After hearing from the public Thursday evening, the Tempe city council made the decision to move forward with preliminary plans to change the name of several streets and parks.
The Tempe History Museum recently made an unsettling discovery that many of the Tempe streets such as Hudson Drive, Hudson Lane and Laird Street, Hudson Park, Redden Park and Harelson Park are named after now-deceased members of the Ku Klux Klan’s Tempe chapter.
Council members spent hours hearing both sides of opinions from residents about potential name changes.
“You must change these names,” one resident said as a public comment.
Another resident agreed on the name change. “I mean I was shocked,” said Rachel Sheddon, a Tempe resident. “That’s pretty horrifying and disappointing so if they’re changing the names, I’m all for that,” she added.
Ted Harelson, a decedent of the late Harvey Harelson, who is now being accused of having KKK connections from the discovered historical documents said he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. “This news as KKK membership is a complete surprise to the surviving family,” said Ted Haralson. Harelson’s family don’t believe the discovered documentation.
Additional Tempe residents who stood up to speak believe the situation is being blown out of proportion and there are other concerning issues in the city to spend time and money on.
“There’s homeless people, children need food, there’s a lot more important things to be doing than changing names of people, and that, because they found old history about somebody,” said Richard Isch.
A final decision was not made on officially changing the names, however there was an agreement to start the process and create a special committee to begin looking into the changes. The committee will consist of community stakeholders which will include representatives from many Tempe groups such as Neighborhood Advisory Commission, the Human Relations Commission, the African American Advisory Committee, the Tempe Tardeada Advisory Board, the Tempe Elementary School District, and local faith organizations. There will also be additional opportunities to hear more public comment. At this point it is unclear how long the renaming process will take.
The city of Tempe will work with Tempe Elementary School District on the process to rename three of their schools since they only have jurisdiction to rename city streets and parks.