The Palm Springs City Council plans to hold a joint meeting with the city’s Human Rights Commission on September 29 to discuss a proposal to remove and relocate the statue of former Mayor Frank Bogert in front of City Hall, and the public is invited to weigh in.
The meeting, scheduled via Zoom at 5:30 PM, could see heated debate and culminate with a final vote on the proposal after years of discussion over whether it was right to honor Bogert, an actor who served as mayor twice, including during one of the ugliest periods in city history in the late 1950s through the mid-1960s.
According to a resolution adopted by the Human Rights Commission in April, residents who were Black, indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) were forced out of their homes in a one-square-mile section of tribal-owned land downtown — known as Section 14 — when business owners, who were primarily white, sought to develop the property following the 1959 Indian Leasing Act that allowed tribes to enter into long-term leases.
The resolution uses language similar to that found in a 1968 State Attorney General report. That report was critical of the city’s treatment of Section 14 residents, but concluded no criminal activity occurred. The resolution calls out Bogert, specifically, alleging he played a key role in what the Attorney General’s office labeled, “a city-engineered Holocaust.”
“Collaborating with local businessmen and attorneys, Mayor Bogert and Palm Springs civic leaders persecuted their lower-income constituents who resided on the land owned by local Tribal Members,” the resolution reads. “The successful implementation of this plan resulted in the removal of the city’s people of color and restructured the race and class configuration of the city.”
The Human Rights Commission passed its recommendation to remove the statue to the City Council by a 5-1 vote. City leaders are also considering issuing a formal apology for the events at Section 14 and plan to discuss the apology at the September 29 meeting.
The proposal to remove and relocate the statue touched off a wave of both praise and criticism on various public forums, including social media.
Those in favor say removing the statue from in front of City Hall would acknowledge that some of Bogert’s his actions had a negative effect on certain segments of the city’s population. They also point to the fact many members of the BIPOC community opposed the statue’s installation, but that their voices were not heard by city leaders when the statue installation was approved in 1990.
Opponents of the removal say they are not as concerned with the statue as they are with Bogert’s reputation. Among those defending Bogert is a group formed last month to combat what they said is misinformation. They released an 85-page rebuttal to the findings laid out by the Human Rights Commission, and recently began advertising on social media as well as television.
“We are dismayed and shocked at the false and slanderous things being said about Frank, a lifelong champion for others in Palm Springs,” said Negie Bogert, the former mayor’s widow and member of Friends of Frank Bogert. “The record is very clear through public records, numerous news articles, and first-hand accounts which demonstrate my husband as serving all in Palm Springs.”
Residents who wish to speak at the meeting may submit their comments to the Office of the City Clerk prior to the meeting no later than 5 PM. The phone number is 760-323-8204. At the appropriate time, a staff member will call members of the public to provide testimony.
Written comments may be submitted to the City Council by emailing [email protected]. Correspondence received during or after the meeting will be distributed to the City Council and retained for the official record.