Mayor wants S. Florida city to get country’s first ‘Barack Obama Highway’

The mayor of a South Florida city wants to name one of his city’s main streets after Barack Obama.

And the best part is, it’s not even his street to name.

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Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters

According to Gossip Extra, Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters wants to change the name of Old Dixie Highway, which under various names runs north-to-south along the whole east coast of Florida, to Barack Obama Highway.

“I want Old Dixie renamed,” Masters said, according to Gossip Extra. “When I think of the name, all I can think of is slavery and horrible things.

“Now, renaming Old Dixie after President Barack Obama makes sense. No matter how one feels about the president, he is a worldwide historic figure.”

There’s no doubt about that, of course.

But there are a couple of things about the idea that don’t quite make sense.

Like, why now? Masters is no newcomer to Riviera Beach. According to the city’s website, he’s been pastor of the New Macedonia Baptist Church in the city since 1987. And now in his fourth term as mayor of the mostly poor, overwhelmingly black city, he’s been mayor for the length of Barack Obama’s presidency.

In other words, he’s had plenty of opportunities before now to try to change the name of a road he claims to hate to the namesake of a man he admires.

And speaking of admiring, Masters told Gossip Extra it would be especially appropriate for the first road in the country to be named after the 44th president tocross one named after its most famous civil rights leader.

Old Dixie Highway intersects with Martin Luther King Boulevard in Riviera Beach.

“It’s the intersection of two great men,” Masters said.

Well, he’s half right. One of the most distressing realities in America today is that virtually every road, street or thoroughfare named after Martin Luther King Jr. runs through neighborhoods virtually no one – white or black – would live in if they had a choice.

Martin Luther King Boulevards have enough problems — in Riviera Beach and elsewhere — without getting saddled with “Barack Obama” baggage, too. MLK deserves better, truly.

But even if the renaming happens, it won’t be tomorrow. First, the Riviera Beach Council needs to approve the proposal, Gossip Extra reports, then the city would have to ask Palm Beach County’s permission because the county owns the road.

That’s fitting. Leave it to a Barack Obama supporter to want to rename a road that isn’t his.

Joe Saunders

Joe Saunders, a 25-year newspaper veteran, is a staff writer and editor for BizPac Review who lives in Tallahassee and covers capital and Florida politics. Email Joe at [email protected].

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