Championed by former mayor George Moyer, Banning’s city manager Doug Schulze got his city council to finally discuss the rarely acknowledged Ring of Honor, of which some citizens at the May 25 council meeting were oblivious as to its existence in the middle of their downtown.
It has been 17 years since a committee successfully added names to the monument in Carpenter Hamilton Park outside the east parking lot of City Hall, and only a handful of Banning’s residents can live up to the lifetime contributions of those whose names grace the Ring of Honor: Jim Heslop, Brigitte Page and Milo P. Johnson.
One councilmember felt that volunteers who contributed to planning and implementing the city’s food drives and helping to rehabilitate the animal shelter during COVID-19 as being worthy to have their names recognized with a plaque on the wall.
By some standards suggested during the council’s discussion, the city could honor just about anyone who has been given accolades during the Mayor’s Special Recognitions at various council meetings going back to when Daniela Andrade was mayor.
There wouldn’t be enough room on the existing monument to affix all these names as they start adding up, and the city certainly shouldn’t be allocating funds for $3,500 towards each individual's plaques for that many people — not when it laments not having funding needed for more significant day-to-day business of the city, such as the nameless heroes of the Police Department, or the Citizens of the Year (the entire staff of San Gorgonio Memorial Hospital). We can forget those who spearheaded for years the coordinating of Stagecoach Days, Repplier’s Concerts in the Park, the annual Hmong Festival, or keeping together the arts, theater and recreation programs — folks who have been at it for years, and did not have to wait for a special project or a pandemic to contribute support in the community.
We may as well acknowledge everyone who has ever served on a planning commission, city council, or coordinated Little League events while we’re at it. Why shouldn’t they get plaques — at taxpayers’ expense — too?
As City Manager Schulze pointed out, the criteria indicates that qualifications of candidates for the Ring of Honor provided “service to the community that exceeds service provided by most citizens for an extended period of time.”
In the city’s 2000 resolution setting up the Ring of Honor, “The purpose of the Baning ‘Ring of Honor’ program is to honor very special citizens who, through their efforts over a significant period of time, have enhanced the community.”
Service during a yearlong pandemic doesn’t quite fit that qualification.
Someone who suddenly finds passion during the pandemic to assist in a good cause is certainly someone to celebrate. Mayor Colleen Wallace and her predecessor Andrade has done a commendable job acknowledging them, usurping time at their council meetings to include those commendations.
But we agree with the criteria set aside by the city’s resolution nearly 20 years ago: not just anyone needs to be honored with a city-sponsored plaque.
One point that Moyer had been advocating for, but was not discussed at length, was expanding the criteria so that others who have had a connection to Banning could also be candidates for the Ring of Honor, with one standout being Anna Escobedo Cabral, a 1976 Banning High School and later Harvard alumna who no longer lives in the Pass area, but served as U.S. Treasurer under President George Bush.
Her service was not specific to Banning, but to her country.
Since she does not reside here and has not for years, she is not eligible under the current criteria for the Ring of Honor, which Moyer feels is a travesty.
In his defense, the resolution does not limit where “citizens” can make their nominations from, nor does it specify that honorees have to reside within the city, though that apparently is implied (deceased candidates notwithstanding).
Staff Writer David James Heiss, a recipient of the Mayor’s Special Recognition and immediate past-president of the San Gorgonio Pass Historical Society, contributed to this editorial.