Ordinance to honor Dr. King amended on the final reading

An ordinance to honor Dr. Martin Luther King changed Tuesday night and could take up to three more city council meetings

Ordinance to honor King amended on the final reading

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Emotions flared Tuesday at the Jonesboro City Council meeting, as the debate continued over how to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

While the ordinance to name a multi-purpose trail near Downtown Jonesboro and Arkansas State University passed, a councilmember amended the other ordinance hoping to change Commerce Drive.

Originally, the ordinance proposed naming current parts of that road a memorial highway, but future extensions of Commerce Drive would be named after the civil rights activist.

Alderman David McClain proposed an amendment during a meeting on Nov. 5, which would rename all of Commerce Drive instead of just the future extensions.

However, the council held that ordinance for a third reading.

McClain reintroduced that same amendment Tuesday night when the Commerce Drive ordinance came up in front of the full council.

“The amendment is actually the original ordinance that the Unity Coalition came up with. I felt like we should honor their request and move forward with the ordinance they created,” McClain said.

The amendment passed by a 7-5 vote and now has to be read for three more readings.

Jonesboro City Attorney Carol Duncan said although Tuesday night's original ordinance was on its last reading, this new amendment will have to start back at the first reading to give the community a chance to respond.

"Anytime we make a substantial change we take it back to the first reading," Duncan said.

Many approached the podium to argue for the council to do what’s right.

Others believe the amendment will cause financial troubles for those who live or have a business on Commerce Drive.

McClain said finding a way to honor Dr. King has caused a division, but that shouldn’t be the case.

"This has somewhat divided our city and created some division and that’s not what we should be aiming for. We should aim to work together to move forward and in order for that to happen, we should give and take," McClain said.

The council will meet again on Thursday, Dec. 5.

The following timeline shows how long city leaders have discussed renaming a highway for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

  • June 4, Members of the Craighead County branch of the NAACP, along with other community members, requested that Johnson between Dan Avenue to Hilltop Drive be renamed to honor the slain civil rights leader. The Public Works committee approved and recommended it to the council.
  • June 18, the Johnson Avenue proposal was postponed temporarily.
  • July 16, a resolution to create a Unity Coalition passes in hopes of finding a solution. They first met on August 24th.
  • Sept. 17, the Johnson ordinance was postponed Indefinitely.
  • Oct. 1, The Unity Coalition presented three options to honor Dr. King. The public works committee passes on a multi-trail option and changes the coalition’s ordinance to rename Commerce Drive to make it a memorial highway and any extension of that road after Dr. King.
  • Oct. 5, The council reads and passes the ordinance on first reading.
  • Nov. 5, the council reads and passes the ordinance on second reading.
  • Nov. 19, the ordinance is amended to rename all of Commerce drive after Dr. King and will be read as a first reading on December 5th. The multi-purpose trail was passed on its final reading.

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