Aldermen approve Indigenous Peoples’ Day for different day than Columbus Day

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Zoom Aldermanic meeting Nov. 10, 2020.

MANCHESTER, N.H. – Indigenous Peoples’ Day is now an official holiday in Manchester, just not on the day that was expected.

Following a compromise proposed by Daniel O’Neil (At-Large), Indigenous People’s Day will be recognized in Manchester on the first Monday in October, with the second Monday in October still being solely for Columbus Day.

O’Neil got the idea for the compromise from Akron, Ohio, which split the two holidays and rebranded Columbus Day as Italian-American Heritage Day.

The proposed holiday was originally intended to coincide with Columbus Day, but that was shot down along with an attempt to place it on August 9, the official date for Indigenous Peoples’ Day according to the United Nations.

After receiving a contentious committee recommendation, O’Neil saw the compromise as a way to end division

Although Will Stewart (Ward 2) told the board that the entire purpose of the request from those who asked for it was to highlight Columbus’ actions in regard to Native Americans, most of the board found the compromise acceptable.

Anthony Sapienza (Ward 5) and Mike Porter (Ward 8), did not believe that the true intent of the proposal was to have the two holidays coincide with each other, with Sapienza seeing the effort as a direct affront to Italian-Americans.

Both Sapienza and Porter said they would support Indigenous’ Peoples Day on another day however, and Barbara Shaw (Ward 9) felt that putting the proposed holiday was a better option than Aug. 9.

“These people are as passionate about this as Italians are about Columbus Day, so I’m glad we could find a compromise,” she said.

A motion to receive and file the proposal passed 10-3, with Shaw, Stewart and Pat Long (Ward 3) in opposition. Ross Terrio (Ward 7) revisited the matter later in the meeting using O’Neil’s recommendation and it passed unanimously outside of the opposition of Long.

In other news from the meeting and some of its prior committee hearings…

  • A proposal by Terrio to conclude the Safe Stations program at the end of the Fiscal Year (June 30, 2021) was shot down and derided by Kevin Cavanaugh (Ward 1) as something coming from a lack of homework. Mayor Joyce Craig responded to the criticism that Safe Stations and other assistance is drawing the homeless population to Manchester by noting that most transient homeless people come here due to family or friends and they only begin taking part in the city’s services after they are made aware of them. The matter was sent to committee at a future date.
  • Manchester-Boston Regional Airport Director Ted Kitchens told the Special Committee on Airport Activities that the airport is doing better than Logan Airport in Boston and T.F. Green Airport in Providence, RI. However, he also noted that Delta has yet to confirm that they will return to MHT in the spring. Delta suspended service from its two gates at the airport in May. Kitchens also said that parking rates in the airport garage will raise from $10 to $14 per day, still down from its $17 a day pre-pandemic rate.
  • Porter asked Craig why Mary Steady, the Manchester School District’s Chief Equity Officer and 504/Title IX Director for Students received a 13 percent raise during Monday’s Board of School Committee meeting while the district is also facing a $9 million shortfall. Craig told Porter he should ask the superintendent’s office directly, but then explained that the shortfall came from three places.
    • First, reduced base adequacy grant due to the city having 800 fewer students this year ($2.8 million), which will disappear if enrollment stays the same next year.
    • Second, differentiated aid for free and reduced lunch ($3.6 million) has also been impacted since all students are now receiving lunches at their homes, impacting regulations surrounding that aid.
    • The remainder of the $9 million came from changes from the state regarding retirement benefit assistance for municipalities. In regard to Steady, Craig noted that her current position has expanded to beyond what she was originally hired to do but her salary did not rise as well. Craig also noted that she has been eyed by other nearby districts and it would cost more to find a replacement for her than it would be to give her the raise. In the Board of School Committee packet on Monday, it was noted that the raise would also not impact the district’s general fund.