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LA City Council Considers Replacing Columbus Day

LOS ANGELES ( — A Los Angeles City Council committee will continue Wednesday night to explore a controversial proposal to replace Columbus Day with what would be called Indigenous Peoples Day.

The meeting, a rare council evening event set to begin at 6 p.m., will be a continuation of the Elections, Intergovernmental Relations and Neighborhoods Committee discussion on the topic, which last addressed the issue in December.

"The City Council has the opportunity to eliminate any mention of Columbus Day in the administrative code and to join the growing movement across the nation declaring the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day in the city of Los Angeles," said Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, who introduced the motion to establish Indigenous Peoples Day in 2016. He is a member of the Wyandotte Native American tribe.

Critics of Columbus Day, which falls on the second day of October, say the holiday's namesake is undeserving of the recognition, arguing that when Columbus landed on the American continents, millions of people had already been living on there and his arrival eventually led to many of those people being enslaved or their populations thinned.

"Christopher Columbus' legacy of extreme violence, enslavement, and brutality is not in dispute. Nor is the suffering, destruction of cultures, and subjugation of Los Angeles' original indigenous people, who were here thousands of years before anyone else," he said.

The proposal has proven to be controversial, as many Italian-Americans view Columbus Day as a celebration of their national heritage.

Councilman Joe Buscaino, who is an Italian-American, has called the proposal to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day "troubling" and divisive.

"I support the creation of Indigenous Peoples Day here in Los Angeles ... but not at the expense of another cultural heritage," Buscaino said in October.

O'Farrell's original motion called for creating Indigenous People's Day but did not specifically direct it to replace Columbus Day. A subsequent report from the Human Relations Commission made the recommendation to replace Columbus Day.

Observing a holiday like Columbus Day currently costs the city about $2 million in overtime and more than $9 million in "soft" costs from reduced productivity, the report said.

"Instituting an additional paid holiday would be a fiscal challenge, given all other budget priorities facing the city," the report said.

The report found a consensus among Los Angeles stakeholders for adding an Indigenous Peoples Day but sharp disagreement in how the creation of the holiday should be done and if it should replace Columbus Day.

Los Angeles would not be the first city to replace Columbus Day, which is a federal holiday, with Indigenous Peoples Day. Several cities, including Phoenix, Portland, Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis, Berkeley and Santa Cruz, have also done so previously, as have several states.

In 2009, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger eliminated the Columbus Day state holiday as part of a budget-cutting measure, but Los Angeles continues to observe the holiday as one of 12 where city workers get a paid day off.

(©2017 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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