The Jacksonville City Council advanced legislation Monday morning that would stop the city from renaming public property until a formal process is instituted.
The bill unanimously cleared the Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health, and Safety panel, the first of three committees of reference for the proposal.
Ordinance 2020-518, carried by Republican first-termer Rory Diamond, would block renamings of parks and buildings for six months (shortened from two years in committee), or until the City Council reaches accord on a process for renaming.
Diamond’s legislation came after a decision to rename a central downtown park after James Weldon Johnson, with concerns about a potential “floodgate” of re-dedications. The park was previously named after a Confederate Civil War veteran who bequeathed the city with a monument.
That monument has since been removed.
The Councilman noted that the “renaming of Hemming Plaza was not ideal and put into stark relief that we need a process,” one which would be formalized in companion legislation put forward by Ron Salem.
“If we’re going to change the name of a building, a park, or a street,” Diamond said, it would be done through a consensus process.
Streets already have a process for renaming. A proposed amendment to the legislation allowed that to continue unless the street was being named after a human being, meaning the moratorium would only apply to buildings and parks.
Even as the amendment was being firmed up, pushback came from Jacksonville City Councilman Aaron Bowman, who said the timeframe would “tie the hands” of Council.
“I just worry that a two year moratorium puts us in a position where we tie our hands,” Bowman said, noting that he supported the “intent” of the bill.
Bowman was fine with a six month pause, however.
Democrat Garrett Dennis, who pushed renamings, including Hemming Park, said he’d be fine with that shorter pause.
“I don’t think anybody would support an emergency [renaming bill] at this point,” Dennis said.
A committee of the whole, encompassing the entire 19-person body, would be used for future renaming proposals.
Rules and the Social Justice and Community Investment Committee will be the next two stops for the bill.