JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville City Council member along with the chairman of the Jax Chamber and a former Jacksonville mayor are calling for the city council to postpone an upcoming vote to remove a Confederate moment that is still standing in a Springfield park.
After legislation was introduced by Mayor Lenny Curry to have the statue removed, three council committees voted last week against paying $1.3 million to have the statue removed and the full council is expected to follow suit Tuesday night.
But Councilman Matt Carlucci, who has supported the removal of the statue, sent an email to Council President Sam Newby on Monday saying he wants to make a motion to postpone the vote until March 22, 2022.
“My position on the removal and relocation of the Confederate statues in Springfield has not changed, nor has it been swayed. However, 2021-0752 does not appear to have the support needed for passage. Given a designated amount of time for collaboration among the Administration, Council, civic leaders, and the community, other solutions could be explored with regards to private funding and relocation, as well as other options,” Carlucci wrote. “In short, I believe that allowing for in-depth consideration, with a reasonably assigned end date, will prove most effective in resolving this issue.”
Two influential local groups, the Jax Chamber and the Jacksonville Civic Council (JCC), are also calling on the city council to either postpone or withdraw a vote on the legislation.
“The Chamber has been clear and consistent on its position that discrimination and symbols of discrimination have no place in our community. However, we understand that spending $1.3 million in taxpayer dollars to remove and preserve a monument that doesn’t reflect our community values is not ideal,” JAX Chamber Chair Henry Brown said in a statement to News4Jax. “The City Council should postpone tomorrow’s vote and the city should work with various partners on a solution to remove this monument while directing public dollars to after-school programs, job training or other initiatives that would address inequities in our community.”
Former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney and President and CEO of the Jacksonville Civic Council Jeanne Miller said they are disappointed in the city council’s failure to pass, in committee, legislation appropriating the money to remove the Tribute to the Women of the Confederacy Monument in Springfield Park.
“It is evident from this weeks’ City Council committee meetings that the bill does not have the required 13 votes to pass,” Delaney and Miller wrote in a joint statement from the JCC. “Pursuant to City Council rules, if the Council fails to pass the Ordinance next Tuesday, the Mayor and City Council will not be able to re-introduce the bill for at least one year. Withdrawing or postponing the Ordinance is, unfortunately, the best course of action at this time. A withdrawal or postponement will allow our elected leaders the opportunity to finalize a comprehensive action plan that identifies a set of principles, processes and best practices that can help inform our decision-making when responding to the removal, replacement and/or storage of all confederate-related legacies in the form of statues, street names, building names, monuments, memorials or emblems and symbols located on public land.”
News4Jax spoke with Miller after the Civic Council sent the statement to the mayor and every council member on Monday.
“It’s time for reconciliation and healing, ad the only way to do that is with a comprehensive plan, and we don’t have that at this time,” Miller said. “Let’s make no mistake, this has to be addressed. We can’t just kick the can down the road because it will come up and it is a source of divisiveness and it is a source of pain for many people in our community.”
The calls for postponement follow a protest in front of City Hall on Friday morning involving members of Take ‘Em Down Jax. The picketers from Take ‘Em Down Jax say it’s the City Council now creating the problem.
“To keep it covered means there’s a real problem in Jacksonville. To keep it covered means there are more people who want to see it removed than to keep it up,” head of Take ‘Em Down Jax Wells Todd said. ”It’s the City Council members who are perpetuating the racial divide in Jacksonville.”
Curry’s administration addressed the calls for postponing the vote on Monday.
“Mayor Lenny Curry asked for and submitted this legislation in order to remove this monument from public property. This is a monument that is unnecessarily dividing our community and represents, to some residents, racial hatred. The City Council ultimately will decide if this bill advances. Mayor Curry is asking for passage to remove this monument as quickly as possible,” said Brian Hughes, Chief Administrative Officer.
Curry said last week people’s voices should be heard on the matter and he encourages people to call and reach out to members of the council if they have an opinion about the statue.
Curry was asked if he thought keeping the statue in place, even covered by a tarp, would lead to problems.
“Well I think the protests in Jacksonville have been largely peaceful,” Curry said. “We had an episode or two the summer of last year that JSO was able to quickly get under control.”
Other groups also weighed in Friday on the Confederate monument situation in Jacksonville.
The Southern Poverty Law Center issued a statement saying it’s not too late for the City Council to change its direction and vote to remove the statue.
The Northside Coalition, which has been very vocal in the debate, is now asking the Chamber of Commerce and the Civic Council to meet with them to discuss the issue.
In the past, the group said it plans to protest and possibly boycott businesses that don’t support the efforts to remove the monument.
On Monday evening, News4Jax spoke with Ben Frazier, with the Northside Coalition, by phone.
“I think it’s a good move to explore new options,” Frazier said. “It’s a community problem. It needs a community solution.”
Frazier said that he’s hopeful and that stakeholders in the city need to learn to work together.