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A spirit that is not afraid

Why Auburn nixed creating a local holiday for Rosa Parks

<p>The newly elected Auburn City Council meets for the first time on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Auburn, Ala.&nbsp;</p>

The newly elected Auburn City Council meets for the first time on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Auburn, Ala. 

The City of Auburn recently entertained the idea of making a city holiday in honor of Rosa Parks before deciding the cost was too high. But how exactly is a holiday created, and why is the cost so high?

David Dorton, the City of Auburn director of public affairs, said the City Council is the body that starts the process of adopting a new holiday.

On an official city holiday, city offices are closed and employees get the day off. 

“The City Council adopts holidays by adopting a resolution, either directly relating to the holiday or by approving the city’s personnel policies, which define holidays for city employees,” Dorton said.

Dorton said the Council must weigh the costs against the benefits before approving a new holiday, as well as the value and meaning of the holiday itself.

“Analysis of creating a new holiday is driven in large part by the city’s stewardship of tax dollars,” Dorton said. “A paid holiday increases city expenses by creating a day on which employees are paid, but there’s limited productivity towards providing city services or accomplishing city projects.”

The estimated cost of a holiday is about $130,000, while the benefits of a holiday include attracting and retaining employees in a competitive labor market, promotion of good employee relations and work-life balance by enabling employees to take part in commonly recognized holidays with their families, Dorton said.

Councilmember Tommy Dawson suggested a holiday in honor of Parks, but the Council came to the conclusion that a day of remembrance was a better idea. 

“I think she did so much for the civil rights movement and really put it into action to make things better for everybody involved,” Dawson said. “I think her sacrifice needs to be acknowledged each year.”

Dawson said he wants Auburn to be in the forefront of educating youth about people like Parks.

He believes remembering the trials of Parks and others like her can bridge the gap between the polarized views that contribute to our volatile political state.

“I think we need to remember what our ancestors have done,” Dawson said. “I think we need to remember the difference people like Mrs. Parks tried to make and did make.”

Mayor Ron Anders said it is the responsibility of the City Council to find ways to improve the lives of the citizens, and it is the mayor’s job to support and nurture the ideas of the council.

“The responsibility of the mayor is to allow the freedom to bring new ideas forward,” Anders said. “To take those ideas and set them in motion to a place where we can ultimately make the decision of if they are good for the community or not.”

Ultimately, the Council and the mayor agreed that the cost of officiating the new holiday was too high, and the money could be used more effectively elsewhere. Instead, the City Council and mayor are working on a day of remembrance in honor of Parks. 

“We like the idea of doing something for Rosa Parks,” Anders said. “We’re trying to put together a good plan that we can present to the community.”

Anders and Dawson both confirmed they had some ideas lined up, hinting that they were focused on December, the month Rosa Parks was born.

“We are considering a particular project that would be very exciting,” Anders said. “I hope we can announce that in the near future, but the cat’s not ready to be let out of the bag yet.”

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