Letter to the editor Re: Confederate Memorial

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, June 17, 2020

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I have been City Attorney of Orange since 1992, and have been involved in the Confederate Memorial issue since its inception in 2013. Since the Memorial is again getting publicity because of current events, I think it would be good for the general public to understand the position of the City of Orange in this matter.

First, the City Council has always been opposed to the existence of the Memorial in Orange, even with the change of membership on the Council since 2013. Second, since the Memorial is on private property, and is owned by the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, the City is limited in the legal actions it can take regarding the Memorial, because of First Amendment free speech rights of the owners. However, when the Memorial was announced, the City immediately passed an ordinance limiting the height of the flagpoles on the property, and the size of the flags that can be flown, which is within its authority. This ordinance prevents the erection of huge flags and tall flagpoles on the property, which can be seen from Interstate 10. The City has also enforced its code regulations on the property which require a concrete parking lot with a certain number of parking places. Third, no person representing the Sons of Confederate Veterans has ever appeared before the Orange City Council, requesting any type of relief regarding the Memorial. In fact, no one from the Sons of Confederate Veterans, to my knowledge, has ever made any public statement regarding the Memorial. Finally, Granvel Block, the person who purchased the property, was a named plaintiff in the United State Supreme Court case “Sons of Confederate Veterans vs. The State of Texas”, which was a suit by the SOCV demanding the Confederate flag be placed on personalized Texas license plates. The State refused to do so, and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which was decided in the favor of the State in 2015 by a 5 to 4 vote.

If any citizen is further interested in this matter, I suggest that they go to the SOCV website, and explore it in detail. I believe that they will find the SOCV is more than just a ‘protect our heritage’ organization, and that it is on the far right wing of the political spectrum. I am proud of our City Council for taking a forthright stand in this matter, and for making it known that the Sons of Confederate Veterans Memorial does not represent the feelings of opinion of the vast majority of the citizens of Orange.

Yours very truly,

John Cash Smith

City Attorney