City Councilman Chip Henderson wants to know more about Mayor Andy Berke's recent request to remove Chattanooga as a trustee of the Confederate Cemetery on East Third Street.
"Our action today makes it clear that the City of Chattanooga condemns white supremacy in every way, shape and form," Berke announced late Friday afternoon, seven days after the Charlottesville, Va., rally by the so-called "alt-right" at which a woman was killed. "While we honor our dead, we do not honor the principle for which they fought."
The city has previously authorized the Sons of Confederate Veterans to make repairs to the property, Berke said. However, the terms of the trust, filed in 1942, have expired and it appears the city may not actually own the property now. If the trust, which owns the property, no longer exists, the question remains as to who owns it, he said.
At the end of the council's meeting Tuesday evening, Henderson asked City Attorney Wade Hinton to discuss the process leading up to the mayor's decision with the council in an upcoming meeting.
"It seemed like it was more of an issue of government getting out of the way," Henderson said of his conversation with the city attorney's office Monday, adding it might be worth considering letting the Sons of Confederate Veterans serve as trustee for the cemetery.
According to his conversations with the city attorney's office, the city's role with the Confederate Cemetery has been under discussion for a year, Henderson said.
While Berke certainly addressed the issue of the city's ownership of the land and its responsibility to maintain it, he left no uncertainty about the moral grounding of the decision.
"Our city should be invested in our future, not a discredited past," Berke said. "Confederates fought against America to preserve slavery. That is the truth, and we should no longer subsidize any myths to the contrary."
The city attorney's office will ask Hamilton County Chancery Court to make a ruling to determine who rightly owns the property, Berke said, adding the city does not now have a legal obligation to maintain it.
This story was updated Aug. 22 at 11:55 p.m.