By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer
COVINGTON - Residents will get a chance next month to say what they think of a new campaign to rename 12th Street for slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Covington City Commission announced Tuesday that it will hold a two-hour hearing July 15 to gather information on a proposal to rename the major artery linking Covington and Newport for the civil rights activist.
The effort by the Northern Kentucky chapter of the NAACP is the third attempt since 1990 to name a street or bridge for King.
"Today, there's a degree of openness on the part of the mayor and commission and a spirit of cooperation with the community,'' said Covington resident Hensley Jemmott, who supports renaming 12th Street. "We also have support from a number of institutions.''
Most of the 12th Street residents and property owners who responded to a recent city survey said they don't want the street renamed. Some of those surveyed said it would be confusing, especially because Cincinnati already has a street named for King. Others said it would be expensive for business owners and residents to change their addresses.
Of the 236 surveyed by mail, 112 responded. Ninety of those spoke against the change, while 20 favored renaming the street for King. Two said it didn't matter.
However, supporters of the name change say they still believe there is widespread support, and they asked Mayor Butch Callery to hold a hearing.
Callery said he met Friday with Jerome Bowles, president of the Northern Kentucky chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and three others who support renaming 12th Street as Martin Luther King Drive.
"I shared the results of the latest survey with them,'' Callery said. "I also asked them if they would consider any other street options besides 12th Street, and their response was 'No.'''
Callery said he had suggested renaming Robbins Avenue for King because of recent city and community efforts to improve that area's appearance and reduce drug trafficking and other criminal activity there. He also questioned who would pay the $40,000 cost of erecting signs on the expressway with the new name.
Bowles suggested the city, county and state split the cost of the signs. He questioned the city's survey results, adding members of his group found "significant support'' for the name change when they walked 12th Street and visited community festivals last year.
"When 12th Street is widened, it'll be a premier gateway for Northern Kentucky,'' Bowles said. "Why not use it to honor a man of peace, a man of inclusion, a man who represents justice and equality for all?"
City Commission will meet from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. July 15. The location is yet to be determined.
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