To the Editor:
Once again, City Council has overruled its own appointed committee of task force. Whether the BAR over Ramsey Homes a year ago, or the Traffic and Parking Board over King Street hill bicycles lane before that, City Council shows the utmost disrespect for its boards’, commissions’, and task forces’ work and judgment on all but the most mundane matters.
Why bother with boards, commissions, and task forces when City Council is just going to overrule their most important judgments? Why not instead just delegate framing issues to staff more likely to report back what City Council wants to hear anyway?
The task force on Confederate symbols was carefully drawn to represent all sectors of the city’s society. Its deliberations struck a careful balance, whereas in overruling the task force, City Council eschewed representing all of the people in favor of representing a well-organized subset. In rejecting its task force’s recommendation to leave the Appomattox statue in the place it has occupied for over a century, not only does City Council set a place for itself among the “violent against art” in the Seventh Circle of Dante’s “Inferno,” but it also undermines the task force's recommendation to rename Jefferson Davis Highway, after City Council decided to defer to consulting first with Arlington County over renaming the highway.
City Council has made renaming the highway, a heavy political lift by itself, as a practical matter requiring not only Arlington County’s concurrence, but also Richmond’s, more politically difficult to accomplish by “poisoning the well” in Richmond with the request to remove the Appomattox statue. By itself, renaming Route 1 for Patrick Henry stands a chance in Richmond, but not if freighted by city hall’s request to relocate the Appomattox statue.
If there is an electoral majority behind what city hall wants to do, neither that perceived majority nor the politicians responding to it have very thoroughly thought through the implications and ramifications of their misbegotten gambit.