The small town of Fort Bragg along the Northern California coast made headlines last week when it announced it would discuss putting a name change on the November ballot for residents at an upcoming city council meeting. That meeting occurred this week to surprisingly very little coverage, and the town’s residents were able to voice their opinions on the proposed name change while donning masks and standing behind glass to practice proper social distancing.
Following the protests throughout America in lieu of the George Floyd killing, communities have flocked to remove monuments and statues that represent a racist time in the country. Fort Bragg, which was named after slave-owning Confederate general Braxton Bragg, has now entered that conversation as it heard from the town’s residents at the recent city hall meeting in person and via Zoom. The locals voiced their support and displeasure with the proposed name change.
Fort Bragg Mayor Will Lee began the town hall meeting by reiterating that he, nor anyone on the city council, had a personal or political agenda in the discussion of the town’s name. He referenced the town of Healdsburg, whose mayor resigned following what many residents considered a lack of discussion regarding Healdsburg police use-of-force tactics. He simply wanted to have a discussion on the topic with his community.
Then, the residents were able to speak, and did so in person and over Zoom for the next three hours of the city council meeting. As expected, different opinions were expressed throughout the meeting, but the town’s residents seemed to overwhelmingly favor keeping the name. You can watch the entire meeting here.
“Until five years ago I didn’t know he was a Confederate general,” said one speaker. “Fort Bragg doesn’t mean that to me. I tell people I’m from Fort Bragg, that’s my cultural identity.”
“I don’t agree with the name,” said Javier Silva, a member of the Pomo tribe. “There was oppression here, but not because of Braxton Bragg.”
“Besides the obvious financial impact on the city of Fort Bragg that comes with changing the town’s name, there are also financial implications that come with the fire department, police department, school district, the local businesses, the residents and anyone with a 95437 zip code,” said another speaker against the name change.
Arguments ranged from naming the town Noyo, after the Native American reservation of the Pomo tribe, to keeping the name as a rededication to another Bragg, such as Union colonel Edward S. Bragg.
At the end of the meeting, the city council decided not to put the initiative on the November ballot, and instead form a city-sanctioned committee to review the potential name change and decide any further action that needed to be taken. The city council emphasized its intentions to include minority and Native American voices in the committee.
At the end of a controversial and sometimes contentious city council meeting in the town of 7,000 people, the council members listened carefully and favored patience and further investigation into the topic. Their leadership was applauded by bother sides of the argument. And while many around the country might be upset with the outcome of the meeting, the town seems to have kept its name for the time being.