As a member of the Confederate Names Task Force Committee (CNTF), I was surprised by how underrepresented the diversity of the county was. The keyword to begin here is diverse public participation. It was woefully lacking in this renaming exercise of Lee Highway and Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway. Yet, here are our numbers: white 51.2%, Asian 18.9%, Hispanic 16.2%, Black 9.4%, Other 4.2 %.
On our committee of 26 who voted, in the end, there was one Asian and one Hispanic. More members of the Asian community through their different Asian Chamber of Commerce groups wanted to be on the committee. They represent, besides the Orient and Southeast Asia countries such as India, Pakistan, and others in the Middle East. One leader begged to be on. The businesses they represented would be most affected. No, was the answer. Why, I wonder?
The one Hispanic included voted NO on a name change due to the expense to businesses. She said businesses are stretched financially already due to the loss of business during the COVID lockdown. She also feared it would be a signal to change other names/entities by consent of the government but not by the people. She speaks from experience. She is from Venezuela and spoke about how a ruling elite overtook their country. Their first step was to governmentally change the street names and take down their statues all in the name of historical cleansing using the young people. What it really did, she said, was give the governmental elite control over the people which they continue to abuse to this day.
In Fairfax County, we created the CNTF survey to get a pulse from the public, and it came back with the overwhelming majority not wanting a name change. This was the largest survey return in Fairfax County history. Then, our CNTF leader announced it was a bogus survey. It needed a small 14-day sampling done ahead of time which she chose not to tell us or do. After the fact, she said there was no time. That was untrue by a long shot. It was a choice she made or whoever she was being influenced by. I wonder who made that call?
Therefore, in her final report before the BOS, our CNTF leader did not mention the public survey. It was in the submitted document but not addressed personally by her before the BOS in her public testimony. Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity asked about it. She did not even have the numbers in front of her. He had to provide them. The hours and time wasted by myself and other committee members who served were phenomenal. Let’s not forget those who took the time to fill out the survey and send it back! And, the expense by the county sending out hundreds of thousands of colored large postcards in several languages and tallying up the responses afterward. Who cares? It was clear they did not.
Then, to kick the public in the backside further, our CNTF recommended strongly that they reach out to the business community, especially those who would be most affected by the name change on these two roads. They did. The Fairfax County Department of Transportation was tasked to do it. When the FCDOT survey report was presented to the BOS in public testimony, Supervisor Pat Herrity inquired further. About half of the businesses are minority-owned. He found out that the survey only gave the business patrons a renaming choice. It did not give a choice of changing the name in the first place. If he had not asked, the public would have never known.
It was in the bag before it started.
Fairfax County History Commissioner