After a brief hiccup in the form of a disputed set of recommendations from Dallas city staff, all signs point to the city of Dallas getting rid of the Confederate war memorial in Pioneer Park sometime later this year.
During a City Council meeting last month, Dallas Assistant City Manager Joey Zapata told the council that the towering monument, situated cozily between City Hall and the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, should stay up, despite the recommendation of the city's Confederate Monuments Task Force that it be torn down. Rather than spending the $430,000 it would cost to tear the statue down, Zapata said, the city should add a series of plaques to give the statue context.
The staff proposal received a decidedly mixed response.
"This is not a historical marker. There was never any intent to teach history or honor historical figures," City Council member Philip Kingston said. "The inscriptions make it quite clear that [the memorial] is absolutely a monument to white supremacy."
Kingston's colleague, Casey Thomas, said that staff should've heeded the recommendations of the task force, which the council convened in order to figure out how to take the monuments down, not figure out whether they should be taken down.
"We shouldn't just put [the task force recommendations] aside," Thomas said. "We've got to make sure Dallas is an equitable city. You can't expect individuals in a race, when someone starts with a 100-yard lead, to catch up."
Despite Kingston's and Thomas' exhortations, several members of the council, including Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, were ready to leave the memorial up. Rawlings said he was "chilled" by the "scary" memorial but that it should be allowed to remain. He envisioned school kids visiting the memorial for a history lesson after a field trip to the Perot Museum, he said.
On April 25, the council will vote on what to do with the monument, in addition to several streets in the city named after Confederate generals. Judging from the language of the proposed ordinance placed on the agenda by Dallas City Manager T.C Broadnax — and counting the heads of those who stood for and against the statue last month — it looks like the memorial is coming down.
Here's the full text that will be voted on next week:
A resolution (1) directing the City Manager to form a working group to recommend the scope for adding a full historical context to Fair Park, commemorating the Hall of Negro Life, and for a proper memorial of the lynching of Allen Brooks; (2) providing that streets with names linked to the Confederacy shall not be renamed; (3) directing the City Manager to procure a fine auction house for the sale of the Alexander Phimister Proctor sculpture, Robert E. Lee and Confederate Soldier; and (4) directing the City Manager to procure services for the demolition and removal of The Confederate Monument located in Pioneer Cemetery; to obtain a Certificate of Demolition from the Landmark Commission; and authorizing the City Manager to transfer funds or appropriate funds from excess revenue or contingency funds, as necessary, to remove The Confederate Monument and the Robert E. Lee and Confederate Soldier sculpture plinth and seating area, and to create a proper memorial of the lynching of Allen Brooks, subject to future City Council approval.
Broadnax did not return a request for a comment about the change in language and tone from March's briefing to the upcoming proposal, but the council will be voting on several of the recommendations made by the task force. While the street names the task force recommended changed — Lee Parkway, Gano Street and Cabell Street among them — look set to remain the same, the staff-drafted resolution sets up many of the task force's other recommendations for approval. In addition to taking down the memorial, the resolution calls for adding historical context to Fair Park and planning a memorial in downtown Dallas for Allen Brooks, the victim of a notorious lynching in 1910. The council will also vote on whether or not to sell the Robert E. Lee statue removed from Oak Lawn Park in September.
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While the proposed ordinance isn't perfect, Kingston says, it's a good step forward.
"We can always come back later and fix the streets," he says. "This sells the Lee and gets the war memorial down. Those are the two most important things."