Morales—who said he was raised in Dove Springs and has been connected in the community for 45 years—has served as constable since 2016 and in 2018 received a Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Achievement Award for Public Service. Morales has also served as president of the Dove Springs Advisory Board for 10 years.
Dove Springs Advisory Board member Robert Kibbie submitted an application with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department board in October to rename the center the George Morales Dove Spring Recreation Center. Included in the application were letters of support from state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, and Austin ISD trustee Arati Singh.
“I have had the privilege of working alongside George for many years,” Rodriguez said in the letter. “He is a stalwart champion for the people of Dove Springs and I am honored to consider him a dear friend.”
The Austin Parks and Recreation board unanimously approved support of the change at a meeting Oct. 22, and the name change could be brought to Austin City Council for action in December.
“It’s an honor, to be honest with you,” Morales told Community Impact Newspaper about being considered. “It’s exciting.”
Kibbie, who also grew up in Dove Springs, said he was motivated to honor Morales for being the first elected Travis County constable from the Dove Springs area and for various volunteer efforts he has spearheaded in Dove Springs.
"We were always told we'd grow up to be in gangs, into drugs or dead," Kibbie told Community Impact Newspaper. "He's showing kids in the area they can be anything they want to be."
However, some former residents who served on the Dove Springs Advisory Board in the late '80s and early '90s to help create the neighborhood park—including Cristina Jesurun, Ofelia Zapata and Rosie Salinas—told Community Impact Newspaper they are against changing the facility’s name.
Jesurun said the Dove Springs neighborhood in the '80s did not have a park or field for local children to use, and the community did not have a unified identity. The Dove Springs Advisory Board was formed in part to advocate for the construction of a park, and according to Jesurun, the park was officially named in the '90s after a community initiative to allow local children to vote on a name.
The board decided to allow students to pick the name in an effort to “empower” the neighborhood children and allow them to take some ownership and connect with the then new park, Salinas said.
“That really empowered them that they were involved and not excluded from the process,” she said. “[The community] wasn’t unified until we all started getting involved with the park.”
Zapata said that the name change would undo hours of efforts former volunteers, community members and children who grew up in the 90s spent to establish the park and select a name for the facility.
“It’s nothing personal against [Morales]; I just don’t think the name should ever be changed,” she said. “What the board did [in the 90s] asking for the kids’ input was historic.”
Jesurun, Zapata and Salinas hosted a community meeting to discuss the name change Nov. 11 and have started a change.org petition opposing the name change, which has received over 50 signatures as of Nov. 14.
Similarly, a change.org petition to gather support for naming the park after Morales has received over 1,000 signatures in two weeks.
“Everybody has a right to their own opinion,” Morales said. “Everybody has a right to speak out.”