At its Oct. 2 meeting Monday night, the City Council will consider how to recognize those military members from the city of Merced who have been killed in wartime.
You have an opportunity to express your opinion about proposed choices.
Since 1918, 77 young men from Merced have died while fighting to defend our country. This includes two who died in World War I, four who died in the Iraqi Freedom/Afghanistan conflicts, and 71 from World War II, the Korea and Vietnam wars.
The families of these fallen heroes – their names frequently still prominent in our community – have suffered terrible losses of sons, brothers, husbands and fathers. These men made the ultimate sacrifice and a grateful city should honor them accordingly. This recognition should be meaningful, public and such that our community can be proud of their sacrifice well into the future.
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A unique opportunity to honor these Mercedians presents itself in the existence of approximately 50 completed city streets that are still without houses or other buildings. Over a year ago, the city council unanimously approved the idea of naming these streets after fallen soldiers.
The proposal to council was “approve a city policy that all streets without existing houses, businesses or other occupied uses should be named in honor of a military veteran from the Merced City community who died in battle. If an affected property owner can justify not naming the street after a fallen veteran, then the city can waive the requirement. The street sign will give the name of the veteran and in which war he died.”
In addition to these 50 streets, there are many more subdivisions approved by the city but not yet built in both north and south Merced. The law gives the city council the discretion to change the name of streets after giving notice to the property owners and holding a public hearing. All it takes is approval of a resolution.
At the Oct. 2 city council meeting, city staff will present an alternative policy. The staff proposal is not to honor Mercedians who died in battle by naming streets after them, but by placing 77 signs on M Street – also called Veterans Boulevard – on street light poles and sign posts, with the name and date of service of each fallen service member. This is less expensive and simpler than changing names of unoccupied streets and groups the signs on one street.
A new standard street sign costs $71 plus $1,200 in staff time, publishing and mailing hearing notices, fees to the county recorder to change names on recorded maps, and notifying the post office.
Another alternative is to leave current names in place but require new subdivisions to name streets after fallen military members so the cost of naming the street is simply part of developing new subdivisions. Unfortunately, there are over 1,000 lots approved now, so it would be years before any new streets will be created and named for these heroes.
What shall we do?
The names of Mercedians who died defending our freedom are already on memorial granite monuments in Courthouse Park. Rather than provide another memorial sign elsewhere in the city, I believe we should honor their service by naming a street after them as we promised last year.
Having a street named in your honor has impact and shows our city’s commitment to a long-lasting remembrance of these brave soldiers. Everyone who lives on that street and their friends would know the name. Every child living on the street could learn of the veteran and what it means to defend our freedom. It would enhance our community’s knowledge of its history.
These fallen soldiers sacrificed their lives; surely, we can sacrifice the work and money necessary to honor them by naming a street after them.
Take the time to contact your city council member and share your opinion.
Michael Belluomini is a member of the Merced City Council. He wrote this for the Sun-Star.