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Richmond City Council still considering plans for disposition of Confederate monuments
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Richmond City Council still considering plans for disposition of Confederate monuments

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Pedestals are all that remain of Confederate monuments and a Columbus statue in Richmond, Va. Tues., July 14, 2020. Video by Alexa Welch Edlund/Times-Dispatch

Richmond city officials are still trying how to decide what they will do with the Confederate monuments they took down nine months ago.

While staff for the Richmond City Council were initially charged with recommending final plans for getting rid of the statues, the legislative body is now considering letting Mayor Levar Stoney’s administration unilaterally decide where they should go.

The council was unable to reach consensus in a meeting on Monday, but most agreed that they want to speed up the process after months of delay.

“We have a very limited staff and a lot on our agenda,” said Councilwoman Ellen Robertson. “I think it would be wise of us to select the option of letting the administration ... continue the work.”

Richmond received approximately two dozen requests for the monuments just weeks after they were taken down in July and taken to a wastewater treatment plant for temporary storage. A city spokesman declined to confirm whether they remain there, citing security concerns.

The council reviewed the offers and discussed criteria for their disposition through the fall. Several members said they would want the city to sell the monuments to make up for the $1.8 million it spent on their removal. Others said they would want the city to carefully consider how they would be presented in a new location and context.

However, the process languished through the winter following the resignation of the council’s chief of staff and the introduction of two new council members who were elected last fall.

Several officials said allowing the administration to handle the process could streamline the negotiation of contracts for the disposition of the monuments.

Some disagreed with the notion of letting the administration handle it alone.

“I think it would be great to have the administration help us out with some of the logistical items,” said Councilwoman Kristen Larson. “However, I do think it’s important that this council go through the applications and make some decisions about where they go.”

Other council members also mentioned incorporating more public engagement for the process.

Lincoln Saunders, the city’s acting chief administrative officer, said the administration could involve council members and staff in the process if the legislative body agrees to let it take over.

Several city officials said the council would still be responsible for authorizing a contract for the disposition of each monument, but Interim City Attorney Haskell Brown noted that a decision by the Supreme Court of Virginia last week could allow the administration to sign off on them without the council’s approval.

State lawmakers last year amended a war memorial law to let localities remove them if approved by the local governing body. The Supreme Court last week ruled that the law did not apply to statues erected before 1997.

Brown said he would look into it further and provide more information to the council at one of its next meetings.

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