As the city debates removing the statue of former mayor Frank Bogert in front of Palm Springs City Hall, a newly formed group is stepping up to say enough is enough.
Members of Friends of Frank Bogert, a group of 12 local residents, including Bogert’s widow, Negie Bogert, launched a website and social media presence this month, complete with an advertising campaign. The organization’s members hope to raise greater awareness of Bogert’s numerous contributions to the community and take the focus off of accusations that he and other influential white city leaders contributed to systemic racism in the city.
“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 record is very clear through public records, numerous news articles, and first-hand accounts which demonstrate my husband as serving all in Palm Springs.”
At issue for the group is the reasoning behind the Palm Springs Human Rights Commission’s recommendation that a statue honoring Bogert, installed in 1990, be removed from city property on E. Tahquitz Canyon Way. The commission passed its recommendation on to the Palm Springs City Council, which could take up the matter in September when its members return from an August recess.
The Human Rights Commission’s 5-1 vote came after its members sifted through 309 pages of documentation detailing how Bogert and other influential white city leaders may have contributed to one of the ugliest periods in city history. During the late 1950s through the mid-1960s, residents who were Black, indigenous, and other 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 passage of the 1959 Indian Leasing Act.
The resolution calls the statue a “symbol of the dehumanization and devaluation” of the lives of citizens who were Black, indigenous, and people of color.
Members of the group defending Bogert, including many who knew him and family members, issued an 85-page rebuttal to the findings of the Human Rights Commission. In it, they claim the city commission’s report “is based on false allegations and an untruthful, ideologically driven critique of Section 14.”
“Frank was the least class-conscious person I have ever known,” wrote David Christian, president of the group, in a statement posted online on August 19. “For decades, he is on-the-record for greeting and treating presidents and pool cleaners with the same respect and with a dry sense of humor that let you know you had a new friend.
“Unfortunately, a small group of politically-motivated individuals are wrongfully, shamefully targeting Frank and in the process, sullying all of Palm Springs in an effort to gain a political trophy for themselves.”
In casting the lone no vote in April, Commissioner Terrie Andrade acknowledged Bogert might have done harm during his tenure, 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 before the April vote. “It’s possibly one-sided. I would like to see the resolution less judgmental, more factual, and less anecdotal.”