Candidates question timing of Confederate statue vote

Candidates question timing of Confederate statue vote

LAKELAND, Fla. (WTSP) -- A new proposal would keep Lakeland's Confederate monument in the heart of downtown. Commissioners are set to vote on it next month, but on Tuesday, voters chose new commissioners who would start in January.

Some people are questioning the timing of the city commission’s vote, which is right after Election Day and right before the newly elected commissioners take their seats.

Mayor Howard Wiggs denied that this is a political move. He said the current commissioners know the issue inside and out. That's why they scheduled a vote on what to do with the monument for December 4.

“We've heard from a lot more folks than they have,” Wiggs explained, referring to the candidates. “We've been listening to this for two or three or four years, so we've had a lot of opportunities to hear various opinions.”

We know the majority of the current commission supports keeping the Confederate statue where it is, based on comments they’ve made at previous meetings. They want to add other statues around it to show opposing viewpoints.

However, four seats are up for grabs. They could be replaced by new commissioners who want to move the statue, including Kathy Smith Barsotti and Jorge Fonseca.

“I think they took a cop out all the way around,” Barsotti said. “I think it is a wrong move. They should've postponed it until the new commissioners come in.”

“The ones that really have the more accurate information are the candidates right now, because for the last six months they've been around, they've been talking to the people on the streets,” Fonseca added.

Mayor Wiggs said the new commission could undo what this one does, drawing out the discussion even longer.

Several of the candidates tell us they're also frustrated that the current city commission canceled a public forum about the statue. Now, anyone who wants to speak will have to go to the meeting on December 4.

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