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Safety Harbor backs name change

But a vote to end M.L. King Street's shared name won't come till Monday.

Published February 13, 2007


SAFETY HARBOR - The city should be ashamed of itself.

It didn't keep its promise.

So said some angry residents who spoke out at a City Commission meeting last week.

They said they have waited nearly 17 years for Safety Harbor to complete renaming 6,608 feet of its pavement in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Now it looks like it's going to happen.

The five commissioners took no vote Monday night, but all indicated they supported a move to change all 21 street signs on a road now called M.L. King Street N/Fourth Street N to say simply Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., or a variation of that name.

They are scheduled to vote on the matter on Monday.

"I think the wait is an insult to the people who fought and struggled to have this done in Dr. King's name," Vice Mayor Kathleen Earle said. "I think this should have been done 16 1/2 years ago."

So does Barbara Bronson and other members of the Safety Harbor African Alliance. Members of the group said they are absolutely certain they accurately remember a heated City Commission meeting held on June 13, 1990. That night, Bronson said, elected officials voted for a dual name for the road.

But Bronson also believes the commission decided "Fourth Street N" would be dropped from the street name after five years.

But that memory conflicts with the minutes from the meeting, which show that a commissioner tried to amend the motion so that Fourth Street N would be eliminated after that amount of time, but no other commissioners supported it, so it failed.

It appears that in the celebration, proponents didn't notice the commission had voted to keep the dual name.

"Three-fourths of the people thought it was a done deal when they walked out of there," Kimble McNeal said.

But the years went by and the signs stayed the same.

Glenn Burgess used to drive by them and wonder why.

"That makes our community feel bad," he said. "It makes us feel like we're really not a part of Safety Harbor."

McNeal said he got angry. He never imagined he would be back at the microphone in 2007 battling over the issue.

"I'm ashamed that I had to get back up there and have the same conversation again," he said.

In 1990, businesses along the road argued that a name change would cost them thousands of dollars to change their stationery.

They worried that their customers and suppliers would be confused and not be able to find them.

But Karen Fitzpatrick of the Safety Harbor Neighborhood Family Center said she has had the opposite experience with the dual name.

"It's been a problem," she said. "If someone puts Martin Luther King (on an addressed envelope), I don't get the mail."

Almost everyone gets the address wrong, Fitzpatrick said, "trying to make it work."

For example, she said, consider the letter she received Tuesday.

The address read:

Schedule Notice!!!!

Attention Property Manager.

Safety Harbor Neighborhood

1003 4th MLK St. N.

It was from an electronics company notifying the nonprofit of its upcoming fire alarm test and certification date.

Fitzpatrick is just happy it somehow landed in her mailbox.

The center's official address is 1003 M.L. King St. N (Fourth St. N).

It is one of 10 licensed businesses along M.L. King St. N./Fourth Street N, which is about a mile and a quarter long.

Fitzpatrick seemed relieved to learn that the commission is set to vote for the name change.

"It's a good idea," she said.

And the impact to her budget will be negligible.

She said she is two months away from ordering another supply of stationery.

"It's $56 for a box of 500 business cards," she said, adding that the nonprofit has five staff members and four board members who use them.

As for the old cards, Fitzpatrick said she will simply take a pen and cross out the old address.

City Commissioner James McCormick Jr. suggested the city give less flexible businesses a few months of lead time to change their stationery, but interim Mayor Andy Steingold disagreed.

"Sixteen years is notice enough," he said.

Eileen Schulte can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or

[Last modified February 12, 2007, 22:45:48]

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