Sunday, September 09, 2007

Mishandling of State, Local Honor to Civil Rights Leader Did a Disservice to Her Good Name

The Tennessean's article on the renaming of 8th Avenue in Downtown, the North End, and MetroCenter to Rosa Parks Boulevard makes it clear that both state and Metro government failed to prepare residents and businesses along the route for the change. Metro blames its inaction on the fact that Rosa Parks is a state highway. The State Departments involved fall back on bureaucratic ass-covering while saying that public relations is not part of their job description.

Each of the government bodies involved in the name change could have done more to be proactive and to ease the transition, but the onus falls particularly on the legislative co-sponsors who initiated the change and who should have done more to at least notify property owners of their intentions.

State Senator and co-sponsor Thelma Harper simply defends the change by saying that it is important for kids to know about the Civil Rights Movement. But it is just as important to communicate and to ease communities into these name changes so that the proper honor that goes to Ms. Rosa Parks is not lost in a lot of resentment and confusion. Ms. Harper seemed to have spent more time taking credit for this change instead of preparing the community as an elected representative of the people should.

And what of former District 19 Council Member Ludye Wallace? He was one of the co-sponsors in the Metro Council. Did we hear a word from him on this change? Nope. Yet, the change was approved on his watch.

But the real head-scratcher is former Metro Council Member, current State Representative, and Council/House bills co-sponsor Brenda Gilmore. A person who is fortunate enough to serve both in the Council and in the State House has a unique opportunity to coordinate legislation that moves from the state level to the local level. Her involvement with the renaming legislation at both levels of government should have motivated her to prepare the affected communities and to protect Ms. Parks' good name with the same energy that she co-sponsored the legislation. The mixed feelings along the corridor and in Downtown indicate that Ms. Gilmore could have done more, straddling two offices, to help us through this transition.

This was truly a botched honor to a civil rights icon whose remembrance deserved a better fate in our community.

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