At the Orange City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 23, the council again unanimously approved an ordinance regulating the size and height of flagpoles and banners for residential and commercial property in Orange.
According to city attorney Jack Smith, it was necessary to re-read and hold a new vote on the proposed ordinance that would amend Orange’s code of ordinances by adding article 7.1500 limiting height to 45 feet on commercial property because councilwoman Essie Bellfield was not in attendance at the prior meeting held April 8 due to a family illness, and the emergency measure was required to have “unanimous approval.” Smith said that had the language of the requirement been simply “unanimous approval of those present at the meeting,” the vote April 8 would have most assuredly been acceptable; however, Smith said as he looked over rules regarding emergency agenda items, it was unclear whether or not the vote could be challenged if litigation were to arise from the passing of the ordinance due to the language included in the requirement. Again, the ordinance passed unanimously, but this time with all council members in attendance.
The ordinance came to pass after controversy arose over a proposed Confederate veterans memorial park off Interstate 10 near MLK Drive in Orange. The memorial would display 26 Confederate flags including the notorious Confederate battle flag that some Orange citizens have for weeks been saying they find offensive.
During citizen comments, Orange resident Paul Guillory said he believes the community has been too focused on attacking Granvel Block, a local commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) who purchased the land for the memorial on behalf of the group. He said instead citizens should question those who issued the permit and find out why no one knew it was a Confederate memorial or refused to permit the building of the structure at the time the permit was requested. He said the city employees should not have issued the permit.
“I want to know who signed the permit,” Guillory said. “I think the city should own up to their mistake.”
Orange resident George LeVias addressed the council once again after speaking at the previous meeting. He felt the permit could be reversed because, he said, the permit was issued for a veterans memorial and did not mention it was a “Confederate” memorial. He said in Memphis, a building permit was issued and then reversed for the same reason.
No one from SCV spoke at the meeting but, according to Councilwoman Annette Pernell, the city has received two letters from people supporting the memorial. She said the first letter was from someone who passes through Orange but is not a resident and who was “disappointed” the city passed the resolution April 8 denouncing the memorial. In that letter, Pernell said the individual penning the correspondence said they would stop by the memorial but would not do business in Orange because the city was not in favor of it.
The second letter the city received was signed “Raiford Jimerson.” A search of the name listed the corrected spelling for the first name corresponding to the address provided on the correspondence as “Rayford.” In the letter, Jimerson addresses the issue and states he is a supporter of the memorial but not of Pernell or the group protesting the erection of the memorial.
“I am 100 percent in favor of the Confederate Park being built, and I don’t like Pernell and her band of fools trying to stop it,” Jimerson wrote.
Jimerson says that as a veteran, he feels those objecting to the park are “insulting” him and his family.
Pernell said she is not really against the memorial, but she is against the Confederate battle flag she fears she will be forced to see every day. In correspondence, Pernell encouraged friends to continue to speak out and let their displeasure in regard to the Confederate memorial be known. She said she would continue to do her part, as well.
“Please know that this and any other letter will not deter me from doing what I think is best, just, or right for the citizens who ask for my help. Mr. Raiford (the author of this letter) is simply speaking his mind and that is not something to get bent out of shape over. It does, however, let me know that this nation has a long way to go in order to rid ourselves of the hatred we have for one another.”