Metro activists pushing to rename the Paseo after Martin Luther King Jr.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There are an estimated 900 thoroughfares in the United States named after Martin Luther King Jr., but Kansas City doesn't have one.

Activists want to rename the Paseo, one of the city's major boulevards, after the civil rights leader, but the city's Parks and Recreation Board recently denied the request.

Now, local civil rights activists are planning to launch a petition to save their efforts to rename the Paseo after King -- if the city council doesn't get involved.

"We felt this was an insult," said the Rev. Sam Mann said, the vice president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City.

"We've been dealing with it for two or three years," he said.

Mann is part of a group of local religious and civil rights leaders who plan to keep fighting after the parks and recreation board denied the name change.

"He`s made a contribution here that goes beyond anything you can imagine," Mann said. "He sacrificed his life."

In a letter, the board said boulevards are named to honor people who have made significant contributions to Kansas City and the parks department in particular.

The name Paseo dates back to the late 1800s and was introduced by the board's first chairman, August Meyer. Current members are also encouraged to respect the decisions made by their predecessors.

"We're hoping the council will step forward," Mann said.

Councilman Jermaine Reed said he supports the name change and said the council could take up the matter.

"We could introduce an ordinance that would allow for the city council to take this up," Reed said.

In 2011, Reed called for the renaming of Prospect Avenue after King, but nothing came of it. He believes the likelihood of Paseo being renamed has a better chance of being successful.

"We have an obligation as the 37th largest city in this country to be able to honor him in this way," Reed said.

If the council doesn't act, religious leaders said they'll start a petition and let voters decide -- something U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who supports the renaming, said would be a national embarrassment to the city.

"After all these years, Kansas City, here we are in 2018 having what's going to be seen as a racial divide," Cleaver said. "Because the black pastors are going to get signatures. They'll get them in one week to qualify for an election."

The group is planning to launch a petition this Friday at a rally in honor of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of King. They will need just over 1,700 signatures to get the measure on the August election ballot.