The City of Pueblo has hired a mediator to help resolve the decades long debate surrounding the Christopher Columbus Statue in downtown Pueblo.
“We need citizens of Pueblo to listen to one another," said Fred Galves, the man hired on as the city's mediator. "At least respect one another.”
For nearly two months, protests have erupted in front of the Christopher Columbus every Sunday, calling on the statue to come down. Sometimes leading to violence and even arrests.
Thursday evening at a Special Pueblo City Council Meeting, council members voted 5-2 to hire Fred Galves to serve as a mediator. Galves is originally from Pueblo, he graduated from Harvard Law School and has worked as a mediator settling disputes in Sacramento, California.
Starting this weekend, Galves will sit down with representatives of both sides of the argument. These include six members of Pueblo's Native American community and six members of Pueblo's chapter of the Son's of Italy who want to see the statue remain where it is.
“The decision and the solution has to come from them," said Galves after Thursday's special council meeting. "If it comes from me it won’t be seen as a legitimate or appropriate. I won’t do that.”
At the meeting, several people spoke out against mediation including two council members. Lori Winner and Mark Aliff were skeptical that a mediator would be able to bring a lasting resolution to the debate of the Christopher Columbus plaque.
Winner feared that the representation, specifically on the side of the protesters, was lacking. She believes any conclusion coming out of mediation would not be accepted by all protesters.
Aliff suggested bringing the matter to a vote in November. However, Galves disagrees with that strategy.
“If city council makes a decision or if the voters make a decision, we will have a decision, but we won’t have people buy in," said Galves. "All you’ll have is division. My job is to try and undo some of that division and find common ground to the fullest extent possible.”
Ultimately, any conclusion made from mediation would have to be voted on by Pueblo City Council.