Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist said he now supports moving the Confederate monument. The Republican voted the opposite way last month, but now thinks it should be relocated if a proper location will accept it.
Crist was one of four Republicans on the County Commission who sided with activists to keep the monument in front of the Hillsborough County Courthouse Annex, a controversial decision that has outraged many parts of the community.
Crist said last week that he was willing to change his vote when the issue comes back before the commission, but said Thursday he’ll do so only after the county finds a suitable home to store it.
“Our board has a very difficult decision to make,” Crist said on WMNF 88.5-FM’s MidPoint show Thursday. “It’s realistic to say we are going to move this because there are too many people who see pain and suffering when they look at this … but I think the board is looking for a site to move it to.”
Crist added that until they find a site to move it to, the board may opt to keep it in front of the courthouse.
A second vote on whether to remove the monumentwas scheduled to take place next Wednesday, but Crist said he has asked BOCC Chairman Stacy White to delay it until August 2, because he’ll be traveling.
White told FloridaPolitics.com that he received Crist’s request Thursday morning, but said doesn’t have the discretion of unilaterally postponing the vote.
“I am planning on asking the Board for a motion and a vote next Wednesday to that end, as deferring an item falls to the will of the Board,” White said.
The board voted 4-3 last month to maintain the memorial which was dedicated in 1911 and stands in front of the old county courthouse. That vote came despite the requests from lawmakers, activists and others that it represents “an era of bondage against African-American people,” in the words of Commissioner Les Miller, who made the proposal to have it removed.
No other member of the board who supported maintaining the monument — Sandy Murman, Ken Hagan and White — have commented about whether they would vote the same way again.
Finding a site to move the statue to has yet to be resolved. Miller initially proposed moving it to the Tampa Bay History Center, but they rejected his entreaty, claiming a lack of space. Crist said the county has contacted more than 20 different locations, with varying levels of interest.
Those sites include the Woodlawn Cemetery on W. Ola Avenue in Tampa, but like his earlier proposal of moving it to Oaklawn Cemetery in downtown Tampa, it was rejected by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
“No city property,” emailed Ashley Bauman, Buckhorn’s press secretary in confirming the mayor’s rejection.
“So now we’re looking at what alternative do we have,” Crist said, saying that there are possibilities in Plant City and Lutz.
“We’re trying to see where other appropriate sites off the beaten trail would be where, if you didn’t want to see it, you wouldn’t have to, if you did want to see it, you’d certainly have an opportunity to find it and look at it,” he said.
During his WMNF appearance, Crist said he knows the issue is emotional for all concerned.
“I am very very sensitive to the concerns of the black community,” he said. “I am also sensitive to the concerns of the descendants who were equally inflicted with pain and suffering back during that war in the South.”
Crist also repeated his belief that this statue is different from other Confederate monuments that government officials have removed in recent months in New Orleans, St. Louis and Orlando, saying that the soldiers had no choice in whether to fight or not since they were conscripted and would be jailed if they opted not fight.
“What about slavery? Did we have a choice?” asked Yvette Lewis, the recently elected chair of the Hillsborough County branch of the NAACP, who also appeared on the program.
“Come on, Victor Crist, really? Did you really compare that, because we had no choice … you either became a slave or you died.”