Confederate Monument Staying For Now

The Jacksonville City Council voted to withdraw Mayor Lenny Curry’s bill asking for $1.3 million to remove the Women of the Southern Confederacy Monument from Springfield Park.

The monument will, for now, remain in the park covered with a tarp.

The 12-6 vote came after a long debate that included Council President Sam Newby clearing the public from the council chamber due to numerous disruptions.

The council also debated postponing a vote until either March or May. Supporters including the Civic Council said that would give the city more time to create a better solution including the possibility of selling the monument to a private collector.

That proposal was rejected.

Supporters of the withdrawal said it gives the Council and administration a chance to start over and develop a plan of what to do with the monument and other Confederate memorials in Jacksonville.

Councilman Ron Salem said the city needs to start over and suggested finding a strong mediator to bring all parties together and come up with a plan.

“We are doing a lot of great things and I think we should do more,” he said. “I think part of the discussion we should have is to look at the monuments, look at our African American history and put a process in place to bring all this together.”

Those opposed to the withdrawal said they wanted an up or down vote now and so no need to start the process over again.

Voting for withdrawal were President Sam Newby, along with Councilmembers Reggie Gaffney, Aaron Bowman, Michael Boylan, LeAnna Cumber, Randy DeFoor, Terrance Freeman, Joyce Morgan, Ju’Coby Pittman, Brenda Priestly Jackson, Randy White, and Kevin Carrico.

Voting against withdrawal were Danny Becton, Matt Carlucci, Garrett Dennis, Rory Diamond, Al Ferraro, and Kevin Carrico.

Dennis said the withdrawal only delays a decision that will eventually have to be made.

“But we’re taking the easy route and I think the cowardly way out in kicking the can down the road,” he said.

Mayor Curry quickly let his displeasure with the Council known by Tweeting after the vote, “Tonight the City Council disappointingly denied a step toward real progress in Our City by refusing to vote on the removal of a divisive monument from public land,” he wrote.

Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes said the mayor made it clear last year he intends to remove Confederate statues from publicly owned spaces and that policy hasn’t changed.

“The mayor made a very clear policy statement, gave (the council) a very clear pathway to get to the fastest possible resolution that ends this divisiveness and removes from city property that some in our community see as an expression of racial hatred,” he said. “Council chose not to do that.”

Hughes said some private property owners have contemplated taking possession of the monument to place it on private property, but no one has come forward offering to pay the expense of removal.

He said if the council wants to “kick the can down the road… we anticipate Council would take over the policy and do whatever they think they want to do.”

After the meeting Newby said he voted to withdraw because he thought it would be best for the city to start the process over again. He said doesn’t know what will come next, but that he was sure they would produce a plan to deal with Confederate monuments.

“I want to see a recommendation one way or the other,” Newby said.

Newby said he did not know how such a recommendation would come about or if he would establish another special committee to review the issue.

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