Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Caddo Commission Opens the Proverbial Can of Worms

The Caddo Commission meeting last week, on October 19, was a choreographed waste of taxpayer time as obviously the vote on the Confederate monument was already in long before the meeting ever took place.  The vote to remove the monument was 7-5, but everyone knew two things going in to the meeting:

1. The vote would be to remove; every Commissioner had already signaled their vote.  There was no suspense whatsoever and no use for the citizen comments.  The intention to remove was made perfectly clear when the Commission rejected the recommendation of their own Citizens Advisory Committee. 
2. The vote would be purely symbolic.  The Commission knows that the monument does not belong to them - this is not contested.  The Commission also knows that there is a pending lawsuit filed by John Settle for the purpose of determining who owns the land underneath the monument.

The forerunner of the Caddo Commission, The Caddo Parish Police Jury, donated that parcel of land to the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1903, a donation which is recorded in the Police Jury minutes.  That no property deed was ever executed is the Parish's evidence that they own the land, but in fact, the heirs of Larkin Edwards may be the owners of that parcel and the entire courthouse square as no deed for that entire block can be found either.

It's a can of worms.

 The official parish position is that they own the land -- that the courthouse has been there since the early part of the 1900s and ownership has passed to the parish through what amounts to frontier rights. An opposing position is that the courthouse square belongs to the descendants of Larkin Edwards, a friend of the Caddo Indians who sold much of the land that was the original Shreveport.  
There is no record that proves Edwards ever sold the land that is now the courthouse square. Early maps show it was to be a Public Square.

Women weren't allowed to vote and had virtually no property rights in 1903 so it's not surprising that no deed was issued.

And what of "squatter's rights," or adverse possession?

This one will be a tangled knot for the judges and attorneys to unravel and is sure to play out in the courts for years -- all at a cost to the Caddo taxpayer.

The cost to move the monument will be exorbitant.  Despite claims in the meeting last week that the monument is "just a piece of concrete," it is in fact a priceless and irreplaceable work of art, regardless of how one feels about the subject matter.

The 20' x 20' base is indeed concrete, but Clio, The Muse of History, is carved from white marble and the four generals are carved from hard gray Texas granite.  There is a 12' tall column upon which a youthful soldier of white marble stands, and he is about 7' tall.

Much, much more than a piece of concrete.

The ownership of the monument is not contested.  It belongs to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a heritage organization founded in 1894.  The UDC is a non-profit organization and is currently raising money for their legal defense fund.  You can contribute either online or with a check.  Go to the UDC website or Facebook page.

At any rate, the meeting on October 19 was pure choreography.  The room was standing room only filled with "citizens" who wanted the monument removed.  To someone who had not been paying attention to this process, one would believe the entire city wants this monument removed.  At one point in the meeting, Caddo Commission President Steven Jackson asked those in the room in favor of removal to stand and I'd say 95% of the room stood up.  Pure choreography (I doubt he would have suggested that had he not already known the answer).

Some of the citizen comments were simply outlandish nonsense, some had valid points or concerns, and maybe the most moving was the 81-year old woman in the wheelchair who spoke for removal and reminisced about how dangerous it was for blacks back in those days.

I heard one comment after another about "Bloody Caddo" - a phrase I've seldom heard in my 58 years living here.  I've read lots of history about our neighboring parishes, Caddo and Bossier, and know plenty of atrocities took place here as in many other places in the South, but I've never heard "Bloody Caddo" mentioned by so many people in so short a time as in that meeting.  Was that coincidence?

One woman came up and spoke about the stench of the smoke and blood, and about brains being blown out, body parts in trees, and such.

It went on for a couple of hours and it was after 6:00 before the Commissioners began putting their two-cents on record, but of course it was already done.

It was a circus, a sham.

Within hours the United Daughters of the Confederacy filed for an injunction to stop the removal as everyone knew would happen.

The Caddo Commission resolution for removal does not say when the monument will be moved, where it will be moved or stored, and does not mention any kind of structural engineer to examine the monument in order to prevent damage.  Since they don't own the monument the Commission (aka taxpayer) will be responsible for any damages cause in the move.  They will also, in all likelihood, be responsible for damages incurred as the monument loses status on the National Historic Register because of the removal.

Commission President Steven Jackson said the attorney fees will not cost anything as legal action will be handled "in house" but don't we pay the salary for the parish attorney now?  And if he thinks the Commission won't have to outsource some of this legal work and hire an attorney, he's way off the mark.  This is going to go on for years and be very, very expensive.

The only winners will be the attorneys.

You can thank the Commission for that.  By the way, they will be bringing up millage renewals soon - remember that as you consider how prudent this Commission is with your tax dollars.

Anyone want to start looking for the heirs of Larkin Edwards?  Start here.

Previous Posts on This Blog:
On Mysterious Flowers and Monuments (9/17/17)

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