Atlanta’s Utilities Committee voted not to recommend a six-month moratorium on renaming streets, but effectively killed renaming one downtown street after a civil rights and broadcast icon while holding up naming a second street for an architect/developer.

After a lengthy and emotional debate, Atlanta City Council members earlier voted 9-5 to return to the city utilities committee a proposal to change the names of 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.

At a Jan. 13 meeting, the Utilities Committee filed (effectively killed) the renaming of Cone Street for Clayton and held in committee the proposed renaming of Harris Street for Portman.

Councilman C.T. Martin is considering renaming a portion of Simpson Street to honor Clayton, but the legislation was not introduced at the committee meeting.

Council member Kwanza Hall, who represents much of the downtown community where the streets are located, had introduced legislation to impose a six-month moratorium on any Atlanta street renaming, which was rejected by the committee Jan. 13.

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 of a renaming 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.

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, the council dismissed year-long work by two volunteer commissions that recommended the street name changes to honor the two.

John Schaffner

John Schaffner was founding editor of Reporter Newspapers.