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Some want to change name of Robert E. Lee Road

Wednesday, July 1, 2015 by Jo Clifton

In the wake of massive protests against the public display of the Confederate flag in governmental settings, some Austinites – including members of the Barton Hills Neighborhood Association – want to rename Robert E. Lee Road. The road runs along the east side of Zilker Park, leading into Barton Hills. On Monday night, it appeared that approximately 95 emails on this topic were on the neighborhood listserv. Some people feel strongly that the name should be removed because of its historical and racist connotations. Others think the name should remain because it will cost money and cause confusion to change it, or because they value the history behind the name. District 5 City Council Member Ann Kitchen received a number of emails yesterday both pro and con. One of those shared by a staff member pointed out that “the 1928 City Plan not only dictated segregation through physical infrastructure but predicated discriminatory education practices for the next few decades.” The letter writer is quoting from a document on the University of Texas website. The writer states that African-Americans were barred from using Barton Springs Pool even though it would have been the closest pool for many. The writer asked Kitchen to “take the lead in renaming Robert E. Lee Road,” noting that it is within her district. Another resident, however, wrote on the neighborhood listserv: “It’s the indirect cost that will fall disproportionately on the citizens. It is a very bad idea and I oppose renaming. Quit warring against symbols, folks, and face up to the real problem – it’s in the mirror, yours and mine. It is prejudice based on poorly grasped ideas. We all have it and we all succumb to it. Let the dead rest and get busy healing the living.” According to the city’s website, the process for changing the name of the street “involves a petition (signed by a governmental entity’s representative or at least 50% of all landowners abutting the subject street), approval from the Austin City Council in the form of an ordinance and an application-processing fee.” The fee is $415, but that is waived if a Council member sponsors the name change. The website also says that Council must hold a public hearing on the matter unless 100 percent of the property owners on the street sign the petition seeking the name change.

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