Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

Battle of Olustee Memorial Monument & Battle Reenactment Funding On Tap in LC Monday Night

Glynell Presley is not infavor of postponing the Olustee conversation.

Joe Helfenberger: Lake City's City ManagerLAKE CITY, COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – On Lake City's Monday night agenda is a discussion item added by City Manager Joe Helfenberger: "Comments about petition to remove monuments from Olustee Park and change name of the park." The City Manager appears to have gotten cold feet and is going to try and have the agenda item removed. Elected officials and leading citizens are against any postponement.

City Agenda

City Council meetings are on Monday evenings and agenda material is made available to the Council members, the press, and some members of the public generally at the 12th hour late on Fridays, just before the weekend.

Sylvester Warren
Businessman and activist Sylvester Warren.                       Observer Photo

On June 11, businessman and community activist Sylvester Warren, in an email to City Manager Joe Helfenberger, asked the City Manager to add to the agenda a discussion of the Olustee Monument and funding of the Olustee [Battle] Festival. These issues are seen by many as memorials to Lake City's racist past.

Mr. Warren wrote: "Please allow this email to serve as a petition to have the city of Lake City remove the confederate monument out of the Olustee Park and to also change the name of the park from Olustee Park to something more inclusive and insensitive [sensitive]."

Mr. Warren also asked that the City stop funding the Olustee Festival with City funds and free City labor and concluded his remarks to the City Manager with, "Many other cities and states have already taken these types of monuments down and others are currently removing them. Let us not lead from behind."

On Friday afternoon, June 12 the Monday agenda came out. City Manager Helfenberger added the Olustee item to the top of the agenda.

Those in opposition to the Olustee removals hit the social media airwaves in opposition to Mr. Warren's request, threatening violence and armed resistance.

For reasons that are unclear, City Manager Joe Helfenberger unilaterally decided to postpone the discussion.

City Manager went to Twitter on Saturday evening before he spoke with the City Council and said the Olustee discussion was being postponed.

The City Manager went to Twitter at 5:23 pm on June 13, Saturday, and had the Police Chief post the following:  "Due to the amount of attention the Olustee monument is getting the discussion of this issue with [will] be postponed. The topic will be scheduled for discussion when the City has face-to-face- public meetings and an appropriate venue to allow for open conversation."

City Councilman Jake Hill
City Councilman Jake Hill

It is unclear why the conversation cannot be held virtually, as others can do, other than the City cannot effectively use its Webex platform.

The removal of this item needs to be approved by the City Council. At least that is what most people think. As recent events have show in Lake City – anything goes.

George Floyd: his untimely death has awakened the world

The horrific death of George Floyd may have finally awakened the world to the 400 year old American crime of living while black. The world watched in horror as a white policeman was non pulsed as he kneed the life out of a man who had his hands cuffed behind his back, said he couldn't breathe, "your killing me" and called for his mother.

Community Leaders and Politicians
This Needs to be Confronted Now

For nine decades Glynell Presley, U.S. Army veteran and past president of the Columbia County NAACP has been plying the streets of Lake City, Florida. For 6 of those decades, he had to step in the gutter when a white person, no matter their age, walked past him on the sidewalk.

Mr. Presley has been instrumental in the Lake City fight for justice and equality.

Earlier today, Mr. Presley told the Observer, "We have been waiting long enough, this needs to be confronted now. I am not in favor of postponing anything."

City Councilman Jake Hill was unaware of the City Manager's decision to ask for a postponement of the Olustee issue. He told your reporter today, "I am not in favor of postponing anything."

Councilman Eugene Jefferson
Councilman Eugene Jefferson

City Councilman Eugene Jefferson took a break from church to speak with your reporter. He said he wasn't aware of anyone asking for a postponement of the agendaed item on Olustee funding.

He said, "I'm not in favor of a postponement," adding, "if the item is going to be removed from the agenda it will have to be voted on."

Lake City Mayor Steve Witt told your reporter, "I will get back with you later on."

He didn't.

Glenel Bowden
Glenel Bowden

Earlier this evening, former City Councilman and community activist Glenel Bowden told your reporter, "It was irresponsible for the City Manager to postpone the agenda item on social media. This should be confronted tomorrow night."

During this reporter's conversations with the City's officials, your reporter asked why the City couldn't set up a lectern and camera/microphone in the City Hall lobby so folks could come and make their feelings known to the City Council, which will be meeting virtually. Social distancing could be maintained and the speakers could have their words and images memorialized and broadcast professionally.

While everyone thought this would be a good idea, the City Manager would not comment on it other than saying, "I will get back with you." He has not.

Councilman Greene did not return a phone call.


Tomorrow night we will see what happens and whether Lake City will be turning a corner or procrastinate because a segment of the population threatens protest and violence.

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