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The Renaming of Manchaca Road:
A Summary of Events

Background

The Austin City Council approved the name change of Manchaca Road to Menchaca Road on October 4, 2018, WITH LITTLE feedback from businesses and residents who work and live on the road, WITHOUT regard to the costs small businesses and residents will incur as a result, WITHOUT regard to the cost to Austin taxpayers, and in SPITE OF a glaring lack of evidence to justify the decision. We sought to REVERSE or find responsible alternatives to City Council’s decision.

Leave Manchaca Alone (“LMA”) took the City to court after the October 4th hearing, to argue that the City did not properly inform property owners along Manchaca Road about the public hearing to change the road name, as required by law. City Council had quickly and quietly passed an ordinance for the change, with little input from the 10,000+ property owners, businesses and apartment dwellers that would be affected by the change. LMA prevailed at court. Judge Dustin Howell, who presides over the 459th District Court, ruled that the City did not follow its public notice rules and granted LMA’s application for a temporary injunction against enforcing the change ordinance in December of 2018.

After winning our injunction, a trial took place on September 17, 2019. After deliberating for 9 days, Judge Howell unexpectedly dismissed LMA's case for two reasons:

  1. The testimonies heard by city employees we subpoenaed were invalid due to governmental immunity.
  2. The court no longer feels it has jurisdiction over the case.

To the thousands of people who live and work on the road, this judgement was disappointing. LMA held off City Council's irresponsible street name change for a year by successfully arguing that they did not properly notify property owners of the public hearing (which they admitted to knowingly doing in court). A judgement in our favor would have forced the city to hold a proper public hearing on the matter—a fair shot for citizens at debating the initiative.

It is possible that Judge Perkins will pursue the name change along the road's southern stretch that exists in Travis County, outside the City of Austin's jurisdiction. LMA will actively defend against any such attempts should they occur.

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The original argument: Hearsay or Evidence?

At the October 4th City Council meeting, politically connected advocates led by Mr. Bob Perkins, president of the Justice for Menchaca organization, claimed that Manchaca Road has been erroneously misspelled for 170+ years. He claims that instead of being called Manchaca, the road should have been called Menchaca, after Jose Antonio Menchaca, an officer of the Texas Army who lived and died in San Antonio and fought in the Battle of San Jacinto in modern-day Houston. Opponents, led by LMA and the Manchaca Onion Creek Historical Association, insist that there is no historical evidence to support this claim.

Advocate (Bob Perkins) assertions:

  • Manchaca Springs, the village of Manchaca and Manchaca Road were named after Menchaca, but incorrectly spelled.
  • On the night of April 21, 1836, after the Battle of San Jacinto, Jose Antonio Menchaca’s name was misspelled for the first time in Texas military annals. His name continued to be misspelled during his entire military service.
  • After the war, Captain Menchaca stayed in the Texas Army, stationed in San Antonio. One of his responsibilities was to patrol against the Comanche, along where Perkins theorizes was Old San Antonio Road, which runs parallel to I35. He goes on to speculate that local residents were so pleased with his efforts that they named the nearby springs after him.
  • Amateur historians have surmised that slave owners living in the area in the 1850’s switched the name from Menchaca to Manchac, pronouncing it as “Man-chack.” They preferred an Anglicized name because of prejudice against Mexicans that spiked in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War.

Opposing (LMA) assertions:

  • The Manchaca Onion Creek Historical Association, after extensive research, has wholly disputed the theory of Captain Menchaca’s relationship to the area, and has determined there is a similarity in name and nothing else. There is no documented proof that Captain Menchaca camped in the area known as "Manchac Springs" during his military travels.
  • There exists no historical evidence of Captain Menchaca’s presence anywhere near Austin. Neither in his own extensive memoirs, nor in his obituary, was it mentioned that Menchaca knew anything about a place that was supposedly named after him while he was alive.
  • Dr. Jesús de la Teja, former Professor of History at Texas State University and past president of the Texas State Historical Association, who edited and adopted Captain Menchaca’s memoirs, has found no evidence of Menchaca’s connection to the town’s name.
  • Native Americans used the resources of Manchac Springs long before Anglo settlers came to the area. The springs could have been named after the Choctaw word Manchac, which meant “rear entrance” as it applied to their migratory use of such resources. The word Manchac also describes other waterways further north including "Manchac Bayou" and "Pass Manchac." The derivation of the word "Manchac" predates that of Jose Menchaca's existence.
  • The earliest-known official map of the area dates back to 1849. In it the area is named "Manchac Springs." Sam Houston, who was Captain Menchaca's commanding officer, delivered a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate in 1849 praising this map as “the most correct and authentic map of Texas ever compiled.”
  • There are 1,763 property owners on Manchaca Road. Only 63 or 3.5% responded to a city opinion survey. Of these respondents, 82.5% opposed the name change.
  • It has been determined that at least 200 property owners, and possibly more, did not receive notice of the survey nor of the hearing to change the name of their street. The City had erroneously sent notice to incorrect addresses.
  • In the Council’s work session (watch video) held two days before the public hearing, City Council members openly admitted they had been lobbied by Mr. Perkins for years, that they believed the narrative he provided without any tangible evidence, and that they had already decided to “vote for Menchaca” before hearing from historical groups at the October 4th hearing. Some council members even strategically polluted the debate by suggesting this issue was really about a racial divide.
  • Over 5,500 affected members of the Manchaca community (residents, businesses, commuters and multi-generational residents who refute the Menchaca theory), have signed a petition rejecting the name change.

What is this going to cost taxpayers?

The "Justice for Menchaca" organization raised $24,000 from private funds to change all the road signs along Manchaca Road and argued that the taxpayers would not have to pay a thing. LMA argues that the cost to taxpayers (and especially businesses and residents on the road) goes far beyond the cost of changing street signs. Installing the signs could require hundreds of city employee man-hours. Additionally, internal and public records, databases and maps of numerous city and county departments would have to be changed, requiring extensive staff time. And according to TxDOT, even with one letter change in the name, residents along the road are required to update their driver's license for a fee, and the update does not extend the license's expiration date.

How will small businesses and residents be impacted?

Residents along the road (totaling over 50,000 adults that own or rent), will be required to change their personal records, such as driver’s licenses ($25 fee), voter registrations, property insurance, and legal documents. Notice would have to be given to mortgage companies, employers, financial institutions, medical providers, online services, social and business organizations, and more.  As for businesses along the road, each is impacted differently. On the low end, businesses need to pay for changes to their stationary, website modifications, local directories, government documents and trade licenses. On the high end (especially with the many businesses who use the word “Manchaca” in their company names), the costs can go much higher. Examples of this are roadside and building signage, marketing materials like brochures, uniform embroidery, modifications to online SEO and advertising, etc.

City Council likes to point out that businesses don’t have to change their names, which reveals how little they know about running a small business in a competitive market, and how little they care about the importance of small businesses to the economy. For every potential customer who is lost due to confusion, there is a monetary value associated with that loss. These costs are cumulative and damaging. Local businesses, who create jobs and pay significant taxes to the City, deserve better from their elected representatives.

All property owners would need to spend time and money changing their personal records, such as driver’s licenses, voter registrations, property insurance, and legal documents. Notice would have to be given to mortgage companies, employers, financial institutions, medical providers, online services, social and business organizations, friends and families, and more.

LMA contends that if City Council is going to make a change that affects thousands of people, they should do it for responsible, irrefutable reasons. Hearsay and evidence are very different. We may only represent a small section of Austin, but if it can happen to us, it could happen to you, too.

Thank you for your support!

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