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Santa Maria's city seal questioned over link to Christopher Columbus

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Posted at 6:47 PM, Mar 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-19 01:26:37-04

A Central Coast city's seal is getting attention after people linked it to a Christopher Columbus ship.

The seal for the City of Santa Maria has been in place since the 1970s.

A recent controversy about the seal has been the topic of discussion. It started when resident and college professor Scott Fina submitted public comment to the council urging them to retire the logo, pointing to its relationship with the Christopher Columbus ship.

During this week's city council meeting, others also expressed concern, including the Santa Maria-Lompoc NAACP.

In a letter, they too urged the removal and stating, “Mr. Columbus's record now in our history books demonstrates that he in no way represents the values of our "All American City."

City officials say the ship is meant to imply exploration and discovery as well as optimism and pride.

"Earlier this week, the city council did not take action to put this on the agenda so by law, the council can not discuss or take a vote on this image,” said Mark van de Kamp, Public Information Officer for the City of Santa Maria.

According to Cindy Ransick who works for the city's museum, the history of the ship dates back to the early 1900s, before it was adopted by the city council in the '70s.

“From a historical perspective, it's been with us a long time. I mean, obviously, as early as 1909 they are creating floats and [in] 1919, they're re-doing the bank,” Ransick said.

Ransick agrees with city officials regarding the ship's meaning.

“I don't think Columbus entered their mind for one single second. I think it really was about the imagery that goes along with exploring and discovering and being all-American,” she said.

However, Ransick says if a majority wants to see change, change can be made.

"There's certainly historical precedence for change as well but change is hard and change is slow and it can take a lot of time,” Ransick said.

In order for an item to be on the agenda, two city council members have to ask the city manager to do so, and as of now, that has not been the case.

The city's name, Santa Maria, is historically known to come from early settler Juan Pacifico Ontiveros, who arrived in the region on the feast day of Mary in 1856.