Thursday, August 30, 2007

The following is a message from Alfredo Parra:

"A committee to beautify the West Side by getting plants from Parks and Rec is forming. In this effort we'll be working with John Fierro. Anyone interested in being part of this committee should contact Alfredo Parra at or 816-472-8495.

Also, I want everybody to know that the petition drive to "bring on the signs Bienvenidos al Westside" has been very successful. So far, we have about 700 signatures. I hope to turn at least 1,000 signatures in to the City around September 15. People who haven't yet signed a petition can find petitions at Ruiz Library and several West Side stores and restaurants.

We need volunteers for this last big push. Anyone who can help should contact me."

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

From NBC Action News - Kansas City

Aug 7, 2007 10:31 PM
Road Sign Revolt
Posted By: Paige Heyward

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – If you don’t drive into downtown very often, it’s easy to get lost. Kansas City recently launched an effort to help you find your way to several tourist destinations, but there has been a backlash of sorts.

Part of the controversy boils down to what’s a tourist attraction and what’s not. But people in the Westside neighborhood of Kansas City say they’ve been shut out of a chance to cash in on downtown’s redevelopment.

The new blue signs are popping up all over town. They point the way to Kansas City tourist destinations, but some people feel like they’ve been dumped on the side of the road.
"There's not one mention of the Westside. Not one word. And you know, why are we overlooked once again," Alfredo Parra said. He is a community activist who wonders why the Westside is not considered a tourist destination, and didn’t get any signs.

He’s started a petition drive to try and get signs pointing to the Westside. "Supporting the notion of having signs that say welcome to the Westside. They could also be in Spanish, bienvenidos al Westside," Parra said.

The neighborhood is known for its strip of Mexican restaurants, as well as shops like La Posada where you can buy Latin spices and piñatas. The owner, Ester Rogers, is collecting petition signatures and says she could use more tourists coming through to shop.

She says its good for business in the neighborhood, and she says it’s also good to bring tourists in to see the Latin culture.

To add insult, the next neighborhood over, the Crossroads, did get signs. It’s considered a tourist district because of its many art galleries. Empty posts on the Westside once held signs guiding tourists out of the Westside and towards the Crossroads.

Those signs were taken down after complaints to the Mayor. "That was a no-brainer. The signs were incorrect. They were improperly placed and they were removed," Crispin Rea said.
The city is putting up hundreds of signs, costing more than a million dollars. The Public Works spokesman says the signs are supposed to point only to major tourist districts, not individual attractions, businesses or neighborhoods. "This is not for directing people to neighborhoods. It's for directing people to regional attractions that outsiders would be seeking," Dennis Gagnon said.

But Parra noticed what he says looks like an exception. One sign points to Columbus Park. Most people think of it as the Old Italian neighborhood, rather than just the small city park located just east of the City Market.

"They identify Columbus Park. They're identifying all these neighborhoods around us. They're identifying downtown. What about us?" Parra asked.

"We did also provide some latitude for some non-profit type, community type things" Gagnon said.

Regulars for lunch at Taqueria Mexicana are split on whether the Westside could be considered a Kansas City tourist destination. "It could be. Kemper's just right down the road, so it could bring in a lot of people," Michelle Bloomer said. "I don't know if this area is big enough, right now, to handle a lot of traffic," Miguel Wilson said. "I think this area has a lot to offer, as far as the cultural side," Wendy Winfree said.

Most of the districts named on the blue signs were written into an ordinance passed by the previous City Council. It appears the new council would have to pass a new ordinance and find money to pay for new sings if the Westside is to be included. "An argument can be made on both sides. I can tell you the Mayor supports the neighborhood's efforts to get those signs," Rea said.
Then more tourists might find the Westside’s restaurants, art galleries, and cultural attractions. "You have the Guadalupe center which is a historical landmark. So this is a really beautiful neighborhood," Parra said.

The Mayor’s office says even if council members decide to add the Westside to the sign program it would probably have to wait until the next budget cycle. That would mean no new signs until next year at the earliest.