November 20, 2007

Fort Collins Chooses Hybrid Holiday Policy

Audio of the "holiday display task force presentation", Mayor Doug Hutchinson's ground rules and clarifications, and citizen comments:

An immigrant from the UK describes the nefarious encroachment of socialism/multiculturalism and explains that the "celebration of diversity" really means more restrictions and less inclusiveness:

Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik explains his original request to display a Menorah that touched off the controversy, first when his request was denied twice, and then with the formation of the "holiday task force":

Still legal in Fort Collins--at least this year

Citizens of Fort Collins prepare to weigh in on the "holiday task force" recommendations

Avoiding another battle in the "war on Christmas", the Fort Collins City Council ultimately decided on adopting the third, hybrid option recommended by the "holiday display task force"--keep traditions by retaining current policy, while adding a new multiholiday exhibit at the Fort Collins museum:
All holidays are welcomed and celebrated in Fort Collins. City Council voted, 6-1, to adopt a Holiday Display Policy that honors current Christmas traditions and adds a new multicultural display at the Fort Collins Museum.

Council chose to adopt a hybrid plan which incorporates elements of both the existing Holiday Display Policy and a portion of the Holiday Display Task Force recommendations.

Consistent with existing policy, interior and exterior of City buildings may include traditional displays of trees, adorned greenery, wreaths, and other secular symbols or messages. Both white and colored lights are acceptable.

Based on recommendations from the Holiday Display Task Force, a multi-cultural educational exhibit will be placed on the grounds of the Fort Collins Museum. Both secular and religious celebrations and traditions will be included.
This decision, however, does not remove the responsibility the City Council bears for having put itself in such an awkward, attention gathering situation. It failed for two years to approve a request to add a Menorah, at no cost, to its existing display. It also punted the political football created by the controversy by overreacting and appointing a bureaucratic nightmare of a task force whose composition--widely derided by the citizens of Fort Collins--seemed to be predisposed to providing a multicultural mess of a recommendation that became media fodder overnight and drew even more negative publicity for the city.

The hybrid option did not please some task force members including, unsurprisingly, the lone ACLU member:
Some members of the citizen Holiday Display Task Force committee said Monday they are unhappy with changes city staff made to a holiday display policy coming before the City Council for a vote Tuesday night.

The task force, which met weekly for more than two months, made recommendations to ban colored lights and wreaths from the exterior of city buildings but to allow building managers' discretion in determining what adorns building interiors - including flexibility for religious displays.

The "hybrid policy," mashed together with parts of the task force recommendation and input from individual council members and the public, would allow for colored lights and Christmas tree displays on city building exteriors, including Oak Street Plaza, but limits what can be placed inside city buildings to items secular in nature unless part of an educational piece of artwork.

"My primary concern is that the (hybrid) recommendation includes aspects that were neither in the original policy nor the task force recommendation," task force spokesman Seth Anthony said. "I am concerned that some of the things were not thought all the way through and carefully (vetted) like the task force recommendations were."

City manager Darin Atteberry disagreed, saying the city has a long-standing policy and tradition of using citizen group input along with other factors when preparing policy for council debate and vote.

"That is why they are called advisory groups," Atteberry said, adding these types of decisions are always left to the city's elected officials.

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