The Ramsey County Board tabled a proposal Tuesday to bar the naming of buildings, parks and amenities after individuals, saying it needed further discussion.
Several commissioners, led by Victoria Reinhardt, took issue with a part of the policy that gave the county manager the ultimate say on naming. They said the elected County Board should make the final decision at public meetings.
Some added they wanted additional research done on how such a policy could affect fundraising for libraries and parks.
Commissioner Trista MatasCastillo said she was hesitant about a hard-and-fast policy to rule out honoring individuals in this way.
"I generally agree so far historically we have not done super well. We've named things mostly after men in history who have caused harm," MatasCastillo said.
"And yet in 2020 we haven't named things after indigenous people, black women and black men. Maybe there's time to do some of that, too. I would hate to completely take that off the table. … For me, an absolute 'no' is hard."
Board Chairwoman Toni Carter said she was "in favor of moving away from naming for a person," but she voted to table the policy for further discussion.
The proposed policy called for the board to consider the impact that a name might have on American Indians, blacks "and underrepresented communities and their lived experiences."
Though officials didn't speak directly to the point, white men are the people most often honored on Ramsey County facilities.
Sports arenas bear the names of men who achieved fame decades ago such as St. Paul high school hockey coach Clarence "Biff" Adams; Ken Yackel, a Minnesota Gophers and National Hockey League star; and "Peanuts" cartoonist Charles Schulz, who grew up playing hockey in St. Paul and became one of the country's most prominent hockey boosters.
There were no plans to change those names under the proposed policy, officials said, and the county wouldn't automatically take someone's name off an existing facility or feature. But such a name would be reevaluated if the facility undergoes major renovation or if a name "comes into disrepute."
The now-tabled policy wouldn't preclude honoring corporate or individual donors with a plaque or building inscription.
"The proposed policy emphasizes racial equity considerations, community engagement, and a practical and uniform residents-first approach to naming our county facilities, spaces and infrastructure," said Johanna Berg, deputy county manager of economic growth and community investment, in a written statement.
There are prominent facilities in St. Paul named for blacks, but that was done at the city level and not by the county. In 1984, officials renamed the city auditorium after Roy Wilkins, a St. Paul native who played a leading role in the civil rights movement. The park pavilion on Harriet Island was named in 2000 for Clarence Wigington, the nation's first black city architect during his career of more than 30 years in St. Paul.
The St. Paul School District has named a grade school after Barack and Michelle Obama, and the Rondo Community Library represents the black St. Paul neighborhood that was razed in the 1960s to make way for Interstate 94.