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Arkadelphians fight over street name

A fight is brewing in Arkadelphia over plans to rename Pine Street Martin Luther King, Junior Boulevard.
A fight is brewing in Arkadelphia over plans to rename Pine Street Martin Luther King, Junior Boulevard.  The city board voted to make the change, but many business owners say it will cost too much money. The vice mayor says there's another reason people are upset.

"They're mad. That man's skin is black, and it's gonna be black. Mine's gonna be black from now on, and they can't tell me what to think," says Vice Mayor Ann Sanders.

Thursday night, Sanders didn't hold back. She says some Arkadelphians don't want to name the city's busiest street after a black man.  Earlier this month, she suspended the rules at a meeting, and asked the board to vote on the change. It passed four to two.  Since then, Sanders, and other board members, have gotten threatening emails and phone calls.

"I'm angry. Very angry. Not with every citizen, but with those who hide behind emails and won't sign them," says Johnny Harris who sits on the board with Sanders.

"When you start talking about shooting and all this stuff, I worked for the sheriff's department for four years. Now what does that tell you?" added Sanders.

Gary Andrews moved his candy store to Pine Street 19 years ago. He signed a petition to stop the name change, and says it's not about race, it's about money.

"It's not personal, it's nothing to do with the name change. It's the fact that we're gonna be out this expense just to change the name," says Andrews.

It would cost Andrews $8,000.

"You're talking about 20 some odd labels and about five or six different buckets," he explained.

Sanders first attempt to change the street name failed in 2004, but she has renamed the I-30 overpass and isn't giving up on this issue.

"This list doesn't mean nothing to me. We only have six voting members of this board. That's who will decide. Those people out there acting a fool, they can't make me say nothing. I'm not changing my vote," she says.

Even if Sanders continues receiving death threats, she will not change how she feels. She now records every phone call she gets at home.

The city hasn't set a date for a public hearing on the change yet, but it will be sometime in the next three weeks before the next city council meeting.
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