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Holocaust Memorial Raises Policy Issues Within Statehouse Walls
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Last year, at a holocaust memorial gathering at the Ohio Statehouse, Gov. John Kasich raised the idea of creating a memorial inside the building.
“I’d call on the Jewish community as well as our brothers in faith to develop some sort of a memorial that members of our legislature and members of the public, as they pass through this great rotunda, will be able to understand, not just the history of a time when people wouldn’t stand but the fact that it’s today that was must stand against evil,” Kasich said.
After that comment was made, former Senate President Richard Finan said he had a brief visit with a representative from the Governor’s office who offered no specific suggestions about a holocaust memorial.
Finan, who heads the board that operates the Statehouse and its grounds, says his group, by law, must approve memorials and any changes on Capitol Square. He says he was blindsided to learn last week that the legislature was set to approve, as part of another bill, a holocaust memorial on the Statehouse grounds
“We were totally in the dark and it was a total circumvention of the rules that were established in 1992,” Finan said.
Finan emphasizes he’s not against a memorial for the holocaust in principle. But he said he is against the way the Governor and legislature cut the statehouse board out of the process of determining if, when and where such a memorial would go.
“One of the problems here was this happened quickly and I’m not sure this wasn’t with malice and forethought. I think that if this had gone in to the bill when it started out, we would have had a chance to talk to members of the house and senate and do something about it,” Finan said.
Finan says during the 15 minutes before the vote on the legislation, he was able to get the Capitol Square board’s involvement written into the measure. But he says just having the board involved is not enough. Finan says at least 10 different groups have been clamoring for memorials for different causes on the Statehouse grounds.
“This now opens the door to proliferation of statues on the Statehouse grounds or anything else,” Finan said. “All one has to do now is go to the Governor and say ‘I want a statue of Donald Duck on the Statehouse grounds’ and if he gets convinced of it, boom, it goes and we have nothing to say about it.”
And Finan said that’s why the legislature, back in 1992, put the board in charge of these decisions in the first place. He says too many people were making too many changes – building walls, bathrooms and other structures that harmed the integrity of the Statehouse and its grounds. Finan said the oversight board was established to make decisions that were well researched and fair.
A spokesman for Governor Kasich is defending his actions. Rob Nichols says specifics about the memorial are not yet available but it will go forward.
“There is much to be determined at this point,” Nichols said. “Not everything is set in stone. But we think it’s important not only to survivors, their liberators but those who perished. We are committed to this project.”
Finan says he still hopes advice from his board will be sought and heard as the memorial moves forward so that it can, at the very least, be structurally sound. There’s a holocaust remembrance ceremony at the Statehouse in a couple of weeks and Kasich will likely want to announce more detailed plans for the memorial at that time.