Originally created 05/14/00

Kent: Flag compromise won't please everybody

REFLECTIONS ON the South Carolina House of Representatives' 63 to 56 vote on legislation shifting the Confederate battle flag from atop the Statehouse dome to flying it prominently out front by the street:

This may ultimately be the best legislation for the many South Carolinians who respect and even cherish the Southern symbol.

This bill differs from the similar Senate-passed proposal because it hikes the flag's pole to 30 feet and illuminates it at night.

Passage of both versions keeps the flag proudly flying by the Confederate soldiers' monument unless two-thirds of the General Assembly deems otherwise, and protects all historical monuments from desecration.

Three black House members - statesmen all - voted for this compromise. (That's out of 26 African-American reps.)

Will the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ever be happy? No. Are flag diehards upset. Yes. Well, that happens with compromises.

A final thought. As I walked about the Statehouse last Wednesday night I ran into a few flag-waving white Sons of Confederate Veterans and placard-bearing anti-flag blacks. In spite of their polar positions, they often mingled amiably and traded jokes and chit-chat as amendment after amendment was being debated and defeated inside. One black demonstrator said he'd developed a respect for the sincerity of those who lost loved ones fighting for The Lost Cause. An SCV member revealed that, after talking with counter-demonstrators over the past two years, he also came to understand some heartfelt grievances of opponents.

That's progress, of sorts.

A Ga. election issue

The Confederate battle flag is a part of Georgia's state flag and until a few years ago state Rep. Jack Connell, D-Augusta, and other white Democratic legislators often wore that flag lapel pin on their suit coats. What does Connell think of the banner now? Is he for changing it? That will pop up during his fall race with GOP opponent Cherie Foster (as well as in other legislative campaigns around Georgia). If Connell remains pro-flag, he retains conservative support in his GOP-leaning district. At the same time he could lose some of his crucial black Democratic base if his traditional position is widely known.

Another issue could be the veteran speaker pro tem's health. Some Foster acolytes suggest it's time for a younger replacement. On the other hand, during the last election cycle, Connell easily beat back a Republican opponent who played "the age card."

The McIntyre flap

Too much is being made of former Mayor Ed McIntyre's recent "endorsement" of Richmond County sheriff's candidate Ronnie Strength. That's because the convicted felon makes no bones about trying to win back respect and support from black and white community leaders of all stripes.

It isn't so much that Strength sought any such "blessing" (he doesn't need it). It's that the ex-mayor was going to make his dramatic announcement no matter what the front-running sheriff's candidate privately or publicly said. Plus, isn't it only smart to pose as a "friend" of the man who'll probably be the county's next sheriff - especially if, say, one gets into trouble?

Resume magically sent?

Whether Augusta Fire Chief Ronnie Few ever gets to be the District of Columbia fire chief is immaterial. What's significant is that his resume was somehow submitted by someone - and the Washington media reported that he was one of three top candidates. Augusta Fire Department spokeswoman Katrice Bryant either was out of the loop or was deliberately misleading when she claimed earlier last week that her boss wasn't seeking the job.

By the way, is Few's desire to get a faraway job connected with the ongoing Richmond County grand jury investigation which, among other targets, is probing the fire department?

Clinton's 'code'

The weasel who is President Bill Clinton's Housing and Urban Development czar sent to mayors, at taxpayer expense, a letter touting a phony "code of responsible conduct" which cities should sign off on when buying firearms for police. It means, since most gunmakers are on a HUD blacklist, localities may only deal with the Clinton political whores at the Smith and Wesson Co. (Mayor Bob Young isn't buying HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo's pitch.)

By the way, did you see the report that a Cuomo bodyguard has repeatedly "lost" his loaded gun during recent travels?

Come hear Judy

One of America's most respected journalists is TV anchorwoman Judy Woodruff. The Richmond Academy graduate (whose mother and sister still live here) is back today offering "an insider's view of the media" replete with her favorite political stories. Five-dollar tickets are available at St. Paul's Episcopal Church at 6 p.m. to hear her media scuttlebutt. (All proceeds benefit the Children's Ministries Center.)

Phil Kent is senior editorial writer for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3327 or philkent@augustachronicle.com


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