Portsmouth City Council approves funds to remove Confederate monument, future still unclear

Portsmouth

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – The future of Portsmouth’s Confederate monument remains unclear.

City Council members voted “yes” to moving money for the removal of the monument in Olde Towne — but when that will happen is still up in the air.

This comes after a candidate running for mayor offered to remove the monument for free.

Council members approved $250,000 to cover the cost of moving the monument. However, doing so before July 1 was just one of a few concerns discussed during Tuesday evening’s virtual meeting.

“I’m all for getting rid of that monument out of Court Street, the sooner the better at this point,” said Councilwoman Elizabeth Psimas.

According to Portsmouth City Attorney Solomon Ashby, moving it too soon presents a legal issue.

“As we sit here today, there’s still a criminal penalty existing under current law as it relates to moving this property around. Things may clear up post-July 1 and that’s what we’re looking at right now,” Ashby said. 

July 1 is when state law allows cities to remove or alter Confederate monuments they own.

Despite this, the City of Norfolk finished removing its Confederate monument over the weekend. City officials cited public safety concerns after a man was seriously injured by a toppled statue at Portsmouth’s monument

“There are some unique situations with regard to each and every city,” Ashby said, although he didn’t elaborate. 

Council members said damage liability and cost are also concerns regarding the monument’s removal. 

“I would prefer to do it in one move from its current location to its permanent location,” said Councilman Nathan Clark.

Although council allocated $250,000 to remove the statue, it could cost more. Danny Meeks, who’s running for mayor, offered to move it free of charge, but there are concerns over that too. 

“I think it smells and I think it’s a bribe to try to win votes in November,” said Vice Mayor Lisa Lucas-Burke.

Meeks said that’s not the case.

“No, it’s not. It’s a resolution for all sides,” he said.

City Manager Lydia Pettis Patton said she hopes to have a better cost estimate by end of week.

The city is waiting to hear back from contractors who are currently working on other projects around Portsmouth.


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