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Panel supports naming new Kansas City airport for King

May 21, 2018

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A citizens’ group is suggesting Kansas City either rename the city’s airport or a major east-west street to honor Martin Luther King Jr., while a civil rights organization continues to promote renaming a different street for the civil rights icon.

Kansas City is one of the largest cities in the U.S. with no public memorial to King. Mayor Sly James appointed the task force last month to determine how to change that. The 11-member group on Sunday said it found strong support for renaming Kansas City International Airport and 63rd Street, an east-west route that runs through some of the city’s wealthiest and most poverty-stricken neighborhoods, The Kansas City Star reported .

“We have clear support for the airport,” said Rev. Donna Simon, a pastor at St. Mark Hope and Peace Lutheran Church who is the panel’s co-chairwoman. “We continue to have support for a street.”

The aviation director at the airport, Patrick Klein, issued a statement urging the city not to rename the airport.

The recommendations will be forwarded to the Kansas City Council, who could vote on a name change, or put the vote on a public ballot.

An alternative proposal to honor King came from the Kansas City branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the civil rights organization that he led. It has been gathering signatures to authorize the city to rename the Paseo, a north-west boulevard that runs through the heart of the city’s mostly black east side. Supporters are hoping to have that issue on the November ballot.

“Clearly there will be more conversations,” said Laura Swinford, James’ communications director. “There are a lot of different paths from here.”

Renaming the airport for King is likely to require permission from the King estate and approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. An FAA spokeswoman said it would require several months to update websites, documents and other materials.

In his letter to the task force, Klein said removing Kansas City from the airport’s name would create confusion about where the airport is located and make marketing more difficult.

“As Kansas City considers many opportunities of how to properly honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, I encourage you not to seek to rename Kansas City International Airport,” Klein wrote. “Doing so would remove the airport’s critical geographic indicator, create confusion among the traveling public and would hinder the Aviation Department’s ability to effectively market Kansas City both nationally and internationally.”

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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