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Village should have recognized Juneteenth

North Elba Town Hall, Lake Placid (News photo — Carol Swirsky)

The story of abolitionist John Brown and the free Black community of Timbuctoo in the town of North Elba before the Civil War exemplifies a rich history of inclusion in the Lake Placid region. On the other hand, the Lake Placid Club’s strict membership standards against Black and Jewish people during the 20th century shows the opposite, an embarrassing history of exclusion.

With the creation of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative and ongoing programs at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site — which is currently flying the Rainbow flag to support the LGBTQIA-plus community — things are moving forward in the inclusion department.

But we’re not quite there yet.

On Monday, June 20 — a day after the Juneteenth holiday to mark the end of slavery after the Civil War — the New York and United States governments recognized the event as a state and federal holiday for the second year. Schools, the post office and the North Elba transfer station were closed. Although the North Elba Town Hall was open, town of North Elba employees were off, but village employees were still on the job.

The Lake Placid Village Board of Trustees held a public hearing on the budget at 4:30 p.m. Monday, followed by a regular board meeting.

Normally, if a meeting falls on a federal holiday, it is rescheduled until the next day. Asked why the village board held the public hearing and board meeting on this federal holiday, Mayor Art Devlin said, “Right now, the village isn’t recognizing the holiday.”

Devlin added that everything the village does as a municipality is governed by union contracts, and those contracts are coming up for review.

“They’ll set what dates they want,” he said.

We understand there are essential services village employees need to cover on federal holidays, such as police, but the mayor and trustees are not union employees. Therefore, the village could have easily rescheduled the meeting until the next day without any hassle from a union. Honestly, the mayor told the News Wednesday, since Juneteenth is new, he didn’t even think about Monday being a holiday; therefore, rescheduling the meeting didn’t occur to him.

In the future, the village needs to respect Juneteenth, as it does for other holidays, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, when regular board meetings are rescheduled for the next day.

According to the Pew Research Center, New York is one of 24 states in the U.S., plus the District of Columbia, to recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday for state workers. The holiday is important for Americans as it commemorates the day — June 19, 1865 — when enslaved Blacks in Galveston, Texas, were told about their freedom. That was more than two months after the Civil War ended and more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves — a cause John Brown gave his life for in 1859.

Let’s make sure that next year Lake Placid recognizes the holiday, when June 19 falls on the third Monday of the month — a typical village board meeting date. We urge the village and union reps to add Juneteenth to their list of approved paid holidays for village employees.