CITY OF TONAWANDA N.Y. (WIVB) – The City of Tonawanda is holding a ceremony at 9 a.m. Monday at City Hall to celebrate Juneteenth. (You can watch a replay above.)
It comes after News 4 reported that the city would not be officially observing the holiday and pressure from community members to give workers the day off.
“We’re in a critical time in our nation’s history, where this holiday needs to be observed everywhere,” said Jeremy Zellner, who’s the chair of the Erie County Democratic committee.
Zellner, who lives in the City of Tonawanda, is putting pressure on Mayor John White to close city offices in honor of Juneteenth. He believes closing city buildings Monday shows that the city stands in solidarity with the Buffalo community after 10 people were killed in a racially motivated attack last month.
“To show them that we care and we believe in this,” he said during a news conference Sunday. “We want people to go home and celebrate it tomorrow and we want people to be home with their families, if they’ve got kids their kids are home. It’s important. It’s more important than ever before.”
Zellner says this push is not political and argues by not giving city workers the day off, it sends the wrong message.
“To me what this is about is a simple lack of leadership from the mayor in Tonawanda to not have a plan in place to observe this holiday tomorrow properly,” he said.
Mayor White tells News 4, he believes the motive is political.
“Yes I think it was politicized, absolutely, and it shouldn’t have been,” he said. “You have a concern, come to me. You had last Tuesday and I would’ve had more than enough time to put something together. We had a workshop and nobody brought that forward to me.”
Mayor White says there’s a number of reasons why he’s unable to close down the city Monday, including labor contracts.
“I am in favor of it. I’m looking forward to doing it coming into next year when we go into negotiations,” he said. “I’m gonna do what’s in the best interest of the city and to just throw a day out there, go ahead and take the day off, I want to do it with everybody with the unions, with the department heads, everybody involved and I want to make it something that’s good for the city and all the workers in the city.”
“I’m sure he wants to do the right thing. I understand. I do understand his rationale,” said Erie County Comptroller Kevin Hardwick during Sunday’s news conference. “Labor negotiations are tricky and this sort of thing needs to be worked out and the fact that he’s only been mayor less than 6 months I think probably plays into this and I think in the end he’ll do the right thing.”
As of right now, City of Tonawanda employees are expected to report to work. Mayor White says he will allow them to take the day off if they want to but that the city will remain open.