With the council's recent decision to replace employee birthdays with a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the Town of Payson joins the vast majority of Arizona communities that celebrate the birth and life of the slain civil rights leader.
Town Manager Fred Carpenter said he introduced the council decision request in response to a suggestion made at a recent Corporate Strategic Plan meeting, and because most municipalities in Arizona already honor King with a holiday.
"On the positive side of doing this, of the 32 cities and towns in the League of Cities survey with populations greater than 10,000, only four (Payson, Prescott Valley, Lake Havasu City and Kingman) don't have the holiday," Carpenter said. "Of all 86 communities in Arizona, Payson is one of only 17 that doesn't celebrate it, so including the holiday would align Payson with the majority of Arizona municipalities."
On the downside, Carpenter noted, the King holiday would require $10,000 in overtime costs. The floating birthday holiday is taken at the discretion of each supervisor and is scheduled so overtime is not required.
Councilor Tim Fruth commenced discussion of the issue with a strong endorsement of the King holiday.
"I think as we look at adding convention centers and more tourism, it is an absolute must that we not be embarrassed on the front page of The Arizona Republic the way some other cities have in the past for not (observing) a holiday that is a national holiday and a state holiday," Fruth said. "I think it's critical, I think it's essential, and I am not proud of being one of four cities over 10,000 that doesn't support a Martin Luther King holiday."
The lone dissenter, Councilor Judy Buettner, claimed the birthday holiday makes employees feel special. She said she had conducted an "unofficial poll" and found employees were unanimously opposed to giving up their birthday holidays in favor of a King holiday.
Buettner also cautioned against basing a decision on what others do.
"As my children grew up and they'd say, ‘Well mom, why can't I do it. Everybody else does it,' I always just said, ‘We don't do what everybody else does.'"
Councilor Dick Reese countered Buettner's argument.
"I'll support (a King holiday) not because everybody else is doing it, but because it's the right thing to do," he said.
Before approving the request 6-1, the council considered and rejected replacing the day after Thanksgiving holiday with the King holiday because it would mean keeping town hall open that day.
The King holiday will not be observed until the third Monday of January, 2006, because the $10,000 for overtime is not in the 2004-05 budget.
King, who was assassinated in 1968, is one of the most revered figures in contemporary history, according to Michael Eric Dyson of National Public Radio. "His struggle for civil rights is widely regarded as helping to advance not only black America, but the entire nation," Dyson said.