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Stretch of avenue to bear name of King

After months of debate, the city has decided to rename a portion of S Greenwood Avenue after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The City Commission approved the name change in a 5-2 vote Tuesday night.

But city officials stressed that the name change was meant to match the street's name north of Belleair Road in Clearwater, not to substitute for a larger memorial to the slain civil rights leader in Largo. Clearwater changed the name of its section of the street to Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in 2002.

"I am voting for this. I am not going to acquiesce or step back to please a handful of people," Commissioner Patricia Burke said.

"It makes sense to do it," she said. "It drives me insane going around this county. . . . The streets are all different names."

Tuesday's final vote on the proposal was held over from the Sept. 7 work session, when commissioners deadlocked on whether to rename the road.

Commissioner Charlie Harper, Mayor Bob Jackson, Vice Mayor Patricia Gerard and Commissioner Harriet Crozier also voted to approve the change Tuesday night. Commissioners Jean Halvorsen and Gay Gentry voted against it.

Initially, Jackson and Gerard said they would not support the change because of public complaints.

"I will not vote for it. I've heard too much grief over it, and it's not worth the grief," Jackson said before casting his vote.

But in the end, both Jackson and Gerard voted for the measure.

In July, Largo's Martin Luther King Memorial committee rejected the idea, saying renaming the quarter-mile portion of the road in Largo was too insignificant a move.

The committee has proposed creating a memorial plaza in Largo Central Park. But the $19,100 project, which would include a reflecting pool and a granite lectern engraved with King's picture, is on hold while officials decide the fate of the library building next to the proposed plaza site.

At Tuesday night's meeting, several members of the committee expressed concern that the city's renaming of the road would serve as a substitute for a larger memorial.

Commissioners adamantly denied that was the case.

"I'm tired of hearing that," Gerard said.

"The will (to create a larger memorial) is here. It's been here since we first started talking about it."

Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at (727) 771-4303 or cshoichetsptimes.com.

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