Legislation to Mandate a Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center on the National Mall

Dear Coalition Friends,

Alarming legislation passed in the House that would mandate a Vietnam Veterans Memorial Visitor Center on the National Mall and exempt it from all laws, including a fair, mandatory public review process, will be reviewed in a hearing next Tuesday, May 16th, at 2:30 p.m., in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Subcommittee on National Parks, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room SD-366.

See the notice here.

One Vietnam veteran, Mr. Ray Saikus, will be providing testimony in opposition to the legislation. Testimony will also be given by representatives of the National Park Service, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), and the project’s sponsor, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

Congress, and in particular Subcommittee members, needs to hear from the public.

This bill is terrible for the National Mall and for the memory of the veterans that it purports to honor:

  • It does not honor our veterans when a message is sent that we will break the rules and manipulate the administrative process in order for Congress to dictate the decisions of a federal agency by prohibiting public debate. This law would undermine the right of public participation in a fair administrative process, which is a democratic value that our veterans fight and die for every day.
  • At a meeting on October 6, 2005, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) unanimously recommended that the National Park Service evaluate a couple of additional sites, because Site A (see the attached map) will have an adverse effect on the setting of both the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial itself. See the staff report here (PDF, 4 MB).
  • This bill sets a dangerous precedent of creating an exemption to historic preservation and environmental laws (Section 106 and NEPA) for a specific project, without any evidence of issues that cannot be resolved through the ordinary review process.
  • This bill would also directly interfere with the work of planning and design review agencies such as NCPC and the Commission of Fine Arts, by eliminating professional planning and historic preservation reviews, and instead dictating ad hoc decisions on memorials and development of the National Mall, based on politics rather than planning.

Here are the details:

  • H.R.4882, introduced March 7 by Rep. Pombo. Cosponsors include Nick Rahall and Donna Christensen, in addition to Reps. Pearce, Markey, and Weldon. This was PASSED BY THE HOUSE on 3/28/06 by 404-4!!!
  • S.2419, introduced March 15 by Ted Stevens. Cosponsors are Chuck Hagel and John Kerry.

The bill mandates that, “[n]otwithstanding any other law,” the visitor center must receive final approval within 30 days of the law’s enactment. The legislation would mandate approval of “Site A,” the triangle between Constitution Avenue, 23rd Street, and Henry Bacon Drive.

I hope to see you at the hearing.