Lakeland city commissioners have been cool to suggestions that the Confederate memorial in Munn Park be moved. But on Monday they were also cool to a proposal they see as making it harder for them and future commissions to make changes to it and other monuments.

David Brewer, representing the Polk Historical Association, asked commissioners this morning to pass a proposed ordinance he submitted that seeks to protect monuments to military veterans and first responders. A deliberative process is needed to protect against emotional requests such as ones made after a 2015 church massacre in South Carolina, he said.

[box]Video: View the discussion on monuments from this morning’s City Commission meeting.[/box]

Mayor Howard Wiggs spoke in favor of the ordinance, saying it can help prevent the Munn Park issue from dividing the community: “The best way to avoid that divisiveness is to pass an ordinance like this which makes it more difficult — it doesn’t make it impossible — to take down and tear apart parts of our heritage in the future.”

But Commissioner Don Selvage, a retired Marine colonel who said he has been part of efforts to create 14 war memorials in Lakeland, opposed the proposed ordinance, saying it’s unnecessary.

The Munn Park Confederate monument

None of Lakeland’s memorials has been subject to citizen protests or defacement, he said.

When several residents suggested moving the Confederate memorial last year, he said, it was clear a majority of residents wanted it to stay, he asserted. City staff determined that moving it would be too expensive and risky, he added.

Commissioner Jim Malless noted there are already criminal penalties in place for anyone convicted of defacing public property.

And Commissioner Phillip Walker repeated the assertion he’s made when the monument issue has been raised in the past that changing a monument won’t change what’s in a viewer’s heart. But this time he added that promotions of Lakeland as a forward-looking city would reflect the diversity of the community.

Commissioners Edie Yates and Justin Troller did not participate in the discussion. Commissioner Bill Read asked about existing penalties for defacing monuments, and City Attorney Tim McCausland responded that it’s a first-degree misdemeanor subject to prosecution and sentencing.

Ultimately, none of the commissioners made a motion supporting new regulations on monuments so no action was taken.

Similarly, no action was taken in September 2015 when Jo Ann Holmes asked them to consider moving the monument and in July 2016 when Charles Pansler made a similar request.

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Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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1 Comment

  1. ““The best way to avoid that divisiveness is to pass an ordinance like this which makes it more difficult — it doesn’t make it impossible — to take down and tear apart parts of our heritage in the future.” — Howard Wiggs

    Lakeland wasn’t established at a city until 20 years after the Civil War. That statute was erected more than 20 years after that. And it wasn’t intended honor specific Lakelanders. It’s a store bought statute.

    That statue isn’t a memorial. It’s a paean to hate. It’s a tribute to those who sought to divide and destroy the United States of America. It doesn’t represent what Lakeland was, is, or could be.

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