Chandler Council debates Juneteenth holiday cost - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler Council debates Juneteenth holiday cost

August 3rd, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Chandler Council debates Juneteenth holiday cost
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By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

There is consensus on the Chandler City Council that it recognize the Juneteenth holiday in some fashion, but what form that will take remains up for debate.

Council met for a work session July 11 to consider making Juneteenth a city holiday. Doing so would give city workers June 19 (or a day close to it if it falls on a weekend) off each year.

Juneteenth commemorates the anniversary of the day the final slaves in the United States were officially told they were free. It happened in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865. That was two-and-a-half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

The City Council was presented three possible options: First, make no change, which would mean employees would not get a Juneteenth holiday off. The second was to make Juneteenth an official city holiday starting next June. And the third was to add another personal day so that city workers could take time off for Juneteenth if they wanted.

Based on the discussion, it appears council members favor the third choice, though there was no definitive direction given. They asked City Manager Joshua Wright to do more research.

“If we are talking about adding a holiday, then for me, having a holiday where individuals can choose, whether that’s the Chinese New Year or Cinco de Mayo or something that is meaningful to them, I think is the best way we could handle it,” said Vice Mayor Terry Roe. “It would cost less and that way we would still have recognition.”

Dawn Lang, city deputy city manager and chief financial officer, said it would cost less to add what is essentially a second personal holiday because not all workers would be off at the same time. The city also would not need to pay as much in overtime, he said.

It’s unclear if Council wants to add a second personal day or will tie that day to unrecognized holidays that celebrate heritage. Some of those would be Columbus Day, Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day, Chinese New Year, Juneteenth, and possibly others.

At one point, Mayor Kevin Hartke suggested that they name the holiday after Juneteenth, but allow workers to decide when they want to take it.

No matter how they handle the holiday, council members said it was important to recognize Juneteenth. This year Hartke issued a proclamation recognizing the holiday and the city held numerous events for the holiday.

A lot of the discussion over making Juneteenth a holiday centered on what city services would be closed. There was an agreement pools should remain open.

“Don’t shut down the pools,” Councilman Matt Orlando said, adding it’s one of two things the Council should not mess with –– the other being alleys.

President Biden made Juneteenth a federal holiday in 2021. The city currently gives its employees 11 holidays a year. Adding a 12th for Juneteenth would cost the city about $222,000.

Lang said that cost estimate is based on what President’s Day costs the city.

Councilman OD Harris, who asked for the work session, was surprised by the cost. He asked the city manager to see if there was a way to get that down.

Currently, eight Valley cities recognize Juneteenth as a holiday for their workers. They are Avondale, Buckeye, Glendale, Goodyear, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Surprise and Tempe.

“What does diversity mean, when it comes to creating a new holiday?” Roe asked. “Does it just mean Juneteenth? Or does it mean it’s an opportunity for other people to celebrate what’s important to them? That’s my question.”