Update: Chuck Berry Statue Kerfuffle in U. City
Editor's note: This post was updated with additional information late Thursday afternoon
Plans for the Chuck Berry statue set to be installed on Delmar in U. City were recently wedged between a rock 'n' roll and a hard place.
The statue, initiated by unofficial King of the Loop Joe Edwards in 2009, was threatened with delay by U. City's Park Commission after suggestions that it's being planned for park property - even though the Park Commission never actually signed off on the project. And a local activist is protesting the statue for a different reason: She says Berry's criminal record should bar him from being honored with a statue on tax-funded property, even if the statue itself was financed with donations.
U. City activist Elsie Glickert spoke to the city council, saying that Berry's felony convictions make him a bad choice for city-owned land.
"Chuck Berry is a felon," Glickert tells Daily RFT. "I personally am opposed to any tax-supported property hosting a tribute to him. I think an injunction should be brought about to stop it from happening." She's now awaiting feedback from the city.
Meanwhile, as the University City Patch website first reported earlier this week, the Park Commission discussed the statue at its meeting Tuesday. Members stated that, although city liaisons apparently took the project to the Municipal Commission on Arts and Letters in November 2009, it never was brought to them.
The members voted unanimously on Tuesday to give the statue the red light until they've been filled in.
The dispute pivoted on two distinct possibilities: Either the statue's future home next to Fitz's is on park grounds (and under the commission's authority) or it is just another part of U City (and free from its grasp).
"It's not on park property," City Manager Lehman Walker tells Daily RFT. That means the statue, which was paid for by $100,000 in donations, won't be delayed by the Park Commission because, well, the commission has nothing to do with it.
And so that gray area ends.
"The park commission serves in an advisory way to matters pertaining to the park, and it's not on park ground," U. City Mayor Shelley Welsch says. "Keep in mind that the park commission is made up of volunteer residents, and it changes as people come and go. Their job is to do the best they can."
So what sparked the debate in the first place? John Sweeney, the commission's president, tells us, "A number of citizens brought it to our attention because of a number of rumors and innuendo."
But Sweeney indicated, in light of our reporting, that the park commission won't pursue the issue further: "If Mr. Walker told you it was city property and not park property, we don't have a dog in that fight.
"It has nothing to do with Chuck Berry," Sweeney adds. "I like his music."
As for the man who behind the statute, Joe Edwards, he didn't know about the kerfuffle until we called him. But he was happy to hear the park commission issue, at least, was settled - and he's firm in his belief that the statue will be the most famous in the city once it settles in.
"The base has already been poured, and the statue's finished," he says. "Just like people in Seattle go to see the Jimi Hendrix statue and people in Memphis go to see Elvis, people in St. Louis will go see Chuck."
Editor's note: This post was updated Thursday afternoon to reflect additional interviews.