Should there be monuments in Washington to astronauts, combat glider pilots, war correspondents and Francis Scott Key? Should there be one for Yugoslavian Gen. Draza Mihailovich for his heroics during World War II, or was he really a Nazi sympathizer?
And where in the District should a monument to Revolutionary War patriot Haym Salomon be located? One was approved in the 1930s but never built.
An eclectic collection of heroes and groups -- with a heavy emphasis on the militaristic -- makes up a growing list of proposals for memorialization in the nation's capital. And worthy as all may be, Congress and the National Park Service are starting to worry.
A Senate subcommittee has scheduled a hearing today on how the competing interests should be sorted out, and Rep. Morris K. Udall (D-Ariz.), chairman of the House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, has introduced a bill to limit the spread of commemorative metal over the federal city.
The problem is space. With the country only slightly over two centuries old, most of the prime locations for national monuments here are taken -- many by statues of Civil War generals who may be lost in obscurity but continue to grace squares and parks throughout the city.
The park service counts 111 monuments, memorials and plaques so far -- but only about 50 more spots left for statues in the core of the historic city, where most groups insist their memorials must be sited for proper appreciation. Many of these are traffic islands, and the count does not consider just how many monuments might be squeezed into some large, choice pieces of federal land, such as the 52 acres of Constitution Gardens.
A large memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt is planned near the Tidal Basin, and the last Congress approved two others, one to Lebanese American poet Kahlil Gibran and another to law enforcement heroes.
So far in this Congress, 17 memorials have been proposed. Three have been approved unanimously by the House and are pending in the Senate: memorials for Korean War veterans, women in the armed services and black Revolutionary War patriots.
This still leaves the question of the 3rd Infantry Division, the 11th Airborne Division, the Native American members of the Armed Forces, the Hispanic American members of the Armed Forces, and armored military units.
Individuals proposed to be honored include Martin Luther King Jr., Francis Scott Key, the controversial General Mihailovich, and Haym Salomon again, who is the subject of legislation despite the park service's position that he is already entitled to his memorial.
A monument has been proposed to victims of American slavery, and the government of Morocco wants to give the United States a remembrance of its friendship.
"We can expect that future generations will want to commemorate important people and events just as we have," said Rep. Bruce F. Vento (D-Minn.), a sponsor of Udall's bill. "The problem is that history continues to happen but spaces to commemorate that history do not increase."
Rep. Mary Rose Oakar (D-Ohio), who chairs a House Administration Committee task force on monuments, had fewer concerns about the current approach, however, saying that Congress already is selective in what it approves. Congress wants them to be noncontroversial, which is why Mihailovich is out, she said.
Other proposals Oakar plans to hold hearings on this year are for monuments to commemorate astronauts and slain war correspondents.
But she said others have merit. For example, a Francis Scott Key memorial proposed for a plot on the Georgetown side of the Key Bridge would result in the weedy area finally being cleaned up, she said.
As to why Kahlil Gibran will get one, Oakar said he is the most translated and best selling of all American authors internationally. "He is prominent on college campuses and has an international cult and following," she said, adding that comedian Flip Wilson participated in a moving hearing on the proposal in which he read from Gibran's "The Prophet" and cried.
The National Capital Memorial Advisory Committee, an interagency group that considers memorial proposals and makes recommendations, recently adopted its own guidelines on monuments in Washington. It wants to limit memorials to events of national or international significance and the military monuments to branches of service.
The Marines already have theirs in the Iwo Jima Memorial, and the park service wants all the Army types to get together on one for themselves.
Not everyone is as anxious as might be expected for a plaque, however.
Julius Hobson Jr., a congressional liaison for Mayor Marion Barry, said he just found out on Friday that a group of District residents had asked the memorial advisory committee to commemorate his father, Julius Hobson Sr., at a park at M Street and New York Avenue NW, across from condominiums named after him.
Julius Hobson Sr., who led the founding of the city's Statehood Party and served on the first City Council under home rule until his death in 1977, had an overriding concern for schools and housing and has had a school and a housing development named after him, his son said.
"I'm not saying it's wrong," Hobson said. "But when you think of the things he fought for, a plaque or a bust on a vacant piece of land just seems a little odd."