The Mobile City Council is preparing to debate the merits of removing the image of a confederate flag from the city’s seal for the second time in 15 years.
Three councilors are proposing to replace the image of the Third National Flag of the Confederacy with Alabama’s state flag, in the wake of the tragic shooting deaths of nine at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. that has ignited debate over the confederate flag.
In 2000, a council consisting of two current members — Councilwoman Bess Rich and Councilman Fred Richardson — voted to replace the confederate battle flag with the current confederate symbol. The new proposal will be debated in the coming weeks and must be approved by a supermajority of the council.
Councilmen Levon Manzie is one of the sponsors the current proposal. He spoke about the upcoming agenda item Thursday afternoon at a ribbon cutting for new city-sponsored low-cost housing in the Oakleigh Garden District neighborhood.
“While we recognize it is a horrific part of our history, we don’t think we need to legitimize it by putting it on our seal,” Manzie said. “A ghost of our past shouldn’t be an encumbrance of our future.”
The confederate flag on the official city seal could keep Mobile from achieving the status of an international, progressive city, Manzie said.
“I’m not advocating getting rid of it, or not displaying it,” Manzie said. “It needs to be in a museum.”
While the flag that currently represents the Confederacy on the seal is not the battle flag, Manzie said aspects of the battle flag are featured prominently on it.
“If you look at the Third National Flag, the most prominent part of that is the battle flag,” Manzie said. “It’s totally unacceptable.”
While Manzie and co-sponsors Councilmen C.J. Small and Richardson are ready for the change, other councilors are hesitant.
Councilman John Williams said it would be historically incorrect to replace the confederate flag with the state flag.
“I’m not saying that’s a bright spot in our history, but you can’t replace it … ” Williams said. “Let’s be accurate in what we’re reflecting.”
Williams added that there are plenty of people offended by prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, but those actions still take place before each council meeting.
In addition, he believes the discussion of the issue will have a negative impact when it comes to the city’s ability to recruit new, international industry.
“The discussion is divisive,” Williams said. “We want to be careful what we make an issue. Most Mobilians, if polled prior to this, wouldn’t know the flag was on (the seal).”
Councilwoman Bess Rich said she would be open to the debate, but said she would be withholding unanimous consent on the issue Tuesday, meaning it wouldn’t be brought up for a vote until the following week. She said she wants to give everyone as much time as possible to discuss the issue.
Mayor Sandy Stimpson said his office has been working with the Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau on a logo for the city. While the decision on the seal is ultimately the council’s, Stimpson said the administration would like to use the new logo where they legally could.