Originally published March 20, 2009 at 02:47p.m., updated March 20, 2009 at 05:16p.m.
There’s just something about Missouri that puts everybody on edge here.
City commissioners on Tuesday will take up a proposal to change the name of a portion of Missouri Street to Fambrough Drive, in honor of former Kansas University football coach and eternal Missouri hater Don Fambrough.
But the proposal has disgusted City Commissioner Boog Highberger as much as any that has come before him during his six years on the commission.
“The idea that we hate Missouri and we’re going to change the name of the street because of that, just seems wrong,” Highberger said. “The idea of changing the name of a street for a sports rivalry seems really petty and childish to me.”
But supporters of the change say Highberger has it wrong. Commissioner Sue Hack, who brought up the idea of the name change earlier this month said the gesture isn’t done out of hatred.
“This has a lot to do with honoring a humble man who has given a lot to this community,” Hack said. “If it were about the hatred of Missouri, I would have suggested not even having a Missouri Street in Lawrence at all.”
Originally, the proposal was to rename the street from Ninth to 11th streets. Now, the proposal is just to rename just the 1000 block, the one block closest to KU’s Memorial Stadium, the site where Fambrough served as head coach for eight seasons.
Hack said she had been open to renaming a different street near the stadium, but said Missouri Street made the most sense because it had fewer single-family homes that would be affected by the address change.
City staff have estimated about 90 living units, including apartments, would require an address change. Hack, though, said she thought the change could be manageable. She pointed to a change several years ago to rename a portion of 15th Street as Bob Billings Parkway, in honor of a late community leader and real estate developer.
Highberger, though, said he has not heard any support for the name change from residents who live along the street. He also has heard from people who have expressed concern about changing the historic fabric of the area by renaming the street. Highberger said it appears the street has been named Missouri since at least 1863, the same year that Missouri ruffian William Quantrill raided and burned Lawrence.
“If the survivors of the real Border War can name a street Missouri and live with it, we can probably live with it, too,” Highberger said.
Highberger, however, has received about 30 e-mails from former KU football players urging a change in the name.
Both Highberger and Hack will leave the commission in April. Neither chose to run for re-election. Highberger said he hopes to get the issue settled so the future commission won’t have to deal with it.
“I think it may be the worst idea I’ve heard since I’ve been on the commission,” Highberger said. “What’s happened is we have a good idea married to a bad idea. The good idea is doing something to honor Coach Fambrough. But the bad idea is changing the name of a street for this reason.”
Highberger said he hoped the university could come up with an appropriate way to honor Fambrough.
But Hack said she supported this idea because she believes Fambrough’s contributions have extended beyond KU’s borders and into the entire community.
If three out of the five city commissioners agree, the name of the street will be changed.