Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Honoring the Dream

By a unanimous vote of the Fayetteville City Council last night, Sixth Street will be renamed Martin Luther King Boulevard effective January 19, 2009. "This change will move us into another arena where we will join other cities to prove how much we care about racial equality and justice for all people," said Ernestine Gibson, president of the Martin Luther King Planning Committee. Fayetteville, of course, is the only city in Northwest Arkansas to have made such a move.

Wal-Mart headed the list of 71 local businesses that opposed naming the street in King's honor. Jim Burnett, an attorney and former Republican candidate for circuit judge, presented the list on behalf of Wal-Mart and the other businesses when he testified against the resolution. "We have 71 businesses that don't want to do this, and it's not because of disrespecting anybody," he said. "It's because of money." Parks and Recreation Board member and Republican activist Valerie Biendara is not pleased with the change and said she will continue calling it Sixth Street. Bill Ramsey from the Chamber of Cowbirds was at the meeting, but he did not publicly state any position.

Mayor Dan Coody said last week, "There were a lot of folks who opposed the name change but did not want to speak publicly.” Coody said his issue with the Council Resolution to rename the street is the process, not the name change, although he thought just having signs saying "honorary" would be enough to honor King's legacy. "Obviously other people think it needs to be made a single and permanent name,” he said, but he has not indicated whether he will veto the resolution passed unanimously by the Council.

Aldermen Bobby Ferrell and Nancy Allen spoke eloquently in favor of the resolution to honor King. Vice Mayor Lioneld Jordan said, "Dr. King was a man who fought for equality for all people. He was a man of peace. He was a man who gave his life for his beliefs. He was a man who changed the world. Dr. King laid his life down for all people, and if he can do that, then we can surely name a street after him."

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