Mike DeBonis in the Washington Post reported today that the National Park Service will not post signs by the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial stating that the statue is on “Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.” Over a month ago, the city Council voted to rename the road symbolically as MLK Drive but the National Park Service is having none of it. The Park Service has a few valid objections to this but their main point is that NPS land is federal land and the city (nor any state) has the authority to rename the street. That is all true so the Park Service is following the letter of the law.
I do think as well that the city Council is at fault too because they passed the law just over a month ago. We’ve known about this for years why couldn’t the Council have acted sooner? Were they too busy raising special interest funds, looking for new SUVs, or diverting funds to their own non-profits and businesses for personal gain? The Council should have known that any bureaucracy, especially the National Park Service, takes a long time to make a decision especially one that involves change, albeit only symbolic change.
So, the Council acted too late and the Park Service acted according to the letter of the law because on the park superintendent can make such a change after the Secretary of the Interior approves it. Imagine if we had 2 US Senators with oversight of the Department of the Interior and had votes on the approval or disapproval of the Secretary’s nomination. Imagine if we had 2 US Senators that sat on a committee with appropriation powers over the Department of Interior and thus the National Park Service. I have a feeling that the city Council could have acted in haste but the Park Service would have been more amenable to our request.
The name change is symbolic and to deny the request looks purely petty. Although the Park Service points to how no state would be able to change the name of roads within park boundaries NPS in the District is a distinctly different entity. NPS is interwoven into the fabric of the city. No one passes through a toll gate to signify entering most NPS land in the District. If we had statehood I doubt that NPS would act so smug and so arrogant toward the District and its laws an officials.
If New Columbia existed we would have oversight over a large landholder throughout the city/state, NPS, and maybe then they’d treat us as neighbors rather than as a nuisance. The Park Service’s decision while legally sound is petty and very unneighborly.