Lewis, a Republican, said it was also inappropriate for Garduño, a Democrat, to refer to councilors who refused to sign the proclamation on short notice as “cowards” in public remarks later.
Lewis’ censure motion also takes aim at Garduño for his attempt in January to adjourn a council meeting with the agenda unfinished – the meeting continued on without him for a while – after an argument over Robert’s Rules of Order and committee assignments.
“(You) have made a habit of attacking the ethics and integrity of councilors who disagree with you,” Lewis said in a lengthy censure motion released Monday. “From the inception of your presidency, you have not acted as a representative of the full council, but have instead fractured the council and distracted from the issues at hand by heavy handedly attempting to quell council discussion that you disagree with.”
Garduño, in an interview, said Lewis’ comments represent the opinion of just one councilor. A proclamation was entirely appropriate, he said.
It honored supporters of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, he said, just as other councilors have used similar proclamations to honor other people and groups.
“Proclamations are never vetted by any other councilor,” he said.
Garduño is already in his last two months as a councilor and as president. He announced his retirement this year – after eight years representing some of Albuquerque’s most liberal neighborhoods, in the Southeast Heights – and his term ends Nov. 30.
The council picks a new president each December.
The proclamation dust-up surfaced last week when Garduño began a City Council meeting by reading a proclamation that recognized the second Monday of October as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” That, of course, is also the holiday recognized by the state and federal governments as Columbus Day.
It’s a regular workday for city of Albuquerque employees.
There was no debate on the proclamation. All nine councilors stood and shook hands with supporters of the idea after Garduño read it. Three councilors, however, refused to sign the document – Lewis among them.
It was an unusual dispute. Proclamations don’t formally establish city policy or enact law. They aren’t even the traditional method the council uses to express a nonbinding opinion on an issue. Usually, the council uses a memorial, which involves a formal debate and vote, for such expressions.
Proclamations aren’t listed on meeting agendas, voted on by the council or otherwise part of the legislative process.
They’re treated as ceremonial announcements – often to honor a person or group by designating a day in their honor. Proclamations are rarely controversial.
At last week’s council meeting, supporters of the proclamation said it was a small but meaningful step forward.
Nick Estes, a co-founder of The Red Nation, an advocacy group, said people from more than 290 federally recognized tribes call Albuquerque home.
The proclamation, Estes said, “means a lot to this community – a community that is continuously marginalized and erased, not just in this city, but the state as well.”
The debate over Columbus Day is playing out across the country, too, as more cities begin honoring Native Americans that day.
Garduño, for his part, mocked the idea last week that Christopher Columbus had “discovered” America when he arrived in 1492.
“If somebody is going to celebrate genocide,” he told the Journal last week, “I have every right to push back by celebrating humanity on the same day. For me, this is a human rights issue and a social justice issue.”
Garduño was among the hundreds of people who marched through Downtown Albuquerque on Monday evening as part of an Indigenous Peoples’ Day rally.