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Can We Finally Honor Dr. King?

As the 60th birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. draws near, the San Diego City Council has the opportunity to give the slain civil rights leader an early birthday present by voting Tuesday to name the city’s new convention center for him.

If the San Diego Unified Port District, which is building the convention center, also approves the name, San Diego will have gone a long way toward clearing the debris of the citizen initiative that stripped King’s name from a major downtown street.

Despite the city’s checkered history in trying to establish a public tribute to King, there will still be those who try to persuade the council and the port commissioners that the convention center is not the answer.

The council and the commission should ignore those voices.

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Pleasing everyone is not the point. There is no building or street that would not generate criticism.

What is important is that the country’s seventh-largest city has no major public tribute to the man who probably did more for civil rights than anyone since Abraham Lincoln.

Now is the time for San Diego’s leaders to show some of the conviction of the man they are trying to honor.

Already, too much time has passed; King was slain in 1968. Already, the city has earned an embarrassing reputation for racism. Two attempts to name streets here for King have failed; first, when the council rejected a proposal to rename part of Euclid Avenue and 54th Street, and again when the voters reversed the council’s decision to rename Market Street.

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The recommendation to name the convention center for King was made by a council-appointed citizens committee that worked for almost a year, holding hearings throughout the city.

The council and the Port District should wholeheartedly endorse the committee’s recommendation--and not dilute it by using only King’s last name, as Councilman Wes Pratt suggested in an attempt to fend off opposition.

We also urge the council to approve a Chamber of Commerce proposal to establish a memorial to King in Balboa Park.

Together, the memorials would make a strong statement that the city recognizes Martin Luther King Jr.'s profound and courageous contribution to this and every community.

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