“This Isn’t About Monuments. It’s Much Bigger.”

Governor Terry McAuliffe may want to remove the Civil War statues from public places, but I’ll give him credit for this: He’s not dogmatic. He acknowledges the conflicting principles at work. Speaking at WTOP yesterday, he acknowledged that removing the statues in Richmond could cost the city a big chunk of change.

When asked who should pay the cost of removing the statues, he said:

“Well, that’s a great question. So when I say the cities — my good friend the Mayor of Richmond, he’s come out on this issue as well, and he as mayor is facing five to ten million dollars if you want to move the statues. He, meanwhile, has got to make sure he’s providing money for education. So, that’s a great issue, and that’s something that these communities — and that’s why I say the local — the cities ought to make that determination.

(Listen to the interview here.)

Aside from the cost of dismantling the statues, removing them would harm real estate values along Monument Ave, selected in 2007 by the American Planning Association as one of the 10 Great Streets of America. The Washington Post quoted Bill Gallasch, 74, president of the Monument Avenue Preservation Society and a former real estate appraiser, as saying that removal of the statues could cost the city $3 million a year in lost revenue.

McAuliffe doubled down on his message on the Jimmy Barrett Show on WRVA radio this morning:

If I’m the mayor of Richmond or I’m on the City Council I’m faced with a tough decision. Do I spend, I don’t know, five to ten million dollars taking something down when I got schools – I’ll tell you my first priority has got to be schools because I got to get people employed. Richmond has to deal with the issue that a lot of folks, young millennials are here, but then when they have children they sort of move out to the neighboring jurisdictions for education. We got to keep everybody right here in this beautiful city. And that’s their biggest challenge. So I would agree with Valerie, let’s go ahead and put some context to these things and move forward. This is going to be a debate that’s going on for a long time. But what I try to get back to, and everybody likes to latch on to this monument – this isn’t about monuments. It’s much bigger, it’s much broader, and I got to fix education and we got to work on the things, Jimmy, to give everybody an opportunity.

As I’ve said previously, taking down the statues doesn’t help one African-American school child get a better education. Indeed, as McAuliffe makes clear, reality is complicated. The politics of symbolism carry a cost.

Update: According to the T-D, the $3 million estimate of lost property revenue is likely excessive, Gallasch derived the figure by assuming a 10% loss of property value not only of houses along Monument Avenue but in the adjoining Fan and Museum districts. Other appraisers dispute such a widespread impact.

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12 responses to ““This Isn’t About Monuments. It’s Much Bigger.”

  1. Good luck trying to get people to think critically.

  2. I suspect “Go Fund Me” to “remove the racist symbols” would probably go over quite well… but in any event.. wait til you have enough to pay for it..

    and as far as property values are concerned you could replace them with legitimate heroes… like those who ran the underground railway… world war II soldiers black and white… Robert Smalls… a monument to the blacks who were lynched… in Virginia… the folks black and white who fought to end Massive Resistance… and a few dozen more .

    I strongly suspect a one for one replacement will have zero impact on property values as long as the pedestals and granite accouterments stay.. maybe even one that has cartoon characters… or Amos and Andy or Sanford and Son or The Jeffersons…

    no problem….

  3. As a city taxpayer, I’ve said all along that other capital needs were far more important. I suspect the mayor is very happy that our governor is lowering expectation. But I also suspect, knowing how the world really works, that polls subsequent to that earlier one have confirmed it – and only a handful of people are really that motivated to take them all down. The number of votes gained is probably far fewer than the number lost, especially when the cost is factored in. Corey Stewart didn’t pick this issue without good reason, trust me, and it came damn close to working for him.

    I started re-reading the 1977 book about the post-war mythology that grew around Lee, “The Marble Man”. When I first read it I hadn’t actually lived in the shadow of the various Richmond monuments. I know Larry is convinced all these statutes were put up for racial intimidation purposes, but so far no mention of that in this detailed history. The veterans of a lost cause were desperate to justify their decision to start a devastating civil war and sought to celebrate heroism to cover up the stupidity (my words). No way they wanted to face the possibility they had blood on their hands for their economic exploitation of their fellow human beings.

    A side issue was an ongoing effort by Virginians to elevate Lee and the Virginia theater, at the expense of other regions and commanders (where the war was really decided.) Then advocates for the other commanders commissioned their own histories and statues (but the Lee faction obviously won out and his statue is everywhere.) Finally I do think it was political as the Democrats brought up the war, and the bitter resentment over Reconstruction, on a regular basis as long as those who had lived it remained. Not many statues of Longstreet and other commanders who became Republicans.

    I for one don’t think it healthy at all for this to become or remain a key issue for November. But I see the temptation…

    What would be healthy would be more education and reflection on what that history should teach us about what happens when confidence in the political process breaks down and people turn to violence. And it is fair to say that one person who fully understood that, who fully understood what a tragedy followed, was Lee. His death was almost as large a blow to reconciliation as the death of Lincoln. Perhaps Providence wasn’t ready to let the suffering stop.

  4. I doubt you’re going to find a smoking gun history of why the statues were put up on Monument Ave or other places but there is no doubt that many were put up at the same time Jim Crow laws were enacted and blacks were being attacked and lynched…as well as denied the vote, denied public school and access to other public facilities…. It’s hard to believe the “big coincidence” theory especially when no other statues were put up that would have given a wider and more inclusive context to the statue erecting.

    The fact that Lee did not want the statues and pointedly said that to do so would keep the wounds of war open and not healing… 150 years later his ancestors say the same as do other ancestors of other Confederate Generals.

    There is a lot of history NOT memorialized to the exclusion of folks like Lee.

    Take William Mahone who was at Appomattox and had an active political life with the Readjuster Party, a coalition of Democrats, Republicans, and African-Americans seeking a reduction in Virginia’s prewar debt,

    or this guy:

    John Mitchell Jr. was a prominent newspaper editor, politician, banker, and civil rights activist. Born enslaved near Richmond, Mitchell attended the Richmond Colored Normal School and taught for a year before he and other black teachers were fired by a new Democratic school board. He then went into journalism, in 1884 becoming editor of the Richmond Planet, an African American weekly newspaper.

    or this guy:

    Robert Smalls (April 5, 1839 – February 23, 1915) was an enslaved African American who, during and after the American Civil War, gained freedom and became a ship’s pilot, sea captain, and politician. He freed himself, his crew and their families from slavery on May 13, 1862, by commandeering a Confederate transport ship, CSS Planter, in Charleston harbor, and sailing it from Confederate-controlled waters to the U.S. blockade. His example and persuasion helped convince President Lincoln to accept African-American soldiers into the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy.”

    so where are these guys statues and memorials and why isn’t their “history” – “remembered” similarly instead of “buried” in history books and museums?

    see the point here about memorials and “history” remembered?

    when you talk about how the political process breaks down and leads to violence … you might want to look up RED SUMMER …or for that matter truly look into why BLM exists in the first place…

    I do not support McAuliffe or Norman pandering on this issue but at the same time Blacks have waited a long time for a proper accounting of this issue which to this point still has many white folks refusing to acknowledge ALL of the history and stubbornly refusing to see this from the black mans point of view.

    Isn’t it interesting that now that all of this stuff has “blown up” that we’re finding dozens of folks from the Civil War era … “discovered” again ?

    😉

    I understand the south white guys perception of the Confederacy and Robert E. Lee and other luminaries of that time … after all it was in the textbooks that we were taught from in school! It’s all we really ever knew as ordinary folks if we never went on to a history degree in college…it has been all around us in the names of schools, roads and other public buildings… almost all of them done by “elected” government…

    I think now is a good time to not only think about how people choose violence but for the rest of us to do some honest reflection of real “history”.

  5. I agree with Michael Paul Williams in the Times-Dispatch today. Saying that nothing should be done about the monuments because the schools are bad and in need of money is somewhat of a false equivalence. The city has had hundreds of thousands of bucks for a Redskin training camp that operates all of three weeks a year.

    Go figure

  6. To me, McAuliffe’s quote is what I also keep trying to say: “This isn’t about monuments, it is much bigger issue (racism, bigotry, etc) . ” On a related divisive topic, I would also say – This isn’t about Climate Change, it is a much bigger issue. The Charlottlesville confrontation is possibly a microcosm of our Country’s divisiveness problem.

    It tentatively looks to me like McAuliffe is doing a great leadership job right now, showing the way forward in the aftermath of Charlottesville. I take with a grain of salt his defense of the state response before the incident, but hindsight is 20/20.

    I think McAuliffe realizes that our purple state legislative laws (with open carry weapons etc) means that Virginia is not in a good position to allow the 1st Amendment to be expressed en masse. Take your pick, Amendment 1 or Amendment 2 – Virginia style, can’t have both.

  7. I’m pretty much with TBILL on this. it’s not like McAuliffes “crap” don’t stink like everyone else’s does ..but on balance he’s provided leadership and kept the trains more or less on time….

    and what is different in Virginia from Boston and other places is they ban weapons and we allow AR-15’s and that is the 600 lb gorilla in the room that scares the dooda out of folks living along Monument Avenue and environs – truth be known.

    I’d be 100% A-OK if NO ONE was allowed to “carry” anything more than a nasty mouth and dirty underwear.. to “protest”…. left or right , purple or neon-orange… etc.

    but I’m also not going to be surprised if ..over time.. monuments everywhere – will be vandalized… and no I do not think that is good… by any means – either.

  8. Unless the City of Richmond gets all the LOCAL stakeholders together and gives them time to develop a plan, there won’t be local acceptance of any decision on the Monuments. If the community can agree to something, it will be much harder for outsiders to have an impact on the City and its people.

    • re: “local” – well this whole thing started at the “local” level , right? Then “outsiders” got involved by coming to town armed to the teeth with weaponry and Lowes Tiki Torches… and foul mouths uttering racist epitaphs and promising trouble in general…..

      Are we now truly ready for the “locals” to decide the fate of these local “monuments” without interference from outsider KKK and White Supremacists?

      We have, in Fredericksburg, our own little “issue” involving a Slave Block at an intersection in town that is reputed to be where slaves were auctioned …but also used as a step to mount horses at other times.

      https://civilwartalk.com/attachments/imag1200-jpg.80833/

      There are opposing perspectives as per the Confederate statues struggles.

      People say it’s part of history and should not be removed. Others point out that all through Fredericksburg especially along the river where ships docked, slaves were sold at auction and ask should every location where they were auctioned be so marked so we can see the full history that slaves were auctioned throughout the town or just one remaining “representative” marker?

      Should Fredericksburg actually have a Slave “tour” where all the locations are marked and replica slave pens that held the slaves until they were sold – erected to “show” the actual ‘history’?

      To this point there seems to little appetite for more than the one stone block but even that one is proving to have the same dilemma in terms of whether it should be there at all or in a museum…

      Thankfully – the KKK idiots and clowns have either not heard of the slave block issue or if they have, have chosen to stay away.

      I think Fredericksburg is even less prepared for something on the scale of Charlottesville -and I’m also pretty sure that Fredericksburg with it’s significant numbers of middle income Blacks who commute to jobs in NoVa would be even less tolerant of the KKK than folks in Charlottesville.

      • Yes, local plans are best. But outsiders often come to protest. That’s what happened with the March on Selma, Nazis in Skokie, Resistance in Washington. And that’s one of the reasons we pay taxes – for police protection and, if necessary, assistance from the state police and National Guard. The latter was not there in sufficient numbers and in proper operation. Our Governor dropped the ball. And just because the Editorial Board of the WaPo can and does suppress news coverage, this happened.

  9. Terry McAuliffe is in a position to create a legacy for himself. He could offer to fund the costs for moving the Jefferson Davis statue to a museum and replacing it with a locally chosen one. He’s got the bucks.

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