It has been nearly one month since the last Confederate monument was removed from Springfield Park. Yet some members of the City Council continue to take political cheap shots and try to create distractions to undermine the mayor.
The latest example is a manufactured controversy surrounding an administrative technicality related to the zero-dollar contract with ACON Construction for statue removal. The curing of a contract has happened 32 times over the past four fiscal years, 26 of which were under the previous administration.
- FY24: 4 “improper purchases” out of 5,262 purchase orders
- FY23: 4 “improper purchases” out of 14,939 purchase orders
- 2 from the previous administration and 2 from the current administration
- FY22: 4 “improper purchases” out of 15,501 purchase orders
- FY21: 20 “improper purchases” out of 13,555 purchase orders
Furthermore, removal of the Hemming statue in James Weldon Johnson Park never went through the City of Jacksonville Procurement Division. In a clear double standard with the previous administration, past City Councils have not previously scrutinized contract awards to this degree. The selective outrage of some council members only comes when it involves removing a monument that glorified the Confederacy and which was erected in the Jim Crow era to intimidate Black citizens.
“The City Council didn’t step up when they had the opportunity to take the monuments down. They say they don’t want to put the monuments back up, yet some council members are desperately trying to keep this debate going. It’s splitting hairs for political retribution and gamesmanship,” said Mayor Donna Deegan.
“If some City Council members want to continue litigating the Civil War for their perceived political gain, that is their choice. My administration will continue moving forward from this unnecessary distraction and keep delivering on policies and projects that are good for our city.”
The administration is already streamlining inefficiencies that were inherited: overhauling the procurement code that hasn’t been updated in more than 30 years, implementing a digital signature process to eliminate paper contracts, and an improved online system for permitting.
For the third time on Thursday, City Council will question General Counsel Michael Fackler about the sound advice he provided on the mayor’s executive authority to remove the Springfield Park monument. Some council members continue to cling to draft memos from the past that never explored the idea of a public-private partnership removing a Jim Crow era monument.
“I will not stand by and watch the City Council continue to tarnish the reputation of the honest and experienced General Counsel that we all share,” said Mayor Donna Deegan.
“Let me be clear: advice from today’s Office of General Counsel is the only opinion that matters. Their office is completely aligned around the signed, binding opinion that was provided to the City Council last week. Not once did we direct the general counsel to reach a specific outcome or discuss Confederate monuments during the selection process. What did happen is council members calling past general counsels to get the answer that they wanted.”