If you want to rename a major thoroughfare in a city - and impose the resulting cost and turmoil on the commercial inhabitants of that street - you better have a lot of popular support.
Tampa City Council member Yvonne Yolie Capin's idea, floated last week, to rename Nebraska Avenue after Pedro MenÚndez de AvilÚs, a 16th-century colonial governor in Florida, appears to lack any meaningful support. It also may suffer from a fatal flaw related to MenÚndez de AvilÚs' conquests in Florida.
Capin should withdraw her request before it takes any more city staff time and causes any more anxiety to business owners along Nebraska. And she needs to gather support among businesses in Ybor City, as well as a clear historical record, before moving forward with what appears to be a Plan B, which is to rename Palm Avenue after the colonial governor.
Capin's proposal is rooted in good intentions. Pedro MenÚndez de AvilÚs founded St. Augustine in 1565 and traveled to this area in 1566. He was the first governor of Spanish Florida. The area has links to his home, the Asturias region of Spain. It was from that region that thousands of immigrants arrived in Tampa in the 20th century to work in the cigar factories.
But MenÚndez de AvilÚs also has a history of conquests over French combatants and settlers in Florida that might or might not include acts of brutality, depending on which historical account is cited. That uncertainty leaves in question whether his legacy is worth commemorating on a street sign that lacks any context.
Apart from that red flag are concerns about the costs associated with renaming a street that has been known as Nebraska Avenue for 140 years. A city staffer estimated it might cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for the 500-plus businesses to convert.
That's too many businesses along too big of a street for the city to go forward without a wellspring of support among the populace.
Capin thinks the renaming will help to instill a bit of history that is largely lost on the residents of this area. She also thinks a change from Nebraska could be therapeutic. For decades the street has been associated more with prostitutes and drugs than with the wholesome image a street named Nebraska might convey. She says her idea ties into a plan by Mayor Bob Buckhorn to reinvent the area.
But this idea would do little to help what ails that area and might offend some people. Capin needs to make a U-turn on Nebraska and proceed with caution on Palm.