Congress takes up internment memorial bill

Clarence Moriwaki and Mayor Darlene Kordonowy (first row, left end) listen to testimony by U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee. - Courtesy of Inslee office
Clarence Moriwaki and Mayor Darlene Kordonowy (first row, left end) listen to testimony by U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee.
— image credit: Courtesy of Inslee office

Islanders headed to Capitol Hill this week, seeking congressional support for a proposed Japanese American internment memorial in Eagledale.

Clarence Moriwaki of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community, and Bainbridge Mayor Darlene Kordonowy testified before the House Resources Subcommittee on Parks, Recreation and Public Lands, Thursday morning in Washington D.C.

Before the committee was a bill sponsored by Rep. Jay Inslee (D-1st District) that would start the process of making the Taylor Avenue road end – from which Japanese Americans departed by ferry in 1942, bound for internment camps in California – into a National Park Service site.

A memorial installation is proposed there.

Following introductory comments by Inslee, Moriwaki gave a presentation on the site’s history.

Kordonowy then briefed committee members on the ongoing Superfund cleanup at the other end of the property.

“I think it went very well,” Moriwaki said. “We were very well received, and they paid close attention to our testimony.

“They were also swayed, I think, by the fact that our bill was noncontroversial, that we had the unanimous support of the state Legislature,” he said.

“The committee was enraptured listening to Clarence’s presentation, and the mayor’s,” said Inslee, reached Friday after he attended a historic convening of Congress at Federal Hall in New York City to commemorate the terrorist attacks of a year ago.

“I think they were deeply moved by it,” Inslee said, “(and) it’s hard to get a congressional committee moved by anything.”

Some committee members were away at proceedings on another issue, Moriwaki said, and testimony was interrupted at one point when members were called to the floor for a vote.

Still, Moriwaki presented each member with a packet of background material and press clippings, and a copy of “After Silence,” a new production on the internment.

“My luggage was 30 videocassettes and 30 packets,” he said. “I managed to squeeze my suit in there somewhere.”

A representative of the National Park Service also testified, offering that agency’s general support for the bill.

Inslee’s legislation directs the National Park Service to study the former site of the Eagledale ferry dock, on the south side of Eagle Harbor, for possible park-system inclusion. The study would determine what type of status, if any, the property would enjoy.

The bill enjoys broad support, Inslee said Friday, with 20 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle.

If the bill finds its way onto an expedited calendar, it could go to the floor of the House for a vote in early October.

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