Early this year following the fatal tragic death of Davis Police Officer Natalie Corona, the council directed the police department to establish a memorial committee to find suitable ways to honor the fallen young officer.
The committee has come up with a number of ideas, some of them good ones, some worthy of consideration, and others not so good.
Drawing our attention is the first recommendation on the staff report asking council to “[d]irect staff to work with the Recreation and Park Commission on community outreach regarding the renaming of Central Park to ‘Natalie Corona Park’ or some variant thereof.”
Given what we know about the community, we believe that is an exceedingly bad idea. Central Park in Davis has become an iconic community symbol. It was but a few months ago when the iconic former Mayor Maynard Skinner spoke before the council as he recounted efforts to save the park from development a few decades ago.
Even people on the other side of the issue in the 1980s were grateful to have lost because the city would have lost an important space and community symbol that has come to define the community.
Granted, this move would merely rename the park – but given the attachment that this community has to Central Park, it seems like the idea of renaming it is not the best.
A few years ago, the city put up a statue of Gandhi in the park – that turned out to be a controversial move in Davis as it turned out to divide religious and ethnic communities from India.
In a way, this could be more divisive.
The best analogy here might be the recent effort to rename North Davis Elementary after Mary Ellen Dolcini. Ms. Dolcini had been an important figure in the district and the school’s history. But no one really reached out to the school community before putting the proposal before the school board.
The result was a petition drive, many comments by current students and parents at the school, and the district and board ultimately created a committee to look into the issue and found other ways to attempt to honor a worthy person.
And that is what needs to happen here. Granted, the recommendation was to have staff work with the Rec and Park Commission on outreach – but we foresee this as a nonstarter. This has the potential to take the act of honoring Ms. Corona from a community uniting process to one that becomes divisive, and, given the goals here, it seems like a better idea to pull this from the start rather than to engage in a community process.
From the start of this process, I was a bit concerned that there was the potential to allow understandable community grief in the face of a tragedy of this sort to run away with us. It might be better to allow the benefit of time to help us heal the raw wounds of this community and also put this tragedy into some sort of more historical perspective.
There are a number of good and fairly reasonable proposals submitted to the council: anything from renaming the police department’s EOC room to a tree planting with a plaque at the site on 5th Street, and possibly even a statue of the young officer.
I would be opposed to renaming Central Park to “Corona Park” – if we were inclined to rename that park, we might start with the folks who helped to save it in the first place. Likewise, renaming 5th Street seems like a bad idea in general, but if we were to entertain such an idea, it seems that a more suitable name would be someone who was instrumental in the founding or development of Davis.
It would be one thing to rename a more minor street or name a new street after Natalie Corona, but changing the name of a major street in Davis seems like a bad idea in a number of ways.
Again there seems to be such a lot of good ideas on the list of 15 that we should eliminate those likely to polarize the community – and probably, along with renaming 5th Street, renaming the park is the most polarizing suggestion.
Also, Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry’s office sent out a press release on Friday, designating an approximately five-mile stretch of Interstate 5 from Greenbay Road to Salt Creek Drive in Colusa County as the “Officer Natalie Corona Memorial Highway” – which also seems reasonable. Highways do not in general have names and are often renamed for fallen officers, and that stretch goes through her hometown of Arbuckle.
While the council and city can claim that they are only considering the option, the act of consideration is likely to lead to some heated rhetoric and strong emotions on both sides. Better to simply steer clear.
—David M. Greenwald reporting