TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — Name changes could soon be coming to some parks and streets in Tempe because of their racist past. In a statement released on Friday, the city said City Council members will talk during Thursday’s meeting about the issue of renaming several parks and streets named for people who were members of a local Ku Klux Klan chapter in the 1920s. The City Council has the authority to name and rename city-owned locations, Tempe officials said.
The Tempe History Museum staff made the discovery using records from the Arizona Historical Society and Phoenix Public Library. Officials said Hudson Drive, Hudson Lane, Laird Street and Hudson, Harelson and Redden parks were named for dues-paying members of the KKK’s Butte Chapter No. 3 in the Tempe area. The city’s research also shows that Laird, Gililland and Hudson school names in the Tempe Elementary School District were also linked to KKK members. The district will handle any name changes.
One of the recommendations for the City Council to consider on Thursday will be City Manager Andrew Ching appointing a committee to meet and discuss the issue. The board would consist of diverse groups, including the Neighborhood Advisory Commission, the Human Relations Commission, the African American Advisory Committee, the Tempe Tardeada Advisory Board, the Tempe Elementary School District and faith organizations.
“Bringing this issue forward for community awareness and consideration is the right thing to do,” Ching said in a statement. “Together we can acknowledge the past and make purposeful decisions that reflect our community values of equality and anti-discrimination.”
City officials say they’re reaching out to family members of the ancestors who the parks and streets are named after. “Communication with family members will continue so they feel invited to be part of the conversations. The city is committed to ensuring that all dialogue on this important topic is done in safe and respectful ways,” Tempe said in a statement.
Background documents for the Thursday meeting will be available at tempe.gov/clerk. A city website at tempe.gov/renaming will be launched with even more information and when the public can give their opinion and a timeline of a final decision.
The announcement comes nearly a year after the City of Phoenix made a change for two of its streets whose names some considered offensive. The Phoenix City Council voted on Nov. 18, 2020, to change Robert E. Lee Street to Desert Cactus Street and Squaw Peak Drive to Piestewa Peak Drive. The names took effect on March 1.
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