WASHINGTON (AP) — After more than a decade of planning and millions spent to build a memorial near the National Mall honoring the late President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a key lawmaker who has helped oversee the project from the start is stepping away.
Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran resigned from the Eisenhower Memorial Commission before the panel voted Wednesday to move forward with a design by architect Frank Gehry after years of controversy.
Moran quietly submitted his resignation last week after concluding that paying homage to Ike's home state of Kansas in the design has become a stumbling block for Gehry's concept for the memorial park, a spokeswoman for the senator said.
Gehry proposed a memorial park with statues of Ike as president and as World War II general. A large metal tapestry would depict the Kansas landscape of Eisenhower's boyhood home.
Eisenhower's family has opposed the tapestry concept and called for a simpler design. Critics have mounted a campaign against the design that has delayed the project for years.
Moran wants the memorial to be built and has advocated for Kansas to have a presence in the design, spokeswoman Garrette Silverman said. But he decided that might be a hindrance to completing the memorial.
"Sen. Moran's ongoing support for the inclusion of Kansas has led him to conclude that this stance is blocking a memorial to President Eisenhower from completion," Silverman said in an email. "He appreciates the dedication of the Eisenhower Commission staff in seeing that this memorial becomes a reality and hopes an Eisenhower Memorial is completed soon."
Gehry, the famous Los Angeles-based architect, presented a revised design this month after hearing objections and eliminated two tapestries on the sides of the park, leaving one as a backdrop to keep the Kansas motif. Gehry has said the heartland is central to the war hero and president's legacy as Ike once noted he was most proud to be from Kansas.
The memorial commission voted 8-2 with one abstention Wednesday to move forward with Gehry's revised design. In October, it will go before a key federal agency that oversees planning for the nation's capital.
Kansas' senators have championed the project for years but have rarely defended it publicly against critics. Last year, Sen. Pat Roberts said it "brings Kansas to the National Mall" and reflects Eisenhower's roots and values.
Moran was one of the commission's original lawmakers. He began serving in 2001 as a congressman and maintained his seat when he was elected to the Senate nine years later. In June 2013, Moran called on the commission to endorse Gehry's design, and the panel voted unanimously to move forward with the concept.
Critics, though, have continued to campaign against the design.
"We don't object to Kansas being in the memorial, but it should be an image of Kansas that is recognizable as such," said Justin Shubow of the National Civic Art Society, a group that has opposed Gehry's design. "A baron plain of trees is not Kansas, and the fact that it is winter is a bleak and unpleasant image."
Commission Chairman Rocco Siciliano, who served in the Eisenhower White House, thanked Moran for his long service on the memorial project.
"As a Kansan, he provided knowledge and perspective regarding President Eisenhower's home state that was extremely helpful as we worked to capture the essence of Eisenhower's roots and legacy," Siciliano said in a statement.
Follow Brett Zongker on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DCArtBeat