Our Laredo forum on veterans museum: civic dialogue fosters amicable resolution

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TAMIU faculty member Dr. John Kilburn and attorney Louis LaVaude did a stellar job of hosting the Our Laredo public forum for civil discourse on where the proposed veterans museum should be built. Members of Our Laredo are to be commended, too, for sponsoring the January 9 event that featured 16 panelists and a broad spectrum of questions as to other locations being considered, who would build and operate the museum, what the revenue source would be for construction and operation, and the particulars of the 2006 Webb County/City of Laredo MOU for the veterans museum at the historic Farias home downtown.

The event was held at the National Guard Armory.

For an issue that came to life and heated up contentiously and quickly since the early October City Council vote to build a veterans museum on City property, the matter abated quickly with the surprise announcement at the forum by Laredo Veterans Coalition leader Güero Segovia that he and the veterans with whom he had communicated now wanted the museum on the old Laredo Air Force Base property across from the Veterans Clinic.

For the last several months, Segovia, speaking, he said, for the commanders of other veterans organizations, has pushed adamantly for the North Central Park location, despite a public outcry to protect the park from development. Three veterans organizations, however, did not support that location. They were American Legion Post 59, the largest veterans organization in Laredo, Laredo Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9194, and the South Texas Afghanistan Iraq Veterans Association.

Property owners surrounding North Central Park, who organized as Friends of North Central Park, Laredoans who use the park recreationally, veterans, and members of the Río Grande International Study Center (RGISC) stood in opposition to the museum on parkland, though not in opposition to a veterans museum.

RGISC maintained that a museum, pavilion, and static displays of weapons of war did not belong in the environmentally sensitive North Central Park tract that features a wetland and a diverse riparian habitat for birds and wildlife.

The momentum of the forum stalled now and again, but overall it gave voice to all the stakeholders, including commanders of numerous veterans organizations and city and county officials.

District VI City Council member Charlie San Miguel, who has led the charge to have the museum inside the park, was not present at the forum.

It is expected that Mayor Pete Saenz and District VII Council member George Altgelt will sponsor an agenda item at the January 16 Council meeting to rescind the October 2 vote that lacked specificity as to where on City property the museum would be built.

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