Congresswoman Kathy Castor has a message for Hillsborough County Commissioners: Physically move the Confederate monument from the County courthouse annex right now, instead of waiting for a private effort to raise the necessary funds.
Speaking 48 hours after the deadly attack in Charlottesville, Virginia at a protest led by white nationalists protesting the removing of a Confederate monument, Castor said it would be an abdication of responsibility by board members who had already voted to move the statue last month to opt to put the controversial issue on the 2018 ballot.
“I think the best course of action right now is the for the commission to act swiftly to move the Monument, and go ahead and pay for itself, and not wait for outside fundraising,” Castor said Monday after an event in Tampa celebrating the 82nd birthday of Social Security.
However, the campaign still has a long way to go to reach the $100,000 South Tampa attorney Tom Scarritt hopes to have in hand by mid-September to move the 106-year-old statue, called “Memoria In Aeterna” which has stood in front of what is now the Hillsborough County Courthouse annex in Tampa.
Last month, when the commissioners voted to remove the statue, they allowed Scarritt 60 days to conduct his private fundraising campaign.
Scarritt said Friday he feared that the BOCC may vote to put the issue on the 2018 ballot if he doesn’t raise sufficient funds.
Commissioner Victor Crist wants to discuss the removal of the statue at this week’s Board of County Commission meeting, but only to get an update on what’s happening with the fundraising campaign to move the statue.
“At this juncture, I’m OK with moving it,” Crist said Monday. “There are enough people with deep pockets who said this should move, who can stroke a check, and they need to.”
However, Commissioner Les Miller says that the board agreed even before voting 4-2 last month to move the statue that the county would ultimately be responsible for paying to move the statue to the Brandon Family Cemetery since there was never a guarantee that Scarritt could raise the necessary funds. That’s compelled some advocates of maintaining the statue in its current location to say that the board should change their vote once again and opt to have the public decide in 2018.
Castor says the board needs to show leadership.
“I think the events in Charlottesville are a simple reminder that it’s incumbent upon our elected leaders to demonstrate leadership and they should act swiftly to move that,” said Castor, who served on the BOCC from 2002-2006. “It seems to be worked out. There’s no reason to put Hillsborough County thru a referendum that would just build greater division, so I’d oppose that.”
Castor also blasted President Donald Trump‘s statement Saturday criticizing “both sides” in Saturday’s events in Charlottesville. Trump has received a torrent of blame from Republicans and Democrats alike for his initial response not being sufficiently critical of the white nationalists who marched with torches on the University of Virginia campus the night before Saturday’s events.
On Monday, Trump finally called out hate groups, saying: “racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the K.K.K., neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
Castor addressed a reporter and two local television cameramen approximately an hour before Trump spoke Monday. She thrashed the president for his initial statement on the matter.
“President Trump failed that test of presidential leadership,” Castor said. “We knew that President Trump didn’t have the experience to serve in the White House. We knew that he didn’t have the temperament, but now it’s plain that he has a moral deficit if he could not bring himself to condemn the bigots and outlaws and folks who were there to instigate violence,” she said about Saturday’s events in Charlottesville.
Trump’s initial statement was a message to everyone to stand up in the community to make sure that the incident in Charlottesville not be repeated in Tampa, Castor said.
“I think it’s a message to all of us that we’ve got to act on our own, we’ve got to stand up in the Tampa Bay community and say we’re never going to let this happen here and we’re going work together to build tolerance and understanding,” she added.
Crist agrees, saying that well before this weekend he knew such an emotional issue needed to be handled with care and sensitivity, noting an interview last month on WMNF 88.5 FM where he said the statue needed to be moved “because if we don’t there’s going to be some nasty civil unrest.”