Jacksonville’s Mayor continues to push for the removal of a Jim Crow era statue from the former Confederate Park.
But she notes there’s little “interest” from the City Council in removing the obelisk paying tribute to the “Women of the Southland.”
Deegan also said she’s facing more hurdles to take down the monument in what is now Springfield Park than Mayor Lenny Curry did when he removed a monument from what is now James Weldon Johnson Park.
“There has to be a willingness, at least in terms of that pot of money, for Council to want to revisit that,” Deegan told Anne Schindler, the host of “First Coast Connect.”
The Mayor’s position has new urgency in the wake of the filing of HB 395, filed by Rep. Dean Black of Jacksonville. The bill proposes state “protection of historical monuments and memorials” and authorizes “all actions to protect and preserve all historical monuments and memorials from removal, damage, or destruction.”
The bill would punish local lawmakers and officials who voted to remove such memorials, authorizing a fine of the costs of replacing or repairing the memorial out of their personal wealth for removal actions. It would also give Gov. Ron DeSantis the power to remove elected leaders from local office from the time the bill takes effect.
Deegan believes she is being targeted by the bill from Black, the head of the Republican Party of Duval County during the GOP’s failed attempt to hold the office.
“I think it is a bill that was clearly aimed at this administration because I have been such a vocal supporter of taking those monuments down. And I think frankly, if you’ve read the bill, it appears to me to be wholly unconstitutional,” Deegan said.
She argued the bill is also intended to cow the Council and “send a message” that “if you were even thinking about it, don’t think about it or we’re going to fine you or harm you in some way.”
The bill language makes the state preemption explicit against “any local elected officials who may be swayed by undue influence by groups who may feel offended or hurt by certain actions in the history of the state or the nation.”
Gov. DeSantis said he hasn’t seen the legislation, which was filed in a different form and which died in committee in the 2023 Legislative Session.
“I’m not familiar with it. So I would have to take a look at it. I don’t know,” DeSantis said in Jacksonville Monday.