The City Council is scheduled to take up an ordinance (read here) Tuesday night that would protect Racine's "historic artifacts." The ordinance would apply to any city-owned objects, but not to any real estate.
An example of where the ordinance would have been useful is in protecting eight Civil War cannons that were once placed on Monument Square. The cannons disappeared and no one knows where they're located, said Eric Marcus, chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
More modern examples - where the ordinance could actually go into affect - include the Karel Jonas statue on Douglas Avenue and the historic paintings that hang in City Hall, he said.
Under the ordinance, the Landmarks Preservation Commission would compile a list of historic city-owned objects that are over 50 years old. The City Council would review the list and, within 60 days, vote to remove an object from the catalog of historic items. After 60 days, the items would be protected, essentially, forever.
Private owners could also submit items for the list, but the city cannot compel a private owner to include an item. For example, Gateway Technical College's Mary Todd Lincoln statute could not be included on the list unless Gateway approached the city and asked for it to be included. (The ordinance includes a specific provision directing the commission to work with Gateway, Racine Unified, and county and state governments to expand protection to their historic objects.)
Marcus described the city's historic objects as the "fabric of Racine" that's slowly disappeared over the years. He noted the urns outside of Winslow School, city bubblers, and countless others items have been lost.
"We need to take a proactive step so this does not happen again," he said.
Brian O'Connell, director of city development, told the commission he hasn't heard objections to the proposed ordinance from city departments or aldermen.
Alderman Bob Anderson said he expected the ordinance to pass.
"Any controversy will be on what's included on the list," he said.
Update: The City Council voted Monday (Feb. 3) to send this ordinance to the Finance and Personnel Committee for further consideration. The committee will consider the proposal Feb. 10.