Freshman state Rep. Dean Black continues to sponsor high-profile bills in the Florida Legislature, which current is having one of its most productive sessions ever.
Black has one bill that addresses a controversial subject in Jacksonville. It seeks to prevent the city from arbitrarily moving or destroying historical monuments and memorials.
He has a proposed amendment that would toughen up the bill even further. It will have a committee hearing next week.
“The amendment makes it clear that history belongs to all Floridians and that no one including a local government has the right to destroy history that belongs to us all,” Black told Eye on Jacksonville.
“We should add to our history, not subtract from it.”
Oddly enough, Black’s bill has drawn criticism from the person who has led local opposition to the destruction of history.
Blake Harper is the head of the Unity Project. Its goal is to preserve historical monuments and add to them more displays that represent aspects of history that may not be widely known.
While he says he supports the thrust of Black’s bill, he has concerns about certain provisions dealing with private property.
“Throughout our nation, historical districts and assets are essentially ‘do not touch’ in the view of development. Changing or removing them is done only as a final resort.
“We are living in a place where long-range planning is largely ignored by developers and the city. (Most of the City Council agenda deals with changes to our 2010, 2020, and 2030 plans). Jacksonville is a developer’s town.
“We are also living in a place where narratives justifying exceptions, policy changes, etc. are largely contrived and favor developers.
“The overly broad language in the legislation sets up a process that can be easily abused. The legislation provides an easy out for people seeking to move monuments and memorials by contriving public works projects to do so. Public works projects become the rationale for moving memorials and monuments instead of the actual rationale.”
Harper would amend the bill to state that any move be done only as a last resort, that monuments and memorials be moved when in peril according to the process outlined in the legislation, and that the new location be as near as possible to the old location.
“He doesn’t understand the bill,” Black said of Harper’s criticism. Black said Harper is worrying about eminent domain, which cities have a constitutional right to exercise.