The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee accused President Obama of using a 1906 act of Congress as an election-year ploy in the establishment of the César E. Chávez National Monument.
Obama traveled to Keene, Calif., today to deliver remarks on the property designated for the monument, Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz (Our Lady Queen of Peace), or La Paz, southeast of Bakersfield.
The site served as the national headquarters of the United Farm Workers (UFW) as well as the home and workplace of Chávez and his family from the early 1970s until Chávez’s death in 1993, and includes his gravesite that will be included in the monument.
The Antiquities Act, signed into law by Teddy Roosevelt, gives the president executive order capability to designate land as national monuments.
“Additions to the National Park System should result from careful public review and a vote by Congress, not secret election-year deals cut behind closed doors at the White House,” said Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) today.
“This national monument designation is an unnecessary use of presidential powers and appears to be based more on politics than sound policy. In addition, the costs and any liabilities associated with running and maintaining this site are unknown at a time when President Obama has led us to trillion dollar annual budget deficits and there are millions of dollars in backlogged maintenance for our existing parks,” Hastings added.
“Major land-use decisions that impact local communities and economies should be made by those affected and their elected leaders, not unilaterally by the president.”
According to the White House pool report, Obama arrived at the memorial site carrying a single red rose, and toured with Helen F. Chavez, Cesar Chavez’s wife, and his son Paul F. Chavez.
Obama laid the rose at Chavez’s headstone, then proceeded to a speech attended by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and United Farm Workers president Arturo Rodriguez.
The White House issued a lengthy, four-page proclamation on the establishment of the monument.
“La Paz served as the national headquarters of the UFW and the home and workplace of César Chávez, his family, union members, and supporters. It remains the symbol of the movement’s most significant achievements and its expanding horizons,” the proclamation says.
“…This site marks the extraordinary achievements and contributions to the history of the United States made by César Chávez and the farm worker movement that he led with great vision and fortitude. La Paz reflects his conviction that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.”
The president was then flying to San Francisco for a trio of campaign events.