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Upset by TV news report, Rockwall Council member Scott says City has no interest in developing black cemetery property

MattScott

By J.J. Smith. Rockwall City Council member Matt Scott was upset Tuesday by what he feels are accusations made by former Council member Sam Buffington that the City Council wants to take over and develop cemetery land where former black residents are buried.

The comments that upset Scott were made Monday evening in a WFAA Channel 8 news report by Buffington, who is black, speaking to black reporter Gary Reaves.

Click here to read the news report.

Click here to see the video news report.

Scott wrote on his blog Tuesday that the City does not have an interest in taking over Rockwall Cemetery land for development purposes.

He explained that the only reason Council members had considered purchasing the cemetery, located off Goliad/Hwy. 205 – just north of the Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church and Heritage Christian Academy, was because the City had been asked by a woman who said she was the owner – Mrs. Willie Strange – to provide  maintenance services since she could no longer afford it.

Scott wrote that in order to ensure maintenance it would need to become a City-owned property.

“Some time ago, the city was approached by an elderly citizen who, we were told at the time, owned the cemetery.  She asked if the city would consider taking over maintenance of this cemetery because she was unable to do so any longer.  The cemetery is located near Our Lady of the Lake church on SH 205/Goliad.  The cemetery is very old and, as I understand it, is a vestige of the days of separate but equal, meaning the cemetery was created for black citizens only because they could not be buried along side white citizens.”

The council OK’d city staff to begin discussing the process of taking the cemetery on SH205/Goliad into city hands so we could provide perpetual maintenance of it.  If the city was going to take care of it, it had to be city property.”

Scott said shortly after the process began, others came forward claiming ownership or partial ownership of the cemetery.

“At that point, the council directed city staff to step back and inform all involved to resolve the ownership issues.  Only once those had been resolved was the council willing to go forward with taking ownership and maintenance of the cemetery–we were not going to get embroiled in a property fight.”

Now Scott says he is sad that a former City Council member would publicly criticize the City and accuse the Council of being “racist grave robbers” when all Buffington had to do was ask and he would have received an assurance that the land would always remain as a cemetery.

“While that process has been taking place, apparently former Rockwall City Council Member Sam Buffington decided it was a news story to say there was concern that the city wanted to own the property so it could develop the property not currently being used as a cemetery or, even worse, remove the bodies and develop the whole property.”  “

“I can tell you at no time did that ever cross my mind, and I have talked to most of the other council members and at no time did it ever cross their minds either.  And I have never heard any city staff member talk about developing some or all of that property.”

“Rather than raise his concerns with city staff or the full council (something Mr. Buffington knows full well how to do because he has come to a number of council meetings in the past to present issues to the council), Mr. Buffington decided to go to Channel 8 and make it sound like Rockwall has a history of developing property over the graves of the dead, particularly the graves of dead black persons, and he was concerned the city was angling to do that again with this cemetery.”

“I do not know whether the city has such a history or not, but I do know this—the council was asked to take over maintenance of this property.  The council did not seek out the opportunity to maintain it, nor did the council seek to take ownership of the property out of the blue.  The council said we were willing to have the city take over maintenance of the cemetery at the property owner’s request, provided the cemetery became city property.  Nothing more, nothing less.”

“It is sad to me that someone who served on the Rockwall City Council would seek to promote his own agenda, whatever it is, at the expense of the city he once served.  But that is what Mr. Buffington has done.  Because had he—or anyone else for that matter—asked, I know the council would gladly have assured him or them that if the property was transferred to the city, the city would guarantee that the cemetery would always be used as such and the bodies of those former citizens would not be disturbed.”

Scott concluded his blog comments by stating that he is no longer interested in continuing discussions about the City providing maintenance for this cemetery. He plans to urge the City Council to discontinue any such discussions at their Feb. 1 meeting.

“At this point, however, I am no longer interested in continuing discussing the city taking ownership of, or taking over maintenance for, this cemetery.  The council and the city attempted to do the right thing when asked by a citizen.”

“In return, an attempt has been made to make the city look like a bunch of racist grave robbers.  Neither I, nor any other council member or city staffer, deserve such attempts. As such, I have asked that the staff place an item on our agenda for Monday, February 1, 2010, to withdraw the city from any further discussions regarding this cemetery.”

You can read the full text on Scott’s blog at: http://www.matthewrscott.us/?p=182

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3 Responses for “Upset by TV news report, Rockwall Council member Scott says City has no interest in developing black cemetery property”

  1. MR. POSITIVE says:

    Rocco what does it say about you that you would compare Mr. Buffington to Al Sharpton? I guess you didn’t know how to spell Farrakhan huh? Being a resident of Rockwall myself, I pray that you are an outsider looking in. I think Linda is right, both parties in this incident seem to be going at it the wrong way.

  2. Rocco says:

    Good for you Matt! Maybe Mr. Sharpton–err, Mr. Buffington should take care of the cemetary on HIS own dime. It’s almost spring, Mr. Buffington. Better get your lawn mower tuned up.

  3. I think it sad that someone has to go to the news based on wrong assumptions or gossip. I think its also sad that our council responds by withdrawing all consideration to purchase this cemetary. It appears to me the council is trying to show the man who made the unjust remarks the consequences to his comments. But in the end, everyone loses.

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