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March 1, 2021

Fate of Washington statue goes to City Council

Black Lives Matter flag could fly at Civic Plaza

WATSONVILLE—The Watsonville City Council is at last expected to make a decision on the future of the George Washington statue that currently inhabits the City Plaza.

A hot-button issue since the death of George Floyd in May 2020 sparked national social unrest, the fight over the donated sculpture of the nation’s first president has elicited an outpouring of opinions about its preferred location, as well as historic preservation, racial oppression and social justice, among other things.

The City Council will meet at 6:30pm on Tuesday.

Dueling petitions and protests got it on the city’s radar, and subsequent heated Parks and Recreation Commission meetings have driven a wedge between those on opposite sides of the issue.

The Parks Commission has recommended the City Council remove the statue. That’s despite the results of a survey in which 60% of roughly 1,200 respondents said they wanted to keep the statue in its current location at the historic park in the heart of the city.

City parks staff is again recommending that the City Council leave the statue where it is and add a “bilingual plaque on the podium of the bust that describes a broad historical perspective about George Washington.”

But the possibilities of what the City Council could do with the statue are endless. Watsonville Mayor Jimmy Dutra on Facebook this morning presented three possible options for the statue:

1.  Move the bust to the library and add a plaque explaining the history of George Washington

2.  Keep it in the plaza with a plaque explaining Washington’s history 

3.  Put the issue on the next ballot in 2022 and let the community decide the fate of the bust

His post, which solicited opinions from the public, had more than 190 comments by 4:30pm Monday.

Other items on the City Council agenda:

Budget projections still steady

Despite the economic shutdowns resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, the city’s sales tax revenues have held steady thanks to a myriad of reasons, including a sharp rise in online shopping and several budget cuts.

As a result, Administrative Services Director Cindy Czerwin is predicting the city will end the 2020-21 fiscal year about $5 million better than originally budgeted and only slightly below prior years.

Because of that, Czerwin is recommending the City Council use about a half-million dollars now included in the general fund budget to help various departments. That includes about $270,000 to cover overtime costs from the fire and police departments, both of which have been dealing with staff turnover.

Flying Black Lives Matter flag for February

Councilman Aurelio Gonzalez is proposing the city fly the Black Lives Matter flag for Black History Month, celebrated annually in February, in front of the Civic Plaza.

The ask comes on the heels of the City Council’s decision last month to fly the LGBTQ Pride flag in June, a resolution proposed by Dutra. That resolution passed 5-2, with Gonzalez and Councilman Lowell Hurst dissenting.

The item is on the consent agenda, which typically contains items that are expected to pass without discussion by the agency in question. Board members and members of the public may pull any of the items on the consent agenda for discussion during meetings.

The City Council at the aforementioned January meeting asked for a flag policy to be established at a future meeting, an item that will also be on Tuesday’s consent agenda.

Called the Commemorative Flag Policy, it would allow a commemorative flag to be displayed below the city of Watsonville flag—both flags would be the same size (4-by-6 feet). The commemorative flag would be displayed for no more than 31 days. If the City Council approves two flags for one month, then each flag would be displayed no more than 15 days each.

The policy would also budget out $2,400 annually, which would allow up to two flags per month. The cash comes from the City Council’s budget for office equipment and supplies.

The official Black Live Matter flag, according to the staff report, is black, charged with the official logo of the movement: words BLACK LIVES MATTER in white, inscribed in three rows, and three yellow horizontal lines below.

For the complete City Council agenda, click here.

Tony Nuñez
Tony Nuñez
Managing Editor Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor for five years before entering his current role in 2019. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus, he covers the city, business, housing, entertainment and more.


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