Bogert statue appears headed for removal from City Hall

The statue of a former Palm Springs mayor is one step closer to being removed from the front of City Hall after a 5-1 vote in favor of a resolution calling for its removal by the city’s Human Rights Commission Monday evening. The resolution will next be considered by the Palm Springs City Council at an undetermined date.

The city’s Human Rights Commission voted 5-1 Monday to remove the statue of former Palm Springs Mayor Frank Bogert from the front of City Hall. The issue will go before the City Council next.

In casting the lone no vote, Commissioner Terrie Andrade acknowledge harm may have been done by Mayor Frank Bogert during his tenure approximately 60 years ago, but agreed with some community members who voiced opposition to the statue’s removal that much of the claims about Bogert may not be factual.

“Some of the data presented as facts is uncorroborated,” Andrade said. “It’s possibly one-sided. …I would like to see the resolution less judgmental, more factual, and less anecdotal.”

Bogert served as mayor twice, including during one of the ugliest periods in city history. In the late 1950s through mid-1960s, residents who were primarily Black, Indigenous and people of color, were forced out of their homes in a one-square-mile section of tribal-owned land downtown — known as Section 14 — when white business owners sought to develop the land following the 1959 Indian Leasing Act. The act permitted certain tribes, including the Agua Caliente which owned Section 14, to lease their lands up to 99 years.

Commissioners voting in favor, however, pointed to 309 pages of documentation submitted along with the resolution that detailed how Bogert and other influential white city leaders contributed to the systemic racism Palm Springs and other communities across the country are grappling with today. The resolution calls the statue a, “symbol of the dehumanization and devaluation” of the lives of BIPOC citizens.

“We have a social responsibility to our communities,” said Commissioner Edwin Ramoran. “Especially those that have been affected for decades. The city is at a point of reckoning.”

Some community members who attended the Monday evening Zoom meeting, however, said the responsibility is to get the facts right about both Bogert and the events that took place at Section 14.

“Mind you 250 white families were moved from Section 14 in the ‘50s — many more than any residents of color,” said Susan Smith. “This is being made into a racist issue when it ought not be. More whites were disposed of than people of color.

“This whole situation is being spun. This needs to cease.”

City officials maintained that the resolution does not call for erasing the memory of Bogert and destroying the statue. Instead, they said, the resolution simply asks that no statue honoring only one individual be allowed to stand at City Hall. Exactly what would be done with the statue, if removed, is still to be determined.

“For those who say this is cancel culture, we’re not cancelling the good Frank Bogert did, and we’re not cancelling the bad that he did,” said City Councilmember Geoff Kors, who himself served as mayor from 2019-2020. “This is cancelling him being the only person we honor with a statue in front of City Hall. It is taking into account the incredible pain caused when people come to City Hall. It causes me great pain, and I can only imagine the pain it causes families that were involved in Section 14.

“To celebrate one person who was involved in this atrocity doesn’t belong in front of City Hall.”


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TODAY’S EVENTS

ONE-PS meeting: The regular meeting of Organized Neighborhoods of Palm Springs (ONE-PS), comprised of representatives from the recognized neighborhood organizations in Palm Springs, is today at 5:30 PM. The meeting agenda and call in information can be found here,

Crafts online: A “Youth Craft Along” will be held at 10 AM. Children’s Librarian Nancy Valdivia demonstrates making sand art in a bottle on Facebook and YouTube.

Teen event: Teen librarian Sean Corbin hosts “This is NOT Teen Talk” at 4 PM on Instagram Live.

BRIEFLY

TAX UPDATE: The city has surpassed its projected hotel and motel tax revenues, according to the latest reports available here. According to those reports, released earlier this month, the city has collected $17.5 million in transit occupancy tax (TOT) for fiscal year 2020-21, with four months to go. It had anticipated collecting only $14.1 million for the entire fiscal year, a 61 percent decline due largely to lockdowns preventing tourists from traveling to the city during the pandemic. The current figures show a 20 percent decline in those revenues. The tax is the city’s largest single source of revenue and is collected from guests of hotels, motels, and vacation rentals.

CANNABIS GRANT: The City of Palm Springs has been awarded a $1 million Cannabis Youth Education Grant from the California Board of State and Community Corrections to focus on the individual and systemic impacts of cannabis legalization. The city partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of Palm Springs to apply for the grant funds, which will be used to develop resources to address adolescent cannabis offenses; decrease cannabis use among youth ages 12-18; and increase youth and adult connections to build resiliency and provide dedicated public safety personnel to assist with cannabis enforcement.

CODE COMPLIANCE: The city reported 145 code compliance activities in its weekly report ending April 11, including seven vacation rental citations. There were  a total of 15 calls reported to the Vacation Rental Hotline. For the week ending April 4, there were 134 activities reported, including 32 calls to the hotline and three vacation rental citations.

VACCINES AVAILABLE: Anyone 16 and older now qualifies for a COVID-19 vaccine in Riverside County. If you qualify, you can get one at the Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 North Avenida Caballeros, from 8 AM-5 PM today, and all week through Friday. Appointments can be reserved online at www.rivcoph.org/COVID-19-Vaccine. No luck at the convention center? Find a list of community providers such as pharmacies here.

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