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ChavezObama.jpgPurely in terms of symbolic value, a bill honoring Cesar Chavez with a "California historical landmark" soon after the famous labor organizer's state holiday carries some significance.

So the fact that every Republican on the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee voted against a bill doing just that was a source of some consternation on Tuesday .

"It seemed like a pretty emphatic gesture," said Marc Grossman, a spokesman for the Cesar Chavez Foundation who once served as Chavez's aide.

Assembly Bill 34, authored by Assemblyman Roger Hernández, D-West Covina, would list Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz, the Kern County headquarters of Chavez's United Farm Workers movement, as a historical landmark. The bill also would direct the state to suggest at least five additional candidates for inclusion on the California Register of Historical Resources based on their role in the civil rights struggle, labor movement or modern state history. The bill made it out of a committee on a 10-5 party line vote.

Primo Castro, a spokesman for Hernández, said the new landmarks would fill a void in California's historical record. He cited statistics showing that a tiny proportion of sites recognized by California's Office of Historic Preservation were associated with civil rights, the labor movement or the state's recent history.

But Mike Zimmerman, chief of staff for Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, who voted against the bill, argued that the part of the bill enshrining La Paz as a landmark is redundant: the National Register of Historic Places already added the site in 2011, which means it was automatically added to California's list.

And dictating which sites the Office of Historical Preservation should recognize simply serves a partisan agenda, Zimmerman said.

"The larger issue is the language in the bill going forward that says, 'here's how we should prioritize the designation of these landmarks,'" Zimmerman said. "Assemblyman Patterson says we shouldn't designate landmarks simply to further a political cause."

PHOTO CREDIT: President Barack Obama, accompanied by Cesar Chavez' widow, Helen F. Chavez, places a special "Cesar Chavez" red rose at the gravesite where Cesar E. Chavez was laid to rest in 1993, as he tours the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument Memorial Garden, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, in Keene, Calif. Associated Press/Carolyn Kaster


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