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Saturday, January 12, 2002
Rename road for Reagan?
By David Twiddy and Nancy Cook Lauer DEMOCRAT CAPITOL BUREAU

Lawmaker wants ex-president's name on Parkway

Apalachee Parkway, one of Tallahassee's most recognized and important commercial thoroughfares, could soon be renamed for the 40th U.S. president.

State Rep. Johnnie Byrd, R-Plant City, this week filed a bill (HB 847) that would rename the road between North Monroe Street and Capital Circle the Ronald Reagan Parkway.

Efforts to reach Byrd were unsuccessful late Friday afternoon. But Kim Stone, spokeswoman for House Speaker Tom Feeney, said it's common for Republicans around the nation to name things after their icons.

"It's not unusual if you look at the people we name roads after," Stone said. "He's one of the Republicans' greatest heroes, and what better road than the one legislators use everyday to get to the Capitol."

Leon County Commissioner Tony Grippa, himself a Republican, agreed.

"I think it's terrific that it's being named after Reagan," Grippa said, adding that it would bring attention to Alzheimer's disease, which the former president now suffers from. "Reagan had wide support from conservative Democrats, so I don't think it's necessarily partisan."

Other city and county elected officials, however, were less enthused.

"Is this some kind of sick joke?" asked Leon County Commissioner Bob Rackleff, whose district includes the parkway. "It's the most arrogant proposal I've heard come out of the Legislature."

Rackleff noted that businesses would have to buy new stationery and notify customers and suppliers of the change.

The bill comes less than a year after state senators attempted to hold up local road funding unless Leon County officials removed speed humps on Lake Bradford Road and played up Donald L. Tucker's name as part of the local civic center's name. Tucker is the former House speaker for whom the center is named, but the facility's marketing and marquee signs use the more common Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center.

Gov. Jeb Bush took the issue to court, and lawmakers eventually agreed to drop the speed hump requirement. The civic center requirement is still pending.

Tallahassee Mayor Scott Maddox saw this as more of the same.

"Just like the speed humps, this is the state just cramming something down the throats of Tallahasseeans," said Maddox, who didn't hear about the proposal until late Friday. "Whether you think the road should be named after President Ronald Reagan or not, citizens should have a say in that."

Rep. Loranne Ausley, D-Tallahassee, also didn't know about the bill until notified by a reporter.

"If Representative Byrd wants to help us name our roads, perhaps he'll take an interest in helping us fund our roads, too," said Ausley, whose district includes Apalachee.

Apalachee Parkway was named in 1957 in a citywide contest, according to "Know Your Neighborhood: Tallahassee Street Name Origins," distributed by the Knott House Museum in 1977. Florida State University freshman Bill Yancy, son of former city manager Malcolm Yancy, won a $60 prize.

The road was originally named for the tribe of Apalachee Indians who lived in the area. But historians also note the word's resemblance to the Choctaw word "Apelichi," meaning the place in which to rule, preside or govern.

Reagan, who already has a South Florida turnpike named after him, is known to have visited Tallahassee on Jan. 31, 1980, undoubtedly on a campaign swing.

Leon County refused to endorse him in that November's election, as the Carter/Mondale ticket won Leon County over the Reagan/Bush ticket by a vote of 28,420 to 24,840.