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Tuesday, February 28, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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County logo to get makeover, show MLK

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Metropolitan King County Council, declaring that symbols matter, voted Monday to change the county logo from a crown to an image of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

More than 200 citizens responded by jumping to their feet, cheering, beating Native American drums and singing "We Shall Overcome."

Someone shouted: "Viva! Viva Martin Luther King!"

"Symbols are very important. This is going to be a powerful one for us here in this county," Councilman Larry Gossett, D-Seattle, prime sponsor of the ordinance, said after the vote.

As a throng of supporters congratulated Gossett, a woman said to her young son, "This is history."

Gossett had said a new logo was the next logical step after the council's decision in 1986 to change the county namesake from former U.S. Vice President and slave owner William Rufus DeVane King to Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King Jr.

Enthusiastic supporters of the ordinance jammed council chambers, a balcony overlooking the chambers, a lobby and a room showing the proceedings on cable TV. Council staffers reported the size of the crowd as 275.

"Dr. King's image makes me think of all God's children living together regardless of race, religion or income," Zion Preparatory Academy third-grader Eryn Wells told the council.

When Wells said, "Remember, you can't go wrong by voting yes for this ordinance," a man watching the proceedings on TV exclaimed, "That's speaking truth to power!"

No one spoke against the ordinance during an hour of public testimony.

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But two council members, Republicans Jane Hague of Bellevue and Kathy Lambert of Woodinville, voted no because of concerns that the county could be liable to royalty claims from King's estate if it uses the logo in commercial ventures.

Before the 7-2 roll-call vote in favor of the new logo, the council rejected amendments proposed by Lambert that would have held a public-advisory vote, deleted reference to William King's ownership of slaves, and urged County Executive Ron Sims to negotiate with the Martin Luther King Jr. estate for commercial or fundraising rights to his image "in perpetuity."

A new logo will be designed by Sims' office and sent to the County Council for its approval.

County budget director Bob Cowan estimates that it will cost the county $522,255 over five years to change the logo on cars, buildings, stationery and other places.

In most cases, the new logo will be phased in as old supplies are used up, but law-enforcement officers' uniforms and cars will be changed on a faster schedule so they are easily identifiable to the public.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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