Monday, September 30, 2019 by Andrew Weber, KUT

Manchaca Road can now be called Menchaca Road after judge tosses case

Manchaca Road is no more. A judge has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to block the city of Austin from changing the name of the South Austin road to honor a Texas revolutionary.

The nearly yearlong battle stemmed from the city’s public input process before a planned name change. The lawsuit brought by the group Leave Manchaca Alone was thrown out Thursday by state District Judge Dustin Howell on the grounds that he didn’t have proper jurisdiction to rule on the case, the Austin American-Statesman first reported.

The city passed an ordinance in October last year to change the spelling to Menchaca Road to honor Tejano revolutionary José Antonio Menchaca, who fought in a decisive battle of the Texas Revolution.

Proponents of the Menchaca name change say he frequented a spring outside of the now-town of Manchaca during his time with the Texas Army.

Leave Manchaca Alone argued that it was unclear whether the town was named after him, suggesting the name “Manchac” stems from a Choctaw word instead.

Attorney Roger Borgelt, who represented the group, said he was disappointed to see the case come so far only to end on that note.

“We’re disappointed. That’s really all I can say. We had come a long way and felt like we made progress,” he said. “For it to be decided on a sort of jurisdictional issue is kind of disappointing, but that’s what happened.”

Retired Judge Bob Perkins, who championed the name change as far back as 2011, said he was elated to see the case thrown out.

“I think it’s important in Texas history that we acknowledge all of our heroes, not just the Anglo-Saxons,” he said.

The case started in 2016, when the nonprofit Justice for Menchaca paid $24,000 to have the road signs changed. To change the name, the city either needed approval from more than half of the property owners along the road or sponsorship from a member of the Austin City Council.

Last September, Council Member Pio Renteria sponsored the ordinance to bring it to a vote. Council Member Ann Kitchen, who represents the district where the street is located, ultimately opposed the measure in the final vote.

After that, the Austin Transportation Department surveyed more than 1,700 property owners along the road. Out of the 63 respondents, 52 disagreed with the name change. The city then held a public hearing right before the Council vote in October.

Borgelt said his clients aren’t ruling out an appeal, though nothing is yet certain.

“I would just stay tuned on that,” he said.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photo by Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

South Austin: South Austin is, very roughly, the portion of Austin south of Lady Bird Lake.

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