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City officials discuss the future of Confederate monuments

DENISHA McKNIGHT | 11/19/2017, 6:48 p.m.
Dallas City Council is at a standstill as the controversial Confederate monuments decision has hit a snag in the process.
Members of the Cultural Affairs Commission discuss the future of the city’s Confederate monuments.

The Dallas Examiner

Dallas City Council is at a standstill as the controversial Confederate monuments decision has hit a snag in the process.

In September, the Robert E. Lee confederate monument in Oak Lawn Park was removed after the fatal racially-driven event in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August. Over the past month, City Council and the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs have met with Quality of Life, the Arts & Cultural Committee and the Cultural Affairs Commission to decide the next step in removing Confederate monuments, streets and parks named after Confederate soldiers and symbols at Fair Park.

The Council and other committees will choose between two recommendations.

One option is to remove the all Confederate monuments and place them at an educational institution to cover the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Lost Cause and the Jim Crow Era. If those efforts are not successful, the statues will be placed in storage and revisited in three years.

The other option is for Fair Park Confederate symbols to remain in place for educational purposes in context of the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Lost Cause and the Jim Crow Era and include context referencing Mexican and Tejano history and the participation or exclusion of various communities in these historic events.

“Once we identify opportunities that seem likely and we have some discussions, then we can drill down on what long-term actually means depending on the location,” said Dallas public arts manager Kay Kallos.

The decision process will first go through the Public Arts Committee, which will review the recommendations and the artworks. The committees will either agree or disagree on the recommendations, and if agreed upon, the recommendations will be presented to the Council.

“We will not move recommendations to the Council without the Public Arts Committee officially voting on a reassessment of each piece and coming back to the commission before giving it to them,” said Jennifer Scripps, director of the Office of Cultural Affairs.

The public has been able to speak at these evening briefings, with those opposing the removal of the monuments greatly outnumbering those who are for their removal at most of the forums.

“African American history and White southerner history are parallel,” said Jeff Scott, a resident of The Colony, at a Cultural Affairs Committee briefing Oct. 12. “One is a protagonist. One is the antagonist. And if you change one part of that, you end up diminishing the remainder.”

The Confederate memorial debates have been a temperamental journey for local citizens and have drawn out various viewpoints from different sides

“I’ve been here lots of years,” said Dallas City Councilmember Sandy Greyson. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen an issue that has touched people like this one has. People are so emotional about this issue on both sides.”

The City Council held their first briefing on the Mayor’s Task Force recommendation Nov. 1, failing to reach a final decision due to uncertainty of how removing the statues and symbols would affect taxpayers and the potential for additional monuments in the future.

District 1 Councilman Scott Griggs suggested that a report including this information be presented to the Council in March 2018 before a decision is made.

“I respect my colleague, Scott, who said the first quarter,” said Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway. “I don’t care if it is the second quarter or third quarter. I want it to be the truth. I want it to be able to heal this city once and for all. That is the task before us.”

Mayor Mike Rawlings asked city manager T.C. Broadnax to investigate the practicality of each recommendation to help answer the Council’s questions and provide this information for next year’s meeting.