Kansas City voters choose to rename Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- What once was old is new again.

On Tuesday, roughly two-thirds of Kansas City voters rejected the recently-renamed Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. The ballot asked city leaders to revert to the former Paseo Boulevard name. The citizen petition-led drive scored a big win at the polls.

On Wednesday, city leaders said the street sign changes will begin as soon as votes are verified.

Nearly 70 percent of the vote, which came from a low voter turnout, are a sign that change is coming. Kansas City's council members chose to change the name to honor King, the celebrated civil rights leader, in January. The move was met with mixed reactions, which led to Tuesday's item on the ballot.

"The biggest argument came from people who felt like they weren't included in the process," Joey Thomas, owner at JoeyCuts Barbershop, told WDAF.

Thomas ran for council in the springtime, falling only eight percent short of the votes he needed. Thomas' shop sits about a block from the Paseo, and his customers tell him they were against the change because city leaders overlooked the public's input, some of which came in opposition to the name change.

"If changing the name costs me money. If I have to change a sign on my business or change business cards or whatever, I would have wanted to be included in that process," Thomas said.

Kansas City's Public Works Department won't begin the work of changing the 189 applicable signs right away. Once the votes are verified, city workers will begin switching the signs within the next few weeks as workers are available. Labor will be assigned to the same crews who mow grass and fill potholes.

Maggie Green, a spokesperson for KCMO Public Works, said the city's sign shop plans to reuse older signs that still say Paseo. Green said the original sign changes cost the city $60,000. Recycling the old signs will keep the price lower this time.

"Crews will most likely be adding Saturdays to their schedules to make this changeout happen," Green said. "We didn't throw them out. Can we recycle them? Can we reuse them? We anticipate the cost of this one to be a little less because we`re going to be able to reuse some of those materials."

Green said the work should begin in the next few weeks. She said the changeover project could take a couple of months to finish. Green said the city's sign shop will keep the outgoing Martin Luther King, Jr. street signs, in case there's ever another local street that bears King's name.

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