After casting the deciding vote today that will allow the city to proceed with plans to move the Confederate monument out of Munn Park, Commissioner Stephanie Madden said it was the power of personal stories that persuaded her.
The 5-2 vote came after Lakeland city commissioners heard from 35 speakers, all but three of them urging commissioners to use red-light camera proceeds or other public funds to fulfill the promises they made last December to move the monument.
“This is citizens showing up. They showed up. They told their real stories,” she said after the meeting. “When real people come and tell their real story about how (the monument) impacts them, then I’m moved as an elected person to move on behalf of those folks. I really do like evidence.”
She contrasted today’s meeting, where the public was allowed to speak, with a workshop held Nov. 2 when the commission initially voted 4-3 to use up to $225,000 in red-light camera proceeds to move the monument from Munn Park to Veterans Park.
Dec. 5, 2017: Commission votes 4-3 to move the monument from Munn Park and asks the city manager to report back on costs and potential locations.
May 7, 2018: Commission votes 7-0 to move the monument to Veterans Park and rely on private funding.
Nov. 2, 2018: At a policy workshop, the commission votes 4-3 to move the monument by Jan. 31 using up to $225,000 in red-light camera proceeds.
Nov. 19, 2018: During a formal meeting, the commission votes 5-2 to reconsider the May 7 funding decision and then to use red-light camera proceeds to move the monument.
At the Nov 7 meeting, Madden joined with Commissioners Scott Franklin and Bill Read in opposing the appropriation. Today she explained that the earlier vote felt almost nefarious, coming without public notice and reversing an earlier compromise the commission made to use only private donations to move the monument.
At today’s meeting, commissioners were asked to formally approve the funds transfers needed to carry out the decision they made Nov. 2 in a workshop on how to spend red-light camera proceeds.
Because the monument appropriation would reverse a May decision to rely on private funds for the monuments, the City Charter requires an “extraordinary” vote of five of the seven commissioners to pass, City Attorney Tim McCausland said.
So the commission voted on two motions:
- One to re-open discussion of funding for the monument move. That took a 5-2 majority.
- The other to supplement the $26,000 in private donations already received with red-light camera revenues. That could have passed with a 4-3 vote.
Both motions passed with the same 5-2 split. Voting for were Mayor Bill Mutz, Madden and Commissioners Don Selvage, Justin Troller and Phillip Walker. Voting against both measures were Franklin and Read.
Madden explained to the audience that she felt the May 7 compromise (move the monument but only with private funds) offered something for everyone and brought a spirit of “peace and reconciliation and making everyone feel welcome in our downtown square.” She added she felt the Nov. 2 vote disturbed that peace.
So, she concluded, “I just need ya’ll to pat yourselves on the back for being good citizens because if you hadn’t been here to share your personal stories, I would say no to revisiting this.”
Franklin and Read said they both think Veterans Park is an appropriate location for the monument but Read said “it’s a matter of how you pay for it.”
Franklin cast his decision as seeking a win-win solution, which he thinks the commission accomplished in May. He said he rejects a win-lose solution, represented by either holding a public vote or using public funds to pay for the move.
Mutz and Troller both addressed the reason fund-raising has lagged, saying that many well-healed residents and business owners who support the monument move were daunted by the issue’s divisiveness.
“If I had known that (in May), I would have made my motion more flexible,” Troller said. Indeed, when he made the motion to fund the monument this evening, he purposefully kept the potential funding sources broad. “I’m trying to be flexible this time,” he said.