Despite criticism, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission plans to seek preliminary approval of architect Frank Gehry's latest design during an Oct. 2 meeting of the National Capital Planning Commission.
The fight surrounding Gehry's plan led Sen. Jerry Moran to quietly slip his resignation into the Congressional Record last week, leaving the embattled, 12-member panel with one less supporter of architect Gehry's contentious design. The Kansas Republican's resignation could have cleared the way for an alternative, but a majority of commissioners rejected that idea.
Moran and six other members of Congress who sit on the commission — including fellow Kansas Republican Pat Roberts — skipped the most recent briefing on the memorial. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., abstained from the most recent round of votes. Bruce Cole, a commissioner who has been one of the most ardent critics of the design, alleges Gehry's latest compromise plan doesn't deserve a vote from NCPC and that the proceedings are undemocratic.
Cole said there could be "no substantial discussion and sharing of views among the very people who were in charge of approving a multi-million dollar federal project which has already dragged on for over a decade at the expense of more millions of taxpayer dollars."
Moran, who was appointed to the commission as a member of the House in 2001, was a fan of the gargantuan tapestries depicting scenes from his state's prairie that Gehry wants to frame the memorial park. Continued criticism of the eight-story stainless steel tapestries and the columns supporting them led the Gehry team to revise the design this summer by cutting two of three tapestries.
Since then, the Eisenhower family and other critics have called for all the tapestries to be eliminated, a plan that Gehry said would not include his name.
Wielding the power of the purse strings , Congress has indicated it wants planners to settle their squabbles and move forward. Moran wants the memorial to be built and has been a staunch advocate for making Kansas part of the design. In June 2013, he called for the EMC to endorse Gehry's design, but discord has continued.
"Sen. Moran’s ongoing support for the inclusion of Kansas has led him to conclude that this stance is blocking a memorial to President Eisenhower from completion," stated spokeswoman Garrette Silverman. "He hopes an Eisenhower Memorial is completed soon.”
Senate leaders are responsible for selecting Moran's replacement, who will be a Republican in accordance with the law that established the makeup of the panel. The office of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., did not comment on the shakeup or timing for a new appointment.
Moran spent more than a decade involved with the planning. The Eisenhower Memorial Commission released a statement from chairman Rocco Siciliano that praised Moran's tireless dedication.
"As a Kansan, he provided knowledge and perspective regarding President Eisenhower’s home state that was extremely helpful as we worked to capture the essence of Eisenhower’s roots and legacy," Siciliano said. "His fellow commissioners and I appreciate his lengthy service, and we will miss him as we forge ahead with this important project.”
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