The Confederate statue is seen in Springfield Park prior to its removal in December 2023.

#AskJAXTDY | Are funds still set aside for Confederate monument removal?

Published on July 8, 2024 at 4:30 pm

Q: Jacksonville Today reader Jonathon A. wants to know what is happening with the money set aside by the City Council for Confederate monument removal.

“I recall a few years back when Lenny Curry had allocated $500,000 for removal of Confederate statues and monuments in the city budget.
Is it still earmarked in the budget and where, if not used, does it go?”

— Johnathon A.

A: As of Monday, Mayor Donna Deegan’s administration said it is removing the monument funding from the city’s Capital Improvement Plan.

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For several years, $500,000 has been allocated for Confederate monument removal. We wrote about the lack of a plan for that funding back in January.

But we are now heading full steam ahead into the city’s summertime budget season and this upcoming Monday, Deegan will propose her second-year budget. Later, City Council will either give it the OK as-is, or tweak it.

By removing the item from the budget, the city potentially frees up $500,000 for another purpose. It was unclear as of Monday where that funding might land.

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For background, back on Dec. 27, Deegan, following a legal opinion by General Counsel Michael Fackler, decided to remove several statues and other display items from the “Women of the Southland” Confederate monument at Springfield Park. This act, a surprise to nearly everyone else in the city, was paid for through private funding from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund and anonymous donors to 904WARD, an organization that promotes racial equity in Jacksonville. That meant the money never flowed through city coffers. 

Mayor Donna Deegan’s spokesperson Phil Perry says, as of Monday, the $500,000 remained in the current fiscal year’s Capital Improvement Plan.

“There has not been any work conducted to date under the approved CIP project, which would have required City Council approval to initiate,” Perry wrote.

However, Perry said late Monday that the city came to a decision regarding the funds.

“We actually decided to pull it out, since it is no longer needed,” Perry says. “It will be deappropriated from the (Capital Improvement Plan).”

To see what potentially could be done with the funding now and whether it might be up for discussion during this summer’s budget talks, Jacksonville Today sent questions to both outgoing Council President Ron Salem and incoming Council President Randy White. The emailed queries had not been acknowledged as of publication time.

Outgoing City Council President Ron Salem recently seemed to indicate there was no political momentum at City Hall for further action on monuments.  

In an interview on First Coast Connect, host Anne Schindler asked, “Do you think, now that the statue at Springfield Park – the Women of the Southland – has been removed, do you think that that issue has somewhat been deflated? Where do you see that on the city’s radar?

Salem said the discussion, to him, appears over.

“I think it’s deflated,” Salem replied. “I think it’s behind us.”

Not everyone feels the same way, however.

“This is not behind us,” says Wells Todd, founding member of Take ‘Em Down Jax, an advocacy group dedicated to removing Confederate monuments and objects from public spaces. “The battle to remove these statues will continue.”

Todd says the funds in the Capital Improvement Plan should be used to take the remaining base of the monument down at Springfield Park, formerly known as Confederate Park.

“Statues and symbols represent systems,” Todd said. “They never touched that money. That’s what that money should be used for.”

In an effort to keep the topic on the minds of residents, Take ‘Em Down Jax is hosting a free community event. Recasting the Past: From Confederate Monuments to Symbols of Peace is being held this Friday, July 12, from 6-9 p.m. at The Jessie at 40 E. Adams St. in Jacksonville. The event is free and open to the public and advance registration is required. 

Take ‘Em Down Jax and its community partners say they are working toward fostering healing and reconciliation.

“This isn’t about creating utopia; this is about continuing to dismantle the physical representations of oppression,” Todd tells Jacksonville Today. “These statues and monuments celebrate and honor the false ideology of white supremacy and should be removed throughout the United States.”

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Casmira Harrison is a Jacksonville Today reporter focusing on local government in Duval County.

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