In Dr. King’s name

What began as a way to honor the name of slain civil-rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has turned into an ugly community debate with racist overtones and hollow arguments emanating from both sides.

Willie Hyman, president of the Butte Community Coalition for Human Rights, came to the city earlier this year with a proposal to rename Ivy Street, including the section that turns into Warner, after King. Opponents held out a number of arguments against the change: It would ruin the CHICO acronym formed by the alignment of Chestnut, Hazel, Ivy, Cherry and Orange streets; it would eclipse the honor the city bestowed upon Warner Bros. Studios for making The Adventures of Robin Hood here years ago; it would mean added expenses and headaches for businesses that would have to change their letterheads and business cards.

The coalition had some alternatives, offering Vallombrosa from Mangrove to Manzanita and Walnut-Nord Avenue to Macintosh off Dayton Road. No dice. A month ago Councilmember Steve Bertagna, a member of the Internal Affairs Committee, which has considered the matter, said the committee and Hyman had agreed to look for another way to honor King. Not true, said Hyman, who also rejected other suggestions, including renaming the 20th Street Community Park, by saying white people have no right to tell black people how best to honor King.

What ever happened to the racial harmony King dreamed of so long ago?

This week Hyman said the coalition would continue to push for the Ivy-Warner route but with a compromise: limit the name change to the stretch from Fifth Street to Fourth Avenue, meaning the CHICO acronym would remain, as would the tribute to the Hollywood studio. We think this is a good compromise and urge its adoption before the debate gets any more offensive.