Dear Coalition Friends,
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Visitor Center Deadline Enforcement Act, introduced in the House Committee on Resources on Tuesday, illustrates once again the threats to the National Mall resulting from uncoordinated Congressional oversight. Read the official Press Release below.
The Mall is already full and Congress imposed a moratorium in 2003, yet this legislation would mandate a location on the Mall for the visitor center. The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) correctly called for an environmental assessment of the proposed site–which also is part of the historic Lincoln Memorial Grounds designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and others. But the legislation treats the Mall as empty real estate ripe for development. The public review process is brushed aside.
This comes only weeks after the Smithsonian selected a Mall site, next to the Museum of American History, for its future Museum of African-American History and Culture. Upon reading about that decision in the press, Senator Craig Thomas (R-WY) stated his intention to “take another serious look at the Mall as was done in 1901” (by the McMillan Commission). Thomas is Chairman of the Senate Energy Committee’s Subcommittee on National Parks which crafted the 2003 moratorium to protect the National Mall’s historic plans and public open space.
Senator Thomas’s opening words at the February 16th Subcommittee Legislative Hearing addressed the African-American Museum and site selection for the Eisenhower Memorial. Now that yet another exception to the moratorium is being proposed, we hope that Senator Thomas will be joined by the entire Congress in recognizing the need for unifying Mall management and oversight and creating a new forward-looking master plan that includes Mall expansion onto contiguous federal lands. Thomas said:
“In 2003 we passed legislation establishing a Reserve Area and limiting future construction on the Mall. Last month we heard about the site selection for the African American Museum in the Reserve area near the Washington Monument and today we are considering a resolution for locating the Eisenhower Memorial in Area 1. Both of these projects are important, but I would like to reiterate that the National Mall is a completed work of civic art that needs to be carefully managed for the use and enjoyment of future generations…It’s time we take another serious look at the Mall as was done in 1901 and I will be introducing language soon to accomplish that. The National Mall has outgrown its britches and it will take more than a new belt and suspenders to fix it.”
House Committee on Resources
For Immediate Release
March 7, 2006
Contact: Brian Kennedy or Sophia Varnasidis
Pombo, Rahall, Pearce and Christensen: No More Red Tape on Vietnam Veterans Visitors Center
Washington, DC- Today House Committee on Resources Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-CA) introduced the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Visitor Center Deadline Enforcement Act. This legislation is cosponsored by the committee’s Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-WV), and Reps Steve Pearce (R-NM) and Donna Christensen (D-VI).
Congress authorized the construction of a Visitor Center in November of 2003, but progress in selecting a specific location for the Center recently suffered the effects of an unreasonable bureaucracy. As such, this legislation designates both a location for the Center’s construction and a deadline for timely completion of this process.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Visitors Center will be located on the National Mall, adjacent to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, in the area between Henry Bacon Drive, 23rd Street, Constitution Avenue and the Lincoln Memorial.
Chairman Richard W. Pombo:
“This legislation will finally bring the site-selection process to a close so we can get to the work of honoring our veterans properly, with an official Vietnam Veterans Memorial Visitors Center. After meeting with the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) it became abundantly clear that Congress needed to assert its authority over NCPC and the inexplicable delays we have suffered in this process. I applaud this bipartisan effort and thank my colleagues from across the aisle for such a strong response on behalf of America’s Vietnam veterans.”
Ranking Member Nick Rahall:
“Our veterans have too long suffered inconvenience by lack of a visitor center at their monument. This fundamental component is long overdue and I strongly support this effort to at last make the Vietnam Veterans Memorial visitor center a reality.”
Subcommittee on National Parks Chairman Steve Pearce:
“As a proud Vietnam War veteran, I understand the need for healing and closure that many of my fellow soldiers, sailors, and airmen still possess more than three decades after this searing conflict ended. Their objectives were honorable and their service exemplary – yet a true sense of the depth of their heroism remains tragically buried underneath the competing political agendas that still guide our nation’s perception of the Vietnam War. As a new generation of brave men and women fight the War on Terror, there is no better way to reassure them that America will honor their sacrifice, no matter what, than to finally provide Vietnam Veterans with the tribute they so richly deserve.”
Subcommittee on National Parks Ranking Member Donna Christensen:
“It is important that our Vietnam War veterans receive proper commemoration and interpretation. For this reason, we are eager to see the visitor center move forward so that, as visitors have less and less personal knowledge of the war, the wall can provide them context and history regarding the sacrifices that were made.”