This editorial originally appeared in the Parkersburg News and Sentinel and was distributed by The Associated Press.
Most are familiar with the phrase, “Not making a decision is still a decision.” In the case of West Virginia’s Capitol Building Commission, it seems they have made their decision regarding a statue and bust of Confederate Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson by choosing not to make a decision.
When the group met last week, it again chose not to take up the issue of whether to move the memorials to Jackson from the Capitol grounds in Charleston. Back in December, the commission held a public hearing on the matter and was told by seven of eight speakers that they should remove the statue from the southeast corner of the Capitol Complex and the bust from the Capitol Rotunda.
In meetings twice since then, the commission has taken no action on the matter.
Meanwhile, the Kanawha County Board of Education unanimously voted to change the name of Charleston’s Stonewall Jackson Middle School last year after community protests. On the other hand, commissioners in Harrison County, where Jackson was born, voted last year to keep his statue outside the courthouse there. Earlier this week, the Virginia Military Institute removed the duplicate of the West Virginia Capitol’s Stonewall Jackson statue from its grounds.
Other groups appear perfectly capable of making difficult decisions about memorials to the Confederate general.
If the Capitol Building Commission believes that, by stalling, they can preserve a statue and bust they would like to keep in place, they should have the courage of their convictions and make the decision official. If, on the other hand, they believe there is sufficient evidence that the public (i.e. the true owners of the Capitol grounds) would support moving the statue and bust to a museum or historical park, with plenty of context and educational opportunities, they should make that decision official.
Regardless of the decision they make in the end, the Capitol Building Commission is now doing a disservice to the taxpayers who would like the matter to be resolved. Although it seems as though they wish it were the case, commissioners cannot ignore the matter forever.