The effort to rename Confederate Avenue got another push this week when Atlanta City Council Member Carla Smith filed legislation to rename the avenue as well as two others that bear similar names in Grant Park.
The proposed ordinance asks Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to rename three streets; Confederate Avenue, East Confederate Avenue and Confederate Court S.E. Though affected residents are currently voting on a replacement name, none were contained in the legislation.
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The city council will hold at least two public meetings on the name change in September. One is a “listening session” on Sept. 20 at City Hall, with Smith who represents Grant Park. The other is a public hearing of the city’s utilities committee on Sept. 25, also at City Hall. The utilities committee has jurisdiction over street name changes.
A city ordinance requires 75 percent of residents and property owners on those streets to sign a petition to change the name. While neighborhood organizers collected signatures this year, it’s unclear if they met the threshold.
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Possible new names include, Considerate Avenue, United Avenue and Soldiers Avenue, said Jeremy Gray, one of the Grant Park residents who led the petition effort. Gray said the majority of people who signed the petition favor renaming, but that there is a contingent that opposes it. Those in opposition suggested “Soldiers Avenue,” if the name change actually goes through. Neighbors were given ballots late last month with the three suggestions and a write-in option. Results will be tabulated later this month, Gray said.
It’s possible the three streets may each get different names altogether, but it is also possible that they’ll carry the same root name.
Early last fall, the council and former Mayor Kasim Reed formed an 11-member advisory committee to study Atlanta’s Confederate iconography and develop proposals on how to deal with it. There were a host of recommendations. Among them was the immediate renaming of Confederate Avenue and other streets associated with Confederate leaders, particularly those who went on to support white supremacist activities after the Civil War.
While the report was submitted to the council last November, the council and the outgoing mayor took no action on it. There was also a recommendation that a subcommittee be formed to come up with an implementation plan. The subcommittee was never formed.
A group of residents in Grant Park, however, had been gathering signatures for a petition to change the names of thoroughfares bearing Confederate names in their neighborhood. The group worked off and on since the massacre of nine Charleston, S.C., church goers by a white supremacist in 2015. Their effort lost steam after several months but was rejoined after the riots last summer in Charlottesville, VA., where a counter-protester was killed during a so-called, “Unite the Right” rally of white nationalists and neo-Nazis. After the Atlanta Journal Constitution recently reported on inaction by the city council and mayor’s office on the advisory committee’s report, neighbors gathered more signatures and gave the petition to Smith, who presented the re-naming bill.
Smith said that Council President Felicia Moore has put together a three-member subcommittee to consider the advisory commission’s larger recommendations. That subcommittee was to have been formed late last year, but never materialized until after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution story ran two weeks ago. The committee members include Smith, Michael Julian Bond and Natalyn Archibong. They hold their first meeting later this month.
“We need to read and study the history contained in the report, but what this committee will be compelled to do is study the recommendations and decide what the city will implement,” Smith said. “It’s going to bear some fruit.”