The moment Pitino starts the discussion. | Arcata City Council meeting

Longtime Arcata City Councilman Paul Pitino casually spilled a big bowl of hot-button soup in the laps of his fellow councilmembers during last night’s meeting at City Hall.

While the council was giving its once-per-term, seemingly-dull review of its protocol manual, Pitino suggested eliminating the Pledge of Allegiance from all Arcata City Council meetings on the grounds that the pledge is old-fashioned and unnecessary.

“I would love to get rid of the flag salute — Pledge of Allegiance — if we could do that,” Pitino said. “I don’t know if anybody else is interested.”

Pitino’s proposition briefly left the rest of the council speechless before Susan Ornelas offered that she didn’t know much about the pledge’s history.

“Right now I’m not interested in it, but I’d like to think about it and talk to you about it,” Arcata Mayor Brett Watson said in response to Pitino.

Pitino responded to the council’s reluctance to address the issue — which would almost certainly provoke a red-white-and-blue shitstorm if brought to a vote — by adding that the U.S. Constitution does not call for such patriotic affirmations.

Pitino gives his opinion. | City of Arcata

“One of the reasons that I bring it up, is it was introduced to the U.S. by an advertising executive as a way of drumming up support for whatever they were trying to sell and it got accepted into the communities — especially schools,” Pitino said. “For me, it’s something that has been added in and we just — by rote — accepted that it’s something we do. And the necessity for it, to me, doesn’t exist outside of trying to promote adherence to the flag, which is starting to become a little archaic in my mind. I would like to see the discussion occur. I don’t do it because it gets close to being religion in a way, or a belief mechanism if you want to call it that, and I don’t think it has any place in our council meetings.”

Michael Winkler was the only councilmember to outright oppose the idea.

“To me it’s aspirational rather than a statement of fact and I’m comfortable with that as an aspiration,” Winkler said.

Ornelas — meanwhile — spent some time wondering if the city should research the Pledge of Allegiance’s history.

“All you have to do is hit Google, look at the origin of the Pledge of Allegiance and it will give you the whole story,” Pitino said. “I think each of us could pretty simply do that and think about it over the next X number of years and say ‘is that something we want to do or not?’ I’m satisfied with bringing it up — I’ve done my research, I know that I don’t need it, so thanks.”

LoCO decided to take Pitino’s Google challenge, and found this History Channel video (below) which provides a quick and informative summary of the pledge’s history. According to the video, the Pledge of Allegiance was first written in 1882 by Francis Bellamy for the 400th anniversary of genocidaire Christopher Columbus’s arrival in America.

While the council did not say outright that it planned to make the issue a future agenda item, the conclusion of the conversation did suggest there will be future discussions.

“I’ll look at it and we can talk about it at a future date, absolutely,” Mayor Watson concluded.

Councilmember Sofia Pereira remained silent for the discussion.


Note: This isn’t the first time “shoot-from-the-hip” Pitino has boldly taken on a hot-button issue. Watch him hold his weight in a debate with Fox New’s Tucker Carlson (below) while discussing the McKinley statue removal last year.