Hillsborough's Confederate monument to be discussed - again - this week

Tampa monument change

TAMPA -- The fate of Hillsborough County’s confederate memorial might not have been decided just yet after all.

In July, Hillsborough County commissioners voted to remove the statue from county courthouse property in downtown Tampa and relocate it to a private family cemetery in nearby Brandon.

Since then, some groups have asked commissioners to reconsider.

On Monday, a group called Save Southern Heritage Florida launched a social media campaign that would protect the monument, and perhaps even put the relocation question to a public vote.

Given this weekend's violence in Charlottesville, you might wonder why anyone would want to re-open the issue of Tampa's confederate monument now. 

“Taking it back, going back through all of that, all it's reminding you of what just happened. So, no. Unh uh,” said Dwight Watson, passing by the monument Monday in downtown Tampa.

But hours earlier, a group called Save Southern Heritage Florida had posted a call to action on its Facebook page, urging people to contact Hillsborough County's four Republican commissioners and ask them to reconsider their July 19th decision to relocate the statue.

“The general public does not want this to be moved. So it's proper to be raised again,” said David McCallister, a spokesman for SSH of Florida.

The group says the Confederate war monument is a memorial to dead American veterans, nothing more, and that a decision to move it should be left to the public through a referendum next year.

Critics don't see it that way. 

“I don't think that something that has a negative background, or anything negative to do with it should be in front of something that supposedly has to do with justice and freedom,” said Alainna Lalange outside the courthouse Monday.

During their hours of heated debate in July, County Commissioner Sandra Murman suggested the idea of putting the statue question to voters, but her motion failed.

Commissioner Victor Crist, who was out of town that day, said he would have supported the idea, but thinks the commission would now be wise to stick to its last vote, after seeing what happened in Charlottesville.

“It was awful,” said Crist, “And we don't want to see those awful circumstances occur here.”

Commissioner Stacy White, who has consistently voted against moving the monument released a statement, saying in part: “Needless to say, there has been much discussion from the public surrounding this item. One such topic of discussion is whether or not to send this matter to the people and hold a referendum to determine the fate of the monument.  As I always do, I am in the process of doing my homework and analyzing information from my constituents.”

Republican commissioners, including White, will likely face growing pressure from constituents and those who think the board should never have taken a second vote after its original 4-3 decision in June to keep the monument where it is. 

“It’s not over yet,” McCallister vowed, “It can’t be over yet, until the actual voice of the people is heard.”

There is no question that the issue will come up again, since Commissioner Crist has asked that it be placed on the County Commission agenda this coming Wednesday.

Crist says his only intent is to ask staff members for an update on the monument’s moving status, and whether those who promised to pay for it have done so, and not just leave it to taxpayers to foot the bill.

What’s uncertain is what will happen once that discussion is reopened.

Crist says if there is any discussion about a referendum, he believes it would be about allowing the public to decide whether to move any other monuments in the future.

 

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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