Forrest Street renaming controversy in Valdosta continues

Valdosta Street Name Controversy

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - A Civil Rights group in Valdosta has been hoping to change the name of one of the major streets in their community.

The People’s Tribunal submitted a petition to have Forrest Street renamed Barack Obama Boulevard.

The Tribunal turned in 114 signatures of the 170 necessary, but city leaders said only about 40 of those met qualifying factors.

After all the signatures are collected and verified, three public notices must be posted in the Valdosta Daily Times ahead of getting council approval.

The controversy regarding changing Forrest Street to Barack Obama Boulevard continues.

At Thursday’s city council meeting, District 4 Councilman Eric Howard gave his opinions on the topic.

Eric Howard, District 4 City Councilman, spoke up about the street naming controversy.

Howard said that if the council doesn’t look for some resolution that voters might feel isolated, possibly stopping the next SPLOST vote from passing.

“For the better of our community, I think we shouldn’t do things just to prove that we’re right," said Howard.

The District 4 representative said that the council is put in a difficult position when they’re not able to defend things that happen at city hall.

He suggested someone from the city should have made sure the street name change was approached correctly, which he said never happened.

“It’s true. If we don’t rename the street. Let’s just say we don’t want to rename it, but let’s not get into the position where we’re defending if the street was named after or not," said Howard.

Howard said that he is just looking for the council and for the People’s Tribunal to compromise, so the city can focus on other issues.

“I know the People’s Tribunal. I’ve talked to them. They’re not demanding that the name of the street be changed. They’re just asking for a compromise. If you put it for a vote, if it passes, it passes. If it doesn’t, it dies," said Howard.

We spoke to the District Six Councilman, Andrew Gibbs, about his thoughts on his fellow Councilmember’s statements.

“I looked over at him. I said, ‘you did a good job tonight,'" said Gibbs.

Gibbs said everyone should be able to voice their opinions and that he respects his opinion, but reserves his right to pass judgment in the matter.

“Once it comes up for a vote that’s whenever I’ll give my decision. You can’t vote on something that has not met the ordinance yet," said Gibbs.

At the end of the meeting, we spoke to Mayor John Gayle, who said that the group can’t allow The People’s Tribunal to bypass the proper protocol of the ordinances in place.

Gayle said this would set a precedent and undermine the city’s ability to do work moving forward.

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