Council votes on Parks and Recreation renaming policy


By Alex Connor, [email protected]

The city council discusses a protest ordinance with Dale Dyvig on Tuesday night, Feb. 23. The council approved several motions, along with discussing survey questions.

Christie Smith

Editor’s Note: A former version of this story’s headline said the City Council voted not to name the Ames Skate park after Georgie Tsushima. The council actually voted on the renaming policy presented by the Iowa Parks and Recreation Commission developed. The Daily regrets the error. 

Council members voted on a naming policy inspired by an ISU student at a meeting of the Ames City Council on Tuesday evening.

In July 2015, a request was submitted to the Council to name the local skate park after deceased ISU student and avid skateboarder Georgie Tsushima, according to city documents. Tsushima grew up in Ames where he opened Ames’s first skate shop as a high school student before traveling the world as a professional skateboard videographer.

Upon investigation, the city found they had no formal guidelines for naming parks. In order to consider naming the park after Tsushima, a Parks and Recreation commission began researching naming policies and working to create one for implementation in Ames.

The commission drafted a naming policy stating that name requests would be considered under the “broad categories” of 1) historic events, people and places 2) outstanding individuals and 3) major donations.

Under the proposed naming policy, naming a city park for an “outstanding individual” is encouraged only if the deceased has been dead for at least three years “in order to ensure that person’s significance and good reputation have been accepted in the city’s, state’s and/or nation’s history.” By this standard, Tsushima would not yet qualify.

Mayor Ann Campbell said council members had received many emails from community members concerned about the policy and upset that Tsushima may not be considered. Campbell addressed a full room at Tuesday’s meeting, asking that community members focus on the particular issue of this meeting — the policy itself, not the naming of the park.

Gloria Betcher, Ward 1, questioned the 3-year recommendation and the Parks and Recreation Department’s ability to judge an appropriate period of time for grieving after someone’s death.

Keith Abraham, Parks and Recreation director, said in his research of naming policies, he found a range from zero to seven-year waiting periods, with the most common being five years.

“It seems to me to be an arbitrary distinction,” said Peter Orazem, Ward 3, echoing Betcher’s concern.

Orazem listed several examples of public buildings and places across the country that were renamed after extended periods of time, suggesting no amount of a waiting period could be considered 100 percent effective.

“If Council doesn’t want a timeframe, then that’s okay with us,” Abraham said. “That’s why we’re bringing it before you.”

Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen, at-large, said she was concerned that the waiting period did not apply to donors, potentially giving an advantage to those making monetary contributions.

“I also do worry that if a person gives a large enough donation, they are fast-tracked,” Beatty-Hansen said. “I think we want to be a community where non-monetary contributions to the community are equal.”

Council members discussed several options to act on the proposed naming policy. Options included voting on the naming policy as is at the next scheduled meeting of the Council, directing city staff to incorporate some changes into the naming policy, request more research for the naming policy or reject the policy altogether.

Makenzie Heddens, ISU alumna and a friend of Tsushima, addressed Council about the request that spurred the naming policy.

“We would actually appreciate Council considering moving forward with our request to name the skate park after Georgie separate of this naming policy,” Heddens said. “I do think it’s really important to honor the request of your constituents and sort of grandfather us in, if you will, with the current provisions or lack thereof.”

Council members voted 5-1 to direct staff to incorporate changes to the naming policy, including eliminating the 3-year waiting period. They also voted 6-0 to carry a separate motion directing city staff to amend donor requirements for naming.

Though Heddens was not granted the exception she asked for, the Tsushima request would presumably fit the requirements for consideration under the proposed, edited naming policy.

The original proposed naming policy can be viewed on the City of Ames website in the Council minutes.

In addition to naming the skate park, council members also discussed a renovation project for the park. Under the city’s Capital Improvements Plan, the skate park was budgeted $105,000 for repairs and improvements.

City staff reached out to nine contractors for bids on the skate park project, but only one responded. The bid received from Spohn Ranch totaled at least $141,000, with additional options at a higher cost.

Due to the bid being so far over the city’s budget, Council considered whether to find additional funding for the project or to look for additional bids.

Council members voted 6-0 to accept the report of bids and allow city staff additional time to determine the potential effectiveness of re-bidding the project.