City council to begin process of renaming Robert E. Lee Road

The name of the street has been a point of contention for years. Robert E. Lee Road is in Council Member Ann Kitchen's District - and accordingly, she is the one planning to formally apply for the street to be renamed.

AUSTIN - Austin City Council has decided to begin the process of trying to change the name of Robert E. Lee Road in South Austin, council member Ann Kitchen confirmed to KVUE Tuesday.

The news comes after someone vandalized four of the road signs in the area following white supremacist demonstrations in Virginia that became violent over the weekend. After the road signs were vandalized, a petition was started to rename the road.

District 5 Council Member Ann Kitchen said she was motivated by the rising rhetoric, encapsulated in this weekend's deadly protest in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"It should be an eye-opener to everyone in this country," said Kitchen. 

The street is in Kitchen's district. 

The name of the street has been a point of contention for years; a recent online petition has garnered nearly 15,000 signatures to change its name. 

But city law is clear: the application to change a street name must be initiated by a city department, council member, or property owner on the respective street. 

Because Kitchen is filing the application, she said the city would absorb any fees. 

"Otherwise the cost of initiating the process falls on the individuals," explained Kitchen. 

Once Council Member Kitchen submits the application, her office will contact all property owners along Robert E. Lee Road. 

At least half will need to approve of a name change before the matter is heard by city Council. 

If any object, a public hearing will be required. 

"Whenever we act on anything, people have the opportunity to talk to us," said Kitchen. 

After the signatures are gathered, the city's Transportation Department, along with other agencies will begin reviews of the proposal.  

The street name change will also need the approval of all APD, AFD and EMS.

Then, the item would be placed on the Council's Agenda to be heard and voted on.

Mayor Steve Adler has voiced his support for the name change. 

"There are so many wonderful people and ideals that could be celebrating that more represent the character of this city or the spirit of this city," said Adler, who noted the city owned most of the property along the road. 

The proposal comes as the battle to conserve Confederate tributes rages on across the country, including here in Texas.  Earlier this month, state Senator Brandon Creighton filed a proposal to protect all heritage monuments - including Confederate monuments - that are on state property and have been up for at least 40 years. 

"I've learned in this city there's a little pushback regardless of whatever it is that you want to do. But there are elements in our history that we should be celebrating, that are reflective of who we are, and what we value," said Adler. 

Kitchen said she would bring an application forward to change the name of the road and ask the community to suggest alternatives. The renaming process would take months of reviewing the costs of the name change, the public safety implications and the opinions of the community.

She planned to file the petition by the end of the week, possibly as early as Wednesday.

To read the city's street name change policy and process, click here

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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