More perspectives needed on statue

Published 5:49 pm Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Isle of Wight supervisors got an earful from passionate people on both sides at last week’s hearing on the fate of the county’s Confederate monument.

They should do some more listening before making their decision.

Voices not yet heard in a pitched debate too simply reduced to “heritage vs. hate” include:

  • Town and county economic development officials. How will supervisors’ decision – which will get much media attention throughout Virginia and perhaps beyond – affect economic developers’ efforts to attract new employers to a community that badly needs to diversify its economy?
  • Tourism officials. How will supervisors’ very public decision help or hurt a vibrant visitor economy that is the envy of many towns our size?
  • School administrators. How will the monument vote help or hurt efforts to entice families of all races to live and raise their children here?
  • Smithfield Foods. In this era of so-called “cancel culture,” how loyal will the community’s anchor employer be should the town from which it took its name become embroiled in ongoing racial conflict over Confederate imagery?

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Supervisors are mistaken if they believe their upcoming vote will settle this debate. It will rage on, with consequences beyond the hurt feelings of advocates on one side or the other.

Elected officials, who certainly have an obligation to listen to constituents on hot-button issues such as this one, also are duty-bound to consider the impact of their decisions on the community’s overall and long-range well-being. Last week’s public hearing should be just the start of those deliberations.