Mistake nullifies committee vote on downtown Santa Rosa unity sculpture

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Santa Rosa’s Committee for Art in Public Places will reverse its controversial decision to limit the number of languages ​​that will appear on a unity sculpture planned for the town square after city staff discovered by the following that there were not enough votes in favor to approve the proposal.

The error occurred during a special committee meeting on January 10 where members considered the languages ​​and words that would appear on Unum, a $300,000 stainless steel sculpture meant to symbolize the diverse cultures of Santa Rosa. It will be built in the city center on the Place du Vieux Palais de Justice.

Three of the four committee members present voted to proceed with a list of 17 languages ​​for the sculpture, 15 of which represented the languages ​​most commonly spoken in Santa Rosa households, as identified in census data.

Two other languages, Southern Pomo and Coast Miwok, were added by a community advisory group tasked with defining fair criteria for which languages ​​would be included.

Outcry over the omission of Japanese and Hebrew from the languages ​​featured on the sculpture prompted inquiries about how the public could appeal the committee’s decision, the economic development director said, Raisa de La Rosa.

And, subsequent meetings with the city attorney and the clerk’s office determined that the three affirmative votes cast Jan. 10 were insufficient to pass the motion, de La Rosa said. The committee needs a majority of its seven members to vote in favor of a motion even if one of those seats is vacant, she said.

“We weren’t considering the full committee. We were considering seated members,” said de La Rosa, whose department oversees the public arts committee.

The procedural error means the measure proposing the languages ​​and words that will appear on the sculpture will come back to the committee for further consideration at a special meeting at 3:30 p.m. on February 22, the arts and culture director said. of Santa Rosa, Tara Thompson.

At that time, city staff will propose that the committee expand the list of languages ​​that will appear on the sculpture to include the top 30 languages ​​spoken in Santa Rosa, as identified by U.S. Census Bureau data. They will appear alongside the two Indigenous languages ​​previously selected by the advisory group.

It was important for city staff to follow the criteria established by the community advisory group — census bureau data — in developing the language list to fairly represent the community, de La Rosa said.

“These were very specific requests, very specific languages ​​from very specific groups,” de La Rosa said of calls to expand the list of languages ​​after the Jan. 10 meeting. “And our interest is that not only are these groups represented, but that all groups are represented.”

News of the January 10 invalid vote led Nina Bonos, a Santa Rosa woman who opposed the committee’s initial decision to limit the list of languages, to breathe a “sigh of relief,” she said. .

She was among the group of local Jewish and Japanese residents who argued that the sculpture, named after the Latin word for “unity,” would represent exclusion if the committee did not change the list of languages ​​to be more inclusive of the community.

Bonos saw the city staff’s decision to increase the number of languages ​​it will recommend to the committee as a step toward inclusiveness, though Bonos said the list may not be as comprehensive as it is. she should be.

For example, Bonos asked if the committee was considering making the sculpture accessible to people who are blind.

“If there are others (who feel left out), then those people should speak up and see if they can be included,” Bonos said.

In a statement, the Japanese American Citizens League of Sonoma County said it supports the committee’s decision to review the list of languages ​​that will feature on the sculpture.

Phyllis Tajii, a member of the chapter’s human and civil rights committee, said she finds it particularly important that Arabic be included in the revised list now proposed by city staff, as it could be a way to represent the Muslim community in the region.

The subsequent discussions that city staff have had with community members since the committee’s initial vote have been an interesting part of the process, de La Rosa said.

“’Just for whom?’ is a thing that has made people understand position, privilege, access, belonging, all those things that I think people are struggling with right now,” de La Rosa said of these conversations.

You can contact editor Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or [email protected] On Twitter @nashellytweets.

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