Editor’s note: This article was originally posted online Sept. 1, 2016 and appeared in print Sept. 2, 2016.
Austin leaders kicked off their Sept. 1 City Council meeting with a new question: Can they keep zombies out of local cemeteries? Should they?
The question came amid consideration of a $1.2 million construction contract to rehabilitate a chapel at Oakwood Cemetery. Local cemetery advocate Sharon Blythe, who raised concerns last year over whether the chapel might someday host gothic weddings, turned out to express concerns about “inappropriate activities” at the city-owned cemetery.
With a presentation showing photos of people dressed in costume or posing with fake skeletons in the cemetery, she asked the city to disallow skeletons, zombies, parties and weddings at area burial grounds.
City leaders were sympathetic, but skeptical, with Council Members noting that cemeteries are open to the public.
“I’m not sure who the zombies are who come through there… but I’m not sure how we would manage keeping zombies out,” Council Member Ora Houston said.
Council Member Don Zimmerman said he agreed with Blythe that parties and costumes in burial grounds were disrespectful, but he did not support ordering police to keep zombies out.
Kim McKnight, a coordinator in the parks department, noted there are many different ways to commemorate the dead, including traditions such as Día de los Muertos that are more celebratory in tone than stoic grieving. Heritage tourism in cemeteries can honor the dead, she said.
Council members approved the contract to work on the chapel 8-1 with Zimmerman opposed (calling it a misguided priority) and Mayor Steve Adler and Council Member Ellen Troxclair not present for the vote.