Bill Would Put Reagan on Map, Again, in D.C.
||Friday, August 5, 2005
WASHINGTON — An airport and the city's largest federal building have been named for Ronald Reagan, but now a member of Congress wants to honor the 40th president by renaming one of the capital's major streets after him.
Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, wants to change 16th Street Northwest into Ronald Reagan Boulevard. His bill is part of a nationwide campaign to honor Reagan that has so far resulted in the naming of 65 streets and places and an aircraft carrier. "Most people agree that Ronald Reagan was an American icon," Bonilla said. "He deserves an honor in the nation's capital."
There are other streets here named for presidents, including Thomas Jefferson and James Garfield, and there is a circle named for George Washington.
Sixteenth Street was part of Pierre L'Enfant's 1791 master plan. The 71/2-mile-long street runs north from the White House and was briefly known as the Avenue of the Presidents. Today it is lined with churches, Beaux Arts mansions and the homes of the city's black elite.
But in a city where 77% of registered voters are Democrats, some are not pleased with Bonilla's proposal.
"Sixteenth Street is one of our city's most prominent thoroughfares. It represents all presidents, not just one president," Mayor Anthony Williams said. He estimated that it would cost $1 million to change signs and maps. He suggested that Bonilla rename a street for Reagan back home in San Antonio.
The city was set up by the founding fathers as a federal district with limited home rule. Washington's unique status has frustrated its 570,000 residents, who have seen Congress overrule local elected officials on matters from gun laws to zoning disputes.
"What bothers me is that people who don't live or are from the city think they know what's best for us," said resident Sharon Kissel, 57, who lives in the Chevy Chase neighborhood. "It's so paternalistic."
Bonilla's bill was introduced on July 28 and only caught city officials' attention after Kissel, a former White House law librarian under Reagan, discovered it while reading the Congressional Record. She shared her discovery on her neighborhood e-mail list Thursday.
Within hours, angry comments outnumbered the usual queries about car mechanics and offers of Washington Nationals baseball tickets.
Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who heads the House committee that oversees the city's affairs, told a local radio station that the idea was "ridiculous" and vowed to put it in an "appropriate file."