Pleasanton Sports Park renamed for Ken Mercer

Move made despite 5-year "wait" period for honoring deceased civic leadersMove made despite 5-year "wait" period for honoring deceased civic leadersMove made despite 5-year "wait" period for honoring deceased civic leaders

Pleasanton Sports and Recreation Park, a main public sports complex that extends northeast of Hopyard Road along Parkside Drive, has been renamed "Ken Mercer Sports Park" to honor the city's longest-serving mayor, who died last January.

The suggestion to rename the sports park was made at Mr. Mercer's funeral service at the Pleasanton Senior Center to loud applause from the more than 300 who attended. The city Parks and Recreation Commission endorsed the proposal last month, and the City Council gave its final approval June 3 in a 4-1 vote.

Only Councilwoman Karla Brown objected, urging the council to wait for five years as called for in a 2004 resolution the council adopted to avoid the emotions that often follow the loss of a well-known Pleasanton civic, city or business leader.

She also said there are others who may be deserving of having a municipal building or park named for them, including four-term Mayor Ben Tarver, who served after Mr. Mercer left office. Mr. Tarver died in 2010.

But others on the council agreed with the Parks and Recreation Commission and Susan Andrade-Wax, director of Community Services, that the waiting period should be waived and the sports park renamed for Mr. Mercer, who was instrumental in obtaining the centrally located fields from the federal government. He was also a frequent visitor to the park as a fan for his children and grandchildren who played sports there.

While not opposed to renaming the park for Mr. Mercer, Mayor Jerry Thorne questioned whether that was a big enough recognition for the former mayor whose influence and civic achievements embraced the entire city. He suggested renaming the Pleasanton Civic Center for Mr. Mercer, but others on the council prevailed, with Thorne agreeing in the 4-1 majority vote.

In response to questions, Andrade-Wax said all the other parks in Pleasanton named for city leaders were given those names before the 2004 five-year waiting policy was adopted, including the Dolores Bengtson Aquatic Center. Bengtson, a retired Community Services director, is still very much alive although she often hears from those who think the center is a memorial to her.

The controversy over renaming the sports park for Mr. Mercer stems from a resolution the council approved April 19, 2004, establishing a policy for naming parks, recreation facilities and other city-owned public facilities. The policy stipulates that any requests to name a public facility "after a specific individual will be considered no earlier than five years after their death."

Several speakers expressed support for renaming the sports park at public hearings before the Parks and Recreation Commission and the City Council, including Mr. Mercer's daughter, Shelley Despotakis. She said her father considered the establishment of Pleasanton Sports Park one of the city's greatest achievements in support of youth, adding that he would have been pleased to have his name associated with it.

Businessman Brad Hirst added his support of the name change and read a list of former city officials who agreed. He asked that the name change and signs be in place by Sept. 2, on what would have been Mr. Mercer's 72nd birthday.

Andrade-Wax said sign designers are already working on plans for a new monument sign that will replace the large stone marker at Hopyard and Parkside, as well as smaller signs at various places in the sports park. If the sign's design and construction can be completed on time, a ceremony could be held Labor Day weekend to put the main monument marker in place.

Mr. Mercer was elected to three terms on the City Council between 1976 and 1988. In 1986, he became the city's first directly elected mayor and served in that position until 1992.

During those years, Stoneridge Shopping Center, Hacienda Business Park and several large-scale residential developments were approved.


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Posted by Namdi
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2014 at 12:17 am

I'm going to defer to the council in place. I've lived here a very long time, and always liked Mr. Mercer. Personally, I think he'd ask us to honor the 5 year wait, and then name it. Everyone is so impatient.

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Posted by Joe Crosslin
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jun 17, 2014 at 8:50 am

Ken deserves the honor, his service to the Pleasanton helped make it the great place it is today.

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Posted by lll
a resident of Birdland
on Jun 17, 2014 at 9:14 am

I guess this vote shows that the rules we have in place do not apply to elected officials or previous elected officials. We had a law that said we must wait 5 years but since this was a politician, the rules were ignored. No wonder people do not trust elected officials anymore.

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Posted by Patriot
a resident of Carriage Gardens
on Jun 17, 2014 at 9:33 am

What an excellent testimonial for Ken Mercer---he gave thousands of hours of time and effort to the City of Pleasanton. He was a listener and a doer all in one and was a truly great leader in our Community - he was a believer of Pleasanton's long time motto--"Pleasanton--the City of Planned Progress." God Bless Ken Mercer.

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Posted by old guy
a resident of Willow West
on Jun 17, 2014 at 10:10 am

Good point III. I often wonder why we devise laws / rules / regulations and then for some reason choose to ignore them. Personally I think a public city building would have afforded a more appropriate recognition of Ken Mercer's body of work for our city. However more important is how we expect our populace to follow these laws etc while making informed decisions to ignore them. Seems to be a message here. By the way on the way home last night around 10PM I noticed we as a city were once again watering much of the asphalt on Hopyard and locations in Hacienda business park. Once again rules devised by those in authority and then promptly ignored. I'm making a real effort to conserve and my depressing brown lawn depicts that effort. I expect no less of an effort by our water czars especially when these are their rules...

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Posted by 5 years
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2014 at 12:26 pm

The reason for a 5 year wait period is so an emotional decision isn't made such as this one. It is a little alarming that our city officials only need to follow the laws they want to.

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Posted by laws/rules/regulations
a resident of West of Foothill
on Jun 17, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Post: "III", "old guy" and "5 years"

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Posted by Teresa
a resident of Birdland
on Jun 18, 2014 at 12:16 am

The disregard for the laws of this great land is going on in Washington more and more. Where do you think our town council got their nerve? This is not ok. They need to wait the 5 years!

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Posted by Amazed again
a resident of Amador Estates
on Jun 18, 2014 at 9:18 am

Once again we only have 1 elected official with the spine to stand up to the good ole boys crowd. I watched on tv and the mayor suggested a building or something other than the sports park, but caved when he did not get support.

A building or conference room or plaque makes better sense to me. Where is leadership with a spine?

OBTW, it is called "The Sports Park" and always will be.

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Posted by Scott Walsh
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jun 18, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Well deserved but I believe even Ken would have said wait because that is the "rule" on the books. He did not look at him as being something Special, but a citizen active in making the Community the best it could be.

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Posted by lll
a resident of Birdland
on Jun 18, 2014 at 2:33 pm

It is unfortunate that the city council had to make this controversial by ignoring the rule on the book. The way this was handled by the council will ensure this honor is tainted. Perhaps this can be reconsidered by the council; not for the honoring of somebody but for not following the rule in place. If the council feels that this is an obvious choice of naming the park after Mercer, then they should feel confident that in five years, the council then will feel the same way. Trying to ram this name change through before the required 5 year wait is done makes it look like the council does not have the confidence that Mercer deserves the honor.

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Posted by vodka
a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on Jun 19, 2014 at 10:37 pm

One Big Joke just like the Business Park. Only if you really knew.

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Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2014 at 9:12 am

Oh . . Only 300 at the funeral. Just how popular was he!!?

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Posted by academicjock
a resident of Ponderosa
on Jun 24, 2014 at 8:36 am

Ignoring the "rules" is consistent with regard to Mercer. He and his 1980s city council ignored the general plan when, in one night in one vote, the future of Pleasanton was changed forever. The general plan allowed for 50% of the business parks that now exist yet, Mercer et al ignored the general plan and changed P-Town from a semi-rural residential city from which people commuted to work to the job center of the East Bay. The business parks are, mostly, nice looking business parks but nice looks do not make good neighbors.

I wouldn't deny Mercer the honor of his name being assigned to the sports park as the sports park was one very good thing. But, praising the man for how he changed Pleasanton is not appropriate.

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