There is a Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Bristol and Kingsport, but there's not one in Johnson City.
A public hearing on that very topic is being held Thursday, and dozens of people came out to voice their opinions at one of the more unique public hearings in recent memory. Most street renaming requests in Johnson City come from public safety concerns.
"Anytime a renaming comes to us," Angie Carrier, the city's director of developmental services says. "We need staff input, police input, and 9-1-1 input before we can make a recommendation."
This request is different. The NAACP formally presented a proposal in May to rename a city street "Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard." Since then, the city's Regional Planning Commission appointed a task force to gather as much information as possible.
"A conversation is better than voting on one item up and down at a singular meeting," Carrier says.
The three streets being considered are University Parkway from West Market Street to State of Franklin Road. Legion Street is the second, from Main Street to King Springs. King Street is being looked at as well, from Elm Street to Watauga Avenue. The NAACP's proposed idea of State of Franklin Road between Interstate 26 and Sunset Boulevard is not on the table.
"We're looking at how citizens are affected and how many property owners," Carrier says. "Address changes happen because of street naming. All that needs to be considered."
News 5 spoke with several Johnson City residents before the public hearing and they all agreed that this is a cause worth fighting for.
"He's the type of person you'd want to name a street after," Nathaniel Borrilez says. "He's a good person with a great cause."
"He's a great person," Bulent Yaman says. "He's done great stuff for the country. "
"He's an iconic historic person," Amanda Hillman explains. "He did so much to make everybody equal."
The MLK Task Force will vote on a street after the hearing, and then they'll present their choice to the city's Regional Planning Commission at their next meeting on September 12.
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