Orange County determines commission can change county road names that represent racial injustice

If you live in Orange County, your address might change. Orange County commissioners said they have the power to rename county roads and are looking at names that represent ethnic or racial injustice.

The county said the process was always possible if citizens petitioned for the change, but on Tuesday, it was determined that the mayor and county commissioners can also propose new names.

The issue was first brought up last summer when social justice protests erupted nationwide and some activists called for local street names with potential ties to the confederacy to be renamed.

Orange County staff conducted a study and found that 15 streets within the jurisdiction or cross jurisdiction could possibly be named after notable confederate officials or generals, like Kirby Smith, Forest, Jackson, Lee, Mosby and Bluford.

But the big question that no one can seem to answer is whether or not these streets were actually named after confederate leaders.

"It’s inconclusive whether or not some of those names could have been named after an upstanding citizen who just happened to have been named let’s say after a confederate general or what have you," Mayor Jerry Demings said. "So, there’s not clear history on that with some of the street names within our jurisdiction."

The staff study poured into searching for origin stories and the results were inconclusive.

For example, there are 10 streets in Orange County with the name Jackson, but no one knows if they are tied to President Andrew Jackson or Stonewall Jackson.

As for Kirby Smith, it turns out it’s not named after the last confederate general to surrender during the Civil War but a man who donated land to the county.

So now that the county has determined it has the power to change the names of county roads, will they?

"There’s nothing that we’re looking at right now where we would move forward with the renaming of streets," Demings said.

Right now, there is no list of roads the county plans to rename, but officials say they are willing to hear public comment on any streets that the board should consider.