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BreakDown: The Upcoming Confederate Flag Vote

On Thursday, August 6th, Danville City Council will vote on an ordinance to restrict what flags can be flown on city-owned flagpoles. It’s obvious that this will be an up-or-down vote on the Confederate flag that flies at the museum. In this BreakDown article, I’m going to give my analysis of where I believe each member of Danville City Council stands on the issue and their probable vote.

Technical Note: Even though BreakDown articles are usually about detailing something that’s already happened, I feel that’s the best way to classify this article.

First, let’s look at the wording on the letter from City Attorney Clarke Whitfield to council regarding the upcoming ordinance vote…

In order to create a clear, standard, and uniform policy regarding which flags may fly on City owned flagpoles, the following ordinance has been recommended to Council.
The proposed ordinance creates a clear, standard, and uniform policy with regards to which four flags may fly on flagpoles owned by the City. Only the flag of the United States, the flag of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the flag of the City of Danville, and the POW/MIA flag may be flown on City owned flagpoles. Nothing in this ordinance in any way prohibits or limits the carrying of other flags in public or the displaying of other flags on private property.
Staff makes no recommendation.

Let’s run that through the BreakDown machine. A Big Board, please.

  • The SUMMARY section tells me that council directed the attorney to come up with something that gets rids of the flag without going afoul of the state law regarding monuments. That had to have happened in a closed session for attorney matters. Votes for those types of directions are taken in a non-recorded straw poll, so that means a majority of council members agreed. If a majority of council members agreed to make that directive, that probably means that there’s a majority that will vote for this ordinance. Ultimate BreakDown from that? The ordinance will pass and the flag will be gone.
  • The BACKGROUND section simply adds the POW/MIA flag to the accepted list so that it can fly at the Veterans Memorial at Dan Daniel Park.
  • The RECOMMENDATION is the most interesting part to me. Clarke Whitfield issued his legal opinion regarding the flag issue back in October and can’t step away from that in any form because that could be used against him and the city in any litigation. On the thousands of letters to council that I’ve looked over, I’ve almost always seen “Staff recommends that Council approve… blah blah blah”. This “No Recommendation” tells me that Clarke Whitfield did what he was told to do, but isn’t comfortable with saying that this ordinance would hold up in court. Or for you Blazing Saddles fans that remember the scene where the bible is shot out of the preacher’s hand, the next line is appropriate here. “Son, you’re on your own!”

All righty. Let’s now do the Pre-BreakDown where I tell where I believe that the council members stand on the ordinance and the flag issue. Let’s stick all the names in a random list generator and put them on another Big Board.

Remember, a vote for the ordinance will be a vote against the flag. Or it’s a vote for the flag’s removal. Confused yet?

  • Larry Campbell – Even if you’ve been orbiting around Uranus, you know that Campbell is a flag opponent. He’s an easy vote for the ordinance.
  • Gary Miller – In Round #1 of the flag issue, Miller’s main objection to removing the flag was the state law against changing monuments, because that would invite a lawsuit. This ordinance circumvents that state law, and will probably result in a lawsuit. The Round #1 issue was cut and dried. This ordinance in Round #2 is specifically targeted at only the flag. I’m 85% confident that Gary Miller will vote for the ordinance. FYI: We’ve published Gary Miller’s statement on the issue in a previous article.
  • Lee Vogler – Lee Vogler is smart enough to know that the flag issue will never go away until definitive action is taken by council, one way or the other. He’s also smart enough to know that one group or another is going to be ticked off at him no matter how he votes (Fun Fact: Danville’s city code requires council members don’t have the choice to abstain on votes). Finally, he’s smart enough to know that the continuing controversy is handicapping Danville’s reputation in the economic development realm. He’s going to be running for election in May 2016 and he’ll stay in the SAFE category no matter how he votes. I’m 80% confident that Lee Vogler will vote for the ordinance.
  • Sherman Saunders – Saunders is just as much against the flag as Larry Campbell, but he won’t come out and say that publicly. He’s a  guaranteed vote for the ordinance and the only question will be if he joins in the discussion with his opinion on the flag issue.
  • John Gilstrap – Gilstrap has been relatively silent during this Round #2 but I’m very confident that he wants the flag gone. If nothing else, I believe he wants it gone just to get rid of the problem. I’ll say that I’m 75% confident that he’ll vote for the ordinance.
  • Buddy Rawley – Buddy Rawley has been publicly silent during all of this after his head exploded during round #1 comments from the public. From the media table, I can see steam coming out of Rawley’s ears at times while the comments go on and on. I’m 90% confident that he’ll vote “No” on the ordinance.
  • Alonzo Jones – Jones has been a flag opponent, though not as upfront about it as Larry Campbell has been. Unless he has concerns about a promised lawsuit, he’s a safe vote for the ordinance. I’ll say that I’m 95% confident on that.
  • James Buckner – Although Buckner can be hard to read at times due to his relative quietness, I’m getting a very clear vibe that he’s tired of the whole issue. I get the feeling that he’d be willing to sell the Sutherlin Mansion for $19.99 just to get rid of the headache it’s causing. (Obligatory Deceased Billy Mays reference anytime I say $19.99: “But wait, there’s more! I’ll double the offer!”) I surely can’t blame Buckner for that attitude if I’m right, because I’m feeling the same way now. I believe he’ll vote for the ordinance for that reason and will say I’m 85% confident on that.
  • Fred Shanks – Shanks surprised me at the last council meeting when he went on the record supporting the flag in the around the horn session. It was refreshing to hear somebody take a clear stand supporting the flag, no matter if I agreed with him or not. Be bold, be brave, be Fred Shanks. He’s a 100% safe vote against the ordinance.

So with that analysis, I’m predicting a 7-2 vote for the ordinance. It will pass, and the Confederate flag will come down soon afterwards.

And there you have a BreakDown, a pre-BreakDown and enough analysis to make everybody mad at least once. That means I’m doing my job well. Heh.




47 comments to BreakDown: The Upcoming Confederate Flag Vote

  • Lee Smallwood

    I think as Buckner runs a business and has bacon in this more than other members, he either votes no to make it 6-3 so that he loses no support from the losing side and the winning side doesn’t care or finds a way to miss the meeting. I couldn’t blame him either way. He’s the most exposed member of council on issues of serious controversy by my count.

    • For every vote and/or customer lost on a “No Flag” vote, he’d easily pick that back up from the other side. Considering that most of the vocal flag supporters live outside of Danville, I don’t see a problem with this situation.

  • Berkeley Bidgood

    I find it interesting that not a single non caucasian see any value in promoting the LAST CONFEDERATE CAPITAL and all its shame and glory for tourism.It could be such a great teaching tool for all people on both sides. Unfortunately in Danville the people see things one way and only one way ” skin pigment” since black and white are not colors.One thing for sure is we all have red blood that was shed 150 years ago and is still causing huge controversy among the people.I guess the war really never ended and looks like it never will.

  • Blueridge

    Berkeley Bidgood makes a good point about the black officials refusing to acknowledge any value for the Confederate Flag…that clearly makes a “Yes” vote a racist vote, when it is a given. Bidgood recalls the fact that we all bleed red, and did 150 years ago, when resisting the Federal Government. New research is turning up widespread black participation in the Southern ranks, and later many were acknowledged by the Federal government with pensions. Perhaps a few conferences on the history of this thing is in order–for everyone. Also, these were all veterans.

  • Jones

    Please, oh please someone tell me how this issue has hurt economic development!! Be specific!!
    So the 4×6 piece of cloth on Main Street is why we don’t have economic development… I thought it was the uneducated and unskilled populous… This will certainly solve all of our problems!

    • I talked about that in the last “I KNOW are true…” article. I said it may not have blown a business deal, but if any company does a Google search on Danville, you’re going to have to drill deep past flag stories to find news coverage of our industrial parks.

  • T David Luther

    Danville has never lost a business locating here because of that flag which is part of an historic building. The next time you travel to the northern part of Virginia, you will notice many Civil War related buildings and entire battlefields that bring in tourist dollars. Most have Confederate flags. There is even a Confederate “Embassy” up there. A light way to handle a heavy subject.In Danville meanwhile it took a private party to even take formal notice of the end of slavery that took place here exactly 150 years ago.It all depends on how you look at history.

  • wanda arnold

    well since this city is probably around 80 % black im sure they will get what ever they want im white so therefore my history or heritage and that i have ancestors who fought and died in this war no longer matter oh i don’t even have a white history month well i for one will always be proud of my race and my southern heritage i will always fly my flag i dont hate any race , but leave my History alone !! get over your hate for the white race

    • Let’s get a factcheck out of the way here. Danville’s population was 48.3% black in the 2010 census. That’s nowhere close to the “probably around 80%” in the comment above. While I’m tempted to give that the full Four Horsecraps, I’ll be generous by noting that that Danville’s black population is a slight majority while still less than 50%. SouthsideCentral gives the statement above Three Horsecraps.

      Three Horsecraps

      • wanda arnold

        oh well sorry about the horse crap statement i see this whole thing about the flag is also a big pile of Horse-crap i see more than 50 % here but umm ok .. and thats my horse crap for today

        • Donald

          You might feel differently if your ancestors were the ones that were trafficked across an ocean and forced to build infrastructure.
          Then ‘liberated’ but still segregated until very recent history.
          Peak of desegregation into schools was in the 80’s.
          Think about that…

          Flying a flag that represents white supremacy sends the signal that we want to go backwards…not forwards.

          • wanda arnold

            wonder who sold blacks into slavery in the first place ? ummm your own people thats who

            • Donald

              wow, that’s some warped thinking.
              So we should negate our historical responsibility
              because someone else also did something inhumane? please

              sorry, just because African’s were sold out by their own race does not make us any less guilty for enslaving them.
              nice try though.

              • wanda arnold

                why should i feel guilty? i had nothing to do with slavery I wasn’t even born yet .NAACP,,, the national association of always complaining people !!it will always be something

    • Lee Smallwood

      Used to be that 12 out of 12 months were white history month. Now it’s 11 out of 12 and we still have some whining that others get a sliver of the attention. This is just a straight out pathetic attempt to justify what is not justifiable. Do you really feel so envious of those who actually have been oppressed that you need to feign ways you are being marginalized?

      • wanda arnold

        i dont see a white history month ! we don’t celebrate a white history month we dont whine about everything we don’t get or have now theres more horse crap for u today

        • Lee Smallwood

          Whining is all you’ve been doing.

          • wanda arnold

            lol !! nah,,,, im not whining im just telling it like i see it!! at least im not rioting and protesting and screaming profanity’s at people ,tearing up stores , stealing ,breaking up crap

            • wanda arnold

              oh that’s right im probably racist for standing up for my history and heritage lol oops please forgive me

              • Donald

                well…lets look at history

                We come onto the Native American’s land and displace and kill them.
                Then we are too lazy to build our own infrastructure…
                So we high tail it to Africa and exploit an entire race to human trafficking and slavery.
                Then we try and shut the doors and not let in any ‘foreigners’.

                yeah, we’ve done a bang up job…we should be so proud of our ‘heritage”
                (insert sarcasm here)

  • Henry J

    So how exactly, is removing this flag going to change things in Danville? Is it going to really change people’s attitude toward their fellow man and improve race relations; as race seems to be the pundit’s greatest argument. I suppose once the flag is taken down we can all sit around a big camp fire, eating Smores and singing kumbaya.

  • This is a shame, that they want leave this flag alone, it not offending anyone, it flies, in remembrance of those who fought, a war, that are ancestor to many citizens, of Danville, and surrounding areas, the next time you visit the veterans memorial, at Dan Daniel’s Park, look at the many men that gave there lives.

    • wanda arnold

      You are so right Susan

    • Lee Smallwood

      It offends the persons who have protested it.

    • Susan Arnold

      . You cannot airbrush history, take out what you don’t like, and leave what you want, it doesn’t work that way, To delete history, tear down monuments, take down flags, sand blast the side of mountains (stone mountain), because it has confederate generals on it, is wrong. This is what Stalin did, he airbrushed history, and socialism was born. Is this what you really want, to silence your voice, your freedom of expression. This is what Martin Luther King, and the other freedom right leaders fought for, was your freedom of expression and speech, to be equal with others. We. Must learn to respect history, and learn from it.

      • wanda arnold

        well said ms Susan Arnold

      • Donald

        We also cannot go embracing the parts of history we like and blindly ignore the pars that make us uncomfortable.

        • Susan Arnold

          That’s exactly what I said, we must embrace all our history, regardless of the pro and cons, it is who we are as a nation, Americans, White, Red Yellow, Black, all people, fellow citizens.

          • Donald

            but we are coming at it from two different angles….

            your comment, “To delete history, tear down monuments, take down flags……is wrong”
            Why is taking a flag down ‘wrong’?
            Normally, when one side wins a war…you always take the opposing sides flag down.
            That’s not re-writing history…that’s keeping UP with history!
            Some people seem to be wanting to live in the past, or even more scary, want ‘the South to rise again”
            which proclaims (whether they realize it or not) a desire to go back to a culture of white supremacy.

            We should be going forward…not backward…..

            • Susan Arnold

              The nine precious people, that was killed in Charleston, was murdered by a maniac, with his own agenda, to start a race war, well Charles Manson, wanted to do the same thing, and he had people kill for him, both were maniacs, along with all others that doesn’t have any feelings for the human race. The Southern cross, Third National Confederate Flag, or any other flag for that matter, didn’t killed those people, an evil willed person did, White Supremacy is a bad thing, just as Black Supremacy is, it is a racist, hurtful, and murderous. Don’t like playing the race card, The Civil War, wasn’t just about slavery,( which no one has the right to own anyone, then or now, or treat anyone as subhuman, we are all made in God’s image, and should be treated as equal). there were other reason, too. Martin Luther King, was a great man, he brought needed change to how the Black man was treated, and all other for that matter, I hold high regards for the work, that he and the civil rights cause did for equal rights. I remember how they were treated. I was there. It was wrong. The tearing down of flags, memorial, and other things of history, all history; is giving up; what this country holds dear. People look at this flag as our heritage, and it means just as much to them as your memorials of history, do. It was unfair to attack a flag because of evil.

  • Jeff

    Like always Council is missing the opportunity on the silver platter in front of them… I hear the false cries that the flag is hurting economic development but no one can cite one hard example of this.

    One of Virginia’s largest industries is tourism. Of that, most is historic tourism and a large part is related to the civil war. No one in Danville owned or was ever a slave. Quit fighting the civil war and capitalize on it for the benefit of us all, black and white.

  • Jeff

    The city should PROMOTE AND DEVELOP the civil war era sites around Danville. Market the Sutherlin mansion as the “Last Capital” and highlight the monument. Buy some canons and put them on the earthworks with markers. Take the old prison and tell the stories of those who were held there. Do the same with Green Hill Cemetery.

    Let’s bring the easy tourism dollars to Danville!!! They’re out there just waiting to come here. No matter what we do we cannot erase our past. We may as well use it to improve our future!

    City council get your head out of…… the sand.

    • Lee Smallwood

      None of that requires the flag, and I happen to support doing what you’ve described. Build a great monument to the slaves in the Mechanicsville neighborhood. If whatever is in the old prison fails, turn it into a museum. I am hardly hostile to history. The problem with the tourism is that you’re turning off people who can discover the story with the flag. The great old south lost cause story is tired and is false history. Danville should lead the narrative toward a more honest version. That starts with taking down that flag.

      • wanda arnold

        why dont you read your history for once ?had nothing to do with slaves but of course you think the flag is all about whites and their history so for gods sake lets get rid of it (sarcasm) 🙂

        • Donald

          and what history books are you reading?

          VP of the Confederacy – Alexander Stephens

          “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth”

          The ‘corner-stone’ of the entire Confederacy was white supremacy…that is why it’s offensive to some people….including myself.

  • Nicole H.

    This is a slippery slope. Council needs to define exactly what will be considered a flagpole and what is considered a flag and perhaps even spell out where these flagpoles are currently located. There are flags (?) banners (?) pennants (?) flying on the poles on Main Street…so are they flagpoles which is defined as a pole used to fly a flag or are they utility poles carrying a banner? What about the properties owned by the IDA? Aren’t these technically city owned and don’t many companies have their own flag? This may all sound petty and trivial but it runs along the same line as the backyard garden issue at the last Council meeting, it only takes one complaint for the law to have to be applied. The real problem is that the majority of Council wants that flag taken off the monument at the Sutherlin House but they don’t have the “you know whats” to take the vote and suffer the consequences instead they would rather try an end run and open up an even bigger kettle of fish.

  • Henry J

    Isoroku Yamamoto is quoted as saying “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve” regarding the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Are the leaders of Danville prepared for the potential backlash caused by removing this flag?

  • Thanks for the good evaluation of council.

  • Harold E. Garrison

    The ordinance for council to consider next Thursday night states in Section 1-13 (2) of the city code “No other flags shall be permitted to be flown on flagpoles owned by the City other than those cited in Section (1) above.” Already brought up are the flags on Bridge Street. Do the Danville Braves have a flag on the city owned flagpole at Dan Daniel Park? The city has authorized the US Flag to be flown on utility poles on a portion of Memorial Drive, therefore every utility pole in the city is a city owned flag pole. There are so many unintended possibilities in this ordinance. We all know the intent is to remove the Confederate Flag. City Council members need to MAN-UP, GROW A SET, and vote only on the removal of the one flag they would like down. Passing a bad ordinance is not an option.

    • I hate signs

      I don’t like signs. They clutter the roads. They are ugly and unattractive. Danville doesnt want tourists, just the money they spend. Danville is dying and close to last rites.
      All signs should come down and a detour around this forsaken place is needed.

  • Chuck

    This is so easy. You get a POOL,you keep your FLAG…..problem ended!!!!



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