Stars & Bars – the Conversation Continues
Mayor Witt, "I don't want a knee jerk reaction"
Posted August 4, 2015 07:40 am | (1 comment)
Mayor Steve Witt told the gathering, "I don't want a knee jerk reaction." City Clerk Audrey Sikes looks on.
LAKE CITY, FL – Last night in City Hall, folks from all sides of the Lake City Stars & Bars City logo issue addressed the City Council. While not on the agenda, Mayor Witt asked for comments from anyone who wished to contribute to the conversation.
Unlike meetings of the infamous Columbia County 5 where speakers are rudely interrupted, buzzers go off, and speakers are chastised after returning to their seats, Mayor Witt allows all to speak and the City Council members listen and don't interrupt.
After everyone had their say about the question of the recently radio-active Lake City logo, Mayor Witt said, "I want to see what’s going on, see what our options are and then as a Council take it under consideration and do what’s best for our community."
Mayor Witt Welcomed All to Speak
Then Gave Them the Time to Contribute Without
Baker County's Larry Rosenblatt
Larry Rosenblatt came to the microphone and introduced himself. He told the Council he lives in Baker County, which is where the Battle of Olustee took place and that he teaches history to kids "all over the country – mostly at re-enactments."
He said, "I’ve been in every Olustee parade since I’ve been here." Mr. Rosenblatt came to Baker County in 1995.
Mr. Rosenblatt continued, "I commend Lake City for all of the work they do putting on the Festival and teaching history."
He gave a history of the Confederate battle flag and told the Council, "The representation you got on your logo represents both sides. It represents the battles that were fought. If we forget the battle that we fought and we repeat history it’s goin’ to be a whole lot worse."
Mr. Rosenblatt explained death, "The second day of Gettysburg there were more men killed that day than all of Vietnam. There were more men killed in Olustee in the four hours, per hour, then there were in all of Gettysburg."
Mr. Rosenblatt said the Battle of Olustee was "The largest battle in the state of Florida. And who’s keepin’ that memory alive – Lake City is. I’m askin’ you to please reconsider anything about changing your logo. It is everything that Lake City stands for... I beg ya, don’t touch your logo."
Bruce Borders (file photo)
Bruce Borders, of Lake City, who first spoke on July 20, continued his conversation.
Mr. Borders mentioned the Olustee parade and the logo. "If they take the logo off our card there’s a big thing went for three days that brings big money into the City of Lake City. It is the Battle of Olustee. The next thing they are goin’ to say, ‘The logo’s got to go. There’s no confederate flags goin’ to be able to be in the parade.' There is a lot of money made at the Olustee parade. If they don’t want to have it, we already know somebody that would be proud for us to come in and do a parade. It is Baker County."
Leon Duke introduced himself, "I'm Leon Duke, master sergeant, United States Air Force, retired."
Mr. Duke told the Council, "I want to refer to the flag where they say it’s racist, hatred, and slavery."
Mr. Duke said that Confederate General Nathan Pitman Forrest freed his slaves in 1863. “Every one of them re-enlisted making his army the first official fully volunteer, fully integrated force in the United States, 84 years before the United State forcibly integrated."
Mr. Duke said that General Forrest “had the first official military black chaplain in America.”
Mr. Duke spoke against banning the flag and compared banning it to the Nazis banning books and hatred against the Jews. “Do not let history repeat itself," he told the Council.
Community activist Bea Coker
Community activist, Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) official, and Lake City resident, Bea Coker, introduced herself.
She said, "I am hearing that there is a misconception; that there is a ‘they’ of people who would like to remove the history that is contained in the City’s logo and the Olustee Battle. I am not aware of that request. The history is sacred history and by removing it from the City’s logo we don’t change history, we place it in a place where it’s appropriate to be contained – in a museum, at the Olustee Festival..."
Ms. Coker continued, "Unless we are going to find some way to bring people into Lake City to show them that the racial divide that the rest of the world associates with the flag doesn’t exist here, we have an obligation to consider whether or not it’s beneficial – whether or not it accurately conveys who we are as a city... It is time for us to consider if we are going to be the Gateway to Florida, where do we place history and do we have a logo that truly represents who we are?"
Life-long Lake City resident and City icon, Blondell Johnson, introduced herself.
"I’m Blondell Johnson, born and raised here in Columbia County. I see the emblem for what it is. It should go back in the history book. The city of Lake City does not have that anymore."
Speaking about the people who came from out of town to address the Council, she asked, "How many of them are actually residents, not of Columbia County, but of Lake City, of Lake City itself?”
Ms. Johnson said the issue of the City logo should be decided by the people that actually live within the City.
Mayor Steve Witt
Lake City Mayor, Steve Witt, waited for everyone to speak and then told the gathering:
"As for myself, I am aware of this issue. Our seal’s been there a long time. This issue has come up recently. It is something I think our community needs to decide how they want to handle it – where they want to go with it. I’ve said to a lot of people lately, ‘I don’t want to do a knee jerk reaction to anything.' I want to see what’s going on, see what our options are and then as a council take it under consideration and do what’s best for our community."