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Right Way on King Way

October 11, 1987

Proposition F, the initiative that concerns changing the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way back to Market Street, is unlike any other issue that will confront the San Diego city voter in November in that it is best looked at through the eyes of children.

Before deciding whether to rescind the honor the city has accorded Dr. King, the voters should try to feel the anger and sense of separation of a black youth as he watches the street signs bearing the civil rights martyr's name coming down. They should picture the dinner table conversation as black parents try to answer their children's questions about why a majority of voters in the city felt the name Market was more significant than the name King.

They should picture a white child's confusion as her parents attempt to make sense of the controversy for her and help her to understand why some people would not salute a man of King's stature. They should think of how their vote will send a message to all minority youngsters about how much the majority in this community cares about their feelings and values their heroes. Finally, they should consider young people of all races who look to adults for guidance as they develop their own sense of fairness and justice.

It is a shame that the Market Street/Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way issue is even on the ballot. But it is, and the voters must make the best of a bad situation.

From the beginning, designating a street to honor King was plagued with controversy. The early favorite, Euclid-54th Street was rejected because white residents disapproved. Market Street was chosen by the City Council in April, 1986, in somewhat of a surprise.

To be fair to those who have opposed the name change, they were never given a reasonable hearing by the City Council, a fact that left many feeling bitter about the process as much as its outcome. Property owners and business people along the street gathered 80,000 signatures on petitions, forcing the initiative onto the Nov. 3 ballot.

Those who oppose naming the street for King say their primary interest is preserving the historical import of the name Market Street, a name given the road in 1915. They would feel the same, they say, if the name were being changed to honor Dwight Eisenhower, Alonzo Horton or Dennis Conner.

Without questioning their motivation or denying the sincerity of their feelings, we simply say that the equity of the matter weighs far heavier on the other side.

We urge San Diegans to take a child's-eye view of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way and then vote no on Proposition F.

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