Editor: Regarding your recent coverage [“Fairfax Asks Permission to Nix Confederate Names,” Sept. 22], diverse public participation was woefully lacking in this renaming exercise related to Lee Highway and Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway.
As a member of the Confederate Names Task Force committee (CNTF), I was surprised how underrepresented the diversity of the body was.
In Fairfax County, the demographic breakdown is diverse. And yet, on our committee of about 25, there were no Asians and just one Hispanic. The Asian community, about 19 percent of the county’s population, through its Chamber of Commerce wanted to be on the committee. They begged to be on. “No” was the answer.
The lone Hispanic member of the committee – president of the Northern Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce – voted against changing the names of Lee Highway and Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway, due to the expense to businesses. She said they are stretched financially already, due to the loss of business during the COVID lockdown.
She also feared it would be a signal to change other names/entities by consent of the government but not by the people, and speaks from experience – she is from Venezuela and spoke how a ruling elite overtook their country. Their first step was to governmentally change the street names and take down their statues, all in the name of historical cleansing using the young people. What it really did, she said, was give the governmental elite control over the people that they continue to abuse to this day.
The survey created by the task force to get a pulse from the public came back with the overwhelming majority not wanting a name change. This was the largest survey return in Fairfax County history. Then, our task-force leader announced it was a bogus survey. It needed a small 14-day sampling done ahead of time, which she chose not to tell us or do. After the fact, she said there was not time. That was untrue by a long shot. It was choice she made, or whoever she was being influenced by made. I wonder who made that call?
Therefore, in her final report before the Board of Supervisors, the task-force leader did not mention the public survey. It was in the submitted document but not addressed personally by her before the Board of Supervisors in her public testimony. Supervisor Patrick Herrity (R-Springfield) asked about it. She did not even have the numbers in front of her. He had to provide them.
The hours and time wasted by myself and other committee members on that was phenomenal. Let’s not forget those who took the time to fill out the survey and send it back! Add the expense incurred by the county government sending out thousands of colored large postcards in several languages and tallying up the responses afterwards. Who cares? It was clear they did not.
Then, to kick the public in the backside further, our task force recommended strongly that county leaders reach out to the business community, especially those that would be most affected by the name change on these two roads. They did.
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation was tasked to do it. When its survey report was presented to the Board of Supervisors in public testimony, Herrity inquired further. About half of the businesses are diverse. He found out that the survey only gave the business patrons a renaming choice; it did not give a choice of not changing the name in the first place. If he had not asked, the public would have never known.
It was in the bag before it started.
Jenee Lindner, Fairfax
Lindner is a member of the Fairfax County History Commission and was a member of the Confederate Names Task Force empaneled by the Fairfax County government.