Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Monumental Failure

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Monumental Failure

Article excerpt

Another contentious end to art debate in Sarasota

An effort to plant a major World War II monument on the Sarasota bayfront came to an acrimonious end this week -- a result we find disappointing.

A little controversy was inevitable. But when a proposal can't even reach the city's preliminary review stage before proponents yank it off the table, it's a sign that something's not right in the civic equation.

Neither side -- for and against the statue -- showed a genuine willingness to pursue an open-minded discussion. That's what's so disappointing here.

The controversy concerns a local donor's wish to install a monument depicting Marines planting the U.S. flag on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima -- probably the most famous image of the war. The monument, by famed sculptor Felix de Weldon, is based on a photograph taken after the U.S. wrested control of the high ground from the Japanese, who had inflicted terrible casualties.

As we noted in an editorial last week, the plan to put the piece near the big "Unconditional Surrender" sculpture -- and add a fountain, benches, a walkway, landscaping and bollards -- posed pros and cons.

It deserved a good vetting, which was to have begun July 3 at a meeting of the Public Art Committee -- a city advisory board. But before that could happen, the issue was added to the July 1 City Commission agenda by Commissioner Susan Chapman, who said the accelerated review schedule was too close to the July 4 holiday, when many residents are out of town.

Committee overkill

At the commission discussion, several members of the public raised questions about the monument plan and/or criticized the donors' insistence on putting the piece along the bayfront near a high-traffic intersection. No one in favor of the idea came forward to speak.

Commissioners then voted, 3-2, to subject the Iwo Jima monument to heightened scrutiny, which could have involved numerous public hearings before four different boards and committees. …

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