By Cecilia Chan
Glendale is looking to drop Columbus Day as a paid-day off for employees, which means more time for residents and merchants to do business at City Hall.
City Council in workshop last week green-lighted the proposal, which would put Glendale in line with the rest of its peers in the Valley. City employees would get a floating holiday instead.
“I’ve asked a lot of people when was the last time they dressed up in a special costume for Columbus Day or actually went out to a Columbus Day parade or had a special Columbus Day dinner and everybody looked at me like, ‘are you a moron?’” said Mayor Jerry Weiers, who broached the topic as a council item of special interest. “We don’t do Columbus Day. We did as kids, guys my age. It was a big deal but not anymore.”
So, by doing away with the city holiday, recognized on the second Monday in October, and letting city employees pick a day off to celebrate what is important to them such as a child’s birthday or an anniversary helps retain staff, according to the mayor.
“We have been working real hard to try make certain our employees currently working for us now get increases and get paid to where we can compete with other cities,” he said. “Let employees have that option and let’s serve our citizens and keep our doors opened when they should.”
Human Resources Director Jim Brown said a brief survey of department heads showed the proposal would have little to no impact to their budgets and services.
“That is another day we got people using water and electricity,” he said. “But in light of the entire fiscal year, it’s a small impact in terms of utility uses. From a service point, it’s an additional day for citizens and stakeholders to do business with the city.”
None of the 10 benchmark cities in the Valley, including Phoenix, Peoria, Surprise and Tempe close for Columbus Day, Mr. Brown said.
They either recognize another holiday or offer employees a floating holiday, he said, adding in terms of paid holidays, Glendale has 11.5 days, similar to other benchmark cities, which range from 10 to 12 days.
Maricopa County does not recognize Columbus Day as a holiday but the state of Arizona and the federal government do. There is growing support in the country to drop Columbus Day for an Indigenous People’s Day.
“It’s an interesting topic,” Councilman Jamie Aldama said. “Rather than get rid of that day or consider it a floating holiday, has staff considered a civil rights holiday in lieu.”
For instance, Phoenix recognizes Cesar E. Chavez Day in March in place of Columbus Day as a holiday, he noted.
Mr. Brown said staff kept the review to the scope of the request but did look at what other cities do. In Tempe and Phoenix, the two cities close for Cesar Chavez Day in lieu of Columbus Day. he added.
“We did not see any other city with an Indigenous Peoples’ Day or Civil Rights Day,” Mr. Brown said.
Councilman Bart Turner said he liked the idea when the mayor first raised it and still liked it. But, he said staff should consider if employees should be allowed to use the floating holiday with an existing three-day weekend, which may not be in the best interest of the city.
Mr. Brown said staff will now work with the legal department to address the city policy on the holiday and bring it to the Personnel Board for review and recommendation. The item will then be brought back to Council for a vote.
“If approved, we should have that completed and launch that on July 1 in terms of the new fiscal year,” Mr. Brown said.