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Madison commission punts on whether to remove Confederate monument

July 24, 2018

The Landmarks Commission pushed back a vote Monday on whether to remove a Confederate monument from Madison’s Forest Hill Cemetery as the members present at the meeting were evenly split over its fate.

A decision on whether to grant the city permission to remove the stone monument listing the names of about 140 soldiers — as well as the name of a woman who took care of their graves — buried in a section of the cemetery known as Confederate Rest has now been moved to the commission’s Aug. 27 meeting.

Commission chairman Stu Levitan, who previously advocated retaining the monument but has since decided it should be removed, was joined by Ald. Marsha Rummel in support of taking the monument out of the Near West Side cemetery.

Rummel said getting rid of the monument installed in 1906 and funded by the United Daughters of the Confederacy is not about disregarding history, but is a small act of reparation.

Commission members Lon Hill and Katie Kaliszewski saw the stone not as celebratory of the Confederate cause, but as a grave marker that supplements the eroding headstones.

“No matter what they died for, this is there to tell us where they are buried,” Kaliszewski said, adding that it would make her “uncomfortable” to remove it. Three other members were absent Monday.

In April, the City Council approved the monument’s removal. But it needs to be approved by the commission since the cemetery is a local landmark.

Based solely on Madison’s historic preservation ordinance, a city staff report found removal does not meet the city’s standards and recommended rejecting the request. If the commission were to reject the removal, Levitan said he thinks the decision would likely be easily overturned by the City Council.

In a separate ruling, the commission found it was appropriate for Mayor Paul Soglin to order the removal of a plaque installed in 1981 just outside Confederate Rest describing the dead as “valiant Confederate soldiers” and “unsung heroes.”

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