23 Aug 2014
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Alexandria Council Repeals Confederate Street-Naming Law

Law requiring new north-south streets to bear the name of Confederate military leaders dated back to the 1950s.

Alexandria Council Repeals Confederate Street-Naming Law

Alexandria City Council approved an ordinance Saturday erasing several outdated and superfluous sections of the  city’s code, including a rule that some new city streets bear the names of Confederate military leaders.

The street-naming section dates back to the early 1950s when the city annexed the West End from Fairfax County, essentially doubling its size. Alexandria was known to fly a Confederate flag above City Hall at the time and, according to a 1953 Washington Post article, the naming requirement was aimed at reducing some confusion.

The deleted section required all new streets running in a north-south direction to, “insofar as possible,” bear the names of Confederate military leaders. The change also erased a requirement that new east-west streets bear the names of persons or places prominent in American history.

City resident Dino Drudi spoke in general opposition to the change, saying naming streets after historic figures has importance.

“The sense of what is obsolete is very subjective,” he said. “I find naming streets after prominent persons does help me with wayfinding. … The name matters. It means something. ‘Oh yes, Beauregard is this guy from the civil war, this famous person’… or something that you might have studied in history or might get talked about because its important, you might remember.”  

Councilman Justin Wilson, who drafted the ordinance, said the city does a good job bringing historical context to the naming of new roadways. He specifically cited the new development at Potomac Yard, which has incorporated the names of historic railroad lines and other elements dating back to the area’s time as a huge rail hub.  

“Looking into this, the staff has done a pretty good job when we’ve had new developments of working with the Office of Historic Alexandria and coming up… with names that are historically important to the area, people and places,” Wilson said. “I think we do a very good job of that. This doesn’t change that at all.”  

The ordinance also struck a section of code that penalizes “any persons, not married to each other, lewdly and lasciviously” associating and cohabitating. A first offense was a class 3 misdemeanor, while a repeat offense and conviction was a class 2 misdemeanor.

The ordinance also repealed a ban on shoeshine stands in city streets, erased city ordinances governing an outdated transportation safety commission and repealed rules regulating trampolining centers.

Council approved the ordinance on a 6-0 vote. Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg did not attend Saturday's hearing to attend to a family medical issue.

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