April is Southern Heritage month in Florida, and Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist would like to commemorate that occasion by having his colleagues sign a proclamation before next week's Board of County Commission meeting. Not surprisingly, some folks aren't supportive.
The proclamation recognizes April as Southern Heritage Month "for the purpose of teaching, learning, and remembering the long, rich, diverse history of the Southern United States. Further, we recognize the many Floridians who gave their lives in the War Between States from 1861 to1865."
"It's somewhat divisive," says Les Miller, Crist's colleague on the County Commission. He says he won't sign such a proclamation. Miller says that while every commissioner has the right to do whatever they want to do, he questions Crist's judgement.
"Every issue is going to have its pros and cons, no doubt about it. But when you do something that you know is going to cause some problems, why do it? I would never try to do anything that I know was going to cause some major, major friction among commissioners."
The issue was certainly divisive back in 2007, when the BOCC voted 4-3 against signing a similar proclamation. That vote came a few months after some members of the black community in Hillsborough were angered after the board issued a proclamation recognizing the bicentennial birthday of Confederate General Robert E. Lee — on the same day they honored a black community activist named Jim Hammond. One of those who refused to sign the proclamation then was Commissioner Al Higginbotham, who said at the time that "I have decided not to sign it because I think it creates pain for others, and I just thought it was best to pass on it."
Activist Michelle Williams says Crist is posturing as he runs for re-election this year. She jokes that she "can only imagine how many of Marion Lambert's buddies are going to be dressing up with their little Civil War outfits" at next week's board meeting, "making a mockery of a war that they lost."Lambert is the Sons of Confederate Veterans leader who was involved in posting the huge 30' x 50' Confederate Flag that stands erect at the area of I-4 and I-75 in East Tampa, another event that bitterly divided the community.
She later added that "America will never move forward hanging onto lies. The Civil War was lost by the Confederation and if Commissioner Victor Crist wants to support a bunch of grown men and women dressing in costume and waving the Confederate Flag in the air and being brandished from truck beds, let him also understand that repercussions will follow from an already angry class of people."
As noted above, Crist is running for re-election in Hillsborough's District 2 seat, which he ran for initially in 2010 and then again in 2012. He currently has no challenger for the Republican nomination. Elizabeth Belcher recently entered the race as a Democrat.
(On Friday Commissioner Crist spoke to CL about his proclamation. You can read that post here).