The Latest Street Name Changing Ridiculousness
Atlanta has a pretty serious history of street name-changing ridiculousness. A certain street on the west side of the city has gone through four names (based on some serious Wikipedia-ing, it looks like it went from Bellwood Ave to Bankhead Ave in the 1920s to Bankhead Highway to, most recently, Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway. You can’t bounce on DLH. But I guess you don’t get robbed on DLH?).
Other egregious offenses that come to mind are the Lakewood Freeway -> Langford Parkway switch, Stewart -> Metropolitan, our Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and, most ridiculous of all, a stretch of Memorial Drive has already been switched back to Memorial after a brief stint as Cynthia McKinney Parkway.
The latest round of street name changes is up for a vote this week. City Council is proposing to change Harris St. downtown to John Portman (the architect behind downtown’s gorgeous atrium hotels who is often partially blamed for the neighborhood’s dearth of welcoming street life), and to change Cone to recognize Xernona Clayton, a well-known civil rights activist and close friend to Coretta Scott King. Both people are living, both people have made significant contributions to the city, and, I strongly believe, neither street name change is warranted. Creative Loafing has a thoughtful editorial about the issue here — “A surefire way not to be remembered: Note to City Council: Street signs are not chalkboards.”
Apparently last month we changed the name of Fair Street to Atlanta Student Movement Boulevard. Does that even fit on a street sign? Does Atlanta have to order extra-long ones? Don’t other cities have street names like Main and Broad and State? OF COURSE we want to remember our city’s heroes. OF COURSE we want to teach our kids our city’s history. OF COURSE we ought to celebrate Atlanta’s role in the civil rights movement, and be proud of these achievements, and tell the stories of the actions of these brave people. But honestly, renaming a street is just not the appropriate medium for these honors. It’s like spreading awareness of life-threatening cancers with an ugly rubber bracelet. Or something. Oops. Moving on.
Sure, these people should be honored – but not by making residents, businesses, gps systems and sidewalk-marta maps and paper maps (paper maps!!), tourists, and taxpayers deal with the time and expense and confusion of changing the names of our roads. Parks, buildings, plaques, statues – all these are appropriate tributes. Not our mailing addresses.
According to the Atlanta Downtown Neighborhood Association, “the legislation will go to the Urban Design Commission tomorrow afternoon — Wed., Dec. 15, 4pm @ City Hall council chambers — and then rushed to the special full city council meeting on Thurs., Dec. 16, 10am at the same place. In the meantime, we need everyone to *call* and e-mail ALL city council members before Thursday! Please spread the word.”