Even as Jacksonville’s Mayor and City Council President stand shoulder to shoulder during storm prep pressers, they diverge on another storm of a different matter.
That storm is a Category 5, but of a different type: namely, the future of the city’s Confederate monuments.
Council President Anna Brosche was provided an inventory by Jacksonville’s Parks Department last month. Though she sidestepped specific comment when we asked her about the path forward, an email “obtained” by First Coast News delineates Brosche’s position.
To sum: the inventory is incomplete and not “responsive” to her request. Brosche asserts that at least one monument was elided.
“I do not believe the document is responsive to my statement issued on Monday, Aug. 14, or my specific clarification in our meeting on Monday, Aug. 21 in which I requested an inventory of ‘Confederate monuments, memorials, and markers on public property.’” Brosche asserted.
“As such,” Brosche added, “I am asking you to review your list to determine if you believe it is responsive to my request, i.e., Confederate monuments, memorials, and markers on public property. If it is, please change the filename and file title (within) to reflect a response to my request, and for clarity given that many outside parties are requesting a copy of the inventory you provide.”
Brosche wants “updated pictures of the Confederate monuments, memorials, and markers on public property that you were inventorying.”
Citing the Southern Poverty Law Center (an unusual move for a Republican in Northeast Florida), Brosche noted a significant omission.
“In addition to the above clarification request, the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a report in 2016 that includes a monument not on your list: Yellow Bluff Fort Monument. So that I may respond to anyone inquiring as to why such monument is not on your list, but contained on a readily available document inventorying monuments throughout the nation, please let me know your reasoning for not including that monument.”
The Yellow Bluff monument is on state property, leaving the city no recourse to remove it independently, asserted the Parks director.
The inventory provided by the Parks Department revealed 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.
Brosche will be discussing Confederate monuments at a Thursday afternoon “FirstThursday” meeting of the Jacksonville Urban League, one where she should expect a warm reception.
The email promoting the event lauds Brosche’s “fresh, innovative and transparent leadership style as the new President of the Jacksonville City Council.”
“FirstThursday Jacksonville is honored and humbled that Council President, the Honorable Anna Lopez Brosche has agreed to address our members, friends and the community during our post-Labor Day meeting,” said FirstThursday Jacksonville’s Chairman, W. Larry Williams.
“Our community is anxious to hear what the Council President’s thoughts are regarding Jacksonville’s Confederate monuments, urban and inner-city communities and the overall economic disparities that exist in these communities,” Williams added.
Amid all of the policy drama, an indication surfaced overnight Tuesday of resistance to monuments — specifically, the high-profile monument in Hemming Park, which was defaced with red spray paint.
The tarp covered most of the paint.
On Wednesday morning, Curry noted that JSO is investigating the “disgusting” incident, but that public safety workers are more focused on the coming storm, “potentially about to put themselves into harm’s way.”
In this context, one veteran elected official believes that there should be a pause in the debate as a potential public safety crisis looms in the Caribbean.
“There is nothing more important today than preparing our City for the devastating and dangerous Hurricane Irma. We need to stay focused on standing with our Mayor and emergency personnel to keep our City safe. As a former Mayor and now Councilman, I know the hard decisions Mayor Curry is currently facing, and nothing should distract from our attention on the safety and welfare of all of our citizens,” Councilman Tommy Hazouri said.
And another veteran public official, Councilman Bill Gulliford, believes there needs to be a hard stop to debate without a legislative solution at present.
“I think she should stop period. She has unilaterally initiated the discussion so how does she go forward? Introduce legislation?”
“Right now we are debating a phantom bill that doesn’t exist. Whether I agree or not either we need to let it die, or someone needs to do something concrete,” Gulliford added.
Regarding the ongoing debate, meanwhile, Curry said he was focused on doing his job and ensuring the “people of Jacksonville are prepared … and safe” for the storm.
“I’m focused on my job,” Curry said.