By John Schaffner

johnschaffner@reporternewspapers.net

Atlanta may be facing a six-month moratorium on renaming two streets with legislation introduced to City Council Jan. 3, after a contentious discussion over renaming two downtown streets for an architect/developer and a civil rights and broadcast icon.

After a lengthy and emotional debate, it voted 9-5 to refer back to the city utilities committee a proposal to rename Cone Street to Xernona Clayton Way, in honor of the media pioneer, and Harris Street to John C. Portman Boulevard, to honor the architect of much or Atlanta’s skyline.

Clayton is the first African-American female to host a prime-time television program in the South. The former WAGA-TV show host also was among a handful of female leaders in the 1960s-era Civil Rights Movement, and, along with Turner Broadcasting, co-founded the annual Trumpet Awards.

Atlanta native Portman is the internationally-acclaimed architect behind numerous downtown Atlanta complexes, including The Marriott Marquis and Peachtree Center. Portman also has designed major high-rises in other major cities around the world.

Council member Kwanza Hall, who represents much of the downtown community where the streets are located, also introduced the legislation to impose a six-month moratorium on any Atlanta street renaming.? The city’s utility committee will review both Hall’s proposal and the reconsideration of the renaming at 10 a.m. Tues., Jan. 11.

In a letter to his colleagues, Hall pointed out that a law passed by council in 2003 to avoid wholesale changing of names of city streets has largely been ignored since then.

The law requires, among other things, a 75 percent approval  from businesses and residents on the street, that the entire street be renamed and  not simply sections of it, and that the group wanting to rename the street pay a $2.500 fee to cover expenses as well as post a bond with the Department of Public Works for future maintenance costs. It also requires input from neighborhood planning units.

In this case, the council’s decision weighed heavily on opposition to the changes by the downtown neighborhood planning unit and city policy.

But in sending the name changes back to committee for further study, the council essentially dismissed a year of work by two volunteer commissions that recommended the street name changes to honor the two.

Hall and the voting majority were saying the council needs to provide such commissions with better direction on finding ways to honor the city’s favorite sons and daughters.

Speaking in support of the street renamings was former Atlanta Mayor and U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young, who was honored in the 1990s with the renaming of Cain Street to Andrew Young International Boulevard. Like Young, both Portman and Clayton are living and active in the Atlanta area.

Atlanta native Portman is the internationally-acclaimed architect behind numerous downtown Atlanta complexes, including The Marriott Marquis and Peachtree Center. Portman also has designed major high-rises in other major cities around the world.

John Schaffner

John Schaffner was founding editor of Reporter Newspapers.