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After Boulevard Renaming, Richmond City Council Emphasizes Public Engagement

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Roberto Roldan/WCVE News

As Richmond’s new History and Culture Commission looks to reevaluate who the city honors, the City Council wants to ensure there is space for public comment.

Council member Andreas Addison, who represents the 1st District, has introduced an ordinance that would force the commission to abide by the same rules as City Council when looking at name changes to public streets and buildings. That means it would have to study any financial impacts and hold public hearings.

Addison said the goal of his proposal is to ensure the public is part of the discussion.

“It’s not necessarily to get 100 percent approval for what we are doing, but at least have the chance of getting buy-in, explanation and bi-directional communication," he said. "They can voice concerns, objections, alternative ideas, and we can discuss those as why they do or do not work.”

The proposed ordinance is a direct response to concerns raised during the renaming of Arthur Ashe Boulevard. Some people living along the Boulevard said they felt their concerns about the cost of the name change weren’t being heard by City Council. Opponents also suggested the renaming be looked at by the History and Culture Commission before approval.

The Boulevard name change passed 8-0-1 last month. Addison and 5th District Councilmember Parker Agelasto both voted in favor, but not before deriding the process by which it was approved.

Agelasto said at the time that proponents were ignoring city rules requiring 51 percent of property owners along the street to sign off on any name change.

“There is doing right, and there is also doing it the right way,” Agelasto said. “And I think we failed on the right way here.”

On Thursday, City Council’s three-member Governmental Operations Committee voted to send Addison’s bill to the full council with a recommendation to approve

. Council member Michael Jones said he was on board with requiring the History and Culture Commission to get feedback from the community if it considers any renamings.

“As much as I was for Arthur Ashe, what hurt was that there were seemingly concerns or questions about individuals being engaged and at what time were they engaged,” Jones said. “Regardless of which side you were on, it was an opportunity to engage this as a city, so we could all own the process.”

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