I wish the Jonesboro Sun didn’t have a hard paywall so that I could link a good story there by Keith Inman on Jonesboro City Council deliberations on an ordinance naming a street for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
After an earlier stalemate on a proposal to put the slain civil rights leaders’ name on Johnson Avenue, a “Unity Coalition” was appointed to come up with another idea,
The Council public works committee opted to name Commerce Drive, slated to become an eastern arterial, for King. But a curve ball was thrown at the Unity committee. The Sun reports:
But rather than a complete name change, the proposed ordinance was changed to request that the Arkansas Department of Transportation designate the eastern arterial from Interstate 555 to U.S. 49 as a “commemorative Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Drive.”
The proposed ordinance also states “That the sections of this arterial drive that are already named Commerce Drive shall maintain that name for the purposes of postal designations. Any portion of this arterial that does not currently carry the name Commerce Drive shall be named Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive.”
This prompted Emma Agnew, president of the Craighead NAACP, to say the work of the Unity Coalition had been a waste of time. It did not unify anything, she said. She said the proposal, read to the Council for the first time, should be tabled.
Sandra Combs, a college instructor who worked on the coalition, said she felt “lied to, hoodwinked, swindled, cheated, disrespected, played for a fool.” Combs had favored renaming Johnson, but said she’d been willing to compromise because of public reaction. “There was so much hostility, so much hatred, so much bigotry,” she said. She concluded it was a waste of time to compromise with people who weren’t willing to do the right thing.
David McClain, a black member of the City Council, told Inman after the meeting that the current wording of the ordinance is confusing and he hopes to get it “clarified.” The ordinance will get a second reading Nov. 5 and a final vote Nov. 19.