Longtime 'Jeff Davis Avenue' resident not in support of name-change

Someone took a can of spray paint to the street signs on Robert E. Lee Road over the weekend.
               
As of Wednesday morning the vandalism hadn't been cleaned up.
               
Aside from the person who took it upon themselves to eradicate the street name, the reality is...there's a process.

"It's time that we move past what was really a sad and awful history," said Council Member Ann Kitchen on Wednesday.

The Austin City Council is reacting to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia by vowing to find new names for city streets associated with the Confederacy.
               
Like Robert E. Lee Road near Barton Springs Pool in Council Member Ann Kitchen's District 5.  During Tuesday's council work session Kitchen announced her intent to submit an application for a change.  She says it saves the community from having to bring it forward and dealing with fees and signatures.  The next steps could take several months. 

"The potential names have to be vetted.  There's all kinds of standards that relate to public safety.  So there's a vetting of the name process, there's a community conversation and a public hearing process.  There's a process for reaching out specifically to people who own property on the affected roads," Kitchen said.

According to the Austin History Center, Robert E. Lee Road was part of a trail established by the general as he traveled from Austin to west Texas.

Originally named River Road, it was closed in the 1920's.  Andrew Zilker recognized its historical significance and fought for it to be re-opened.  When it did re-open in 1940 it bore the name Robert E. Lee Road.

Also during Tuesday's meeting Council Member Leslie Pool brought up the possibility of changing Jeff Davis Avenue in her district.  According to the Austin History Center, the road was named in 1929 presumably after Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

"I'm looking to hear from the residents who live on that street and then just in the general community what names they would like us to consider as replacement names.  One name that has occurred to me to change the name of Jeff Davis Avenue would be to name it Sojourner Avenue or something along those lines," Pool said.

"History is history.  You can't change history," said Larry O'Connor who says he's lived on Jeff Davis Avenue for 28 years.  Not a fan of changing the name.

"Well I think it's absolutely ridiculous. It's just a name.  It's history.  Are you going to go in the phonebook and find everybody that's named Jeff Davis and take them out of the phonebook?" O'Connor said. 

And it's not just the street signs that will have to be swapped out.

"Have to change everything that has an address on it.  You know, checkbooks, licenses...all my mailing addresses," Davis said.

The community is already throwing out suggestions to replace Robert E. Lee road, there's an online movement to rename the street after Led Zeppelin frontman and former Austin resident Robert Plant.
               
Council Member Kitchen says Umlaf way has been suggested as well as naming the road after an Austin Police officer killed in the line of duty there.

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