Susanville City Council unanimously approves one-year moratorium on proclamations

Correction: A Susanville City councilmember responded to this story to inform me the council did not approve a Pride Week proclamation last year. The councilmember said that proclamation was offered by former mayor Quincy McCourt. Lassen News regrets the error. 

A solution looking for a problem — that’s how one resident described the Susanville City Council’s Wednesday, May 15 unanimous decision to ban proclamations for one year while the city attorney and staff create guidelines to govern them.

Councilmember Patrick Parrish asked the matter be placed on the agenda at the council’s May 1 meeting because he said he believes city government should not be involved in social justice issues. He also wants to make sure the city avoids any lawsuits over any proclamations it may issue or even those it may not issue. And he wants the city to have clear guidelines regarding the city’s proclamations.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community joined the standing room only crowd at Wednesday evening’s meeting, alleging the intention of the “temporary” moratorium on proclamations sought to block a possible Pride Month proclamation expected next month.

On Councilmember Russ Brown’s recommendation, the council approved the one-year moratorium on all proclamations to address that concern.

Pride Month supporters march up Main Street on the way to City Hall to hear the Susanville City Council proclaim June 2023 as Pride Month in the city of Susanville. Photos by Chris Cole

History of Pride Month
According to the Library of Congress, “June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Pride Month. This month-long celebration demonstrates how LGBTQ Americans have strengthened our country by using their talent and creativity to help create awareness and goodwill. The first Pride March in New York City was held on June 28, 1970, on the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.”

According to Wikipedia, “In June 1999, U.S. President Bill Clinton declared ‘the anniversary of [the] Stonewall [riots] every June in America as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.’ In 2011, President Barack Obama expanded the officially recognized Pride Month to include the whole of the LGBT community.  In 2017 (President) Donald Trump declined to continue the federal recognition of Pride Month in the United States, though he later recognized it in 2019 in a Tweet later used as a Presidential Proclamation. After taking office in 2021, (President) Joe Biden recognized Pride Month and vowed to push for LGBT rights in the United States, despite previously voting against same-sex marriage and school education of LGBT topics in the Senate.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom recognized Pride month in 2023 — “This month – and every month – California stands with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) community as they take pride in who they are and whom they love. Pride Month is a time to remember the gift that is our remarkable diversity, making all of us stronger as we continue to pursue equality, acceptance, and freedom for all.

“The LGBTQ+ community has fought tirelessly for their very right to exist and to be treated with the respect and equality that everyone deserves. But their fight is far from over. Around the world, and even here in the United States, members of the LGBTQ+ community face continuous, hate-fueled discrimination and violence. Across the country, deplorable efforts targeting our LGBTQ+ community are undoing decades of progress, attacking our foundational rights and freedoms as Americans. We must confront this rising tide of oppression and intolerance to ensure that all are safe and welcomed in our communities.”

Jacob Hibbitts addresses Pride Month supporters in front of City Hall in June 2023.

Quincy McCourt, the city’s former mayor offered Pride Month proclamations in both 2022 and 2023, but they were not approved by the Susanville City Council, according to a councilmember.

Last June, former Mayor Quincy McCourt said, “Celebrating Pride Month influences awareness and provides support and advocacy for the city of Susanville’s 2SLGBTQ+AI community, and is an opportunity to take action and engage in dialog to strengthen alliances, build acceptance and advance equal rights.”

Last June this message appeared under a Gay Pride Flag. The red paint was added later in response to the first message. Photos by Sam Williams

A few days earlier that month, someone attacked Lassen Family Services where the rainbow Pride Flag had been displayed.

Lassen Library employee Jamie said she posted this small rainbow flag on a bulletin board in the children’s section of the library, igniting the local controversy. She said if people didn’t want their children to read certain books, they shouldn’t check them out of the library.

And some residents opposed the posting of a small Pride Flag on a bulletin board at the Lassen Library District and sought to have some of the library’s holdings removed from the shelves due to their gay content. The library’s board of directors retained the responsibility to independently make those decisions.

According to the staff report for Resolution No. 24-6320, “Currently, the city of Susanville lacks a formalized policy outlining the parameters and criteria for items to be presented as proclamations at City Council meetings. While proclamations serve as a means to recognize individuals, groups, or events, the absence of clear guidelines raises concerns regarding fairness and inclusivity in the selection process.

“The moratorium serves to provide an opportunity for the development and implementation of a proclamation policy that promotes equity, transparency and inclusivity in the recognition process.”

Responding to a question from Councilmember Curtis Bortle, City Attorney Margaret Long estimated it would take three to six months to review similar polices from other government entities.

The council heard more than an hour of public comment on the topic during the Business from the Floor portion of the meeting and as the resolution was discussed. One speaker noted the city has never suffered a lawsuit due to any proclamation it has approved. Some suggested the city should adopt an “all or nothing” policy on proclamations.

Susanville City Councilmember Patrick Parrish, upper left.

When the matter came back to the council for discussion, Parrish clarified his position.

“Thomas Herrera,” Parrish said, “a few months ago when I was sitting in that seat, I was always asking myself, why does he talk so much? I understand now. You have to clarify your point. I have some notes here and I want to make my point very clear because I think there’s some misunderstanding.”

He said someone told him last week his intention to end proclamations was to end Black History Month. He said he didn’t understand that.

He noted one speaker pointed out there were bigger issues to tackle in Susanville, and he agreed. He said he comes from Southern California and all the big city issues will eventually come to Susanville. He mentioned George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, Palestine, Israel, Ukraine and asked, “What do we do. We’re open for almost anything.”

He stressed his intention was to establish rules and guidelines.

“You can have all the proclamations you want,” Parrish said. “If we don’t (have guidelines) … we’re picking and choosing what we want to have proclamations for and what we don’t. I do not feel it’s government’s role to be invasive in your life … I don’t want to make it seem as though the government has to see you and verify who you are. That’s not the government’s role. You were created in the image of God … You are who you are … If the government needed to verify or confirm my blackness then the government is able to take it away also. That’s not the role of government. The role of government is to govern the city. You live your life.”

He said the LBGTQ+ community is free to have its events and to live as they desire, but “the government’s role is to run the city, provide opportunity, equal access under the law and stay out of your life. Like I said, I’m from the big city. I’ve seen what these proclamations do. They cause more division than bring people together. I’ve seen good people just like yourselves be called — just because you didn’t support something or a proclamation — racist right to your face. Just because of the way you look or just because you disagreed with them. I do not want that to happen to Susanville.”

He said Susanville is a great place but when he was in the academy (to become a correctional officer) he was told, “You don’t want to live in Susanville because in three days someone’s going to burn a cross on your front lawn. They still preach that today … Susanville is not like that. We’re are more about ideals and individual freedom. We don’t want to be like LA. We don’t want to be like San Francisco. We don’t want to be like college campuses where the government or administrators take sides.”