The largest city named for Christopher Columbus has called off its observance of the divisive holiday honoring the explorer, making a savvy move to tie the switch to a politically safe demographic: veterans. Per the AP, Ohio's capital city will be open for business Monday, after observing Columbus Day probably "for as long as it had been in existence," says Robin Davis, a rep for Democratic Mayor Andrew Ginther. City offices will close instead on Veterans Day, falling on Nov. 12 this year. The decision to stop observing the holiday wasn't triggered by the national movement to abolish Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples Day as a way of recognizing victims of colonialism, Davis says. Native Americans and allied groups have long used Columbus Day to elevate issues of concern to them, including a peaceful protest in 2016 at Columbus City Hall to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline.
"We have a number of veterans who work for the city, and there are so many here in Columbus," Davis says. "We thought it was important to honor them with that day off." She adds the city doesn't have the budget to give its 8,500 employees both days off. Organizers of the Columbus Italian Festival, usually held Columbus Day weekend, weren't given advance notice of the decision, says board member Joseph Contino, who adds he views it as a missed opportunity. "If you're mayor of a city and its name is Columbus, why wouldn't you capitalize on that? Use it to unite everybody," he says. "Use this day to celebrate the entire culture ... Italians and indigenous both." Tyrone Smith, director of the Native American Indian Center of Central Ohio, says the decision is another step in embracing its growing diversity: "The fact that the city of Columbus is taking action is a victory for everyone." (Read more Columbus Day stories.)