City Hall

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings Wants a Task Force to Study Future of Confederate Monuments

By Patrick Williams
Dallas' Robert E. Lee statue
One day after issuing a statement condemning the weekend violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings announced his plans for dealing with the monuments and statues of Confederate figures that dot the city.

Rather than promoting teardown or removal the monuments, as other members of the City Council have done, Rawlings called for a council-appointed task force to decide whether the city should keep the markers where they are, "tear them down or put them in a museum."

Rawlings said a task force will keep the city from making a rash decision about its Confederate statuary, which he called "dangerous totems" that "divide us versus unite us."

"It's easy to jump on the bandwagon and say, 'Tear them down,' because, frankly, that's politically correct, and in many ways it makes us all feel good," Rawlings said. "I feel that way, but I hesitate and the reason is because I realize that the city of Dallas is stronger, is better, when we are united and not divided."
Rawlings' proposed task force would include consultation from the Dallas Holocaust Museum and the Truth, Racial, Healing and Transformation Team and would take 90 days to study the issues surrounding Dallas' Confederate public art before presenting its findings to the Dallas City Council's Quality of Life Committee. The committee would then consider the task force's findings and public input before recommending what the city should do with the monuments. Then the City Council would make a decision. The mayor's plan flies in the face of an alternative proposal several council members have pushed for months. Under the their proposed ordinance — originally placed on the agenda by Scott Griggs, Adam Medrano, Casey Thomas, Mark Clayton and Philip Kingston, who want the city to act quickly — the Dallas City Council would vote Sept. 13 on whether to keep the monuments. If the Confederate symbols were slated for removal, the council members' plan calls for a task force to decide what the city should do with them.

Shortly before Rawlings' announcement Tuesday, Thomas — whose office did not respond to a request for comment from the Observer — pulled his support from the alternative plan, leaving it one signature short of the five required to place an item on the City Council's agenda.

Thomas took to Facebook on Tuesday to explain his decision to remove his name from the call for a vote.

"For those who are asking why I removed my signature from the memo regarding the Confederate statues, understand that the resolution has not been written and I do believe an action should be taken to address this. We need to determine what the process will be. We need this same attention placed on real growth and development in southern Dallas, and reducing poverty and helping to improve our neighborhoods," Thomas wrote.

Kingston said he spoke with Thomas about what was in the resolution proposed by the council members before Thomas signed on to the memo. On Tuesday afternoon, council member Omar Narvaez took Thomas' place. While a new memo calling for the vote must be filed, and the vote will likely be pushed back to Sept. 27, Narvaez seems unlikely to back out the way Thomas and colleague Tennell Atkins did.

"I have proudly replaced the removed signature with mine, and I can assure you that I will not waffle and remove mine later," Narvaez said Tuesday. "I believe that the City Council should have an open and public debate about this issue and vote on it."