The village of Homer Board of Trustees voted 3-1 in favor of making Juneteenth Day (June 19) a floating holiday in the village.
Originating in Galveston, Texas, Juneteenth is a holiday that celebrates emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States.
The holiday is now celebrated annually across the country. New York state recognized it as an official paid holiday for state employees when Gov. Cuomo signed it into law on June 19 of last year.
Village employees can now choose either Juneteenth, Columbus Day or the day after Thanksgiving as a paid holiday time off, village mayor Hal McCabe said at Tuesday’s meeting (Click to watch a video of the discussion).
“They can choose one of those days as a paid holiday to represent the three days,” he said.
The addition of Juneteenth as a paid holiday is no cost to the village, McCabe said, but “it does give the employees the flexibility to celebrate it and also increases our recognition of it as a holiday.”
“It’s important to have this discussion and move it forward, especially when you’re talking about the history of this,” village deputy mayor Patrick Clune said.
McCabe mentioned residents in the village, and outside of it, are “starting to realize more and more that Columbus Day isn’t a holiday we should be celebrating.”
“It allows us to take a holiday that has negative connotations in people’s minds and use it on one that’s more positive,” he said, adding Juneteenth is more vital of a holiday than Columbus Day.
Board members Ed Finkbeiner and Tim Daley praised the move, with each saying it’s the best solution.
Kevin Slack was the only board member to vote against the decision, adding “a lot of people didn’t know it existed or what it was about.”
Slack expressed concern that if Juneteenth became a paid holiday outside of the floating process down the road, it’d cost the village $11,000 annually.
But Slack, however, said “It’s a good way to cover everything and please everyone.”
“I’m not really in favor of it, but it’s the best solution to make everybody happy and not cause a lot of ruckus,” he added.
In terms of educating the village on Juneteenth, McCabe said the board will look toward village historian Martin Sweeney to provide more of a “historical perspective on the holiday.”
“Other than that, we haven’t really discussed what the educational component will be,” McCabe added.
View the discussion on Juneteenth below: