DADE CITY — Six years ago, community activist Margarita Romo asked Pasco County commissioners for a symbolic fresh start: a new name for the main street running through the impoverished Tommytown neighborhood.
She got a compromise: Commissioners kept Lock Street as the official name, but added Romo's proposed Calle de Milagros (Street of Miracles) to street signs as the honorary name.
But even after a nearly $20 million investment that brought paved streets, sidewalks, water and sewer lines and nicer homes, Romo says the name Lock Street is still bringing the area down.
On Tuesday, she told commissioners that kids calling themselves the Lock Street Gang write LSG on their hands and spell it out with paint on new buildings.
"Yes, we have all the beautiful paved streets," she said. But "we feel that for the longest time (Lock Street) has been a bad name.
"I want the young people to understand how much we want them to get beyond the Lock Street name."
"I think what Margarita is saying is perception for many people is reality," said Chairwoman Pat Mulieri.
But Romo's request didn't get far. "Margarita, I think you're going about it the wrong way," said Commissioner Ted Schrader.
He said all the real improvements, not a name change, would make the real difference.
"I'd like you to be a little more patient," he said.
Lock Street was named for Christopher Lock, a citrus grower and business owner in the early 1900s who helped create several groups to promote the area.
Romo said she would no doubt be back. But she also said the community was already finding ways to deal with the Lock Street Gang graffiti. On one church building, where someone had painted LSG, neighbors changed the initials to read: Live to Serve God.
Jodie Tillman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6247.