KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) – Kansas City could have an MLK Boulevard in the coming months. The Kansas City Parks and Recreation board is holding open meetings for citizens to give their input. The City is considering parts of Volker, Swope and Blue Parkway to be named after the civil rights leader.
A total of five people spoke at the meeting Tuesday, so it wasn’t highly attended by any means. The people who were there are passionate about Martin Luther King Jr. and renaming streets. Not necessarily those two together. But there’s a lot of history to consider here too.
In 2018 when Mayor Sly James was still in office, he established the MLK Advisory Group. They picked out a few roads they could rename to honor Dr. King. They landed on the Paseo.
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference did outreach in the area, but soon a group formed called “Save the Paseo.” Members say their voices were not heard and there was not enough voter outreach.
“Save The Paseo” got enough signatures to put the name change up for a public vote in November last year. The MLK signs the Kansas City Parks and Recreation workers put up just a few weeks before came down.
KCTV5 News talked to a board member who’s been involved in the renaming process. He says this time they are making sure the community is the focus of the conversation.
“I think it’s all about intentional and process. Being more mindful of the process. Making sure there’s an inclusive voice of the community. It’s our goal that this one is about the people, not about anyone’s particular agenda, not about any one particular group, but truly about the people that are represented in this community and that we speak for what Dr. King spoke for: economic equality, racial equality, unity and justice,” Kansas City Parks and Recreation Board member Chris Goode said.
Kansas City is one of the last major cities without a street named after Dr. King.
People showed up Tuesday to weigh in on the location and process for honoring Dr. King with a street in his name. There is a mix of people, as expected. Some are against renaming streets altogether. Others say, why stop with a street?
Reggie Broughton took the day off work to make sure he could speak at todays’ meeting.
“It doesn’t matter, give us something. It doesn’t matter. We haven’t had anything for years,” community member Reggie Broughton said.
“I’m against changing names,” community member Ted Durks said.
“Martin Luther King Jr. was more than a street,” community member Pat Clark said.
Some suggested focusing on the Martin Luther King Junior Park Patrick Mahomes’ charity recently donated to. Another suggestion is to name the new airport after the civil rights leader. One woman says the city should rename Troost changing the atmosphere of the historical dividing line.
Broughton says in his 50 years in Kansas City, he’s never seen a vote over the name of a street.
“White people have to feel comfortable in order for something to get done. It’s not right, but that’s the world we live in,” Broughton said. “The right thing to do is do as much for Martin Luther King as you can. Be it a street, boulevard, park, police station, whatever. One street is not going to hurt anyone.”
We’re still in the early stages of public comment on the proposal. There is another public meeting on Thursday for community members to give their input.