Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Changes to Confederate Memorial approved by City Council; St. Patrick's Festival to be limited to two days

Posted By on Wed, Feb 14, 2018 at 6:11 PM

In today's City Council meeting, Council voted to adopt the recommendations of the Confederate Memorial Task Force, which will essentially leave the actual monument in Forsyth Park alone, but will include relocating two busts of prominent Confederate figures.

Saying "I have no affinity" for the Confederate monument, Alderman Julian Miller asked if removing the busts would violate a state law directed to preserving memorials to the Civil War in Georgia.

City Attorney Brooks Stillwell replied that whatever measure the City would take to remove the busts would be done with an eye towards compliance with state law.

A citizen asked why the Task Force didn't take into account the City's own public survey, which indicated a clear majority wanting no action of any type to be taken. The City Manager replied that the task force "came to its own conclusions."

Other measures include renaming the monument as the Civil War Memorial in memory of all who died on both sides in the Civil War.

Council also unanimously approved a controversial step to limit the official St. Patrick's Day Festival to two days this year, Fri. March 16 and Sat. March 17.

The bar community had wanted the City to employ the option of letting bars which don't derive most of their revenue from food to open on Sun. March 18.

In practice the measure means that wristbands must be purchased the two days in order to enjoy Savannah's to-go cup ordinance in the festival zone — a right which is free of charge to those over 21 years of age the other 363 days a year.

A member of the St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee, which is a non-government organization, appeared before Council to say that while the organization felt pushed out of the loop by City Council's announcement two weeks ago that the City wanted to "take control" of the St. Patrick's Day Festival, he felt all sides could come to a reasonable resolution.

A short discussion of the City's elimination of funding for the Tara Feis festival ensued, in which Alderman Van Johnson said he both regretted and apologized for the City's move to de-fund the event.

Referring to its authenticity as an actual display of Irish culture and its family-friendly nature, Johnson called the now-defunct Tara Feis "a very small investment" for taxpayers which would result in a large impact.

Deputy Assistant City Manager Marty Johnson pushed back on the idea that the City is overreaching on St. Patrick's Day, saying "we don't want to take over the parade." She said "I'm not sure how this got misinterpreted" in local media reports and on social media.

In other business, action on the controversial new Hotel Development Overlay District was delayed to allow for more public input.

A proposal to change City ordinance to exempt liquor license permitting from state distance requirements passed and will be voted on in two weeks.

The measure would effectively give local churches more power to lobby against granting liquor licenses to event spaces nearby.

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