TAMPA, Fla. -- Pay up - or it stays up.
That was the decision Wednesday from Hillsborough County commission as board members voted 4-2 to give opponents of the Confederate monument in downtown Tampa 30 days to come up with the money to relocate it. If not, the monument stays where it is.
For more than an hour, commissioners heard emotional comments after deciding - despite last week's violence in Charlottesville – to take up discussion yet again over what to do with the Confederate memorial outside the county courthouse less than a block away from the county building in downtown Tampa.
“You need to do your job,” said Michelle Patty, urging commissioners not to invite turmoil by addressing the issue a third time.
Several people urged commissioners to stand by their last decision to move the statue to a cemetery on Brandon, rejecting the heritage argument made by the monument’s supporters.
“Slavery, raping, robbing, stolen labor. That’s your history,” said Connie Burton. “Can you be proud of that?”
But there are those who believe a majority of the public would just as soon leave the monument where it is.
“Radical, leftist organizations want this monument removed,” said Andy Strickland. “Bring this issue to a vote. Let the people decide.”
In June, the commission voted to leave the statue where it is. In July, they voted to relocate it to a family cemetery in Brandon.
On Wednesday, Commissioner Victor Crist suggested those who support the idea of relocation should have to come up with the half of the overall cost - an estimated $140,000 - to do it. Not taxpayers.
Others, including Commissioner Pat Kemp, argued in light of what happened days earlier in Charlottesville the board should just move on.
“We don’t have to have this go on as a focus of this commission any longer,” she said.
But by a vote of 4-2, commissioners Hagan, White, Crist and Murman agreed to set a mid-September deadline. Raise the money privately, they said - or the monument stays.
Commissioner Les Miller, who had led the charge to have the monument moved, says he does not think it's possible the private sector will come up with $140,000 in the next 30 days.
To those who would then take matters into their own hands and tear the statue down, as has been the case in other parts of the country, Miller said, “Don't do that. Don’t’ get yourselves in trouble, don’t get yourselves in jail because of your feelings over this monument. Don’t do that. Let it take its course.”