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Friday, November 25, 2005

Martin Luther King: King of the Road

The dispute about the Marlin Luther King Jr. signs have drawn much controversy in Lynchburg. First, there was the issue if there should be signs at all. Now, the controversy is focused on the size of the signs. And somewhere in there are those that are disturbed at the cost to the city.

Martin Luther King roads, and streets, and boulevards are in every major city in the United States. In fact, there are at least 500 roads named after Martin Luther King. One journalist, Jonathan Tilove made it a point to visit all roads named after Martin Luther King, it took him two years. Now, Lynchburg has made another stop for anyone trying the same.

There are places named after Marin Luther King, memorials and an assortment of other ways that the Rev. Martin Luther King has been honored across the country.

One of the last holdouts to name a street after Martin Luther King was Philadelphia. There is a recreational center, and a school named after Martin Luther King in Philadelphia, but no road. One activist in Philly when asked why said it was just racist.

The racist argument has had some underlying weight in the City Council and public squabble that ensued in Lynchburg. Our City Council is both made up of Blacks and Whites, as is our community. And there have been innuendo that racism played a part in the dispute about naming fifth street Martin Luther King Boulevard, then the subsequent problem with the size of the signs continued the argument.

There is no doubt that most of the signs have costly fancy pedestals, but everyone has to agree that the signs themselves are just too small. The reason why they are too small has turned into a political football itself. A football, after it was passed around in City Council proved to hot an issue for them to handle. And there were subtle and not so subtle references to racism. They passed the football to the City Manager Kim Payne. Soon he will be taking the heat, if he cannot please everyone.

City Council said that the size of the sign was not their fault. It was the computer animation or whatever they looked at that showed the sign as just being fine. They were disillusioned, so they claim, much like that warning on car mirrors that say objects may appear larger than they are. but in this case they were smaller. And the signs look like a spindly protrusion supporting a stingy stick up note that is hard to read. And the public reaction by some have included some statements that this is an intentional insult to Martin Luther King by making the signs too small.

I would indeed agree that the city council was disillusioned by their computer rendition. Much like they appear disillusioned by the computer interpretations of the midtown plan, and perhaps they should take to heart that what appears on a computer monitor does not reflect an easy and accurate transition to reality.

The Lynchburg City Council could learn something from the Virginia Highway Department. They are facing a sign transition themselves. Rather than going into closed and confidential meetings like our City Council, they are letting you, each and every citizen, vote on signs. The signs in question is the Welcome to Virginia signs that are due to be replaced. You can vote at this website. Here the State is honoring your opinion. Not like Lynchburg City Council that will not even return a reply to your emails. There is something to be said for open government.


At 12:19 PM, Blogger D L Ennis said...

I am kind of torn on the issue of the size of the sign. When ever I am in town I always notice the sign with no problem. There are so many signs cluttering our streets and highways. They obstruct you view a lot of time and are also a distraction.

Also, I wish everything didn’t have to be called racism; we should all be color blind and move on with what will benefit all, as much as that is possible.


At 3:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thnk the sign size is fine. It is about the same (if not exactly the same) size as the other regulation street signs. They are nice looking signs and are of a size that is easily readable, but not obtrusive.
I would submit that perhaps the individuals who want larger signs offer to fund perpetuity. I know I do not want any more of my tax dollars going to more signs when the ones we have are fine.

On the other hand, I guess I am just a racist pig because I don't agree with the people asking for bigger signs. Yep, that MUST be it.

At 7:25 PM, Blogger B O B said...

Thank you for your comments. I do feel the signs are too small, but I do not think that taxpayer money should be used to enlarge them.

To me, it would have been more appropriate to name the boulevard, Ann Spencer Boulevard, Chauncy Spencer Boulevard, or Ota Benga Boulevard. Any of those names would have been more relevant to Lynchburg and our local Black American History.

As far as I know Rev Martin Luther King Jr. only made one short visit to Lynchburg. It is my opinion that with as many streets across the US with the Martin Luther King name, it would have been more enriching to focus on some of our local residents who were important figures in our Black History heritage.

At 8:48 PM, Blogger Lynchburg Area VA said...

You'll find that City Manager Payne responds promptly to citizen requests.

As for the naming of local streets after local black leaders, there are only 2 that I know of:
Spencer Place and Gilmore Circle. As for Native Americans there are several streets in the Sandusky area named after tribes with Custer backed up along the ridge. Now Bob that's a story to explore. The streets were named when that area was in Campbell County.


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