BY Beth Comery
Yeah, this has gotta go. I’m inclined to condemn this installation solely on its egregious aesthetic shortcomings, but there are larger issues at stake. This right here is a perfect example of why we shouldn’t be privatizing the municipal function of maintaining public median strips and roadsides. Where most people are motivated by civic pride to simply tidy things up, others see an opportunity for self-aggrandizement and a captive audience for their unwelcome sentiments and philosophies.
This cross was only recently erected by Peter Montaquila, owner of a nearby car wash and sanctioned keeper of the median. Calls to remove the cross have fallen on deaf ears. Maybe Mr. Montaquila will take comfort knowing that the Ku Klux Klan once fought a legal battle all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court under a similar fact pattern, with the Court ruling in 2005 that the Klan could not be denied participation in the Missouri Adopt-a-Highway program.
And according to Time Newsfeed the KKK has just petitioned the state of Georgia hoping to participate in their highway program. Some civil rights leaders say they would rather scrap the whole program. Exactly!
An editorial in the Sunday Providence Journal (“Crossing the line” 7.1.12) correctly points out the difference between this cross on Pleasant Valley Parkway and the one in Woonsocket. Mr. Montaquila maintains that he erected his cross in support of that cross. So far, Mayor Angel Taveras has lacked the political courage to do the right thing — scrap the whole program.
[UPDATE, Monday July 9: According to a report by Brian Crandall on Channel 10 News, Mr. Montaquila has moved the cross back across the street to his car wash property, which is fine. Apparently Mayor Taveras dropped by on Friday and they had a little chat. BC]