County executive wants immediate action on statues

The Examiner staff
The statue of Andrew Jackson on the west side of the Truman Courthouse on the Independence Square has stood since the late 1940s.

Whether to take down statues of Andrew Jackson might not go to the voters of Jackson County after all.

The office of County Executive Frank White Jr. announced late Wednesday that White has vetoed last week’s move by the County Legislature to put the issue on the ballot. White favors removing the statues and is asking the Legislature to act on its own to do that.

“These statues are no longer simply a vestige of the past,” White writes in his veto message. “These are our statues now and I am giving you another opportunity to directly tell the residents of our community if you believe the statues should be taken down or not.”

Jackson is the county’s namesake. He owned slaves and as president in 1830 signed the Indian Removal Act, which led to the forced removal and killings of members of many Native American nations in the Southeast. The County Legislature last year voted to have signs put up at the statues in Independence and Kansas City to more fully explain Jackson’s story and the modern understanding of it, but White’s administration never installed them.

The Legislature voted 7-2 last week to put removal of the statues to the voters Nov. 3. White’s veto throws all of that into doubt, though even his veto message hinted at the possibility that legislators could override him. The deadline to get an issue on the Nov. 3 ballot is Aug. 25.

White is the county’s first Black county executive, and in the weeks since the death of George Floyd he has spoken out about racism – including his own experiences growing in Mississippi and in Kansas City – and the need for change.

“Since the tragic murder of George Floyd, I have been inspired by the courageous leadership of so many across our county,” he says in his veto message. “The acts have come from those young and old. They have come from men and women of all races and creeds.”

But he called out legislators.

“I am saddened to say,” he writes,” in the days, weeks, and months that have followed the tragic murder of George Floyd, the Jackson County Legislature has not acted courageously. In fact, there has not even been a resolution of the Legislature condemning the horrific murder of George Floyd, nor a statement saying that Black Lives Matter in Jackson County.”