It’s July; it’s hot; and Covid-19 continues to be the primary focus of most conversations. Traditional Independence Day celebrations were curtailed, although the Lee Boulevard Heights neighborhood, near Seven Corners, did hold its decades-old annual parade through the neighborhood on Saturday morning. In normal years, the parade has lots of marchers and cyclists on the street, with fewer people watching from their front yards. This year, that was reversed: fewer marchers, all properly masked, and more people, also properly masked, watching from the comfort of their front yards. Fire apparatus from Station 28 brought up the rear, and entertained the children with arching spray from a firehose in lieu of the usual picnic at parade’s end. It was hard to tell who was having a better time – the splashing children or the firefighters controlling the hose!
As the crackle and pop of fireworks, legal and illegal, faded, work began on a request by the Board of Supervisors for an inventory of public places named for individuals who held military or governmental responsibilities under the authority of the Confederate States of America between 1861 and 1865, including monuments, street names, parks and recreation centers, county buildings, and other county properties. The Board asked for input from the History Commission, the Park Authority, and the Architectural Review Board, as well as county agencies. The Board asked for the inventory to be completed by the end of this year, after which a community outreach process for further discussion and potential action would be developed. The 2020 Census data will be available next spring, leading to redistricting of congressional, state, and local districts, which may provide an opportune time to make related name changes.
A quick look at a county atlas reveals many familiar, and some unfamiliar, street names that may have a connection to the Confederacy. I note “may” since deeper investigation is needed into when and why they were so named. Lee has 19 entries, not including Leesburg Pike (Route 7), Jackson has 10, and Pender, or some variation, has nine. Then there’s Van Dorn, Chambliss, Beauregard, Pickett (they all were Confederate generals) and John Marr (he was reputed to be the first Confederate soldier to die in battle in Fairfax County). The effort to identify places named for Confederates who took up arms against the United States (such efforts to overthrow the government can be prosecuted as treason) has prompted some residents to suggest that anything named for Lord Fairfax or George Mason be changed as well.
Cooler heads must prevail. Despite some calls for immediate changes, these decisions must be approached thoughtfully. Ours is a very diverse community, with lots of differing opinions that deserve discussion and respect. A street name change sounds rather simple: just find a new name, put up a new sign, and you’re done. It’s not that easy. People who reside on the renamed street also would have to update their addresses on driver’s licenses and identification cards; do the same with utility companies, postal service, credit card accounts, and would be responsible for updating all legal documents, including deeds, plats, surveys, mortgages, loans, trusts, wills, and so on. Business owners on a street would have even more changes: local and state business licenses, procurements with retail and/or wholesale companies, advertisement listings, and mappings, not to mention reprinting all business materials with the new address. It would be akin to moving to a new home, without having to pack a single box.
More to come….
Stay safe, healthy, and cool.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.