Robert E. Lee's statue is gone, but it's not forgotten. That much was clear Wednesday night as a long line of North Texas residents made their way to Dallas City Hall to tell the City Council they want the city's other Confederate monuments left intact and, most of all, they don't want any of the city's street names changed.
The night's specially called City Council meeting represented the last significant chance for public input before the council considers recommendations made by the city's Confederate Monuments Task Force. The task force determined last month that Dallas should remove the Confederate monument from Pioneer Plaza near City Hall. It also suggested changing the names of five streets named for generals in the Confederacy. It is up to the City Council, which already voted to remove the Lee statue in September, to decide whether to accept the task force's recommendations.
At the meeting, opponents of the potential changes outnumbered those in support of the recommendations by at least 5-to-1, which made sense considering those who support the Confederate relics were on the losing side of the task force's recommendations. Many in the crowd felt that the task force's recommendations disrespected their heritage, were an attempt to whitewash history and, at the very least, would create an unnecessary nuisance, especially for those who live in the Mayfair Building on Lee Parkway.
"These monuments are in honor of Confederate veterans and soldiers that defended their homeland during the war between the states," said James Henderson, a Lake Highlands resident who's lived in Dallas since 1971. "Pioneer Park is a beautiful area and reflects the history and heritage of Dallas. ... Removing the monument will not change the past."
Dee Genova, a resident of the Mayfair, accused the City Council of trying to make headlines at the expense of Dallas residents.
"For many people, this is going to be a headline; they're going to read it and they're going to move on with their lives. For the 140 [residents of the Mayfair], we have to go through a lot of change and change passports, driver's licenses, bank statements and everything else," she said.
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Peter Brodsky was one of the few in the crowd to praise the task force's recommendations. Brodsky, appointed by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to head the Dallas Animal Commission that was charged with cleaning up the city's loose dog problem last year, is viewed as a potential candidate to replace Rawlings when the mayor decides to leave his office.
"We have to remember the history; we have to learn from it," Brodsky said. "But monuments to the Confederacy are not remembering — they're honoring. As a country, we have have never really dealt with our legacy of slavery. We have never dealt with the fact, at least in the south, that the Confederacy as a nation was formed in order to perpetuate that system. That was the cause of the Civil War. When we erect a statue of Robert E. Lee, we are saying that he held values that we hold."
On Monday, the City Council's Quality of Life Committee reviewed the recommendations from the task force but declined to consider the matter further until after Wednesday's meeting. Now that the public has spoken, the issue will go back to the committee, which will give its opinion to the full City Council. A vote from the council on whether to accept the task force's recommendations to remove the monument and change the street names will come later this year.