LITTLE ROCK — The city will contribute $45,000 from its general fund to the construction of a statue of civil rights leader Daisy Bates in the U.S. Capitol, according to a settlement between the city and the Arkansas Department of Parks Heritage and Tourism signed Wednesday.
The city and the state disagree about whether Little Rock violated the conditions of a grant agreement when the staff removed a statue of a Confederate soldier from the MacArthur Park grounds in June at the direction of Mayor Frank Scott Jr.
In 2017, Little Rock received a $100,000 grant from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program to restore the facade of the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. As a condition of receiving the grant money, which has already been spent, the city gave the state an easement on the land where the monument, known as “Memorial to Company A, Capitol Guards,” stood.
The settlement, finalized late Monday, states that the terms of the easement restricted the city in regard to making changes to the premises and landscaping, though the agreement notes that the term wasn’t defined within the document.
Both the city and the department want to avoid litigation, the settlement says.
“If a settlement could be entered into, particularly one that could honor a Little Rock citizen at the Capitol, then is that not really the best way to go?” City Attorney Tom Carpenter said last week.
Carpenter said he had doubts as to whether the city violated the terms of the easement, since the easement doesn’t mention statues specifically, nor does it include anything about vandalism or public safety. Before the city removed the statue, vandals had splashed what appeared to be gallons of varnish onto its base, which remains in the park but has since been boarded up with plywood.
The city attorney also cited instances across the country where Confederate monuments have been taken down by activists or thrown into rivers during recent protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes.
City Manager Bruce Moore said the amount to be paid by the city was initially $100,000, but the number was negotiated down. Officials from the city and the department agreed to take the monument out of the easement tied to the facade grant while leaving the museum within it, Carpenter said.
The city has about $212 million in its general fund, which describes money that is not dedicated to a particular purpose. The city’s leadership will take a budget adjustment that includes the new $45,000 expenditure, along with other adjustments, before the city board, likely in September, Moore said.
Moore said last week the money wouldn’t necessarily be pulled from one department or another since the general fund also includes an allocation for special projects.
“There will be no impact to city services,” he said.
The idea to have the settlement money paid to the Arkansas Heritage and History Foundation, the nonprofit group supporting the effort to replace two century-old statues representing Arkansas in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol, came out of conversations between Scott and Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
Arkansas passed a law last year calling for the replacement of the statues in the U.S. Capitol with Bates, who was a mentor to the Little Rock Nine, and Johnny Cash, the Arkansas-born musician.
Currently, the Arkansans memorialized there are late attorney and former American Bar Association President Uriah M. Rose and the late U.S. Sen. and Gov. James P. Clarke.
Clarke’s positions on race, including a statement from an 1894 speech about preserving “white standards of civilization,” were raised while the law was being drafted and debated. Rose was a secessionist.
New statues have not yet been sculpted. The Arkansas secretary of state’s office has an unfunded appropriation of $750,000 for the replacement effort.
Only one private donation has been made, a $100,000 gift from Walmart Inc., the secretary of state’s office said last week. Public relations director Kevin Niehaus said in an email that the office was “very appreciative of the governor’s and mayor’s efforts.”
Hutchinson said in a written statement last week, before the settlement was finalized, that he supported putting the easement payment toward the statues. An earlier draft of the settlement obtained under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act said the money would support the creation and placement of Cash’s statue as well as Bates’ statue.
Scott said on Tuesday that he was glad he and the governor had reached an agreement. He first told the city Board of Directors that an agreement was being worked out at the end of last week’s meeting, calling it a “redistribution of funds.”
He told the board that the monument was removed for public safety reasons, though in a written statement that was released shortly after its removal he said the monument did not give context to the painful legacy of the soldiers’ actions and that city parks should be inclusive spaces for all taxpayers.
Moore said a team of city and state staff members were working on deciding an appropriate location for the monument, which the city is paying $133 a month to keep in a temperature-controlled storage unit. The monument was presented to the city in 1911 by the Robert C. Newton Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the local chapter of the organization for male descendants of Confederate soldiers.
Joey McCutchen, a Fort Smith attorney representing the chapter, said the camp had been a part of tho