EDITOR’S CORNER: Better to ask tough questions than to be left wondering
(Opinion by Miles Smith/LPR Editor)
I’d like to use this space today, in part, to admit how naïve I evidently am.
In mid-February, when representatives of the Class of 1989 stood before the Lockhart City Council and said they wanted to rename Kiwanis Field and install a new scoreboard to honor their fallen classmate, Mark A. Martinez, an apparent champion and stalwart Little League volunteer, I thought, “Well, that’s an awfully nice thing to do. I can’t imagine who’d be against something like that.”
Oh, Miles. Twenty years of familiarity with small town city council meetings has apparently taught me nothing.
What would ensue was arguably one of the most talked about topics in town this year as the city council voted to send it to the Parks and Recreation advisory committee, the Parks and Recreation advisory committee took no action and kicked it back to the city council, which finally voted on Tuesday night 5-2 to change the name of Citizens Field to honor Martinez.
Questions being bandied about included: Should tradition be meddled with? Should a name be changed? Are the original donors who contributed to the ballpark’s construction being disrespected? Should a developing city turn down free stuff? Is a volunteer coach worthy of such a visible memorial? Why wouldn’t we want to honor a volunteer who has so many people behind him? Are we going to run out of things to name after people? Why isn’t there a simple policy in place to objectively score such requests?
And then, finally, the $64 question, levied by councilman John Castillo Tuesday night that brought Lockhart City Council’s work session to a boil, as it heard arguments for and against now renaming Citizens Field rather than Kiwanis Field in honor of their beloved friend and classmate.
Is the reason for so much pushback on renaming one of three fields in a youth athletics complex because the new proposed name honors someone Hispanic?
“I’m upset with those of us who are sitting up here riding the fence,” Castillo said. “Did anyone have any problem with naming Gary Bunch field? No. How about Imogene Strawn? No. But Cesar Chavez? That was a (much discussed) item.
“Whenever it is a Hispanic’s name up there, this happens. I’ve had to sit up here and stomach some of those decisions … We need to get past this obstacle we’ve put on ourselves. I’m sorry I went there, but it needed to be said.”
Mayor Lew White said statements like Castillo’s had “no place” during council meetings.
“I’m proud of the council for voting its conscience tonight,” White said later during closing comments. “There was some ugliness from the council tonight that I don’t like to hear … it’s not what we stand for. We stand for fairness and equality on every decision we make for the community.”
Since I started working here in 2017, I’d say that’s been true of the council and how it votes, and Tuesday night’s vote was no exception. The council voted 5-2 to rename the field, with councilmembers Brad Westmoreland, Jeffry Michelson, Juan Mendoza and Angie Gonzales-Sanchez siding with Castillo.
White and Kara Bliss McGregor voted against the renaming – for now – saying its champions could bring the question to parks and rec for consideration once the council formally constructs naming guidelines and criteria.
Castillo’s statement undoubtedly made some people uncomfortable. But it took courage and one can’t fault him for raising that question.
Tuesday night’s decision was not about race, and we can be sure of that because he asked a question to which the council gave a clear answer.