The debate over a controversial statue in front of Palm Springs city hall is growing more heated, as a group pushing for it to remain there fired off explosive claims Wednesday.
The city council and its human rights commission are set to meet next Wednesday night to decide if the statue of former Mayor Frank Bogert will stay, or if removing it is a way for the city to grapple with past racism in Palm Springs.
For more than a year, community activist David Weiner has been pushing Palm Springs to move the statue of the city's most famous cowboy and first mayor.
Bogert served when the city destroyed Section 14, demolishing hundreds of homes and displacing the majority of the city's people of color.
"I question why we have the mayor from that period in a place of honor in front of our city hall," Weiner said. "This is a man that did some good things for Palm Springs and did some not-so-good things."
In April, the city's Human Rights Commission recommended the statue's removal, hoping to separate the city from "past racism and its continuing impacts."
With a vote now just a week away, the group 'Friends of Frank Bogert' is advocating for keeping the statue right where it is, calling the efforts to reconcile with the past a smear campaign meant to vilify Bogert.
The group is airing commercials on local television and the internet, calling Bogert "a friend to all."
"Frank Bogert is one of Palm Springs' most respected mayors," the commercial says. "He worked tirelessly with every community of color, working with the Mexican community in friendship and harmony."
Wednesday, Friends of Frank Bogert asserted the city likely violated ethics and the Brown Act in an effort to at least delay next week's hearing on the statue.
City Attorney Jeff Ballinger responded in a statement, “We are confident that there is no legal or public policy-based reason for the City to accept their demands. The allegations are baseless and should have no bearing on the City Council’s consideration of the matter on Sept. 29.”
Despite the counterargument, Weiner said the time for action is now.
"We're not talking about melting [the statue] down or burying it. We're just talking about moving it to a different location," he said. "Isn't it time that we just do the right thing?"
The Friends of Frank Bogert did not immediately respond to our request to interview for this story.
Next week's meeting is set for Sept. 29 at 5:30 p.m. and will be held virtually. The council will hear public comments before a decision is reached.