Sharpton weighs in on MLK street sign squabble

LORAIN, Ohio (AP) - The Rev. Al Sharpton paused from his presidential campaign duties to chastise city leaders for backing off of their decision to rename a street for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
City Council voted 9-2 last week to leave the name 21st Street on one of the city's busiest streets while adding an honorary name of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, effective in January.
Businesses and homeowners on the street had complained for more than a month about an earlier vote to change the name outright, saying it would be expensive and inconvenient to change driver's licenses, stationery and insurance policies. A florist said it would cost $25,000 to repaint delivery vans.
Sharpton wrote to Mayor Craig Foltin on Thursday, saying the compromise "is precisely the kind of second-class treatment that Dr. King fought against his entire life."
The national civil rights advocate said he would "let the national community know of the cowardly decision."
Sharpton, seeking the Democratic presidential nomination for 2004, was campaigning in Newton, Iowa on Saturday and scheduled to attend a prayer meeting in Cleveland on Sunday. Campaign manager Frank Watkins said Sharpton would not comment on his letter until he met with Lorain officials.
Residents of this city 25 miles east of Cleveland who oppose the name change had collected enough signatures to send the issue to the November ballot, but the compromise stops the referendum, officials said.
Councilman Eddie Edwards, who voted against the dual names, said businesses buy new stationery several times a year anyway, and that stickers could be used to cover addresses on signs or vans.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)