Friday, January 31, 2014

What Should We Name After Cisneros? | Last Word

I’m with Henry Cisneros.

As Henry said this week after learning that the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce planned to mount a campaign to name the San Antonio International Airport after him:
“I am of the old school that says places should be named for people after they pass.”
It’s a fine rule – and San Antonio has no patience for it.

We have a theater named after former Mayor Lila Cockrell.

We have a park named after former Mayor Phil Hardberger.

We have a baseball stadium named after County Judge Nelson Wolff.

We have a juvenile lock-up named after former County Judge Cyndi Taylor Krier.

We have a 10-story county office tower named after Commissioner Paul Elizondo.

We have a convention center named after the late Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez.

We have 14 miles of freeway named after the late Mayor Walter McAllister.

And we have a criminal courthouse named after the late judges Carlos Cadena and Blair Reeves.

The first five on that list are still alive.

Two are still in office.

All were alive when they received the honors.

There is wisdom behind waiting.

America loves people best before they are born and after they die.

There’s good reason for that.

In life, we all screw up. Nobody is obnoxious in the womb or in the grave.

Nearly all politicians’ reputations improve after they are gone.

Ask Harry Truman and Richard Nixon.

It’s not just politicians.

When he learned that author Truman Capote had died, rival author Gore Vidal said with catty wisdom: “Great career move!”

To his credit, Cisneros has called a halt to the Hispanic Chamber’s efforts. And to their credit, they backed off.

“We should respect (Cisneros’) wishes,” Chamber President Ramiro Cavazos told the Express-News, admitting that this may not be the right time, or possibly the right building.

“If not the airport, perhaps the downtown library,” he said.

Now there’s an idea I would get behind, assuming I am still alive.

In his last term of office, Mayor Cisneros rallied voters to approve both the Alamodome and the new main library.

He had to overcome resistance from business leaders who argued that we should spend money on expanding our then-pathetic book collection before we built expensive buildings.

Cisneros did some creative horse trading with the business leadership to get their support for the new library.

Then he backed the library board as they did something that, as far as I could tell, had not been done by the city in at least 50 years.

They hired an out-of-town architect to design the library -- Mexico’s greatest architect, the late Ricardo Legorreta.

The result is a magnificent building that fulfilled a promise the Alamodome didn’t.

That promise: Build it and they will come.

The stunning “red enchilada” led not only to large increase in traffic, but also an increase in financial support both from the city and from the private sector.

But I would amend any future proposal to honor Cisneros by naming the library after him.

I would name it the Elvira and Henry Cisneros Central Library.

Elvira Cisneros, his mother, was a great promoter of libraries.

Whenever new families moved into their blue-collar Prospect Hill neighborhood on the West Side, Elvira would take them a welcome basket, then walk them over to the Bazan Branch Library to get library cards.

A footnote: The Bazan Branch Library was named after Isabel Bazan, a Prospect Hill resident who rose to the position of director of the Central Library during a 34-year career with the San Antonio Library.

Bazan died, at the unripe age of 57, months before she was so honored.

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