Park Naming Process

Since the process for naming our parks has garnered so much attention lately, I’m posting my comments from last night below. All of Councils comments are available on video from the City website. The video from the meeting should be posted and indexed within a couple of days.

I’ve spent many hours researching various aspects of this request. As I mentioned in my comments on March 13th I have a philosophical aversion to naming any facility after an individual, unless posthumously. I have several thoughts I’d like to get across and I ask that you bear with me while I read this, so I don’t forget something.

As I explained previously my aversion to naming parks and buildings for individuals stems from incidents I’ve witnessed in other City’s I’ve lived in, as well as by an incident in Coppell, incidents where names of facilities had to be changed after being named for various individuals. That is certainly not a disparagement against any currently named, or proposed individuals, it is simply a statement of fact that incidents in the past have happened, and will always remain a possibility when naming after any individual, and should always be considered with the utmost care and diligence. This is only a policy and procedure issue for me.

Further we will have a very limited number of these large community parks, or other municipal facilities, to name, maybe only 8 or 9 of these parks for the entire city, and 4 already have names (Bacchus, Phillips, Warren, Frisco Commons).

I believe facility names, and in particular our large community park names should represent the heritage of our great City, and the greatest care should be given to choosing those names. To that end I do not believe any facility being named after an individual should be on a consent agenda, and that it is always worthy of an open dialogue and significant citizen input, naming a facility for an individual should never be a “routine” item at any point in the process. In fact in 2005 Councilman Allen pulled the naming of the SE Park, now Bacchus Park, and SW Park, now Philips, from the consent agenda and tabled them for a meeting, so that multiple names of the SE park could be discussed, rather than just the one presented at the time. Not only do we have very few of these parks, but its been over 11 years since we named Bacchus and Philips parks.

Our current naming ordinance states:
“When considering the naming of a park or park facilities in honor of a person, the person should have made a major contribution to the City and/or the Parks and Recreation system, or the person should be known for some other significant accomplishment”
While this allows us to name for individuals, it doesn’t really define a process, as I believe it should.

Over the last few weeks I’ve talked to all members of our naming committee, our parks board chair, as well as our parks department and city manager staff. What I’ve found is we have a very simple process. A name is suggested to the naming committee, who recommends to our parks board, then to Council, our parks staff facilitates that process. That was followed because its “what we’ve always done”.

I’ve also heard from several residents regarding the issue, since it made it into The Frisco Enterprise, and various Social Media threads. Some residents saying yes we should name it as proposed, some saying we should not, and others asking who is this, and why, and how did we get here?

I mention all of this because I believe it highlights the flaws in the current process. Sometimes “the way we’ve always done it” is no longer satisfactory, and I believe that to be the case here.
We’ve been compared to FISD who name facilities after living individuals and I’ve been asked “they can do it why shouldn’t we”? To that I answer that FISD has a very well defined process that includes a more thorough research and vetting of each nominated person that is to have a facility named for them. FISD also has significantly more facilities to name than the City will and they are building them far faster than we will build out our facilities, so naming after individuals posthumously is less of an option for them, but they do have a thoroughly researched waiting list.
A more detailed process, for naming after individuals, should include background information and reasons from the person making the nomination, comparisons during the process with other possible names, and comparisons with accomplishments of already named facilities, and more input from the community. We should be able to hold the history and accomplishments of an individual up to the community and present why that nomination is the best nomination. I appreciate the input from Mrs. Sem and Mrs. Shipman during this process. Outside of my own research they provided background that otherwise might not have been heard.
I do not, however, believe there was sufficient detail, or research for this request in our current process and there was a lack of community input. Little background or reasoning wwas given to our parks department when the name was submitted, and likewise little information was provided to the naming committee regarding background or accomplishments. There was also only brief discussion on alternatives, or comparisons with others.
I find no fault with the naming committee, our parks board or our staff, in fact I commend them on their continued work and input into all the areas they reach, these individuals are the very essence of what our City needs to make it great. Everyone proceeded with “how we always have proceeded”, but I don’t think “how we’ve always done it” lives up to our standards any longer and the process is in need of significant improvements. I’ve been told we should ”trust the process”, and to an extent this is true, unless the process is in need of change, then it should be changed first. How we’ve always done it may have been ok when we were 40 or 50 thousand, but I don’t think it works at 160,000.

I still believe facilities should be named posthumously, but I suspect I may be in the minority on that, and if that is the case then we should have a process that is both comprehensive, robust, and which requires community input so that should a facility be named after a person it captures not only their accomplishments but the history and values of the community and area of the facility as well. Further the process should be such that by the end the community (both those living directly next to it, as well as the city as a whole) understand that person’s accomplishments, what they have meant to the city, and there can be a consensus that person is the right person to be recognized. Over the last 3 weeks, given the feedback I’ve seen, and the research I’ve done, having community consensus and input, prior to reaching council, is not appearing to be the case, which is problematic for me. Any recommended name should also be viewed in the eyes of history so that comparisons can be made to other leaders throughout Frisco’s history. Lastly, we have a project coming up, that has been in the works for some time that could impact how we view the naming of many of our facilities. A comprehensive review of our naming policy should also include that as a factor.

Given all of this it is my recommendation that we take no action on this item at this time, we leave the name as simply the NE Community park for the time being, and we work on a more robust process that will better define the criteria and process of naming of facilities for individuals, as well as take into consideration possible upcoming changes to other policies. I believe it is time for a holistic review of this process. As part of my research I have provided staff with some ideas that define in more depth and detail the items I’ve mentioned tonight, I do not believe those ideas to be final in any way, but merely a starting point for additional discussions for changes to our procedures.

I look forward to hearing my colleague’s comments and thoughts.