Chairman McKay hints name changes are a done deal
The Confederate Names Task Force (CNTF) is holding listening sessions to get public feedback on whether the names of two major roadways in Fairfax County should be changed.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors established CNTF back in July to review the names of Lee Highway (U.S. Route 29) and Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway (U.S. Route 50), and to make recommendations to the Board on whether to change the names on one or both roadways. If such a recommendation is made, CNTF will also provide recommendations on proposed alternative names.
While the CNTF will make a recommendation on whether to change the names of the roadways, the final decision will be made by the Board of Supervisors.
“In Fairfax County, our diversity is our greatest strength and it’s important that we honor and celebrate that diversity,” said Fairfax County Chairman Jeffrey C. McKay. “We cannot ignore what the Lee and Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway names represent in our community and especially to our African American neighbors. The Confederate Names Task Force, which includes a diverse group, will examine and make recommendations on how both roadways can better reflect our values as we chart a positive path together for the future.”
Last year, the Board asked the History Commission to create an inventory report of Confederate monuments, street names and places in Fairfax County. The report, completed in December 2020, explains why some county locations have Confederate associated names and lists 157 locations within the county where they exist. The report did not include federal property, public schools, places of worship, or cemeteries. Lee Highway and Lee Jackson Memorial Highway were the primary Confederate named highways on the list.
During a meeting last week, Tom Biesiadny, director of the Fairfax County Transportation Department discussed the costs of possible name change for both roads. For changing the signs alone, 171 signs on Lee Highway and 55 signs on Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway, the cost could range from $1 to $4.2 million. This does not include the in-house costs for changing maps, GPS, etc. because the county can roll that over as another task in those departments affected, he said. Although other jurisdictions are considering making grants available to businesses, more work would need to be done before the task force makes a recommendation to the Board on this. The Board would ultimately make the decision on whether to award grants to businesses. The CNTF plans for postcards informing recipients of the survey and listening sessions to be sent to approximately 450,000 residents beginning October 28, right about the time the listening sessions will begin.
The first listening session took place October 28. Additional listening sessions will take place at 10 a.m. October 30 at the Fairfax County Government Center, and 7 p.m. November 4 at the Sully District Government Center. A virtual meeting will be held November 1 at 7 p.m.
Additionally, a survey is available in eight different languages and comments will be accepted until November 12. Printed copies of the survey are available at all county libraries and supervisor district offices. An online survey can be found at https://bit.ly/3BknmpC.