Commemorative and Land Bills: HR 3425



STATEMENT OF STEPHEN E. WHITESELL,

ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PARK PLANNING, FACILITIES, AND LANDS,

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE,

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,

BEFORE THE HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS AND PUBLIC LANDS,

OF THE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES,

CONCERNING H.R. 3425,

TO AUTHORIZE THE FAIR HOUSING COMMEMORATIVE FOUNDATION

TO ESTABLISH A COMMEMORATIVE WORK ON FEDERAL LAND

IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

TO COMMEMORATE THE ENACTMENT OF THE FAIR HOUSING ACT IN 1968.

FEBRUARY 25, 2010

Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the Department of the Interior's views on H.R. 3425, a bill to authorize the Fair Housing Commemorative Foundation to establish a commemorative work on Federal land in the District of Columbia to commemorate the enactment of the Fair Housing Act.

The Department appreciates the importance of the Fair Housing Act, a landmark law in a continuum of notable strides legislators and we as a Nation have undertaken to further the cause of civil rights for every American.However, the Department believes that the establishment of a memorial by an Act of Congress through the Commemorative Works Act (CWA) is not the most appropriate way to celebrate this important law.There are alternative means to acknowledge this achievement; therefore, we do not support this bill.

The Commemorative Works Act has facilitated the establishment of memorials to prominent figures in our Nation's history, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, to events, such as the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and to concepts, such as Japanese-American Patriotism in World War II.H.R. 3425 would be the first proposal to establish a memorial to a law.

There has certainly been landmark legislation which, like the Fair Housing Act, has improved the quality of life and opportunities for Americans in all walks of life such as the Civil Rights Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the National Aeronautics and Space Act.The list is honorable and long, but it is our opinion that the CWA was not intended to provide for the establishment of a national memorial to each law that could be nominated from this remarkable and growing list.

The National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission (Commission) met on December 4, 2009, to consider this legislation and evaluate its conformance to the provisions of the CWA. As you are aware, the Commission was established by the CWA to provide advice to the Secretary of the Interior and to report to committees of Congress on proposals to establish commemorative works in the District of Columbia and its environs.The Commission found that establishing a memorial to individual laws is without precedent and that the establishment of a memorial to the passage of the Fair Housing Act would raise concerns about both the setting of such a precedent and the relative importance of this particular Act of Congress. For these reasons, the Commission voted unanimously to oppose this proposal and recommended that further counsel be sought from organizations with particular expertise on this subject matter (i.e., Department of Housing & Urban Development) regarding methods of commemorating this important law.

While not part of the Commission's motion, the members voiced support for a commemoration of this law within the Capitol Visitor Center or at a housing development identified as a hallmark of the success of the Fair Housing Act.

The Department concurs with the findings of the Commission.We would be pleased to offer whatever assistance we can provide to the Committee or the sponsor in developing any of the Commission's suggestions to more fully explain the important role the Fair Housing Act has played in the history of our Nation.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared remarks. I would be happy to answer any questions that you or any other members of the Subcommittee may have.