A moratorium on all proclamations — except those from City Hall — will begin on July 5 following a split vote by the Turlock City Council during their meeting on Tuesday.
A proclamation is an official announcement issued by a city’s mayor to recognize a day, week or month that will have a major citywide impact. It’s one of several ways for the community to engage with its city government, and the goal of a proclamation is usually to honor, celebrate or create awareness for an event, cause, special occasion or other significant issues.
While the City of Turlock declares proclamations from within the organization frequently, like the recent May 25 proclamation in honor of retiring transit planner Scott Medeiros or the annual Arbor Day proclamation, for example, there are occasions where the public requests for a proclamation to be made, like the March 23 proclamation for Vietnam Veterans Day.
Councilmember Rebecka Monez on May 25 requested the placement of a temporary pause on proclamations not related to the City, which was brought before the Council during their June 8 meeting. Her reasoning for the moratorium, she said, was so that the City Clerk’s workload could be reduced in the absence of office aides. City Clerk Allison Martin is responsible for overseeing the proclamation process, which she stated occurs anywhere from five to eight times per year.
While the pause called for a 12-month stop to non-City proclamations, Monez stated that the moratorium could be ended sooner if the City Clerk’s office became fully staffed before then.
“I’m looking for efficiencies in reducing the workload until that office is able to tread water and we can get it fully staffed,” Monez said.
The requested pause on proclamations drew ire from the local LGBTQ+ community and their supporters, as June is Pride Month. At least one public comment caller had reached out to the City Council prior to Tuesday’s meeting about a proclamation to celebrate the month, following similar proclamations by the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors, the City of Patterson and the City of Waterford.
Julia Rose Valdez called into the meeting to say she had previously emailed the City about issuing a proclamation for Pride Month and urged the Council to vote “no” on the moratorium. Turlock resident Michelle Park said she thought the requested pause on proclamations was odd, as it takes away from the public’s ability to see themselves represented through city government.
“Instead of recognizing the LGBTQ community, educating others and everyone benefitting from a proclamation, we are left here in Turlock unrecognized, unsupported and far from celebrating,” Park said. “Who’s not going to be recognized during this moratorium? Whose voices are you silencing?”
John Aguirre of the Stanislaus County LGBTQ Collaborative said he was inspired to call into Tuesday’s meeting after several of his constituents alerted him of the proposed moratorium and expressed their displeasure. He also stated that he and Monez spoke on the phone prior to the meeting, and the Councilwoman agreed to support a Pride Month proclamation should the moratorium be voted down.
“They saw it as a way that the councilmember was trying to circumvent any attempt to request a proclamation from the City for LGBTQ Pride Month,” Aguirre told the Council. “...We’ve never had any interaction with Turlock yet, but apparently we’re going to have to be interacting with Turlock. Historically, unfortunately your folks here have a history of being discriminatory toward LGBTQ folks. We’re part of your community.”
Tuesday wasn’t the first — or last — time that the topic of support for the LGBTQ community has dominated a meeting’s conversation; a 2019 decision saw the City Council decline to amend Turlock’s flag policy so that the rainbow pride flag could fly in front of City Hall during the month of June.
Monez adamantly denied accusations that her request for a pause on proclamations was an effort to stifle any celebration of Pride Month, noting that one of the top employees at one of her three nonprofits is black and lesbian. She said she was surprised to wake up to texts from the Interim Police Chief and Acting City Manager on the morning of the meeting alerting her of the LGBTQ community’s issue with the requested moratorium.
“...I’m almost embarrassed to say I didn’t even realize that June is always Pride Month for our LGBTQ community,” Monez said, stating she herself hadn’t received any Pride Month proclamation requests, but that she had requests from two religious entities and one military organization. “...To indicate that I’m not supportive of that community is absurd and I rebuke that inclination on all accounts. I apologize that this has been turned into some political issue, which it isn’t.”
Councilmembers Andrew Nosrati and Nicole Larson both said that if the moratorium is something that would hurt the LGBTQ community, as had been heard during public comment, it should not be approved. Larson came up with the compromise of holding off on the moratorium until after Pride Month.
“I think that would solve it,” Larson said. “If it really is for the staff burden, then postpone the moratorium until next month then.”
In a split 3-2 vote, with Nosrati and Larson dissenting, the Council approved a moratorium on proclamations beginning July 5 and, under the motion of Larson, directed City staff to prepare a proclamation for the LGBTQ community to be read at the next meeting.