Council Member Wastes No Time Reviving MLK Issue
Proving she will make good on her City Council campaign promise, Gina King adds the item to the upcoming agenda
Molly Moorhead, St. Petersburg Times, Apr. 22
ZEPHYRHILLS — In her first meeting as a City Council member, Gina King will attempt Monday to overturn the renaming of Sixth Avenue after Martin Luther King Jr.
King put the issue on the agenda late Wednesday afternoon.
“I request time on the agenda … to recommend that we restore the name of the street and right-of-way currently known as Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue to its original name of Sixth Avenue thus preserving the historic numeric grid system already established within the city,” King wrote in an e-mail to the city.
City Council members tipped over a hornet’s nest last fall when they renamed the street at the request of a group of mostly black residents, some of whom live outside city limits. The council voted twice, passing the measure 4-1 the first time after numerous people spoke in opposition at the meeting.
Hundreds of people quickly mobilized, signing petitions to implore the council to abandon the renaming and to recall the members who voted for it.
Then, council member Cathi Compton, after hearing the objections of many residents, brought the issue back hoping to work out a compromise. Her motion failed 3-2.
The issue prompted the formation of a task force to address racial divisions in the city, and it changed the makeup of the council.
King defeated incumbent Lance Smith in last week’s election on the platform of the street issue, and veteran member Liz Geiger narrowly won re-election over R.J. Morgan, another foe of the renaming. Both Geiger and Smith consistently supported the renaming.
King said Wednesday that the people who voted for her are expecting her to bring the issue back.
“I didn’t really see the need in waiting to move to have the street name restored,” she said.
She was referring specifically to people who live on the street, but said the issue affects all of Zephyrhills.
“I think all the residents of Zephyrhills were generally disgusted with how the name of the street was changed, regardless of whether or not they live on Sixth Avenue,” King said.
During her campaign, she said, she heard a lot of the same complaints.
“Most of them were angered by the fact that City Hall didn’t listen to their own citizens,” King said. “That seems to be the hot point.”
The City Council will meet at 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 5335 Eighth St.