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N.O. residents receive an update on monument removal

12th March 2018   ·   0 Comments

Less than three months before he leaves office, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is laying out a path forward for four prominent public spaces where Confederate-era monuments once stood. In an exclusive interview with FOX 8 News, the mayor said enough time has passed to talk about a formal process to re-purpose those spaces.

Last year, during a two-month span, the mayor orchestrated the City Council-approved removal of four monuments, beginning with the Battle of Liberty Place obelisk and ending with the Robert E. Lee statue at Lee Circle on May 19.

Also removed were monuments honoring Confederate President Jefferson Davis on Jefferson Davis Parkway and Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard, an equestrian statue that until last year was located at the entrance to City Park.

At the time of the removal project, the mayor spoke in general terms about what would come next, but now he’s laying out a plan of action.

“The Ford Foundation has always been there, and they will give us some planning dollars that will be used by the Foundation for Louisiana,” Landrieu told FOX 8 News.

Landrieu said he’s turning over the monument space planning process to two groups — the Foundation for Louisiana and Colloqate Design — to begin a planning process funded by the Ford Foundation. It’s a worldwide charitable group that has assisted in rebuilding efforts, and they will pay for a planning process that Landrieu expects will take more than a year.

“After that process, they and the Arts Council will recommend to the City Council and the mayor what to do there,” said Landrieu, who leaves office in about two months.

Landrieu also said that the site behind Canal Place, where the Battle of Liberty Monument once stood, will remain vacant, and he said the plan for the old Jefferson Davis pedestal on Canal Street will be a simple one.

“On the Jeff Davis piece, we thought it was appropriate to put up an American flag and a flagpole, which we’re in the process of doing,” he said.

When it comes to the site of the old Beauregard statue, the mayor said that will be City Park’s challenge.

“The City Park Improvement Association will take responsibility for beautifying the space where Beauregard was while they think about what will be there in the future,” Landrieu told FOX 8 News.

Landrieu said he was surprised by the backlash over the monument removal, but has no regrets about a process that he said cost the city about $700,000.

“Those monuments would have kept New Orleans from being as great as it could be,” Landrieu said.

As for the monuments themselves, the mayor said they are safe and secure in the city property yard. He said he will let the next mayor determine what their future will be, but he added that there hasn’t been a lot of interest in acquiring monuments that were the focus of so much protest.

Take ‘Em Down NOLA, one of the main groups calling for the removal of the monuments, has identified a list of more than 100 monuments, street names, school names and other landmarks that support white supremacy and slavery. Among the monuments and names on their list are the iconic statue of former President Andrew Jackson in the French Quarter, a statue honoring New Orleans founder Sieur de Bienville, a statue of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice E.D. White and street names like Robert E. Lee Blvd., Napoleon Avenue and Claiborne Avenue.

The group has sharply criticized the Landrieu administration for not following through with plans to identify additional monuments for removal from public spaces and offering residents no opportunity to formally address the issue in the 10 months that have passed since the last of the four monuments was taken down.

“I’m not very impressed with the mayor’s plan for the Confederate-era monuments or the public spaces upon which they once stood,” Ramessu Merriamen Aha, a New Orleans businessman and former congressional candidate, told The Louisiana Weekly. “In fact, I think the Landrieu administration did a half-assed job.

“Those decisions should not simply be sold to the highest bidder — the public still should have a major say in what happens in the wake of the monuments’ removal and how many more monuments are removed, even if the outgoing mayor didn’t have the integrity to complete the job or stick to his promises.”

This article originally published in the March 12, 2018 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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