice."

Nakadaira was responding to a room full of residents who appeared at a City Council meeting Tuesday to express their displeasure with the method used in renaming East Elder Street and Bonita Place.


Both streets were renamed because emergency services workers often confused Bonita Place and Bonita Street and had trouble finding East Elder Street because it is not connected to West Elder Street.

The council agreed in a recent meeting that East Elder Street was to be renamed Emmanuel Street, Bonita Street was to be changed to Beall Place and Bonita Place was to be renamed Bonita Street.

City Attorney William Smerdon told residents it might be too late to change the street names again, but the council could revisit the matter at the next council meeting to discuss what could be done.

The packed room broke out in applause.

It was reported in a couple columns in PROBE in the Imperial Valley Press that a "racist attitude" prevailed within council members in renaming the streets.

Councilman Leonard Vasquez stated to the audience, "There was no intention toward the suppression or refusal to recognize any Hispanic pioneer for the renaming of Elder and Bonita streets."

Downs told the council, "It's a slap in the face to name a street in the Mexican-American community after unjust people like that."

Frank Perez, president of Calipatria's Latin and American Club, was the first to share with the council his concerns about the street naming.

"We felt that the process by which these names were selected was not in the best interest of the community," he said.

"The concerns expressed by the club's members and other residents were to make council aware that the citizens of the city have a say in this issue.

"We feel that perhaps residents of Calipatria were not given ample notice in order to make a reasonable suggestion," said Perez.

"We, the residents of Calipatria, want to be involved in the process of naming streets, buildings or any public place within the city," he added.

About 15 residents expressed their concerns.

Art Valdez said, "You should have notified people who lived on those streets of the name change."

That was followed by strong applause by residents.

Michelle Steneffer told the council, "Francisco Quiroz was a pioneer of the east side of Calipatria.

"He was one of the first Mexican-American merchants. He would provide low-income housing to those who needed it," she added.

Steneffer is Quiroz's granddaughter.

After the meeting, City Councilwoman Thelma Baker said, "I'm glad they came forward with their concerns.

"They brought up their concerns. Now it's up to council to take it under consideration," she said.

Of the alleged racist attitude, she responded, "I think there was some misunderstanding, a lack of communication."

Nakadaira told a reporter after the meeting he had learned not to exclude the community when making such name changes.

After the public hearing, most of the residents left City Hall and the meeting continued.

The council unanimously voted to purchase a vehicle for City Manager Romualdo Medina to conduct city business. The full-size sedan will cost about $20,000 and half will come from the city's general fund. The rest will be paid from city Redevelopment Agency coffers.

As the RDA board, the council agreed to contribute $500 to the Northend Fireworks Committee for its annual Fourth of July celebration.

Baker, before the issue was heard, said she is on the committee but would vote on the matter because she would get no financial gain from the contribution.

The next regular council meeting is set for July 10. 

Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3435.

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