TEXARKANA, Texas — During a regular City Council meeting Monday, citizens spoke out against a downtown Confederate monument, arguing that the Council should remove what they called a symbol of hatred from the heart of the city.
Local activist Bess Gamble-Williams and others spoke during the open forum portion of the meeting to convince the Council that the monument must be removed, asserting that it is rooted in racism and a poor reflection on the city.
"Mobs in Texarkana have lynched and systematically murdered innocent Black men due to white supremacy," Gamble-Williams said. "The Confederate statue is in our town square of Texarkana, and it's not a symbol of honor. It's a symbol of hate."
"For that monument to sit in the center of Texarkana is not only a slap in my grandmother's face, it's a slap in my face, because me and my children and my grandchildren have personally suffered from the hands of your hate and racism in Texarkana," Shareka Young said.
Choctaw Williams said Texarkana is better than its darkest moments.
"Time and time again I have watched this community come together in times of trouble, great tragedy, putting ourselves before others, no matter our race, color, creed or political background. These chaotic times will not divide us. It will be the perfect opportunity to show any and everyone that we are the role models of civility and friendship.
"Council men and women I ask that the removal of the Confederate statue be a mark of betterment of the character not only on ourselves but also on the city. And so let that space be used as a place of unity, friendship and peace," Williams said.
The meeting ended with a closed-door executive session, during which City Attorney Jeffery Lewis briefed the Council regarding the 1914 conveyance document that named new owners of the land on which the monument sits.
Lewis hinted at his advice to the Council during its last meeting.
"You will see in that document the names of three grantees of the land conveyance, two of which were the mayors of Texarkana, Texas, and Texarkana, Arkansas, at the time, and you will also see some very specific use restrictions for the land.
"But keep in mind one thing: The City Council is not referenced anywhere in that conveyance document. And also keep in mind something else: Our citizens' petition policy requires that petition requests should be for particular action within the authority of the City Council," Lewis said Aug. 24.
The Council took no action and adjourned Monday's meeting after the executive session.
In between the open forum and the executive session, the Council voted unanimously to approve a budget for Fiscal Year 2021.
The budget balances the city's general fund revenue and expenditures at $34.25 million and is projected to leave $8.5 million, or 91 days' worth of expenditures, in unassigned reserves available.
General fund revenues are projected to decrease by $1.5 million from the figure proposed in the last year's budget, and expenditures to decrease by $1.7 million.
The city is at full employment, and services offered are expected to remain available at current levels, City Manager Shirley Jaster said.
The Council also approved the city's property tax rate for the fiscal year, which will remain unchanged at $0.70 per $100 of assessed valuation, as well as a new master fee list also largely unchanged.