Could the feds take over Confederate Rest?
It ain’t over ‘till it’s over — this being The Emerald City.
We last reported that the all-powerful (perhaps too powerful) Landmarks Commission would need to weigh in once again on the shameful forced disappearance of the memorial stone of a charitable Madison woman, Alice Whiting Waterman “and her boys.”
Apparently, that august body would be required to issue a “certificate of appropriateness” (COA) before the stone can be hijacked from Confederate Rest cemetery. Ordinance 41.09 states:
No person may do any of the following without a certificate of appropriateness … demolish or relocate a landmark or any part of a landmark.
The Landmarks Commission may very well deny the COA, given that it unanimously recommended earlier this year the the city retain the stone, albeit accompanied by a new explanatory board. However, city ordinance also gives the council the right to over-rule the commission by a simple majority vote. The council on Tuesday, May 1, voted 14-4 to remove the stone but another rebuke from Landmarks could switch a few votes.
Landmarks’ powerful chairman Stu Levitan upbraided alders before the meeting with this strongly worded e-mail:
It would be an irresponsible, if not unconscionable, abdication of civic responsibility to remove what is essentially a mass grave marker without installing some sign explaining the history and controversy surrounding this historic cemetery, and listing the names of those interred there. It is indeed possible to respect the dead while still rejecting the cause for which they died.
Another approval may be required from the state historical preservation officer at the state historical society. That office’s website states:
Wisconsin’s burial sites laws outline procedures that must be followed by people and agencies who own human burial sites, or who wish to work within the boundaries of human burial sites. Most importantly, it is illegal to dig into a burial site or to disturb mounds or burial markers without authorization to disturb a burial site from the director of the Wisconsin Historical Society.
As Madison’s Landmarks Commission notes, the memorial stone is, indeed, a burial marker. It was the first permanent marker at the site, replacing the easily weathered wooden boards in 1906.
Madison city government created the Landmarks Commission about 50 years ago to dissuade the ravenous appetite of property developers to preserve what is left of Mansion Hill north and northeast of the Capitol. Ironic that it may now cool the virtue-signaling passions of the righteous social justice warriors inhabiting the common council. The commissioners are: Stuart Levitan, Richard B. Arnesen, Katherine N. Kaliszewski, David W.J. McLean, and Marsha Rummel.
There is third way the Waterman stone could be rescued. A small boomlet has begun to get Sen. Ron Johnson to persuade the federal Veterans Administration to assume control of Confederates Rest from the city. It also controls the nearby Union soldiers’ resting place.
Finally, the news media is all over Eric Knepp and the Parks Department, demanding to know when the stone will be removed. They want television footage and page one photographs. Stand-ups live at the crime scene. Calls out to the Revisionist 14 alders for their comments.