County to observe Native American Day in place of Columbus Day

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY — During the Tuesday, June 6, San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors meeting, a decision was made changing the observation of an over-50-year-old federally recognized holiday. County staff will now be observing Native American Day rather than Columbus Day in October as a paid holiday. Until 2022, Columbus Day was observed as one of the county’s paid holidays recognized on the second Monday in October. 

However, in 2022 the California Superior Courts remained open on Columbus Day, requiring the District Attorney’s Office and other county staff to remain open and working as well. The county met with all represented employee associations and reached an agreement to exchange Columbus Day with Native American Day, recognized on the fourth Friday in September and in line with the courts calendar. According to staff’s report, “As it is best practice for the County to have a uniform holiday schedule for all County employees, this change will also apply to all Unrepresented staff.”

This resolution eliminates Columbus Day as a paid holiday for all county employees and adds Native American Day as a paid county holiday.

There was no presentation on the item as it was on the consent agenda, and there were no comments from supervisors on the change, passing it unanimously.

Believed to be brought forward following an incident on the Vineyard Drive overpass in Templeton, the Board of Supervisors approved with a 3-2 vote a resolution “condemning racism, bigotry, bias, and hate speech in our community.”

District 5 Supervisor Debbie Arnold presented a redacted resolution explaning, “The objections that I had to the prepared resolution was that it called out our community of Templeton … I don’t think it helps when we react to something divisive with [more] divisive [acts]. The calling out a community that had nothing to do with that.”

It is believed and mentioned that recent incidents that occurred on the Vineyard Bridge overpass in Templeton, where unidentified people held a “white pride” banner. On each occasion, these incidents were responded to with a peace rally organized by the Little Queer Paso group.

The resolution specifically calls out those incidents, which Arnold and District 1 Supervisor John Peschong both agreed should be removed. Pescong seconded Arnold’s motion to approve the resolution with the following redactions:

WHEREAS, the Board is committed to protecting and fostering these values.

WHEREAS, the County has observed instances of hate and bigotry on the Vineyard Drive freeway overpass in Templeton, including the recent display of a banner supporting white supremacy. These disturbing expressions of racism have no place in San Luis Obispo County, and have shocked the conscience of the Board of Supervisors and the community we serve.

WHEREAS, the Board is committed to ending discrimination and harassment based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, disability, or any other protected characteristic.

District 4 Supervisor Jimmy Paulding, who proposed the original resolution, responded to Arnold’s revisions.

“Holding up a banner that says ‘white pride’ is very close to ‘white power,’” said Paulding. “I think that it’s important that our board specifically condemn white supremacy, acknowledge the threat that it is and its power to divide our community.”

Paulding, echoed by District 2 Supervisor Bruce Gibson, urged his fellow supervisors to keep the original resolution. 

“We saw a heinous act in the display of that white pride banner,” said Gibson. “This strips out any sense that this board actually cares.”

To compromise, Gibson said he would allow modification to strike the words “on the Vineyard Drive Freeway in Templeton,” and that Arnold’s motion would otherwise die.

District 3 Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg agreed with removing the mention of Templeton, adding “We need to just work towards the elimination of all the disputes we’ve been talking about.” 

Peschong, who has lived in Templeton for over 20 years and had visited with protesters following the first incident, stood up for his community and their values.

“Templeton is not these people,” explained Peschong. “We’re a very diverse community and we believe in freedom, but we also believe that there’s no place for racism in Templeton or San Luis Obispo County.”

He further added that removing the mention of the Templeton incident would not take away from the resolution’s importance of condemning racism and declaring diversity, equity, and inclusion as a core value of the board. He also said that he had been informed by law enforcement that the men carrying the banner were from Tulare County and that no one is talking about how this incident was also an anti-Semitic attack.

Following comments, the board voted to approve Arnold’s resolution with a 3-2 vote, Paulding and Gibson dissenting. Gibson then began to present his new motion, in disbelief that Ortiz-Legg voted yes on the motion.

Later on in the meeting, Ortiz-Legg requested to change her vote to instead go with Gibson’s proposed resolution.

She asked the board to reconsider the resolution, which Gibson called an “unusual but legal move.”

The board then voted 3-2 to pass resolution with the amended banner incident clause, with Arnold and Peschong dissenting.