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Outcry Against Changing Lancaster Road's Name

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - A proposal to rename Lancaster Road in Dallas' Oak Cliff area is running into to some pushback. Dwaine Caraway wants the road, which stretches from near downtown to Interstate 20, named after Nelson Mandela. But the Dallas Veterans Administration Hospital has sat on Lancaster Road since 1940. And now a veterans group, some business owners and residents are organizing an effort to block process.

One businesswoman, Claudia Castillo says her restaurant and seafood store would face too many costs to make the name change. "Personally I don't like it too much. We'd have to change a lot of things with the menu, the business cards, everything."

She's not alone. On Wednesday a dozen business owners and residents met at the Veterans Resource Center to plan a protest at tomorrow's city plan commission meeting. Leading the effort is Jeff McZeal, employee outreach coordinator and employment specialist for the Veterans Resource Center, located a few blocks from the VA Hospital. "I was shocked. I was totally shocked. I couldn't believe they wanted to change it in the first place."

John Cook, an AMVETS state service officer and member of the Vietnam Veterans of America agreed. "I'm not for it and I've personally not met a veteran yet that is for it."

While they oppose any change, they say if it must come it should reflect an American service member or war hero. "With all due respect to Mr. Mandela and all he's done," said MckZeal, "we just don't feel like it's the right name to change to in this community."

Dallas Councilman Caraway disagreed. "They are disrespecting Mandela. And they're (dis) respecting the wishes of the people that live in the southern portion of our city," he claimed.

Caraway proposed the name change back in April. He says for Dallas to truly be an international city it should embrace the international civil rights icon. "The community is excited about us moving forward with this process," he said adding, "You look at this thing as something that's prestigious, that's going to restore pride." He also believes many opponents are absentee landlords who don't take care of their properties.

But local realtor Billy Scott claims Caraway is wrong on this issue. "Mandela is not an American citizen," said Scott, who claims he was the first African American realtor in Dallas in 1965. "If we need to change the name we need somebody in America to do it."

And Scott doesn't believe Caraway has the backing he claims. "Well, I find that hard to believe. Because we don't disrespect Mr. Mandela, but Mr. Mandela has not done anything for America," Scott said, nothing like the contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Veterans Administration Hospital is not taking sides in the matter. Caraway says no matter what happens at the plan commission that he has the council votes needed to make the change.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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