Often we’ve written laments about the labyrinth of red tape that an average citizen has to navigate when it comes to accomplishing anything within a government – local, state or federal.
Or keeping someone from accomplishing anything.
Now we find ourselves writing about a governmental procedure that seems much, much too easy.
Across from The Augusta Chronicle, on the 700 block of Broad Street, used to sit a plaque, erected by the state in 1954 to commemorate an 1856 Augusta visit by British novelist William Makepeace Thackeray.
We say “used to” because the historical marker has been removed. At first, we didn’t know by whom, but later learned that the Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources took it away during the summer.
Why? Because one person complained about some of the language on the plaque.
The marker excerpted Thackeray’s written reflections about Augusta, which included this direct quote: “Slavery no where repulsive, the black faces invariably happy and plump, the white ones eager and hard.”
Actually the plaque was first singled out in a review of all state historic markers back in 2001, but the state lacked funds at the time to do anything about it. But a single February letter from an Augusta resident seemed to have jogged the state’s memory.
So a DNR crew that happened to be in the area recently merely swung by, picked up the marker and put it in storage at Mistletoe State Park up at Thurmond Lake.
A DNR spokeswoman said a new marker will be erected, minus the language the complainant found offensive.
End of story? Not quite. There is the matter of the complaint process that spurred all of this. Since when can a 59-year-old state historic marker be uprooted based almost solely on a single months-old complaint? What if someone else has a problem with one of the other 70-plus state historic plaques in Richmond County? What then?
The DNR said it’s looking at possibly instituting a new complaint policy. It certainly should. Removing official historic plaques shouldn’t be so simple.