Monuments: The Vote Behind the Vote

I have received many responses from residents across the First District about my vote during Monday’s Special Meeting for City Council. Many voiced their disappointment that I had voted to remove the monuments and statues from Monument Avenue. I would like to clarify my position.

I did not vote to remove any statue or monument in Richmond.

The November statewide elections for Virginia’s Senate and House of Delegates changed the majority makeup in our legislature. This change in power resulted in a new list of legislative priorities for the upcoming General Assembly. Included in that were five separate papers to provide local governments authority to alter, move, or remove statues in public land. Councilman Michael Jones introduced a paper that expressed the City of Richmond’s support for this upcoming new legislation. Previous attempts at passage had seen this legislation end in Committee at the General Assembly. Local control over statues and monuments in Richmond and across the Commonwealth has been a topic of conversation for many years and now is likely to be approved by the State General Assembly in 2020.

  1. If approved, public comment meetings required: If approved by all three commissions, there will be further public meetings required prior to bringing before City Council for a formal vote. City Council, Committee, and Commission meetings are not always scheduled for the best times for residents to participate. These meetings would be in the evening and/or weekend to allow for broader input from the public prior to a formal vote by City Council. This legislation would be required on the ‘Regular’ agenda to add further public comment and input prior to a vote by City Council.
  2. Funding identified and available before action is taken: the last thing we need to pursue is an unfunded recommendation. Funding needs to be identified as part of the request process by City Council or the Mayor to ‘alter, move, or remove a statue in public land’.
  3. Discuss the value of ‘adding new’ versus ‘removal’ versus ‘replace: Richmond has a unique, vibrant, and important story to tell. All good stories embrace the context of their past that shaped their present to embrace the future. Our story is one filled with contrasts that have created incredible changes in our city, state, and country. I would like to emphasize Richmond leveraging this new power to change the focus from “removal” to “replacement”. If a monument is approved to be removed, then a replacement statue of another Richmond leader should be erected in its place.

Recovering bureaucrat. Pioneered as Civic Innovator. Now serving a second term on City Council in Richmond, VA. Words are my own.