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Thursday, December 5, 2019 by Jessi Devenyns
Community members divided over renaming of Dove Springs Recreation Center
After the Parks and Recreation Board unanimously supported the name change of the Dove Springs Recreation Center at its Oct. 22 meeting, the discussion item reappeared on the agenda on Dec. 3.
Yet despite dozens of community members signed up to speak in an overflowing room, city staff withdrew the item. Parks and Recreation Director Kimberly McNeeley told meeting attendees that due to a misposting of the item, the board would no longer consider it for discussion. “I take responsibility for that,” she said.
Parks board members felt it was only fair to allow those who came to the meeting to offer their testimony. Speakers lined up to voice their opinions both for and against renaming the recreation center George Morales Dove Springs Recreation Center.
George Morales is a Travis County Precinct 4 constable and a native of the community he has served for decades. The original name of the recreation center was voted on by neighborhood youth in the 1990s.
Although many speakers argued that renaming the facility will erase the history of the neighborhood and discourage youth involvement in community activities, others disagreed. Several participants from the original youth voting body attended the meeting to express their support for the name change. Brian Stoller was one of them, and he still lives in Dove Springs today.
“George is the gold standard in public service, truly,” he said. “I think anyone would be proud to have George Morales’ name on the Dove Springs Recreation Center.”
Rosie Salinas disagreed, saying, “Revoking their vote and what they accomplished is sending the wrong message to the youth of today, who will be the voters of tomorrow, that their opinion doesn’t count.”
Several speakers expressed concern about the expense associated with a name change.
Pat Smith, a past president of the Southeast Combined Neighborhood Plan Contact Team, said what concerned her was not the new name, but the renaming process, which she called “alarmingly brief and lax.” The original proposition came before the contact team nine and a half weeks ago and is set on Council’s agenda today.
Although the contact team endorsed the name change, Smith explained that George Morales himself was at the meeting, which some voting members found intimidating and may have influenced the vote. The Parks and Recreation Board also unanimously recommend the name change at its Oct. 22 meeting.
To round out the list of speakers Tuesday night, George Morales’ family came to offer their support. His daughter, Marissa Morales, said regardless of whether the name change occurs, her father will continue to be an advocate for the community. “He works for everybody … whether they’re for or against him,” she said.
City Council will consider the name change at today’s meeting. It is on the agenda as Item 27.
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department: The city department responsible for the city's park system, rec centers, and associated infrastructure.
Dove Springs: Dove Springs is a southeast neighborhood in Austin bordered, roughly, by William Cannon, Ben White, Dove Springs District Park, and IH-35.
Parks and Recreation Board: The city’s Parks and Recreation Board members deal with the acquisition, development, improvement, and maintenance of Austin’s parks and playgrounds.