Austin City Council members agreed Tuesday to move ahead with the process of renaming roads named after Confederate leaders, following violence at a white supremacist rally last weekend in Charlottesville, Va.
Council Member Greg Casar, who lived in Charlottesville while a student at the University of Virginia, proposed renaming Robert E. Lee Road in South Austin and Jeff Davis Avenue in North Austin. Street signs for Robert E. Lee Road were vandalized over the weekend.
Council member Ann Kitchen, whose district includes the road, said she's being "responsive" to more than 12,000 people who signed an online petition to rename the street. (The count neared 14,000 by late afternoon.)
“There’s so much more that we need to do as a city," she said. "Renaming a road is a symbol. It’s an important, critical symbol, but … we can’t just change the name of a road and say we’ve fixed the problems in our community with regard to hatred and violence and racism."
Council Member Leslie Pool said she would seek input from residents in her district about renaming Jeff Davis Road and suggested Sojourner Avenue as a potential replacement.
Lee led the Confederate Army, and Davis was the president of the Confederacy. Casar suggested installing plaques to explain that the main cause of the Civil War was the Confederacy's desire to preserve the institution of slavery.
He said he would suggest Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass as alternative street names.
The process to rename a street requires approval of at least half the people who have property adjacent to it. If one person opposes, the city must hold a public hearing. Kitchen said City Council wants to hear residents' concerns and that the process could take months.