- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2000

A federal commission yesterday shot down the idea of placing a memorial to former President Ronald Reagan in a prominent site on the Mall but the final decision still rests with Congress.

The National Capital Memorial Commission voted unanimously yesterday to recommend that Congress reject a bill that would authorize the selection of a site and a design for a Reagan memorial.

Rep. Don Young, Alaska Republican, proposed the bill, which would make an exception to a moratorium on building on the Mall by submitting a plan to Congress by February 2002.

"I'm very disturbed by this. I feel we're being asked to bury the man before he's even dead," said commission member Jeffrey Carson, who represents the Commission of Fine Arts on the panel.

Commission members were concerned that passing the bill would violate the 1986 Commemorative Works Act, designed to provide standards for structures built on federal land in the District of Columbia. The act bans commemorating an individual until after the 25th anniversary of the person's death.

Last year, the National Capital Memorial Commission, along with the Fine Arts Commission and the National Capital Planning Commission, agreed not to approve any new memorials in an area called the Reserve, which includes the Mall. The three commissions advise Congress on memorials in the District.

Mr. Young's bill would seek a site on the Mall west of the Capitol and east of the Lincoln Memorial.

"That really narrows it down quite a bit," Mr. Carson said.

Exceptions were made for monuments already approved, including one to commemorate World War II and another to honor Martin Luther King. Plans for those memorials are going forward, though last month two dozen witnesses at a public hearing opposed the site and design for the war memorial.

"It is very troubling that this bill has been introduced," said Memorial Commission Chairman John G. Parsons. "We are hoping to write comments to the committee even though hearings have not been scheduled yet."

"Frankly, I hope this is a misunderstanding on the part of Mr. Young."

Mr. Reagan, now 89, left office in 1989 after serving two terms. In 1994, he published a letter to the American public to disclose that he has Alzheimer's disease.

A major government building on Pennsylvania Avenue has been named for him and Washington National Airport has been renamed in his honor.

The commission agreed yesterday to offer alternatives to an outside memorial, such as an enclosed tribute at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport or at the Ronald Reagan building.

Mr. Young's bill would direct Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and his successors to select a site and a design for the Reagan monument, raise donations to build it and create a three-person commission to oversee it.

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