The Ramsey County Board unanimously approved a new naming policy Tuesday that largely precludes labeling amenities such as buildings, parks and conference rooms for individuals despite the objection of its Library Board, which has used naming rights to raise money.
The board’s new policy allows exceptions if, in the future, county commissioners decide to honor an individual. The policy also carves out an exception for paid naming-rights agreements for sports complexes, including the $2 million deal the board recently approved with Twin Cities Orthopedics (TCO) to rechristen the Vadnais Sports Center as the TCO Sports Garden.
The policy calls for the board to consider how any proposed name might be viewed by American Indians, blacks “and underrepresented communities and their lived experiences.”
Commissioners have pointed out in previous discussions that white men are most often honored on Ramsey County facilities.
“This is likely to be an ongoing political issue. I don’t know this policy solves it,” said Commissioner Nicole Joy Frethem.
“I am OK with an exception clause. I don’t want it to be a backdoor channel to continue with business as usual.”
Frethem said this has been a difficult discussion and could limit some library fundraising, but said, “In general, just because someone is willing to write a bigger check, I question if that means they deserve the honor of their name on a room.”
Commissioner Trista MatasCastillo said she worries the policy could limit equity in naming honors.
“As we move forward, we want to make sure we are recognizing the contributions of the rest of us,” MatasCastillo said.
The board had debated the policy in early February but tabled it for edits and input from the Library Board.
Sylvia E. Neblett, chairwoman of the Ramsey County Library board of trustees, asked that libraries be exempted from the naming policy along with sports complexes.
While no library buildings are named after people, Neblett said in a letter to the board that the Library Board and Friends of the Ramsey County Library have “used the naming of public conference rooms as a significant fundraising mechanism that puts funds back into the library to strengthen, support, enrich the lives of our library patrons and promote literacy and education in our communities.”
Neblett said naming conference rooms has raised more than $175,000 through three capital campaigns.
The policy wouldn’t preclude honoring corporate or individual donors with a plaque or building inscription.
The policy changes have no effect on existing names, officials said, unless a named facility undergoes a major renovation or if a name “comes into disrepute.”
Ramsey County sports arenas are the most prominent buildings that 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.