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Commission must grab ball on MLK

On March 6 the Dunedin City Commission created the Inclusion Task Force and gave it an assignment and a deadline: Within 180 days, develop and report back to the commission your recommendation for a way the Dunedin community can honor the contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The 12-member task force, under the chairmanship of former interim Mayor Richard Gehring, took its job very seriously and wasted no time getting to work. The group met 11 times in six months. It attended a diversity training workshop. It held a public forum to gather ideas from Dunedin residents. It studied U.S. Census data to understand not only the community's current racial and ethnic makeup, but also its heritage.

Originally charged with choosing a street the city could rename for King, the task force enthusiastically embraced a much larger goal: not only to come up with various ways to memorialize King, but to make his philosophies live by finding ways to involve all of the city's various constituencies in the life of the community.

By Sept. 30 the task force had completed a report that contained five formal recommendations and 60 additional ideas that were explored by the committee. The recommendations were:

To add King's name to the name of the Dunedin Community Center and establish an ongoing program there to teach the values of communication, tolerance and compromise. Rooms within the center could be named for Dunedin residents who represented those values.

To mark the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday each year with a commemorative program and by handing out an award to a Dunedin resident who has fostered a sense of community.

To develop a monthlong program of special activities each April, known as "An American Celebration: Diversity in Dunedin," that would celebrate the heritage and cultural differences of various groups in the city.

To rename a stretch of either County Road 1 or Patricia Avenue Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

To permit recognized elements in the Dunedin community to commemorate their contributions to Dunedin and America at the 26 Pinellas Trail street crossings in the city.

Earlier this month the task force presented its report to the City Commission. It had done its job and done it well. The ball was now in the commissioners' court.

But the City Commission hasn't even picked up the ball, much less run with it. When the report was presented, the commission did not set an agenda for taking up the task force's recommendations. Mayor John Doglione said the commission probably won't even discuss the report until January. And though several commissioners have praised the report and said they like some of the recommendations, those commissioners have not joined together to move the commission forward.

In fact, the commission's response has been so lackadaisical that some task force members and residents are wondering whether anything will happen at all.

That's regrettable, because Dunedin's Inclusion Task Force set in motion something unique and wonderful, and it deserves an enthusiastic response from the City Commission that appointed it. With the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday looming in mid January, the commission has no time to waste.

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