To the editor:
The new city initiative on street renaming reminds me that about 20 years ago, as president of the Seminary Hill Association, I helped residents change a street named so confusingly that even the fire department had trouble finding it. In dealing with the city staff at that time I discovered that the policy for naming or renaming streets was to adopt the names of Confederate soldiers. Staff recommended “Ivor Lane.” Later it was discovered that Ivor was an Alexandria “Johnny Reb” who was killed early in the Civil War while hotdogging on the battlements. But Ivor Lane remains.
That policy was misguided and likely had racist motivations. The city currently has a method whereby 75% of residents on a street may petition for a name change. Now city hall, without any citizen input, has decided on a so-called “pilot program” to allow the renaming of up to three Confederate streets if 25% of residents request it.
This means that a minority with a petition can require three-fourths of their neighbors to change their street name and accept another that the petitioners propose. This is without regard to imposing burdensome requirements on all residents to change names on dozens if not hundreds of mailing designations, documents and other items. On its face, this pilot clearly is undemocratic.
One bad policy by the city need not be followed by another. Changing Confederate street names is a worthy objective. To do it other than by a majority decision is unwise and will lead to neighborhood discord and dissension.
-Jack Sullivan, Alexandria