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City ready to work with new monument rules
Auburn's leaders recently adopted new rules tooled to strengthen the City's hand dealing with requests to place large monuments on City property.
While the backdrop is obviously the continuing debate over whether a Joint American/South Vietnamese Memorial should be built in Veterans Memorial Park, a stone's throw from the existing memorial, City officials are adamant that the new ordinance is not about that issue.
City officials were surprised to find out in the midst of debate about the joint American/Vietnamese memorial that they had no process in place to deal with applications for larger monuments, other than to send the requests along to the Parks Commission.
At that point, they decided that purview should be with the City Council alone.
The new ordinance takes to the mayor completely out of the decision-making process but leaves him or her with administrative tasks.
"The mayor specifically does not want to have control of the process, and all those sections were taken out," said Mayor Pete Lewis.
Committee members also cut language that would have restricted council purview strictly to outdoor monuments and expanded it to include indoor monuments.
Where the original language would have created an individual approval process for each application, the new language creates a comprehensive approval process, said City Attorney Dan Heid. Heid said the rules will also give the City final say about the message the monument delivers.
"Everybody knows what free speech is, but there are times when, specifically with City property, the City Council gets to decide what the statement is, what the message is," Heid said. "That's what we wanted to do, that's the reason this turned into an ordinance, because if we are going to be more comprehensive than just one at a time, then we need to make sure we have the criteria so we can say that it is or is not within the scope of City speech."
Auburn Parks policy has had plenty to say about City property vis-a-vis memorial trees, about commemorative plaques on benches, about stones, even about doggie poop bag dispensers ... the sorts of things people donate on behalf of a person or cause in which they believe. But as for larger monuments, memorials, even big art pieces and what their proponents have to do to get larger structures such as those approved for placement on City property, Auburn's books until recently said nothing.
But they do now.