City News

Soglin under fire for decision to remove Confederate plaque

After racially charged marches in Virginia, Mayor Paul Soglin had confederate statues in the Forest Hill Cemetary removed.

Image By: Gina Heeb

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin joined many other local leaders across the U.S. when he ordered the removal of Confederate monuments following the racially charged events in Charlottesville in August. But some city officials are questioning if perhaps Soglin’s actions were too hasty.

Soglin directed Parks Superintendent Eric Knepp to remove a Confederate memorial plaque from Forest Hill Cemetery, located in Madison’s near west side, and it was gone by Aug. 17. City officials raised concerns in the following weeks that questioned whether Soglin had the legal authority to make this decision.

David Wallner, chair of the Board of Park Commissioners, and Stuart Levitan, chair of the Landmarks Commission, contacted City Attorney Michael May about the issue.

May released a formal opinion Sep. 19, in which he concluded “neither the Mayor nor the Parks Superintendent have the legal authority to remove such an item without first getting approval from the Landmarks Commission.”

The plaque was located in the cemetery’s “Confederate Rest Area,” which includes the graves of 140 Confederate soldiers who were captured and held at Camp Randall during the Civil War. While a larger monument lists the names of the deceased and those who cared for the area, the smaller, since-removed plaque praised the “valiant” and “unsung heroes” buried there.

Soglin defended the removal of the monument in a statement in which he denied that it erases or rewrites history. He said he plans to remove the larger monument as well.

“The Confederacy’s legacy will be with us, whether we memorialize it in marble or not,” Soglin said in the statement. “We are acknowledging there is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it.”

According to the Capital Times, Soglin introduced a resolution in late August that called for a joint meeting between three city commissions to get input from community members on the issue, before recommending a course of action to the city council. The joint meeting will likely take place sometime in November.

Possible options for the monuments include removing them, changing their messages or adding an additional monument that recognizes the Confederacy was on the wrong side of history.

Soglin said he supports the last option. 


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