Confederate Monument and the Repeal of Pet Sale Policy Return Jan. 31

Dawn Kitterman
BRADENTON  — Manatee County Commissioners will take up two controversial items of significant public interest during an upcoming scheduled county commission meeting. A meeting agenda published for next Tuesday, Jan. 31, shows commissioners are set to vote on resurrecting a Confederate Monument to the downtown historic courthouse lawn and adoption of an ordinance reversing the impending ban on the retail sale of cats and dogs in Manatee County.

The Confederate Memorial Monument

Originally endowed to the county by the United Daughters of the Confederacy during the nation’s Jim Crow era in 1924, the Confederate monument that once stood in front of the county's historic courthouse in downtown Bradenton was removed and placed into storage in 2017.

Following a protest, previous commissioners voted 4-3 to remove the monument, and while contractors undertook the removal of the statue, it toppled over, breaking into three pieces. The monument has remained in storage, unrepaired, since its removal.

Earlier this month, the subject of the monument was raised during a board work session where it appeared there was majority support among board members in favor of repairing the monument and returning it to its original location. County Administrator Scott Hopes told commissioners during the work session that he had already spoken with contractors about repairing the monument, and was told those repairs would need to take place on-site. 

Repairs alone are estimated to cost taxpayers approximately $40,000—and if the commissioners vote to resurrect the monument on the lawn of the historic courthouse—the repairs would take place as the monument is raised. 

The Manatee County Historic Courthouse, established in 1912, is located in downtown Bradenton. 

The timing of the board’s vote on whether to resurrect the Confederate Monument will take place on the eve of National Black History Month, which begins February 1. Since 1976, presidents have officially designated the month of February as Black History Month—an annual celebration of achievements by Black Americans and recognizing their central role in U.S. history. For at least the last decade, Manatee County Commissioners have annually adopted a county proclamation also designating February as Black History Month in Manatee County. 

An informational board resides alongside the western wall of the historic courthouse. The board shows notable moments in the courthouse’s history, including historic facts noting the county judicial branch’s first Black attorney and judge. 

In 1973, Layon Robinson became the first African American to practice law in Manatee County. It was not until 1997 that the 12th Judicial Circuit saw its first African American, Charles Williams, appointed to a judgeship. It was only three years prior, in 1994, that Manatee County elected its first African American commissioner, Gwendolyn Brown. Sadly, Commissioner Brown passed away in 2020 due to complications of COVID-19. 

The informational board located outside of the historic Manatee County Courthouse details the historical significance of the building and the county's judicial branch. 

As of Tuesday, roughly 30 citizens had submitted written public comments that are attached to the Jan. 31 agenda item. Comments submitted offered different solutions for the monument as opposed to putting it back in front of the courthouse. Some comments provided commissioners with links to websites, videos, and other resources of educational information about the Civil War and the Confederacy. Only three public comments submitted—as of Tuesday—were in support of the commission resurrecting the monument on the lawn of the historic courthouse. 

To learn more details about the monument and its inscriptions, including photos of the statue, visit Anna Maria Island Sun's recent reporting by Joe Hendricks. 

Ban on Retail Sale of Cats/Dogs

After years-long efforts by local animal rights activists, county commissioners passed a local ordinance banning the retail sale of cats and dogs in 2021. The ordinance passed 4-3 with commissioners Kevin Van Ostenbridge, Vanessa Baugh, and James Satcher dissenting. The only remaining commissioner who served on the board at the time of the ordinance's passing and who voted in favor of the ordinance is Commissioner George Kruse. 

Former Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore speaks during an August 10, 2021 meeting in support of an ordinance banning the retail sale of cats and dogs. Whitmore worked toward the commission's passing of the ordinance for nearly ten years. 

With the ordinance passing, existing businesses were given one year from the effective date of the ordinance to adapt their business models to be in compliance with the ban. The county is currently being sued by two entities over the ban: Kaya Nyati Ventures, LCC, and Elegant Pet, Inc., both of which are Petland franchisees. The businesses were recently awarded a stay on the ban, pending appeal. 

A January 10 BOCC meeting agenda included an item for the county's attorney to provide a report on the pending litigation. Manatee County Attorney Bill Clague told commissioners that continued litigation would require considerable resources and because the new board had expressed interest in repealing the ban, he wanted to update the board on the suit and receive direction on continuing litigations.

After the update provided by the attorney in mid-January, commissioners unexpectedly voted 6-1 to repeal the ordinance banning the retail sale of cats and dogs. 

On Jan. 31, the board’s motion to repeal the ordinance will return to the commission for the adoption of a replacement ordinance officially solidifying the action. Interested parties and members of the public may appear and be heard at the meeting with respect to the proposed ordinance repealing the previously adopted ordinance initiating the ban. 

Public Interest

Both items are anticipated to draw significant public interest and engagement on Tuesday, with activists and advocates likely to appear in large numbers to address the commission during in-person public comments. Separate demonstration/protest event pages have appeared on Facebook in recent days, hoping to organize opposition to the board affirming both the repealing of the retail pet sale ban and the restoration and erection of the Confederate Monument. 

In the weeks following both topics being raised in BOCC meetings earlier this month, the Humane Society has run television ads advocating against puppy mills and in support of the ordinance passed banning retail pet sales in Manatee County. Petland has been sending out robocalls calling on residents to speak up in support of the repeal and denies claims that it purchases animals from so-called "puppy mills." 

A video ad paid for by the Humane Society of the United States in opposition to the commission's repeal of the retail pet sales ban. 

A YouTube mini-documentary containing footage from the 2017 protest outside of the historic courthouse has been shared in social media posts. The video, entitled Taking Down Statues, has over 330k views since it was published to YouTube five years ago by BEME News. Earlier this week, former Manatee County Commissioner Misty Servia shared a link to a TikTok clip by user @Dani_semicolon_life which denounces the commission’s intention to restore the monument. The video garnished more than 400 views in less than 24 hours. 

To view the meeting agenda for January 31, click here, or visit www.mymanatee.org.

Item number 49 is for the adoption of ordinance No. 23-34, repealing the prohibition on the retail sale of cats and dogs. Item number 51 is for the authorization to reinstall the Confederate Memorial Monument to the Manatee County Historic Courthouse Lawn at 1115 Manatee Avenue West, Bradenton, Florida 34205. 

To view document attachments and submitted written public comment for either agenda item, click the highlighted blue item line, and select to view attached documents that appear on the right-hand side of the page.  

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Reader Comments
Alene
JAN 26, 2023  •  1. Yes, the monument needs to be replaced in the original location. Place the cost of repairing on the contractors' shoulders; certainly the county hired contractors with insurance, didn't they? The monument is a piece of history and should never have been removed. 2. Purchase of a pet should be allowed by each individual who wishes to do so. Various dog breeds have specific habits and personalities; and it is up to the person to decide which animal is best-suited for him / her. It is not up to the government to shut down that personal choice.
Mike
JAN 26, 2023  •  Resurrecting the statute is another attempt to rewrite the historical record and to honor those who did a great injustice to this country, and to African Americans in particular.
John
JAN 25, 2023  •  I emailed as well, Van Ostenbridge replied, "Thank you for reaching out. We have read your email. Thank you for taking the time to put your thoughts into writing." I'm pretty sure he didn't read a word of it. What a generic reply!!
DAVID
JAN 25, 2023  •  They don’t even hear us out! Emailed them all and only got replies from Kruse and VanOstenbirge. Pretty much seals the deal that these so called public servants are actually listening to their constituents. Pitiful
K.Kerekanich
JAN 25, 2023  •  Yeah!!! Spend 40,000 dollars of our money on the statue. And while you're at it, give Hopes another raise. What the hell . You might want to listen to the people you're supposed to be serving...
Kris Perry
JAN 25, 2023  •  I emailed all seven commissioners asking them not to return the monument to the courthouse. KVO said he received my email. George Kruse said he would vote against returning the monument. No other commissioner replied.
Charlene
JAN 25, 2023  •  The statue served no purpose but to glorify traitors and, in the usual not-so-veiled way, tell black residents what they were worth. And they're dead set on doing it again.
Allyn Gray
JAN 25, 2023  •  Blah, blah, blah, it's history. Learn from it, good and bad. So we put up a statue of George Floyd, a criminal. Shaking my head.
DAN
JAN 25, 2023  •  I think you are so right David I think we should think about how African Americans may feel about those monuments and what they really stand for, I think if I were of color it would probably make me pretty mad.
Frank R. Vivelo
JAN 25, 2023  •  Frank V. (1) Regarding the statue: Why not put it back in place without restoring it, just leave it on display in three pieces. Such a resolution to this inconsequential issue should speak to both the pros and the antis. (2) Regarding animals: Why is the prohibition of retail sales limited to cats and dogs? What about horses, fish, gerbils, mice, ant farms, snakes—indeed, all animals, not just two genera of quadrupedal mammals?
Ken
JAN 25, 2023  •  All this engergy being spent on acient history. Why don't these people do something about the genecide being committed right now against aboriginal peoples that have been on their land in the Amazon for 100,000 years?
David Daniels
JAN 25, 2023  •  Confederate monuments are symbols of racism. The BoCC knows this. Everyone knows this. Racism is ugly. Racism is ignorant. Racism is the root cause of so much of this county and this country's political division. One can not be neutral when it comes to racism. Either you are strongly opposed to any form of racism, or you are racist in your views and positions. I'd like to think our County Commission, despite their personal beliefs, would not brand our County a place where racism thrives.
Cat L
JAN 25, 2023  •   1924 is right in line with the rise of the KKK in this country, and was the first wave of such statues. They were put up to be reminders for the black community to remember their, diminished place. The statue can rot, for all I care.
Roger
JAN 25, 2023  •  So much money was spent on removing, fixing all the damage and for storage. The corrupt, the drunk/adulterer, the thief and the rest of the incompetent have cost the county so much money. But again, you deserve the government you vote for or fail to vote.
Geez
JAN 25, 2023  •  I agree with all the other comments here, it was taken down, broken, leave it lay in storage or better yet scrap it. I'm sure storage isn't free!? Leave the marker with the historic information as is, should someone ever stop by to read it. Stop rehashing harmful feelings about a part of history by bringing back a statute. All the BOCC walk into a bar...oh it's the developers' home, drinks paid on our tax dollars!
For the Record...
JAN 25, 2023  •  Stupidest commissioners ever.
James F Tierney
JAN 25, 2023  •  Yes! And the thief, drunk and corrupt politician don’t have anything better to do, and waste our money? Regardless of your position these issues are a waste of money and time.
Brett Davis
JAN 25, 2023  •  It doesn’t matter ‘right’ or ‘left’, any monument that glorifies such a dark period of history should never see the light of day. Even Germany has outlawed any such recognition of the Nazi party anywhere…. period…. The original vote from 2017 should stand and not be reversed. The United Daughters of Whatever is not the kind of org a country like the US today should be looking up to. Lastly, $40,000 of taxpayers money??? Maybe those who want it so badly should raise the necessary funds.
Chuck
JAN 25, 2023  •  A thief, a drunk, and a corrupt politician walk into a bar . . . . oops it's the Manatee County Board meeting.


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