PORTSMOUTH — The Confederate flag issue, where Portsmouth City Council has held conversations for two months, potentially met its conclusion Monday night.
During his City Manager report, Sam Sutherland said a conversation took place between City Public Service Director Jack Tackett and the unnamed individual who waved the flag on the campgrounds.
Following this conversation, the individual has decided not to present the flag from his camper. Sutherland, describing what Tackett told him, said this person never intended to offend anyone.
“Hopefully, we put this issue to bed for a while and we’re hoping people come down this summer and have a good time and do what they have done for years,” he said during the Jan. 25 session.
Before the City Manager’s report, council heard from a concerned former city resident in a letter regarding a potential ban of the symbol on city property.
Nancy Craigmiles, now living in South Portsmouth, is not a proponent of the flag but knows the person who presented it. Descriptions of this person as a racist are simply untrue, she says in her letter, where in reality the individual just has many flags on his camper.
“This flag has no personal importance to my friend,” read City Clerk Dianna Ratliff from the letter, where as many as 26 flags have been flown from the camper in question. “This was just one of many flags he has accumulated through the years.”
An approach of individually reaching out to him would have been more appropriate, argues Craigmiles, instead of “waging a war against him.”
“I fear that council’s words have the potential to create racial tensions, where there was none before,” the letter reads. “This is surely not something we want in our city.”
Particular attention was given toward a proposed monthly rate increase for the rental spots, where Craigmiles believes the idea behind it would unfairly target her friend.
1st Ward Councilman Sean Dunne presented the idea of a $75 monthly addition during the Jan. 11 meeting. Currently at $250 per month, Dunne suggested the rate change as a way to “tax their hate” and would continue those increases until the flag was no longer present.
Applied to all 62 rental spots, the city would bring in an extra $4,650 per month and $32,500 each camping season. That extra money would go toward the McKinley Pool and racial equality groups in the area.
Dunne replied in a text message Wednesday that the future of his proposal will be determined in future council sessions.
“There is no racism at play here and I think there are better ways to resolve this issue,” reads Craigmiles’ letter. “Encouraging hard feelings and possibly aggression between neighbors is not a positive way to proceed.”
Not knowing of the news with Tackett, 5th Ward Councilman Edwin Martell had already started a process of creating a flag of his own. The alternative would be a City of Portsmouth flag, which Martell said includes the city seal and would have suggested a trade with the man waving the Confederate flag.
“If we offer this person a one-of-the-kind Portsmouth city flag, who wouldn’t want that,” he asked council, where he also feels it would promote the city’s values.
Martell suggested that the flag still be presented to the campers during a Wednesday meeting involving campers and three council members.
Mayor Kevin Johnson, 2nd Ward Charlotte Gordon, who first proposed the idea Nov. 23, and Dunne met with several individuals from the campgrounds Wednesday evening.
“I’m looking for positive results from our meeting Wednesday night,” said Johnson on Monday, recommending others in council reach out to renters as well. “Nothing can be resolved until you sit down and look at each other from across the table and work together.”
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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