PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

April 11, 2013

Outrage over Confederate memorial park on MLK, Jr. Drive grows

ORANGE — It was standing room only inside Orange City Council Chamber on Tuesday morning as the council was scheduled to consider a resolution concerning the Confederate Veterans Memorial Park.

People were told at the entrance to Council Chambers by an Orange police officer that the room was at occupancy limits and for fire code regulations prohibited more from entering. The crowd in the atrium were told they could stay and listen but even that area quickly filled leaving more than a dozen people to stand outside.

Citizens stood along the windows outside to at least see what was happening during the 9 a.m. meeting.

Citizens are asked to sign in prior to the meeting if they are interested in addressing the council during citizens comment section of the meeting.

Texas Open Meetings Act does not allow the council to respond to any items not on the agenda.

Mayor Jimmy Sims said the list was three pages long and due to council members having a prior engagement not everyone would have an opportunity to speak.

“If we could limit it to 5-6 people,” Sims asked the crowd. “It appears most are wishing to speak about the memorial.”

The Mayor asked the citizens to please sign a notepad if they were against the memorial. The notepad without a heading was passed through the room for citizens to sign.

“This way the city knows how you feel.” Sims said.

Citizens spoke out against the flag, the memorial and the location.

The Confederate Memorial of the Wind is being constructed by Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc. at 4120 IH-10 West, The property runs along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. The funds for the project were raised through donations.

The location of the park and the Confederate flag being flown at that location has raised concerns for citizens. Many have said they feel it is a slap in face to have the flag flown on a street dedicated to the honor of King.

The mayor asked if anyone wanted to speak if they were against the resolution but not for the flag. No one spoke.

Sims also asked if there was anyone present to speak for the park or for the flag.

Which is when Tony Hoefner, pastor for Faith United Methodist Church, asked the council to table the resolution.

“I have talked with a representative of Sons of Confederate Veterans,” Hoefner said. “I think we should be working towards dialogue instead of rushing to condemn. I do not have a problem with a veterans memorial. I have a problem with the flag. Dialogue may bear fruit.”

The council passed a resolution opposing the construction and location of the park. The resolution will not stop or rescind or change the memorial. It only expresses the city’s view of the memorial.

The city attorney said the council had the right to pass a resolution.

The council passed an emergency ordinance, Article 7.1500, to regulate flagpoles, flags and banners within the city. The ordinance is the same as 12.606 for the Orange Historic District which has been in effect since 1999.

An emergency ordinance requires all to be in favor to pass. A majority vote is not acceptable in order to pass an emergency ordinance.

The ordinance states “Banners for commercial use, to exclude one (1) U.S. and one (1) state flag, neither to exceed four (4) feet by six (6) feet in size.”

Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc. factual information packet concerning the park states the flags will be 3x5 on 30 foot flagpoles.

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