MANCHESTER, N.H. – In the first government board meeting since Mayor Joyce Craig returned all Aldermanic meetings to a remote format, the Aldermanic Committee on Administration and Information Systems held a series of tightly contested votes.
First, a pair of proposals regarding mask mandates in the city were recommended by a pair of 3-2 votes.
The first proposal, a proposed face-covering rule for city buildings proposed by the City Solicitor’s office would require anyone within city buildings to wear a mask when they cannot maintain at least six feet from others.
The rule would not apply to children under 10, those with a medical exception regarding masks, first responders, or those who are asked by city employees to lower their masks temporarily for the sake of communication.
Other exceptions include any situation where an individual does not have a remote alternative to receive the same services they would have received inside the city-owned building, polling places, or people being evacuated from a building.
Alderman Will Stewart (Ward 2) proposed an amendment that would remove the six-feet exception and require masks at all times, citing the safety of city employees. After concerns from representatives of the city solicitor’s office regarding situations where no remote alternative is available, Stewart withdrew his amendment.
Chairman Anthony Sapienza (Ward 5) expressed his frustration with the withdrawal of the amendment as well as the exceptions.
“Why don’t we just make an exception for everything and people can do whatever they want like they’re doing already?” he said.
Stewart, Sapienza and Pat Long (Ward 3) voted for the measure while Barbara Shaw (Ward 9) and Joseph Kelly Levasseur (At-Large) opposed it.
A proposal put forth several weeks ago by Manchester Board of Health Director Anna Thomas requiring mask usage throughout the city passed on an identical vote, with an amendment removing a potential fine of up to $1,000 in favor of education about the importance of face coverings during the pandemic.
Both items will be heard by the full board on Tuesday.
The committee then took up the matter of revisiting Indigenous People’s Day.
Recently, the Aldermen rejected a proposal that would have placed Indigenous People’s Day on the second Monday in October to coincide with Columbus Day. They also rejected a proposal to place the holiday on the same day it is recognized by the United Nations, Aug. 9.
Shaw, who noted to the board her Native American heritage, expressed her wish to the board that the holiday become a reality regardless of the date. However, she felt that input from those submitting the proposal as to whether Aug. 9 was acceptable as an alternative would be needed and that the measure could not remove Columbus Day from the calendar.
Stewart told the committee that it was the intention of those who submitted the proposal that the holiday would accompany Columbus Day rather than replace it.
“To me, this is not about tearing down Columbus, it’s more about contextualizing Columbus’ legacy by recognizing his contributions as well as his shortcomings,” said Stewart.
Chairman Sapienza disagreed.
“This is a direct assault on an Italian holiday, cut and dry. They could have picked any other day of the year, but they picked this one,” said Sapienza.
A motion by Stewart to recommend the holiday coincide with Columbus Day was rejected and ruled out of order by Sapienza, with a parliamentary procedural motion by Long overturning Sapienza’s decision.
Stewart and Shaw joined with Long in that vote and those three Aldermen voted for the original motion again, with Levasseur and Sapienza opposing.
In a letter addressed to the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Monday, Denise Pouliot of the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook – Abenaki People challenged the assertion that Columbus Day is about Italians as a whole, noting that Columbus died centuries before Italy became a country and noting his historical record in the Caribbean.
“This is not a matter of ‘honoring’ Italians; this is about the continued honoring of a man that committed genocide, slavery and many other cruel acts against humanity,” she said. “This is about correcting the inaccuracies and injustice that has been established within American history.”
The meeting “officially” began 35 minutes late due to audio difficulties, leaving most of a presentation on the Transit-Oriented Development Plan for the South End of Elm Street without sound to the general public.
The committee ultimately did not restart that presentation, approving an endorsement that the plan become a supplemental document to the City’s Master Plan Update.
Recommendations for the 50/50 Curb and Sidewalk program as well as an extension for the age of taxis also passed, with a congregate housing measure tabled.