Lasma Artmane, Holocaust

Legislative Council discusses plans for Holocaust memorial

Sam HautGovernment, Headlines

Lasma Artmane, Holocaust

Auschwitz-Birkenau, Lāsma Artmane Unsplash

Legislative Hall may get a Holocaust memorial, according to discussions in the week’s Joint Legislative Council. 

The council, made up of the Democratic and Republican leadership in the Senate and House of Representatives, also agreed to re-establish the Legislative Building Committee so it can oversee a $23 million expansion of Leg Hall, including a new wing and a parking garage.

The Legislative Council oversees two legislative agencies, the Division of Research and the Office of the Controller General.

Dick Carter, chair of the Delaware Heritage Commission and director of communications for the Delaware State Senate, said it was the idea of 12-year-old Elliana Levine to create a memorial for the Holocaust on the grounds of the state capitol.

Elliana, the daughter of Melanie Ross Levin, director of the Office of Women’s Advancement and Advocacy, has been looking for a way to memorialize the genocide of 6 million European Jews and the role of Delawareans in that history, Carter said 

Carter said the memorial would include pictures of Delawareans who lived through the Holocaust and panels that would give details about the Holocaust.

Carter said he isn’t sure at this time how much the Holocaust memorial would cost, but did mention they have considered getting funding from a private source.

A similar memorial in Delaware relating to the Supreme Court’s decision on the Brown v. Board of Education currently in progress will cost around $60,000, Carter said.

The Holocaust memorial could be placed where the current 9/11 memorial bench is located, near the west front of Legislative Hall.

Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, asked Carter where the 9/11 memorial bench would be relocated, and Carter said there’s a sidewalk that runs across the west front of Legislative Hall where they could move the bench.

Carter said the Holocaust memorial also could be placed elsewhere and the specific location will be determined later.

House Minority Whip Lyndon Yearick, R-Camden, asked what the project’s next steps would be.

Carter said that once is is approved by the Legislative Council, they would create a committee of people in Delaware’s Jewish community and families of those that fought in WWII to help design the monument.

After a design is chosen, the project would come back to the Legislative Council to be approved. Funding would be discussed then.

Schwartzkopf said that they shouldn’t agree to anything at the committee meeting, but instead should wait until they get the design.

“I think we need to do it, but I don’t think we need to take definitive motions right now,” Schwarzkopf said. “I think we need to put together a committee, come up with a design, move forward with the design, make a motion to move forward with the memorial with the design that is approved by the committee, and then look towards funding.”

The committee agreed to wait for a completed design before they continue discussing the Holocaust memorial.

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Also during the meeting, the Legislative Council unanimously agreed to add to the bond bill, as epilogue language, the reformation of the Legislative Building Committee.

The committee was originally established under House Joint Resolution 3 in 2021 and it last met on Sept. 22, 2022.

The re-established committee would oversee the designing and construction of the Leg Hall expansion and parking garage.

The draft proposal to re-establish the committee would add Janet Roberson, director of the Legislative Information Systems, and four chiefs of staff to the committee. 

It would also lower the number of legislators on the committee from each chamber down to two, from three, and require periodic reports on the progress of the committee to the Legislative Council.

Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola, D-Newark, said it makes sense to have a committee overseeing the $23 million-plus million in the bond bill slated for the improvements.

Senate Bill 40, sponsored by Sokola, includes $23.6 million in bond authorizations for a parking garage and expansion to Legislative Hall, $750,000 from the general fund for minor capital improvements and equipment at Legislative Hall, and $2.2 million in bond authorizations for new windows at Legislative Hall.

“My bill hasn’t confirmed that, increased it, reduced it, or whatever,” Sokola said. “ But if there is something in there, then it makes sense to have such a committee established for whatever the duration of the project is.”

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