Council passes on official holidays for Juneteenth or Native American Heritage Day

City offices in Hoquiam will not officially recognize Juneteenth or Native American Heritage Day after the city council failed to adopt an ordinance at their meeting this week. Councilperson Steven Puvogel, who supports the changes and detailed their history, posted to social media the following morning that he should “thank Jim George, Tracy Ushman, Brenda Carlstrom and Denise Anderson for votes in favor of the ordinance that would have made Juneteenth and Native American Heritage Day official holidays in Hoquiam.”

Juneteenth is a contraction of the date June 19th, and commemorates the effective ending of slavery in the United States.

President George W. Bush signed into law legislation designating the Friday after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day in 2008 as a day to pay tribute to Native Americans. He also encouraged federal, state, and local governments to observe the date. Many states do recognize the date, like Hoquiam, as the ‘Day after Thanksgiving.’

At a previous council meeting, Puvogel requested that city staff draft an ordinance that would change the list of recognized holidays adding June 19th as Juneteenth and recognizing Native American Heritage Day instead of the day after Thanksgiving. City staff said that increased costs for Juneteenth included about $13 thousand in police holiday pay depending on the outcome of union negotiations, and an unknown amount for potential back fill overtime.

The council earlier this month adopted a proclamation declaring April 30 as Arbor Day and April 2021 as Arbor Month, however, as a proclamation the change did not add holidays or require new negotiations with unions regarding office hours or overtime.

“I’m disappointed that Hoquiam has missed an opportunity to live up to our nickname, the Friendliest City,” Puvogel told The Daily World. “Juneteenth is an acknowledgement that ‘nobody’s free until everybody’s free’ and that the end of the horrible stain of slavery should be celebrated. This will be a state legal holiday next year, including for counties and cities like Hoquiam. We also had an opportunity to acknowledge the important heritage and contributions the first nations people play in our history and everyday life, rather than a generic Friday off. This is a setback as we try to encourage businesses to invest in Hoquiam and I hope that the council will revisit this issue soon.”

The amended list narrowly failed to get enough supporting votes (6-5) with council members Bill Nelson, John Pellegrini, Elizabeth Reid, Al Dick, Greg Grun, and Paul McMillian voting against. The city will continue to recognize 10 holidays throughout the year, including New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.