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Published: 3/22/2001

Street fight shows how far we have to go

From The Blade, December, 1987: “Councilmen are reviewing those suggestions [of possible streets to be renamed for Martin Luther King, Jr.], and Mayor Donna Owens has said she hopes to make an announcement by Dr. King's [January] birthday.”

Here it is, the brand-new shiny side of the 21st century, and we're the only major Ohio city with no street honoring America's pre-eminent civil-rights leader.

And the biggest thing we're worried about is which street should carry the name of Martin Luther King, Jr.? Instead of bickering about the particulars, why don't we all agree that the highest priority in so honoring Dr. King should be to just get it done?

Fourteen years ago, city council refused 6-2 to rename a stretch of Dorr Street - a major thoroughfare through a predominantly black community, and once home to a thriving commercial district, until full benefit of 1960s-era urban “removal” took hold, anyway.

Back in '87, plenty of people agreed with then-councilman Carty Finkbeiner, who explained his vote against the Dorr Street name change by saying he'd never support any plan renaming a street already designated in honor of an individual.

Given that Charles Dorr was a seven-term Toledo mayor (in office from 1851 until 1867), this might stand as one of the few documented instances in which Mayor Finkbeiner relied on logic and reason.

But why a 14-year wait to look for another street?

Of course, Collingwood Boulevard - the roadway currently up for renaming consideration - is also named for a person from history. This would be one Admiral Barton Collingwood, a British navy hero famous for his part in an 1805 battle off the coast of Spain.

This hardly makes for a profound local connection; that the street name may also tip its hat to Sanford Collins, involved in Toledo civic affairs more than 100 years ago, doesn't go far enough to outweigh the larger nod given a British admiral.

Today, for Round II of the MLK-Toledo Street Fight, objection to Collingwood's redesignation comes from the Old West End Association, which represents the gentrified Victorian neighborhood on downtown's outskirts. The group's president insists he's against renaming any street, not just in his neighborhood. But he also contends the name is important for its “historical signifi-cance.”

“To change the name of the street would mean to lose that history,” said the association prez.

Sigh.

In 1987, the late councilman Max Reddish, who considered the Dorr Street proposal “ridiculous,” said: “My attitude is that if they want to rename City Park [in the central city] to Martin Luther King Park, that's all right with me. It's surrounded by blacks.”

In 2001, a letter from an Old West End resident argued that renaming Collingwood Boulevard “would be a `step back' for all the work we've done to improve our neighborhood and our community."

“... if they want to rename City Park ...”

“... all the work we've done to improve our neighborhood ...”

Them.

Us.

Us.

Them.

Is this what Dr. King died for?

Roberta de Boer's column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays,

and Saturdays. Email her at roberta@theblade.com or call 1-419-724-6086.



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