The Manhattan Beach City Council has agreed to move a peace pole, which drew criticism when first installed by incoming Mayor Hildy Stern, away from Civic Center Plaza.
The council voted, 5-0, to move the peace pole to Veterans' Parkway, diagonally across from the 9/11 memorial at 15th and Valley, and have the display installed in the ground.
The peace pole was originally installed at Stern's request and dedicated at a small ceremony on September 9, as she began her term as mayor.
At the time of its installation,
some councilmembers objected to a permanent installation, noting that
it had not received proper vetting from the Cultural Arts Commission as
per city policy. The council agreed to allow the peace pole to remain in place for one month.
At Tuesday night's meeting, Stern had requested that the council consider leaving the pole in place until the Cultural Arts Commission could review it, possibly on an expedited timeline.
"I heard from my colleagues who felt strongly that I should have brought this to council before going ahead with the plans for installing the peace pole, and I apologize for not seeing that necessary step. I meant no ill intent," said Stern at the meeting. "I am now respectfully trying to cure what was asked of me to have brought this up to council."
Stern noted that the dedication ceremony had drawn hundreds of people, and that a police captain had mentioned the peace pole at the 9/11 ceremony two days after that. "Here we are after 30 days, and I hope that you will agree that this really has been a welcome addition to our outdoor space," she added.
Regardless, said Councilmember Joe Franklin, the pole should be reviewed. "The issue I think has been process. There hasn't been any public input on this... It hasn't gone through the proper vetting process for an art piece," he said. "I'm for peace, but I'm also for process...I just feel that the residents need to have their input. It could be that 100 percent say, 'Hey, that's fine,' but...people need to feel like they're included, that their voices are heard."
Franklin added that no mayor has ever requested to display "something of their personal view" to be displayed in the Civic Plaza. "I think that ground should be neutral," he said.
But Councilmember Steve Napolitano urged the council to move on. "This is a bit of a farce," he said. "I don’t consider it art. It’s lettering on a 4x4 plastic pole. There’s not a concept behind it, except for the meaning behind the words, and those are good words, they're powerful words, and I agree with them. But I don’t need to send it to the arts commission and go through this kabuki dance of legitimacy and process for something like this...Let’s just vote it up or down, continue it or not, as a council, which we would ultimately anyway, whether or not the arts commission likes it."
The council then agreed on a compromise to move it to Veteran's Park without sending it to the Cultural Arts Commission. Franklin noted that he preferred that the pole be considered by the commission, but he agreed to go along with the sake of unity with fellow council members.
Manhattan Beach City Manager Bruce Moe then apologized to Stern for how the pole had not gone through proper bureaucratic process. "The way that pole ended up in the Civic Center, it was my responsibility, it was not yours. It was my responsibility to give you clear guidance on how that would happen. And so to the extent that didn't happen, that's my fault, I don’t want you to get blamed for that. It lies in the hands of your city manager."
"I appreciate your words, and I think we're all learning tonight," responded Stern.