Muskegon Heights Council: It’s ‘Burton Drive’, not ‘Burton Bros. Drive’

Andrew Trzaska | April 23, 2013

In a split vote, city council members in Muskegon Heights rejected a request to rename a street that was only ceremonially renamed last month.

Council members voted 4-3 to maintain the street name ‘Burton Drive’ for the segment of Hume Avenue that runs from Sixth Street to Sanford Avenue, rejecting a second proposal from the Muskegon Heights Alumni Association to rename it ‘Burton Bros. Drive’.

Councilmen Vernonell Smith and Willie Watson, as well as mayor pro tem Patrice Johnson, voted for the name change Monday.  Mayor Darrell Paige, and council members Kimberly Sims, Bonnie McGlothin and Keith Guy voted against renaming the street to “Burton Bros. Drive”.

The Heights Alumni Association originally proposed a renaming plan to the city council in February to commemorate both Ed and M.C. Burton, two brothers who took Muskegon Heights to state championships in the late 1950s and went on to play basketball professionally for many years.  The council approved a variation of the idea in March, only changing the proposed name from ‘Burton Avenue’ to ‘Burton Drive’, because of street-naming technicalities.

That seemed to be it. But representatives from the alumni association came back to the city council after that and asked if they would consider changing the name once more to “Burton Bros. Drive”, complete with abbreviation of ‘brothers’.

In fact, the alumni association had signs on hand at Monday’s council meeting ahead of the vote, with the longer ‘Burton Bros. Drive’ designation printed on them.

This didn’t sit right with a majority of the council. Councilman Keith Guy said someone failed to communicate properly, leading the council to be forced into making a second name change.

“There was a ball and somebody dropped it,” said Guy. “Either we inside had the sign made up and you proofed it, or you made the sign and we approved it.” – Guy.

Mayor Darrell Paige also spoke vocally against the second renaming, speaking directly to the representatives from the alumni association present at Monday’s meeting.

“My peace of mind, I would just like to have it as Burton Drive,” said Paige. “To me, you’re getting into certain issues.”

Paige suggested the name stay “Burton Drive” to celebrate the whole Burton family. Kimberly Sims went beyond Paige’s sentiments, suggesting the ‘Burton Bros. Drive’ version of the sign looked and read like slang.

“B-R-O-S is not an image we want to portray,” said Sims.

Councilman Willie Watson agreed that the purchase of the sign may have been premature if there was a swell of support for a second round of renaming among the alumni association:

“We should have seen a prototype before we approved anything… I think it was just a miscommunication.”

However, Watson noted that this is only the second street renaming in the city in recent memory (the other being Fielstra Drive), and chalked it up to a lack of experience by all parties in dealing with this type of request.

“I think it is just something we should move on and learn from,” said Watson. “I think what we need is just some consistency when we do these types of things.”

As it stands, the City of Muskegon Heights will allow the street to be renamed ‘Burton Drive’, but not ‘Burton Bros. Drive’. Since the agreement was that the renaming would happen at no cost to the city, it appears that the alumni association will cover the cost of ordering a second set of signs with the proper name on them.

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst