Divided we fall
City Manager calls for Armenian leaders to come together on genocide memorial
By André Coleman 09/04/2013
In a strongly worded email, Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck warned leaders of two Armenian groups to stop bickering over memorial projects commemorating the Armenian Genocide.
The Aug. 23 email addressed to former Mayor Bill Paparian and former District 4 City Council candidate Chris Chahinian urged the men to sit down and resolve their differences as they related to a memorial honoring the 1.5 million people who lost their lives during the genocide, which began in 1915 and ended in 1923.
The Pasadena City Council is scheduled to vote Monday on a proposed design and potential location for the project submitted by the Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial Committee’s (PASAGMC) project — Paparian’s group. The other project is still in the planning stages.
“I strongly encourage you to meet and come to an agreement with regard to the memorial,” Beck wrote. “The City Council is already facing opposition from individuals that do not want to see the memorial in Memorial Park, so if the Armenian community is not united in their efforts, the City Council will be hard-pressed to support the initiative. I would encourage you to meet in a neutral location and possibly include someone mutually respected to facilitate the discussion. If I can be of any assistance, please let me know.”
Neither Paparian nor Chahinian returned phone calls seeking comment on the feud.
Chahinian broke off from the PASAGMC and formed the Armenian Community Coalition (ACC). That project was designed by Vahram Hovagimyan, whose work was among the 16 others rejected in favor of that created by Catherine Menard, a student at Art Center College of Design. Paparian has called Chahinian’s submission “a warmed-over reject.”
The ACC met in July with city officials to discuss the design, maintenance and upkeep of that memorial, which is also expected to be completed by 2015, the 100th anniversary of the start of what has come to be called “The Great Crime.”
The city’s Parks and Recreation Commission has voted unanimously to recommend the city support the PASAGMC project designed by 26-year-old Menard, which members of the group hope to place in Memorial Park, located on the northeastern edge of Old Pasadena.
The two sides have been pushing the idea for a memorial since 2011, when Chahinian began collecting signatures. However, that project has been slow in getting off the ground, while the PASAGMC project has been fast-tracked and appears to have wide city support.