Compared to the past several City Council meetings, Tuesday’s made for a kinder and gentler evening.
It was more about praise than protest and yeas outnumbered nays even with the expected withdrawal of an ordinance that caused a lengthy public hearing Feb. 28 about whether to designate Hemming Park a historic landmark.
Concerns over some people being offended by the monument to Confederate soldiers and whether the historic designation might prevent relocation of the Confederate statue in the park led to council calling time-out on the issue that President Lori Boyer said “turned into a can of worms.”
One of the supporters of the ordinance who spoke at the public hearing was back in front of council Tuesday during public comment to reaffirm his viewpoint.
Yulee resident Seber Newsome said Jacksonville needs to preserve its history — even its history during the Civil War — and predicted council would only create more controversy if moving the monument is even considered.
“You better not think about moving it,” Newsome said. “You’ll see a protest like you’ve never seen before.”
The meeting began with a nearly hour-long tribute to Edward Waters College President Nathaniel Glover, who was recognized by resolution for his decades of service to Jacksonville.
Council members lined up to thank Glover for his leadership, mentorship and friendship. Vice President John Crescimbeni said Glover had broadened his culinary horizons.
He recounted a meeting at an Arlington restaurant when Glover, who was sheriff at the time, suggested Crescimbeni might try the cheese grits.
A native of Connecticut, Crescimbeni said he wasn’t a fan of the Southern dish, but Glover insisted and, decked out in his uniform with stars on the shoulders and a gun on his hip, said sternly, “Council member, try the grits.”
“I’ve been eating them ever since. Whenever I eat grits, I think about you,” Crescimbeni said to Glover.
Also recognized was the Jacksonville Historical Consortium, the group that installed the displays in the windows at City Hall facing Hemming Park.
The windows depict the generally unknown history of some of the city’s neighborhoods including Durkeeville, Mandarin and San Marco.
Jeffrey Graf, president of the Jacksonville Historical Society board of directors, said the consortium is a “loose group of organizations” that work to preserve the history of their neighborhoods.
Having the windows is an opportunity for people to know more about the history of where they live.
“Our stories are untold, even among us,” Graf said.
He described designing and installing the window displays as a “very fun project.”
Future installations are being considered to showcase the history of the Ritz Theatre and Museum, Norman Studios, Riverside Avondale Preservation and the U.S. Navy in Jacksonville.
In other business, council unanimously approved legislation to:
• Appropriate $250,000 for a bullet and shell casing identification system that Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams said will help solve crimes.
• Revive about a $900,000 fund to provide small loans to participants in the Jacksonville Small and Emerging Businesses program.
• Provide additional travel funds for council members to participate in the Florida League of Cities and Florida Association of Counties.
• Transfer about $190,000 from the Bay Street Towncenter Improvement Project to the Downtown Investment Authority to improve an existing parking lot and sidewalk near Bay Street and A. Philip Randolph Boulevard.