The Voice of the Gem City

June 23, 2020

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

The city that’s economy is built on history is beginning the dismantling of that history. It took eight hours of public hearings, but in the end the St. Augustine City Commission voted Monday night voted 3-2 to remove the Confederate monument from the Plaza de la Constitution. They were told by out-of-towners that if they didn’t they were on the side of racism. They ignored locals pointing out that twice the U.S. Congress has voted to give Confederate soldiers full veteran status with all honors. The virtual meeting began in the morning and didn’t end until late evening as speakers got their say and 350 emails were read into the record. The city was obviously prepared for whatever decision was made and within an hour of the vote workers were putting up plywood on the statue that commemorates 40 plus St. Augustine men who died during the Civil War. The monument was put up in their memory by families who used donations and fund-raisers to pay for the structure. Despite the vote the issue isn’t over. A federal lawsuit was filed over removal saying it violates the First Amendment rights of those who put it there. One of the plaintiffs is a former NAACP president. A request for a temporary restraining order also has been filed.

Some people are already questioning what will be the next statue to be taken down in St. Augustine. Possible is the Ponce de Leon statue at the foot of the Bridge of Lions. It’s already been egged. Others suggest the statue of St. Augustine founder Pedro Menendez in front of City Hall will go next. Celebrations of the city’s founding at City Hall were cut back several years ago by a former mayor. Both men were Spanish.

Only one new coronavirus case has been reported in Putnam County as of Monday. That was a man from Satsuma, 62. His case is not travel related and it’s unknown at this time if it was related to contact with a confirmed case, according to the Florida Department of Health in Putnam County. A surge of cases was seen over the weekend. Total is now at 238 confirmed cases.
In Flagler County, 12 new cases of coronavirus were reported during Monday’s daily report. Total in Flagler is now at 237 cases.
In St. Johns County the number of cases is nearing the 500 mark. As of the Monday release 35 new cases were confirmed bringing the total to 496.

Increases in coronavirus cases mean some changes. St. Augustine has seen several restaurants including Gas Full Service Restaurant and Blackfly on the island and Collage on Hypolita close, and others are expected to follow. Employees at those restaurants have either tested positive or come into contact with someone testing positive. In Putnam County, the Sheriff’s Office announced Monday it was once again closing its lobby and suspending fingerprint services. To file a report or speak with a deputy, call 386-329-0800 and a deputy will respond. To get copies of reports, call 386-329-0822 or go to records@putnamsheriff.org.

Flagler Beach City Manager Larry Newsom is taking a two-week medical leave. That’s in addition to a week-long vacation he was asked to take by the mayor. The request came after the June 11 commission meeting where in two separate incidents Newsom and individual members of the public got into arguments. Newsom said he wouldn’t take abuse either directed at himself or a staffer. A workshop on conduct of people at public meetings has been delayed until Newsom returns, which will be after July 4.

Crescent Çity High School band director Jolene Jones will be extra busy when schools reopen in Putnam County. She’s agreed to teach beginning and intermediate band classes at Miller Middle School for the 2020-21 school year. That’s in addition to teaching at the high school. Students at Miller who want to be part of the band should call the school office.

 

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