UPDATE: The applicant withdrew the application due to it not having current information.
The plan to put a “charters of freedom” monument at the downtown Washoe County courthouse is back, and critics are already calling for the project to again be denied.
The city’s historical resources commission denied the project last year, and the commission will consider it again at tomorrow’s meeting. Last year commissioners said the project was inappropriate for the location.
The group promoting the effort had 12 months to reapply after last year’s denial, but instead appears to have refiled a new application. That application copies the group’s application from 2019, but with a number of pages of repeated images.
The monuments propose displaying the Constitution, Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.
Reno historian Alicia Barber opposes the project for a number of reasons, including the monument’s historical inaccuracy. The Bill of Rights has 10 amendments, but Charters of Freedom monuments around the county — such as in Carson City — list 12, including two that were never ratified.
The news website Daily Yonder wrote about two Charters of Freedom monuments in North Carolina.
“So how did the first draft of the Bill of Rights out of date since at least 1791 get enshrined in granite in 2014?,” the site asked. Daily Yonder asked Vance Patterson, founder of the group Foundation Forward, which is pushing the effort, about the discrepancy.
“Patterson realized that the ‘Bill of Rights’ text on one of the monuments is actually the 1789 proposals. ‘That’s why I wrote what I did on the back of the monument,’ he told [the reporter] in a telephone interview.”
The clarified language on a separate part of existing monuments reads, “The remaining two were not ratified but appear on the original document. The first Ten Amendments ratified are our Bill of Rights.”
The monuments by the group continue to display 12 amendments — apparently in an effort to replicate the official Bill of Rights on display at the National Archives Museum, which also shows the 12 amendments — and the 2019 application to the City of Reno simply says the monuments displayed will have the “Bill of Rights.”
“On the most basic of levels, it doesn’t even make clear which of the 12 amendments shown in the 1789 version were ratified,” Barber wrote in a document opposing the project. “The first ten or the last ten? And why is this version being displayed at all? What role did it play in the creation of the Bill of Rights as we know them today?”
Commission member Emerson Marcus said last year the project was not a good fit for the location, a requirement for the project’s approval.
“It’s between two of the most historic buildings in Reno, the Riverside and the Washoe County Courthouse,” he told This Is Reno. “The story of this space needs to focus on the history of these two Reno monuments. A Charters of Freedom monument would be perfect at the Federal Courthouse a couple blocks south, but not between the Riverside and the Washoe County Courthouse.”
Moreover, opponents of the project say there has been little to no transparency on the process. They are calling for a more rigorous public review and more transparency.
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor, and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011, where he completed a dissertation on social media, journalism and crisis communications. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time research appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.