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Madison City Council denies move to reconsider removal of Confederate monument
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Madison City Council denies move to reconsider removal of Confederate monument

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Monument at Confederate Rest

John Fons, Madison, pauses before leaving Forest Hill cemetery on April 11 -- the day after the council approved the Confederate monument's removal -- on a trip to make a list of the names on the cenotaph before it is removed.

The Madison City Council denied the chance Tuesday to reconsider its previous decision to remove a monument dedicated to Confederate soldiers buried in Forest Hill Cemetery.

Council members voted 14-4 against a motion by Ald. Paul Skidmore, 9th District, that would have allowed the council to reconsider a decision last month to take out a stone monument, also called a cenotaph, listing the names of Confederate soldiers buried in a section of the cemetery known as the Confederate Rest.

“The cenotaph at the Confederate Rest does not glorify racism. It does not glorify the Confederacy,” Skidmore said. “It’s meant to be the final resting place of 140 people who died as prisoners of war.”

Since the reconsideration motion failed, the council could not debate further amendments such as adding a sign to contextualize the graveyard or reversing its previous decision.

Last summer, Mayor Paul Soglin ordered the removal of a smaller plaque, installed in 1981, at the Near West Side cemetery that described those buried there as “valiant Confederate soldiers” and “unsung heroes.”

The cenotaph was installed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, an organization Soglin has previously called “racist and bigoted,” in 1906.

On April 10, the council took a voice vote to remove the cenotaph. No dissenting votes could be heard at that meeting. Skidmore, who supports leaving the cenotaph, said he did not cast a vote then.

Ald. Mark Clear, 19th District, said he did not believe reconsidering the issue was appropriate as nothing new had come to his attention that would change his mind. He noted that the City Council in the future could vote to reinstall the monument or add an interpretative sign to the graveyard.

Soglin was absent for both the April 10 meeting and Tuesday night’s meeting.

Alds. Mike Verveer, David Ahrens, Steve King and Skidmore voted to allow reconsideration. Council President Samba Baldeh did not vote, and Ald. Sheri Carter was absent.

Once the vote was taken, Jenna Bernstein, who traveled from Tampa, Florida, for the meeting and argued against the monument’s removal, yelled at the council members and told them “may God help your souls.”

  • Also on Tuesday night, the council moved forward a massive private development planned for the state-owned Hill Farms property.

Council members unanimously approved the general layout and a zoning change for the project, known as “Madison Yards,” which would include office, retail, residential units and a hotel on a 14-acre parcel of land bounded by University Avenue, North Segoe Road, Sheboygan Avenue and the new State Office Building.

Four private streets would divide the property into five blocks with a green space in the middle of the development. The project is being developed by Smith Gilbane, a joint venture between Milwaukee-based Summit Smith Development and Rhode Island-based Gilbane Development Co.

Cassie Goodwin, a civil engineer with SmithGroup JJR, said the central green will be like “a European-style event space” where one of the surrounding roads will be able to be closed for larger festivals and events.

The project would take up the land occupied by the old State Office Building, scheduled for demolition this summer, and a parking lot.

While the general development plan was approved Tuesday, Smith Gilbane will have to submit individual plans that provide specifics on design, massing, layout, use and other topics as each block is developed.

Buildings within the development could reach as tall as 14 stories.

In other action, the council approved:

  • A liquor license for I/O Arcade Bar at 720 Williamson St. that will feature pinball machines, stand-up arcade machines and tables for board games.
  • A ban on smoking in all areas of city-owned parking garages.
  • A liquor license for a new brew pub at 2438 Winnebago St. in the Union Corners development that plans to open in September.
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