Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche requested an inventory of the city’s Confederate monuments from the Parks Department, and it was provided this week.
What it reveals: three monuments, put in place between 1898 and 1926; and eight historic markers.
The monuments include the Confederate Monument in Hemming Park, the ‘Monument to the Women of the Southland’ in Confederate Park in Springfield, and a Confederate Memorial Services grandstand at the Old City Cemetery.
The historical markers are on the Northbank Riverwalk, Walter Jones Park in Mandarin, the Old City Cemetery, the Prime Osborn Convention Center, Lenox Ave. near Cedar Creek (memorializing a “skirmish”), Confederate Park, and Camp Milton Historic Preserve.
While removal or relocation is certainly possible, the question of practicability has been a thornier proposition … one made thornier by a lack of unstinting advocates on Council for that.
A week after ordering the inventory, Brosche amended her position — saying that removal of the monuments was but one of many options.
We asked Brosche her thoughts on the way forward for monuments: her thoughts on where the process should go (more public comment? removal? recontextualization?), as well as her thoughts on a referendum about the future of those monuments.
“My ability to answer your questions has been mortally wounded, AG,” Brosche wrote, alluding to a column that suggested that her Council Presidency had been “mortally wounded” by the Confederate cenotaph conundrum.
While that certainly is a quotable line, it is an inconclusive one in terms of what is ahead: the Jacksonville City Council will enter September gearing up for another pitched debate on the Confederate monument issue, with the Council President having yet to provide direction for a debate she catalyzed.
Debate in August sprawled out over three hours, with pitched emotions on both sides, as well as an unusual amount of commenters from out of town … on the heels of what the Mayor called “chatter” from extremist groups.
Council veteran Bill Gulliford asserts that much of this drama could have been avoided.
Gulliford “knew this would be divisive,” given the way Brosche broached the topic “in the heat of the moment, with Charlottesville” and other events around the country heating up the discourse.
Gulliford asserted that a more proper course of action would have been an email setting up a noticed meeting to discuss the issue, to hear comments, and to move forward in a calm manner.
Gulliford asserts that this may have been avoided by a Council President — such as his preferred candidate, John Crescimbeni — who had “more than two years of experience.”
“This is not like private enterprise,” Gulliford said, noting that even after years in the political arena, he learns about the job and the process every day.
Where should Brosche go from here? Gulliford has a theory regarding a potential course correction — namely, that Brosche going “silent” on the issue may be the best way forward.
“She’s gotten her inventory,” Gulliford notes, and has “certainly backed off legislation.”
And without a push for legislation, what is left?
“I certainly don’t want three hour public hearings,” Gulliford noted, as they “allow extremists on both sides of the issue” to dominate the discourse.
Gulliford wants a “reasonable, objective debate.”
However, what is more likely: a devolution into the kind of fevered discourse that typified Jacksonville’s debate over LGBT rights expansion, one that sprawled over five years and was driven in large part by voices from outside Duval County.