The motion to do so came from County Commissioner Les Miller, the only black member of the board. After the unanimous vote to remove the flag was official, the 63-year-old lawmaker briefly broke down in tears.
The flags will now move to the Tampa Bay History Center for display.
The revived divisiveness around the Confederate flag has been a huge story across the country in the past month, and the divided politics of the symbolism of that flag came to Tampa today at the Board of County Commission meeting. It was the board’s first meeting since the racist killings last month in Charleston, S.C. Dylann Roof, 21, charged with nine counts of murder, was pictured holding the Confederate flag prior to the killings.
The board rejected two substitute proposals by Eastern Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White. His first compromise was that the flags would be taken down and replaced by the seals of the flags. Though Commissioner Victor Crist seconded the proposal to conduct a discussion, it failed to gain support.
Neither did his request to have the measure go before the public in a referendum next year. “I’m not sure that each member of this board will vote his conviction on this sensitive issue,” he said. “This is the people’s building, and the people should have the opportunity” to weigh in, he said.
Commissioner Al Higginbotham took exception to that comment, saying to suggest that he wouldn’t vote with his heart on the intense issue was “dangerous.” He said White’s proposal about the seals being placed in the County Center was of interest, but “your timing is wrong,” he said.
Commissioner Kevin Beckner said that while the flag represents different things to different people, it definitely represents division, and said it should go in the history museum.
Instead of fighting the inevitable, White admitted that he had been outvoted. “That’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes,” he said philosophically.
His magnanimity on the issue impressed his colleagues, with Commission chair Sandy Murman saying that his stance was that of a great statesman.
During the first part of the public discussion, the speakers were racially divided, with all of the white speakers supporting the flag continuing to fly inside the county center, and every black member arguing for its removal. That later changed, with several white speakers advocating for the flag’s removal.