By Roger Bloom | NB Indy
The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to name the multipurpose room at the new Oasis Senior Center after former Mayor Evelyn Hart, rather than naming the entire center for Hart as some had urged.
After the vote, which accepted the recommendation of the city’s Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission, Hart said she was “thrilled” with the honor.
Councilmembers were lavish in advance of the vote in their praise of Hart and her lifetime of service.
“She has made this community better and has made it better for decades,” said Mayor Keith Curry (see accompanying story).
Councilmembers Ed Selich and Leslie Daigle said they would have supported naming the entire center after Hart, if that had been the recommendation.
“I think Evelyn is highly deserving,” Daigle said.
The council action capped an awkward and quietly contentious process that began this summer when some friends of Hart went public with the idea of naming the center after her, and lined up some community leaders in support.
Hart, a former two-term mayor and 16-year councilmember, is closely identified with the Oasis Center, as she was instrumental in both its founding and in the recent effort to build a new and expanded facility, which will begin operation next week and hold a grand opening celebration Oct. 9.
But the naming campaign ran afoul both of the city’s naming policy and of the sensibilities of some longtime Oasis Center supporters and activists who were not comfortable with singling out one from their midst for special recognition.
Councilmembers, after an initial burst of enthusiasm, sensed trouble and referred the matter to the parks commission (of which Hart is a former member), which held hearings and worked to bring the various interests into accord.
“I received more e-mail and telephone calls over this issue that any other we have addressed,” said commissioner Tim Brown (see letter on page 10), adding that the comments seemed evenly divided on whether or not the name the center for Hart.
The result was the recommendation that the City Council approved this week.
Not everyone was on board, however.
Several members of the public Tuesday night urged the council to overrule the commission and name the entire center the Evelyn Hart Oasis Senior Center.
“This isn’t just about her leadership on Oasis, this is about her body of work,” said Marilyn Brewer, citing Hart’s work on the airport noise issue and other efforts.
In the end, the council created the Evelyn Hart Events Center, and councilmembers were quick to point out that this was a great honor for a woman who has provided great service to the Newport Beach community.
That the honor may be clouded by the controversy was not addressed Tuesday night, but it was touched on by Brown in his letter.
“I find it ironic that the issue became as divisive as it was over the name of Evelyn Hart, woman a who has dedicated most of her adult life to building consensus,” he wrote.