GOP won’t answer why monument cut from budget

The N.C. General Assembly

GOP won’t answer why monument cut from budget
July 06
04:00 2017

Before the N.C. General Assembly adjourned its long session last Friday, Republican legislative leaders House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate Pro-tem Phil Berger were asked in writing why they cut a proposed $200,000 from the compromise $23 billion budget for the African-American “Freedom Monument” project slated for the state Capitol grounds, and instead earmarked $5 million – 25 times as much – to a new $65 million N.C. Civil War Museum in Fayetteville, scheduled to open in 2020.

Neither Moore or Berger responded to the written requests for comment sent to their offices one day before both houses of the legislature adjourned.

The only Republican lawmaker who did respond to the press inquiry was one of the budget-writers, state Rep. Donny Lambeth [R-Forsyth], but that was to say that only Moore or Berger could answer.

“This was negotiated after the full [committee] chairs finished all the budget work that was asked of us.  I can see if I can get you a statement from the Speaker,” Lambeth emailed back to The Chronicle, but no statement from Speaker Moore was forthcoming.

The museum, or “center” as it is normally referred by its Winston-Salem-based fundraiser, has already raised approximately $27 million – all but $7 million from government funding from Fayetteville, Cumberland County, and now the state legislature.

When completed, it will replace the current Museum of the Cape Fear, a state-owned, state supported facility.

The Freedom Monument, planning for which began in Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration, would also be a state-owned, state-funded memorial. After various hearings were held about the project across the state, a summary report was written for the advisory committee of the  N.C. Historical Commission and the N.C. African American Heritage Commission.

The draft summary of that report said that, ““The monument should make an impact on all visitors, young people included. The monument is intended for all citizens, not solely for African Americans. The monument should present a public face to newcomers and should encapsulate the African American experience in North Carolina. It is the intent of the sponsoring bodies that the monument should be historical and commemorative in nature. While it must be aesthetically pleasing, it should complement other monuments on the grounds and be grounded in North Carolina history.”

The Freedom Monument project is now without public funding as originally proposed last March by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper in his budget.

A spokesperson for the N.C. Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources (N.C. DNCR), which oversees the project along with both commissions, said Gov. Cooper’s proposed appropriation was to complete the planning and design on the monument Gov. McCrory once said was an “…appropriate way to recognize the contributions of African-Americans to North Carolina’s history.”

The project now has no timeline or appropriation, “but we are moving forward,” the N.C. DNCR spokesperson assured The Chronicle.

The elimination of funding for the Freedom Monument only reinforced the bad taste Democrats and others already had for a bruising legislative session where the Republican majority, without apology, imposed their will on a Democratic governor they vowed to show little regard for.

“I’m troubled that Republican legislative leaders neglected to fund an African American heritage monument on State Capitol grounds,” Gov. Cooper said in a statement to The Chronicle. “This monument is long overdue, which is why I prioritized it in my budget proposal. This is just another example of legislative Republicans with the wrong priorities.”

Noting that the GOP decision to scrub the funding for the Freedom Monument was “disappointing,” Sen. Paul Lowe Jr. (D-Forsyth) opined,” The General Assembly should be leading the way in showing that North Carolina is committed to progress and celebrates the rich history of African-Americans.

“Instead, my Republican colleagues have once again decided to ignore the history of the people they serve. I hope that we are able to find common ground to fund a project that is long overdue,” Sen. Lowe concluded.

Non-elected officials, however, did not spare the rod.

Duke University Professor of Public Policy Dr. William Darity Jr. bluntly told The Chronicle, “ We are living in a moment where we are getting a glimpse of what life would have been like under a Confederate States of America.”

Picking up from Professor Darity’s clue of an Old South mentality at work in the legislature, civil rights attorney All McSurely, who is white, said, “The Berger-Moore secret white caucus recognizes its days are numbered. Their politics, based on abject denial of the effects of Southern systems of racism and poverty … have cruelly punished black and white poor and working people across North Carolina and the South. They apparently have convinced themselves that the 30 to 35 percent base of ‘white’ voters, if they can just curry their votes with racial code-words and policies, will keep them in power forever.”

Finally, N.C. NAACP President Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, outraged by the Republican-led legislature’s overall policies toward the poor and communities of color, called GOP rule “illegal and out of control.”

“Whether it’s the regressive budget or denying health care or voter suppression, this legislature is out of touch with democratic principles and our deepest moral values. With every action, they expose their love for failed policies of the past and their desire to take North Carolina backward,” Rev. Barber said.

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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