State lawmakers are moving to tear down part of the state’s 9-11 Memorial to remove various descriptive phrases etched into it, controversial and otherwise.
The measure crafted by Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, would replace those 54 phrases with a timeline of the events of that 2001 day when Islamic terrorists hijacked airliners, flying them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Kavanagh said Wednesday the ring-shaped monument, across from the state Capitol, has been the target of some criticism since being dedicated in 2006. Foes contend some of the sayings are inappropriate, misleading or outright inaccurate.
A commission which approved the design and the sayings has since agreed to remove two of the phrases. And members voted to add two freestanding “explanatory panels” with some background both about the 2001 attacks and what elements of the monument mean, items critics found lacking when the memorial was dedicated last year.
But Kavanagh said that doesn’t go far enough. And rather than have a debate over the merit of each of the remaining phrases, his legislation directs that they all be removed in favor of the timeline.
“We’re making a small change physically but a dramatic change spiritually because we want the controversy to end,” he said.
All but six of the 90 lawmakers signed on as sponsors.
But Gov. Janet Napolitano said Wednesday she sees no reason for lawmakers to tinker.
She said the commission which approved the design, dating back to her predecessor, Jane Hull, had “a very public process” for deciding what to etch into the metal rings. And Napolitano said when questions arose, the commission agreed to make changes, also with public input.
“I think that process worked as it should,” the governor said. “I don’t know why we need legislation.”
That also was the sentiment of Rep. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, one of the six who refused to support the measure.
“This thing is already being fixed,” Farley said, calling legislative intervention “completely inappropriate.”
Farley said Kavanagh did not explain to other legislators that changes are underway.
Kavanagh conceded the point, saying he described the measure as removing the controversial sayings and getting into specifics when asked. But he said removal of just two — what the commission approved — does not go far enough.
One refers to an “erroneous U.S. air strike” that killed 46 Afghan civilians, a statement that now appears to be inaccurate. The other mentions Osama bin Laden addressing the American people.
But Kavanagh said many remain in the ring, designed so sunlight shining through them projects them onto the monument’s concrete base.
For example, one says, “You don’t win battles of terrorism with more battles.” Kavanagh said legislators who back his measure simply “want the controversy to end.”
The commission also agreed to make some additions, including the addition of “God bless America.”
Kavanagh said he hopes to have the seven panels with the etchings removed and replaced by the seventh anniversary of the attacks this year.
He said changing the ring to a timeline will not cost taxpayers anything because the cash for the alterations, like the funds for the original monument, would be raised by the commission.