As we've seen repeatedly over the length of the Republican majority in the state legislature, they're not big fans of local control. We can't decline to discriminate against gay people thanks to them. Both our school board and our state fair board have run into trouble by not doing exactly as the state demands, even if it might go against the wishes of local folks.
And if Rep. Steve McDaniel and Sen. Bill Ketron get their way, local governments won't be able to rename anything that was originally named for "any historical military figure, historical military event, military organization, or military unit, and is located on public property." Yes, that's right, local governments. Now is the time to make sure you finally get around to renaming Hitler Elementary, or that you don't have a statue of Caligula stuck in a park somewhere — because if you do, and you don't get rid of it before this bill passes, you are stuck.
Memphis, for instance, had three parks named after Confederates and the Confederacy. They'd fought about the names for years: Forrest Park, Confederate Park, and Jefferson Davis Park. But on Tuesday night, in light of bill HB0553, those parks all got new names while they still can.
Council members united around the Harris-Wade resolution, having reacted to the McDaniel-Ketron bill as if it were a threat to local sovereignty and an imminent one at that.
Councilman Shea Flinn referred to it as "the ironic war of aggression from our northern neighbor in Nashville," and Council member Janis Fullilove, who pointedly noted the Republican sponsorship of the bill, called it a "snake" needing its "head cut off." Councilman Harold Collins said, "I don't care if the name is Nathan Bedford Forrest. He's a dead man. We need to be focused on the living ... but we will never let the legislature in Nashville control what we in Memphis will do for ourselves."
Good for Memphis. And since the name change of Forrest Park to Health Sciences Park isn't, as it were, set in stone, might I make a suggestion? Name it the Memphis Battery Light Artillery (African Descent) Memorial Park. Then Gen. Forrest's grave is set in proper context, the Memphians he presided over the slaughter of are honored, and if HB0553 passes, the name can never be changed, because it's named for a military unit. Forrest's final resting place would be forever linked to the atrocity of Fort Pillow. That feels like a kind of justice.