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City Council To Vote On Travis Park Confederate Monument Removal This Thursday

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
The Travis Park Confederate Monument stands next to two cannons in the center of the park in downtown San Antonio.

The San Antonio City Council will weigh on whether or not to remove the 118-year-old confederate monument that stands in the center of Travis Park. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said extensive input from citizens who both support and oppose removing the monument has been received.

“This is a difficult conversation,” he added. “I am proud that San Antonians have respected the right of people with all points of view to peacefully express their opinions. While we have seen tragic events such as those in Charlottesville, San Antonio has had a civil discussion of the issues surrounding the proper historical context of Confederate monuments.”

He added he supports removing it. The confederate monument stands 40 feet tall and efforts to remove it began two years ago. Then-mayor Ivy Taylor did not support its removal.

Under the council agenda item, the proposed ordinance would do the following:

City to arrange for the removal and storage of the Confederate Soldier monument and two cannons located in Travis Park. City Council allowing a modification to the process outlined in Chapter 35-640 and 35-803 of the Unified Development Code that provides the Historic and Design Review Commission review authority of changes to City Parks.  City Council appropriation of funds in an amount not to exceed $150,000 for the purpose of the following: removing the monument and cannons;  transporting the monument and cannons to a storage facility; and   logistical support that is necessary for the removal and relocation of the monument and cannons.  City to execute professional services contract with a contractor for the purpose of removing and relocating the monument and cannons.  City to negotiate and execute a donation agreement with a non-profit involved in historic preservation or education for the acceptance of the Confederate Soldier monument and two cannons

After the 2017 Mayoral Election, Council members Cruz Shaw and Roberto Trevino filed a council consideration request to start a discussion on removing the monument. That reignited the local debate and lead to protests and rallies from both sides.

Council members John Courage, Ana Sandoval, and Rey Saldana signed on to the request.

The monument’s removal was set to be discussed at a meeting of the San Antonio City Council’s Governance Committee – possibly next month. However, Mayor Nirenberg chairs that committee and he has the authority to move items for discussion straight to a full city council vote.

Ordinances up for a vote only need a majority of six council members. If Nirenberg, Shaw, Trevino, Courage, Sandoval, and Saldana, maintain their support of removing the monument, the proposal could easily pass.

The mayor said in his statement Monday that citizens could weigh in their opinions before the vote.

The decision to go around the governance committee was met with disappointment by some council members. District 10’s Clayton Perry said he was concerned for multiple reasons. “I am concerned because this item was posted on our Council agenda today without a proper briefing in B Session to fully sort out the details as a Council. Additionally, this concerns me because we are not allowing the public the ability to sit in citizen-led commission meetings, allowing our own district appointees an opportunity to do the role they were assigned.”

Greg Brockhouse of Council District 6 issued a similar statement. “During a time when Texas is coming together to support each other during the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, Mayor Nirenberg has chosen to rush a divisive vote to remove a Confederate monument on this Thursday’s City Council agenda. It has become increasingly obvious the Mayor will circumvent the process and change the existing Code to remove and relocate the Confederate Statue at Travis Park.”

The confederate monument features an unnamed solider on top of an obelisk style fixture with the inscription saying “Lest We Forget Our Confederate Dead.” It was funded and installed by the Daughters of the Confederacy 30 years after the Civil War. Opponents of removal have said the monument serves as a cenotaph for the unidentified confederate soldiers who died in the war.

Supporters of removal say the statue is a reminder of the institution of slavery.

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules