A group of extremist right wing state legislators in Olympia are so bereft of useful work to do that they’ve introduced a bill solely meant to heap scorn upon a bill introduced by their Democratic counterparts in the Senate last month.
HB 2120 was just dropped by fourteen Republican members of the Washington State House of Representatives. It is intended to ridicule legislation proposed by Senator Reuven Carlyle (both D‑36th District) that would create a task force to recommend replacing the statues of Marcus Whitman on display in the State Capitol in Olympia and the National Statutory Hall in the District of Columbia.
“The legislature finds that under rigorous, objective review, Marcus Whitman does not meet the standards of being one our state’s top honorees,” the bill says (PDF), directing that a work group be created to find another historical figure who can be honored by the State of Washington for their contributions.
Carlyle’s bill, introduced last month, had a public hearing on January 30th. No executive session has been scheduled and it doesn’t appear that the bill will move.
A group of House Republicans led by Brandon Vick and Matt Shea, not enamored with the prospect of replacing the Whitman statue, have wasted public resources and nonpartisan staff time on a joke bill which purports to study and make recommendations on a statue to replace the bronze sculpture of Vladimir Lenin on display in Fremont, one of the neighborhoods Carlyle represents.
What’s truly pathetic is that Vick and Shea weren’t willing to put in the effort to get their facts right despite having an apparent abundance of free time on their hands. This is evident from their badly written preamble, which falsely characterizes Lenin as “one of our state’s top honorees with a statue display in Seattle.”
The bill’s first section is seemingly meant to be a condescending history lesson, but it fails at this. It is filled with passages describing Lenin’s evil acts. Hilariously, the backstory of the statue itself — which is the subject of the bill! — is entirely omitted.
If these Republicans had bothered to learn about the history of the object they’re criticizing, then they would know that the Lenin statute was not commissioned by the State of Washington, was not sculpted in this country, and was not even intended by its maker to honor Lenin. The Bulgarian sculptor who made it, Emil Venkov, wanted to criticize Lenin as an oppressive figure and a violent man.
This is why the statue shows Lenin with rifles and flames instead of books, which is how the Bolshevik leader was conventionally depicted in communist countries.
It was commissioned in 1981 by the then communist government of Czechslovakia and displayed in Poprad prior to the collapse of the Warsaw Pact in 1989. It was subsequently recovered from a scrapyard by an Issaquah teacher, Lewis Carpenter.
Carpenter died before finding a location to permanently display the statue.
The statue almost got melted down after that, but Peter Bevis, the founder of the foundry where it was to be scrapped, succeeded in getting it held in trust by the Fremont Chamber of Commerce until a buyer could be found. To date, no buyer has been found, and the statute remains on display in Fremont.
Neither the City of Seattle nor the State of Washington are responsible for the sculpture. It is privately owned and is on display on private land.
Vick, Shea, and company could have learned all this in a matter of minutes just from reading Wikipedia, but it seems they didn’t bother. Too bad… it could have saved them from the embarrassment of being exposed as a bunch of lazy ignoramuses.
Since the United States and the State of Washington have these legal concepts called freedom of speech and private property rights, the Legislature has no authority to decide what happens to the Lenin statute.
If Representatives Vick, Shea, and their cohort aren’t interested in doing the serious work of legislating, then they should resign to give Washingtonians who would like to contribute to their state’s well-being that opportunity.
Editor’s note: The original version of this post stated that HB 2120 was a response to a different bill introduced in the Washington State House of Representatives; however, HB 2120 is actually a response to Senate Bill 5237. The text of this post and its title have been updated and corrected to reflect this.