The annual Martin Luther King Day March drew a good crowd in Tulare. It's put on by the Tulare Kings County Alliance of African American Women. And while Tulare County and the City of Tulare recognize the day, it's business as usual at Porterville City Hall.
Porterville Resident Kathleen Bradford thinks her city should honor the holiday. "Well I think so, Martin Luther King day was declared a national holiday and I think all of the city halls and things should be closed."
But for Porterville and Lindsay, Martin Luther King Day is not a holiday for city employees. Porterville City Manager John Lollis said it is the result of labor negotiations with city employee associations. "We talked about recognizing it corporately and having the actual day, and the association said that's great, if you want to grant us that, but we'd also like to keep that additional vacation day -- and that wasn't in the Council's interest.
Lollis said city workers had a choice of taking Martin Luther King Day as a holiday, and losing a vacation day. The decision was made years ago to keep the vacation day. While the Porterville City Council has had major disputes involving social issues such as gay rights, city officials say race or politics have nothing to do with Martin Luther King Day.
"Porterville and Lindsay are very limited in African American populations. We're pretty well represented here in Tulare, and I think that may be the issue," said Gwen Aytman, Tulare Kings Alliance of African American Women.
City officials in Lindsay said the question of the Martin Luther King holiday will be part of their employee contract negotiations in the coming year.