Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Reconsideration request filed with HDC over Confederate statue decision

An official request for reconsideration of the Confederate statue decision of the Rockville Historic District Commission has been filed, as anticipated by last week's discussion before the Mayor and Council.

Susan Swift, Director of Planning for the city, confirmed that she had spoken with Greg Ossont of the Montgomery County Department of General Services regarding the matter to the Mayor and Council at last night's Council meeting. Swift reported the DGS has chosen to postpone its next step in moving the statue in light of the reconsideration filing.

What does this mean for the fate of the statue? The HDC could take up the reconsideration request at its October meeting. Swift said she could not speak for the HDC, but said the commission could - assuming it granted the reconsideration - have another public hearing at its November meeting.

Councilmember Tom Moore suggested the city should make clear to the County that it is ready to accept the statue on city property at the Beall-Dawson House, and discuss the allocation of costs. "This statue is a stain on our city and our county, as long as it remains on the Courthouse grounds," Moore said. He made a motion to that effect, which was seconded by Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr.

Councilmember Beryl Feinberg said it was premature to do so, before the full costs of such a move are known. "You need to know what you're going in for," she said. She noted that interpretive signage and other site preparations would have to cover the statue, the two historic eras it represents, and the Beall-Dawson site itself. Such efforts have been estimated to cost anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000, Feinberg said.

Moore countered that that cost estimate was "not accurate."

The Mayor and Council rejected Moore's motion 3-2, with Feinberg, Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton, and Councilmember Virginia Onley opposing the resolution.

It seems unlikely the reconsideration effort would succeed if the HDC has the final say on the matter. The commissioners were very clear that none of them was a fan of the statue nor its current location. Now having been told they "need more training" to do their jobs by those filing the reconsideration request (touché!), the meeting should have some extra political drama and intrigue, if not a different outcome. Frankly, I'd be interested to hear the commissioners' response to the "need more training" suggestion. It would seem the primary hope statue supporters have at this stage is to show that the decision was indeed a violation of one or more rules.

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