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Corpus Christi city workers will have Martin Luther King Jr. Day off, starting Monday

The Corpus Christi Caller Times logo The Corpus Christi Caller Times 1/15/2020 Kathryn Cargo, Corpus Christi Caller Times
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Before Tuesday, the city of Corpus Christi didn't recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Seven larger Texas cities observe the day as a paid holiday, as well as Nueces County, the Corpus Christi Independent School District and the Port of Corpus Christi. 

Community members made their passion known about observing the historic day during Tuesday's City Council meeting. And the council listened. 

City Council unanimously approved an ordinance, making the slain civil rights leader's birthday Corpus Christi's eighth municipal holiday, starting this year.

That means most of the city's government employees will be off this coming Monday.

The vote came during a regular council meeting, after at least a dozen residents spoke in support of the effort. Among them was Alice Upshaw Hawkins, who is on the CCISD board. 

a group of people standing in front of a building: Members of the Corpus Christi chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., lead the 33rd annual Martin Luther King Holiday Celebration MLK Commemorative March on Jan. 21, 2019. © Julie Garcia/Caller-Times Members of the Corpus Christi chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., lead the 33rd annual Martin Luther King Holiday Celebration MLK Commemorative March on Jan. 21, 2019.

Honoring King's legacy

"It (should) be identified as a day of service to our city, to our citizens and our community. Dr. King .... gave his life for the benefit of all people," Upshaw Hawkins said to the council. "It is important that we honor the person who gave his life for justice and equality."

"Local, state, and national (governments) have already given this day to honor this man 37 years ago."

The motion by Paulette Guajardo, an at-large council member, to approve the ordinance came after more than an hour of discussion and public comment. She also amended the measure to observe the third Monday in January as Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Day of Service. 

"He's the first individual back in the 1950's to fight for equality for all," she said. "That’s important and that’s clear. Everybody observes the day — all other entities."

"I didn’t realize we didn’t observe it."

City Manager Peter Zanoni said he will seek to create more service and volunteer opportunities for the public and city staff members for next year's Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Day of Service .

"We should be more engaged and have some leadership in this area of civic engagement and volunteerism," he said. 

a group of people walking down the street: A Corpus Christi war veteran holds an American flag as he leads the 33rd annual Martin Luther King Holiday Celebration MLK Commemorative March on Jan. 21, 2019. © Julie Garcia/Caller-Times A Corpus Christi war veteran holds an American flag as he leads the 33rd annual Martin Luther King Holiday Celebration MLK Commemorative March on Jan. 21, 2019.

How will it be paid for?

It will cost $1.1 million in salary, overtime and benefits to add the holiday, according to city documents. 

Greg Smith, Dist. 4 council member, seconded the motion, though he didn't originally support the measure. 

Before the vote, he said observing the day this year would be a last-minute action. He also said there would be a loss in productivity at a cost to taxpayers. 

Guajardo said it costs money to run the city whether there is a holiday or not. The cost to run Corpus Christi a day is $750,000, she said. 

"I'm comparing ourselves to the seven largest cities above us in Texas — all those cities have acknowledged Martin Luther King Jr. Day," said Zanoni, who recommended the measure's passage. "When you look at all seven, they average 10 holidays (a year). Corpus Christi only has seven."

Martin Luther King, Jr. wearing a suit and tie: Martin Luther King Jr. at Maggie Street Baptist Church in February 1968. © Photo by Jim Peppler. Courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and History. Martin Luther King Jr. at Maggie Street Baptist Church in February 1968.

Zanoni's office originally recommended that $198,000 in overtime expenses be funded by monies set aside in this year's budget for an obesity awareness campaign. Less than $20,000 of funds would have been left for the campaign. 

Mayor Joe McComb directed Zanoni to look for those funds in the city's reserve so no monies would be taken away from the obesity awareness campaign. 

Not all city departments will be off this year. Employees in the solid waste and utilities departments will have to work that day, as will police and fire department personnel.

The parks and recreation department will also operate on a limited staff on that day. Zanoni plans to have some of these departments off next year.

a group of people standing in front of a building: Corpus Christi City Hall. © Rachel Denny Clow/Caller-Times, Corpus Christi Caller-Times Corpus Christi City Hall.

The city also had a proclamation Tuesday, declaring Jan. 20 as a "Martin Luther King Holiday Celebration and Commemorative March Day."

King was born Jan. 15, 1929 in Atlanta and lived to become the very embodiment of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. He was killed in Memphis on April 4, 1968, and his birthday became a federal holiday in 1986.  

Had he lived, King would be 91 today.

City holidays in 2020

New Year's Day — Jan. 1

Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Day of Service — Third Monday of January 

Memorial Day — Last Monday of May

Independence Day — July 4

Labor Day — First Monday of September

Thanksgiving — Fourth Thursday of November and the day after

Christmas Day — Dec. 25

Kathryn Cargo follows business openings and developments while reporting on impacts of the city government’s decisions. See our subscription options and special offers at Caller.com/subscribe  

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