Westborough Select Board votes against supporting recommendation to replace Columbus Day

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By Stuart Foster, Contributing Writer

Westborough town iconWESTBOROUGH – The Westborough Select Board voted 3-2 against supporting a recommendation from the town’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee (DIC) to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day at a meeting on Oct. 26. 

Select Board members Shelby Marshall, Ian Johnson and Patrick Welch voted for the motion, while members Allen Edinberg and Sean Keogh voted against it. 

The motion was specifically against supporting the DIC’s recommendation. As such, Edinberg and Keogh were simply voting not to reject it. 

The vote came after Select Board members discussed other options to address the issue, which has seen community members speak out both in favor of and in opposition to Columbus Day. One of the ideas proposed was the option to hold a listening session to gather community input.

“I’m not sure there’s a lot of good to come out of public listening sessions, except for potentially more division in the community,” Marshall said. 

Welch said that, while he thought the Select Board would likely not hear a lot of new information in a listening session, the Board had previously indicated it would hold one. The board had subsequently received requests from community members to hold such a session, Welsh said. 

Keogh said he was concerned with backtracking from a listening session, although he said that having supporters and opponents in the same room might not be the best way to move forward on the issue.

“I would say I’m up in the air on it,” he said. “At this point, I would still consider having a listening session.” 

There was also a discussion about the possibility of having a shared holiday for both Columbus Day and Indigenous People’s Day. 

However, Marshall mentioned that the group Indigenous People’s Day in Massachusetts had explicitly told DIC that a shared day was not wanted, making it an ineffective compromise.

Johnson said that the issue, which is not part of the town’s strategic plan, town manager’s goals or the Select Board’s goals, has already taken a lot of the Board’s time and had received significant negative feedback from community members.

“Probably most importantly in my mind here is, since the first presentation, everything I’ve gotten has been against it,” Johnson said. “I have not had people reach out with explanations for it.”

A number of supporters of Columbus Day spoke at Select Board meetings on Aug. 24 and Sept. 28 after the DIC’s initial recommendation.

During this most recent meeting, Marshall said that this decision does not preclude the DIC or others in the community from starting another process to change the holiday in the future.

Marshall then posted a separate statement on social media on Oct. 28 addressing questions that she said she had received since this vote on Oct. 26.

“I have learned a lot through this process,” she wrote, in part. “On the surface of every issue there are at least two perspectives, and in some cases many. Listening to the many, diverse voices is critical to any process, but especially with respect to these types of topics for change. My practice of ‘doing the work’ and the importance of due diligence was reinforced.”

Read Marshall’s full letter…

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