For a decade, Portland has tried, and tried again, to honor Martin Luther King Jr. in a way that would serve as a year-round reminder of his civil rights legacy.

But each time, the effort seems to fizzle and fade away.

Portland has hosted a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration for the past 37 years, but has failed to create a permanent memorial despite several attempts, including an unsuccessful proposal last year to rename Franklin Street in King’s honor. A committee set up last year to bring forward a new proposal struggled to make progress and was disbanded.

“It’s been a little bit of a challenge and more difficult than I thought,” said City Councilor Pious Ali, who led the most recent effort and hopes to restart the process next week.

A city report drafted in 2008 said more than 600 U.S. communities in 39 states have a permanent memorial for King, a minister, gifted speaker and community activist who advocated for racial and economic justice through nonviolent protest and civil disobedience. There is at least one memorial in Maine – the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Memorial Plaza at the University of Maine in Orono, which was dedicated in 2008.

Portland’s most recent push to memorialize King came last January, when Councilor Jill Duson suggested renaming Franklin Street as Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The concept was initially supported by the council’s Transportation and Sustainability Committee. But it was put on hold in February after about two dozen people spoke out against the plan, primarily because they were still upset that the city seized and demolished more than 100 homes inhabited by immigrants in the 1960s to build the Franklin Arterial, a major thoroughfare connecting Interstate 295 to the Portland waterfront.

Instead, last March councilors formed the nine-member Martin Luther King Recognition Task Force, led by Ali, to study the issue and report back to the council by June. But the group struggled to get a quorum at its meetings and was disbanded Dec. 31 – a deadline set by the council.

Mayor Ethan Strimling said he plans to reconstitute the committee at the council meeting Wednesday. The only change to the membership is the removal of two people, which would make it a seven-person committee.

“I’ve spoken to Councilor Ali and I think he is very committed to making this happen,” Strimling said.

According to meeting minutes, the nine-member group often lacked a quorum to do business. Past agendas included a review of the recommendations made by a previous task force in 2008.

Ali’s task force discussed possibly memorializing King at a new waterfront park being planned on the Amethyst lot near Ocean Gateway. However, city staff members have expressed concern that a tribute at that location could be overshadowed by the maritime theme at the tentatively named Portland Landing – which may include a fishermen’s memorial – already being planned there.

On Wednesday, the Portland Public Art Committee is scheduled to discuss coordinating its work on the public art component of Portland Landing with the task force.

The 35th annual Martin Luther King Jr. dinner, hosted by the NAACP Portland Branch, took place at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland on Jan. 18, 2016. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

The King recognition task force also has mentioned Congress Square Park and Fort Sumner Park as possible options, according to meeting minutes. Ali said that either of those sites, if selected, would require the involvement of any friends-of-the-park group.

Ali, who spearheaded a successful initiative last year to designate Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples Day, said he hopes to have a recommendation to the council by the end of March.

He said new ideas and other potential sites may emerge when the committee reconvenes.

Strimling speculated that finding an appropriate way to memorialize the slain civil rights leader in Maine’s largest and most diverse city has been elusive because of the importance of King’s achievements.

“It’s the magnitude of the person we’re trying to honor,” Strimling said. “His impact is beyond words. So how do you find the monument to commemorate that and to celebrate that and to memorialize that? It’s not easy.”

It’s at least the third attempt in the past decade to honor King, who never visited Portland but did speak in Brunswick and Biddeford.

Portland councilors went big back in 2008. Prompted by the 40th anniversary of King’s assassination, they formed the 20-member Martin Luther King Jr. Task Force to study the issue.

After eight meetings, and several other subcommittee meetings, the task force compiled a report that listed three major recommendations, ranging from designating a section of the Bayside Trail for a King memorial to creating a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center to host lecture series and other community events.

The council accepted the recommendations and formed a group to oversee the development of a memorial on the Bayside Trail. The group put out a national call for artists in 2010 to build a memorial on 2 acres of land along the Bayside Trail across from Whole Foods, from Franklin to Pearl streets. It was considered a prominent location – a gateway into the city – in the city’s poorest and most diverse neighborhood.

The group scheduled public meetings to discuss the project, for which they had hoped to begin fundraising in 2011 and have final plans by 2012. The initial estimate for the memorial was around $750,000.

Rachel Talbot Ross, the former director of equal opportunity and multicultural affairs for the city, described the goal of the monument in a Feb. 11, 2010, story in the Press Herald.

“We’re hoping to design a space that is reflective, challenges you a little, has some opportunities for you to critically think about how Dr. King’s legacy is being realized today,” she said at the time. “We’re hoping this commemoration isn’t literally about one man, but incorporates thematically the ideology he promoted.”

City Hall Communications Director Jessica Grondin said 30 people received the city’s request for qualifications in 2010, but she could not find any information on the number of responses.

The committee tried to restart the project in 2012, but that effort fizzled as well.

City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau and Strimling are confident they will be able to deliver a recommendation this year.

“My sense from Councilor Ali is that in a couple of meetings they will be able to get the work done,” Strimling said. “We need to honor this leader in this city for all he has done for all of us.”

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