It will cost about $125,000 to remove four controversial monuments to Confederate officials or a white supremacist uprising from their perches in New Orleans, and an anonymous donor has offered to foot the bill, according to Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s top aide.
The one-page report from Landrieu’s chief administrative officer, Andy Kopplin, was forwarded to the City Council this week along with similar short letters from other city department heads.
All the reports recommend the council vote to remove the four monuments that Landrieu has said should come down: the Robert E. Lee statue in Lee Circle on St. Charles Avenue, the Jefferson Davis monument on Jefferson Davis Parkway, the P.G.T. Beauregard statue at the entrance to City Park and the monument to the Battle of Liberty Place on Iberville Street.
The recommendations are the final step the administration must take under a legal process spelled out in an ordinance that was crafted in 1993 as a means of removing the Liberty Place monument, originally on Canal Street. The marker celebrates an uprising by the white supremacist White League against the state’s biracial Reconstruction-era government in 1874 that left 34 people dead.
The council now is free to take up the matter of the monuments’ fate, though no vote has been scheduled.
The findings of the various city departments come as little surprise, given Landrieu’s public calls to remove the four monuments.
He began pressing the issue earlier this summer after a shooter allegedly inspired by white supremacist ideology killed nine people at a black church in South Carolina. Other Southern cities and institutions moved to remove similar statues and symbols after the shootings.
What the city should do about the monuments has been a point of heated debate throughout the summer. Meetings held as part of the process have featured passionate arguments, and occasionally accusations and recriminations, from both sides. Those seeking to take the monuments down have said they represent a legacy of white supremacy and honor a war fought to preserve slavery, while monument supporters have argued they are part of the city’s history and removing them would be forgetting or whitewashing the past.
A significant question throughout the debate has been how much it would cost to take down the statues, with those hoping to prevent their removal arguing that it would consume resources that could be better spent on city services.
Kopplin’s report, however, estimates a cost of $126,000 and says an anonymous donor has already committed to paying that amount. The administration did not provide documentation supporting the cost estimate.
“It is true that these landmarks have served for decades as geographic compass points on the city’s grid, but how can this geographic compass compare to a great city’s moral compass?” Kopplin asked in his letter.
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