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Politics / Issues

The removal of a Confederate monument in Jacksonville appears doomed

 Councilwoman Joyce Morgan chairs the Transportation, Energy and Utilities committee. She was one of two members in committee to vote in favor of removing the statue.
Councilwoman Joyce Morgan chairs the Transportation, Energy and Utilities committee. She was one of two members in committee to vote in favor of removing the statue.

Two committees of the Jacksonville City Council voted Monday against removing a Confederate monument from public property in Springfield Park, indicating broad opposition to an ordinance that would require two-thirds of the council's support.

Legislation to remove a Confederate monument from public property in Springfield Park, formerly known as Confederate Park, seems unlikely to pass.

Enough council members voted against the ordinance in committee meetings Monday to make it fall short of the two-thirds majority it would need when it goes before the full council next week.

With eight already signaling opposition, the legislation seems unlikely to pass unless three or more of those council members change their minds.

The ordinance to move the statue would cost the city $1.3 million, a significant enough cost that a change would need to be made to the city's budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year. That means 13 of 18 council members would need to vote in favor of the ordinance for it to pass.

In the Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety Committee, and the Transportation, Energy and Utility Committee on Monday, eight members of the council voted against the ordinance, which would move the Monument to The Women of The Confederacy to private storage.

Opponents cited the cost of the relocation, concerns about erasing history, claims of disingenuous political pressure and charges of furthering racial division.

"Are we to go to Boston and remove the Liberty Bell and all monuments of the Revolution too?" Councilman Danny Becton asked, referencing the symbol of American independence in Philadelphia. "I'm sure folks coming over from England might be offended by the remnants of that time period."

Becton also took issue with residents from the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville who spoke during last week's council meeting.

"I personally reject the notion that in 2021 that this is about race or discrimination," he said.

Becton commented that he was "extremely troubled" by coalition members who called members of the Confederacy traitors, as they were the "ancestors of Americans, of millions of Americans."

Councilman Matt Carlucci was one of two City Council members across two committees who voted to remove the statue.

Carlucci, who is running for mayor, clashed with Becton over his comments.

"Nobody is tearing down anything. It's removing it until a better place can be found," he said.

Carlucci pointed to the statue's depiction of Confederate women as misrepresenting history and asked for his colleagues to change their votes.

"We got to move ahead here in Jacksonville, and I just urge you to consider reexamining your vote. Because I think in the long haul, if you vote for this bill, and that's how we need to look at things, in the long haul. You will be on the right side of history. Not the wrong side."

District 1 Councilwoman Joyce Morgan voted for the measure in both committees and was the only Black council member to vote on the ordinance. Council Vice President Terrance Freeman and council members Brenda Priestly Jackson and Ju'Coby Pittman, who are also Black, were absent during the votes in their respective committees.

Morgan emphasized the monument's presence on public property as an endorsement of its history and said it should be "put in a proper place."

"It's who write the history books that removes things from our base of knowledge. There are books that don't even make reference to slavery," she said, while issuing a warning to fellow council members that ignoring the statue wouldn't make the public outrage disappear.

"When we don't want to talk about something, we figure out a way not to talk about it. It's not going to change it for us not to talk about this and other things in our community that are important to to people."

The ordinance will appear Tuesday before the city's Finance Committee, where four more members of the council who haven't yet voted on the issue could be present. The ordinance may see a vote before the full council Nov. 9.
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