Loudoun County will start work to inventory the public places and monuments bearing names honoring Confederate or segregationist ideas and figures after a divided vote at the Board of Supervisors in the early morning hours Wednesday, Sept. 16.
The vote directs county staff members to report by back with a list of those symbols by June 2021, such as “road or street names, buildings, signs, logos, markers, monuments, battlefields, and others in public spaces honoring Confederate and segregationist figures or symbols in Loudoun County.”
“This will not only help with depicting history in an accurate manner, but also create a more inclusive county that does not continually honor and glorify racists and segregationists,” said Supervisor Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian). She added: “It’s easy to dismiss past events if you were never affected by them, and especially if you happen to benefit from them, wittingly or not.”
She said while the statue of a Confederate soldier that formerly stood at the Leesburg courthouse is well known, there may be other such symbols across the county that have gone unnoticed.
Some supervisors criticized what they saw as vague language in supervisors’ direction to county staff, and asked that it be sent to committee to define the scope of work and estimate the costs of the project. The supervisors introducing the motion gave conflicting answers as to what was meant by “public spaces”—whether owned by the local government, any level of government, or visible to the public generally.
“At a time when we’re dealing with a pandemic, a hiring freeze, we’ve got money held in reserve that we haven’t decide what to do with it yet… I’m just not sure that this is the right time to be doing this without first having a little bit more discussion at the finance committee,” said Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge).
“We’re not quite sure of the scope, I feel like it’s a little bit of as scavenger hunt we’re going to ask staff to go on,” said Supervisor Caleb A. Kershner (R-Catoctin).
But the push to send the discussion first to committee failed along a 6-3 party-line vote. Ultimately, according to County Administrator Tim Hemstreet, in a practical sense that will only change where county staff members come back for clarification—with that vote, to the full board rather than a committee.
Supervisors passed the initiative 7-2, with Kershner and Buffington opposed.