Considering the standard turtle pace of municipal policy actions, the statue of Robert E. Lee was pulled from his namesake park relatively quickly. Those few weeks in September were the beginning of a path that’s now paved to include a tentative new name for Lee Park (Oak Lawn Park) and a task force that’s weighing what to do with both the remaining Confederate statues and the streets that bear their names. On Wednesday, the debate opened again to the public — not to further the conversation as to what should be done with the sites of removal, but mostly to discuss again whether removal is necessary.
Of the 49 people who spoke last night at City Hall, just 12 were in full support of the recommendations of the Mayor’s Task Force on Confederate Monuments. For all the handwringing and back-and-forth conversations over the removal, few members of the public are entering their thoughts into the record. The time to do so, for those who wish to express their feelings, is now.
The group advised the city to remove the remaining base of Lee’s statue in Oak Lawn Park as well as the monument of the five Confederates at Pioneer Park to a museum. The task force wants the five streets—Gano, Lee, Cabell, Stonewall, and Beauregard—renamed within 90 days of the public comment process. Other recommendations can be found here. The Office of Cultural Affairs has done a good job of putting all the hearings and findings online here.
Each public speaker was given two minutes. Comments ran the gamut, from people who wanted Lee returned to his place in the park to those who felt the task force didn’t go far enough. Seven residents of the Mayfair at Turtle Creek, the high rise overlooking the park, spoke at the start of the meeting. They asked that the city retain the name of their street, Lee, arguing that it would be an undue burden to change their government and business documents. The residents seemed split with regard to the statue’s removal, but were united in their opposition to changing the name of their two-block roadway.
William Murchison, a conservative columnist and a former editor at the Dallas Morning News, began his speech by saying, “The war is over.” In favor of keeping the street names and monuments, he said people “slander dead heroes, calling them oppressors” and called for a “time of peace and healing … for people of every color.” He received the most applause.
David Preziosi, director of Preservation Dallas, mostly agreed with the task force’s recommendations, but asked that the Confederate monument at Pioneer Cemetery only be moved when they find a suitable permanent home for it, as it risks damage each time it is moved.
An enthusiastic Alden Nellis of the Cleburne Friends of the Cultural Arts asked that the removed statues be moved to their new Cultural Arts Complex.
Arthur Fleming, past President of the Dallas NAACP, conceived of the removal timeline a bit differently. “A couple years ago I spoke to the mayor about this issue and had hoped something could have been done about this sooner,” he said.
There will be an additional comment meeting Wednesday at Dallas City Hall, Mayor Rawlings said. As of Thursday, there was no information about a special meeting on the calendar, and a call to to the city yielded no further clues as to when or if the meeting would happen. Friday morning the mayor’s office confirmed there would not be another special hearing Wednesday; anyone with a comment should attend the regularly scheduled City Council meeting November 1st at 9 a.m. in Room 6ES of Dallas City Hall. To sign up for a slot to speak, you must email [email protected] by Tuesday.