Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Why Iwo Jima Won't Find a New Home beside the Bay

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Why Iwo Jima Won't Find a New Home beside the Bay

Article excerpt

ICONIC IMAGE: A case of politics, or an instance of prudent process?

SARASOTA

No one intended to kill a plan to buy the Iwo Jima Memorial statue and place it beside the "Unconditional Surrender" figures on Sarasota's bayfront, city leaders insisted Tuesday.

But when a majority of commissioners voted Monday night not to let the statue's supporters continue their fast-track plan, instead requiring them to present it at several more public advisory board meetings, the Sarasota officials effectively squelched the idea.

The city commissioners said they were simply doing their due diligence, methodically considering public opinion before making a major change to a Sarasota focal point. But the move has provoked criticism that they had manipulated the process for political ends.

Sarasota Public Art Fund founder Tom Savage and Iwo Jima veteran Harold Ronson decided in May to try to buy the original stone cast of the flag being raised at Iwo Jima and place it along the bay before the Marine Corps' birthday on Nov. 10. They received pledges to cover more than half of the roughly $1.4 million needed for the project, Savage said.

After the commission's decision, Savage said he would drop the effort, saying the officials didn't support the plan and had used "Machiavellian" tactics to stop it. He said the advisory boards were stacked with people who opposed the project.

Ronson said he would get over the decision in a day or two, because he didn't expect much from the city.

"Everything's a battle," he said, citing the protracted battle to build the John Ringling Causeway bridge.

Sarasota government has its share of protracted debates, whether over parking meters, homeless aid or a downtown noise ordinance.

But Mayor Shannon Snyder said the 3-2 vote on the Iwo Jima statue -- with commissioners Suzanne Atwell, Susan Chapman and Willie Shaw voting to add more meetings -- foreshadows future decisions.

"You have a commission of no," he said.

Chapman, who was elected in May, has the support of Atwell and Shaw, Snyder said, predicting they will side with her on future decisions.

Chapman disputed the assertion that she always votes "no."

"I'd rather have it be a commission that carefully looks at things," she said. "Let's not have a shoot-from-the-hip commission."

The city's art committee was going to consider the Iwo Jima memorial during a special meeting today and make a recommendation to the commission, which would have the final vote. The committee's meeting was scheduled early to accommodate Savage's and Ronson's goal of having the plaza ready by November.

Chapman was concerned about holding the meeting before a holiday, when she said few people would attend.

She pointed out artists' and community members' concerns over the location and quality of the statue, and said she wanted more public discourse. …

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