BATISTE: The Monument Fight Goes Statewide

Last week, the head of Louisiana culture and tourism joined the fight against historical landmark demolition.

Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser told WVUE that he opposes the removal of historic monuments. As the tourism chief, his office has heard pushback from people in Louisiana as well as from potential tourists upset with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s monument removal.

“People are outraged. We’re getting calls from all over the country,” Nungesser told Rob Krieger of WVUE.  “Some of the lawyers for the state are looking at it to see if the Lieutenant Governor’s office has any grounds.”

Nungesser also told WVUE that his office asked for help from Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, although Landry has not made public statements on the matter.

On the political side, things could get interesting if Nungesser and Landry join forces on the issue. They are the top two Republican elected officials in Louisiana. The House and Senate are Republican controlled.  John Bel Edwards faces reelection as a Democrat in a red state. If Landry dives in and helps save historic monuments, and Governor Edwards sits on the sideline, the polls will likely reflect the impact of the governor’s decision. Nungesser and Landry have worked together previously.  Landry’s original U.S. Congressional district included Plaquemines Parish while Nungesser was Parish President.

Nungesser also said he reached out to President Donald Trump and requested intervention. When Trump visited Louisiana after last year’s devastating floods, Nungesser was the first to greet the now President as he stepped off his plane, Landry was also in the lineup.

It is a statewide issue as Shreveport and Lafayette also have monument controversies. And knocking down historic monuments has repercussions, not just culturally, but financially as Nungesser commented on. The President of the Southern Historical Protections Group, Mike Williams, told The Alabama Political Reporter, “With all of the bad publicity the City of New Orleans is getting, and the calls for boycotts of that city, I am feeling somewhat more confident” that the historic preservation legislation in Alabama will pass.

The boycott of New Orleans is real and one of the most hidden news stories in the City of New Orleans. Several Facebook groups advocate the boycott of the Crescent City and even petitions have been passed around making news stories in various cities since Mayor Landrieu announced his revisionist cause in June of 2015.

The three bills going before the Louisiana legislature are Senate Bill 198 by Senator Beth Mizell, House Bill 71 by Representative Thomas Carmody, and House Bill 292 by Representative Phillip DeVillier.

Senate President John Alario is likely to put Mizell’s bill in the “Kill Committee” or Senate & Governmental Affairs Committee run by Karen Carter Peterson. The historic monuments do not fall under the parameters of the Governmental Affairs Committee. A column in the Advocate addressed this: “As specified on its website, the Louisiana Senate determined that its Education Committee shall have the responsibility to review all bills dealing with the ‘Preservation of Historic Landmarks and Objects.’”

The Louisiana legislature should not follow the lead of the New Orleans City Council, Louisiana needs to give history a fair chance.

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