Vernon residents debate over renaming street after MLK

(Source:KAUZ)
(Source:KAUZ)

VERNON, TX (KAUZ) - The push to rename a Vernon street to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Junior remained at a standstill Tuesday night.

Dozens of residents showed up at Vernon's City Commissioner meeting to weigh in on the debate to change a street currently named Maiden to Martin Luther King Street.

It all started with a petition signed by nearly 300 people.

In the end, city leaders decided not to take formal action but said they will instead focus the next month on listening to both sides.

They add they want to learn what the change means for those who are for and against the new name.

Those who are hoping for the change said there is more than meets the eye when it comes to a street sign.

"It's symbolic.  It's very honorary to be able to bring his legacy and his memory to Vernon, Texas," said Pastor Willie King, Full Gospel Fellowship.

Pastor King said having a street honoring Doctor Martin Luther King Junior is just a small way they can show their appreciation for all that he did for the Civil Rights Movement.

He adds while there is an MLK Memorial Highway outside of city limits, many want one in town so there can be a street those in Vernon can see and identify with.

He said what Doctor King did was visible and he wants a sign to represent that.

Some feel it could also have a positive impact on future generations.

"When they go down the street, if they see MLK one day, one of them might say, 'man I might want to be just like him,'" one man said to city leaders, but others feel it could have a negative impact on businesses and homeowners.

"My vendors that we do business with, I would also have to contact all of them give them our new address," said one business owner. "Not only that, but the Attorney General's Office to change all the paperwork, our tax returns, our sales tax.  There's just a lot of things that we would have to change."

Another brought up the concern about mail.

"The post office only forwards mail for one year," said one woman. "After that, if you forget to do a change of address, and you have not notified everybody that you receive mail from, it's going to be returned to senders."

Many of those against the change said it is not the name that concerns them, adding they are willing to name something else after Dr. King.

On the other side, those who are fighting for it believe a street means more.

"They see the name at intersections, on signs, pointing to the road on maps on Google.  It pops up on addresses, letters, business cards, constantly keeping Dr. King's name before the public," said one resident. "More people come in contact with that street than with a building or any other type of monument."

Mayor Joe Rogers said the discussion of renaming a street to honor Dr. King will be on the agenda in March.

He adds the city is also looking at the other streets listed on the petition that could possibly take on the name.

Pastor King said the reason those who are for the change chose Maiden Street is that it is lengthy and well-traveled, but said he is open to looking at other options within the community.

Mayor Rogers said the cost to change all 25 signs on Maiden Street will total around $1,250, but that does not include the cost of changing city maps.

He adds the price tag is not a burden for the city.

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