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Race discussed throughout Portsmouth city council meeting

Posted at 11:33 PM, Feb 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-10 19:32:38-05

Portsmouth, Va. - The city's confederate monument and a recent interview involving Mayor Kenny Wright were part of a tense city council meeting on Tuesday night.

Councilman Mark Whitaker wanted council to ask to see how much it would take to remove the confederate monument, but other council members didn't agree. Councilman Bill Moody said the council should instead be talking about how to bring jobs to Portsmouth. "Let's get on with the business of this city," he said.

"Confederate symbols are simply put, offensive to African Americans," says Whitaker.

Councilman Paige Cherry says he does not like the monument either, but now is not the time.

"We've got a lot of turmoil right now, and I don't think, the only thing this would do right now is add more to it," says Cherry.

Whitaker says he feels so strongly about the issue that he'd be willing to put his money behind the removal.

"If it becomes a financial issue, I'd be willing to give my council salary to it because I think that's how deeply it's stained our community," says Whitaker.

Several people from the crowd also addressed a recent article about Mayor Kenny Wright in The New Journal and Guide.  In it, the mayor discusses the transition from a majority white population to black population and said, "'The good old boys will not relinquish control. They are behind a lot of negatives being directed toward the council."

The mayor said after the meeting he didn't want to clarify anything in the article. "It's vital that we talk about things like race in our community. In our society, too often we tend not to discuss it and kick it aside," he said. The mayor wants there to be a forum to discuss race.