Barwin, Buchanan befuddle Unconditional Surrender relocation conversation

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In what might best be called a case of ‘Foot in Mouth’ disease, Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin is walking back a claim made by U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan that the statue Unconditional Surrender will remain at its Bayfront site.

Buchanan was quoted in a press release and subsequent news stories last Wednesday announcing that Barwin told him in a meeting that the statue would remain at its present location due to popular demand.

The issue of moving the statue has simmered for the past year, when the City made clear that the statue would have to be removed at least temporarily to allow the construction of a roundabout that is due to begin within the next six months. Additionally, the agreement with the statue benefactor who provided the statue to the city is at the end of its 10-year term.

In the backdrop to these events, is an ongoing debate within the community as well as city advisory groups with two camps emerging. One side tends to see the art as overwrought schtick with offensive undertones and a lack of artistic merit. In essence, they say that the piece is one of many, and more akin to the kind of art that once stood in front of Shoney’s Big Boy Restaurants.

The other side calls the attraction an important remembrance of the nation’s triumph in World War II, a celebration of American spirit as well as an ever-popular photo op for tourists.

Buchanan has clearly expressed his desire for the statue to remain and urged Barwin and City Hall last month in a memo on the importance of keeping the statue at its location.

As it turns out, a “miscommunication” or “misrepresentation” led to Buchanan declaring on his Twitter account that a decision had been made.

The Tweet and subsequent news reports which quoted Buchanan stating that Barwin had told him the statue would remain, were met with a flurry of emails from Barwin’s bosses: the Sarasota City Commission. Commissioner Shelli Freeland-Eddie, Liz Alpert and Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch all sent Barwin emails imploring an explanation.

All of the commissioners are destined to make a formal decision about the statue after reading citizen’s answers to the public survey regarding where to place the statue. The City Commission after reviewing this public input will decide whether to permanently remove the statue, relocate it, or loan it to the Sahib Shriner’s, at an upcoming commission meeting.

On Friday, Sept. 18, Barwin and his staff issued a statement to clarify his meeting with Buchanan. The statement said, “City Manager Tom Barwin had an excellent conversation with the congressman and shared his impressions that City officials and he are receiving similar public input about the relocation of Unconditional Surrender. Mr. Barwin mentioned what is likely to occur based on recent consistent feedback.”

On the same day, City Hall released the online survey to gather additional public input and ask residents which of 9 potential sites throughout the city they prefer. The survey shows the statue photoshopped into 9 sites including in front of O’Leary’s, closer to Marina Jack, Hart’s Landing at the base of the Ringling Bridge, Sahib Shriner’s, or City Island.

The City’s Public Arts Committee unanimously recommended removing Unconditional Surrender from the Bayfront. It was that decision that prompted the Shriner’s to offer to move and maintain the sculpture.

Despite the Public Arts Committee, about 5,000 people have signed a petition requesting that the sculpture remain somewhere along the Bayfront.

The City Commission is the final decision-maker, but the issue has yet to be scheduled for an upcoming agenda. The survey created by Barwin’s staff about which relocation is preferred will close at 5 p.m. on Sept. 25. The public is welcomed to take the survey and it can be accessed at www.surveymonkey.com/r/Unconditional_Surrender.

The survey will simply be presented to the Commission by staff

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7 Responses for “Barwin, Buchanan befuddle Unconditional Surrender relocation conversation”

  1. Dean Case says:

    Keep it where it is. It is attracting more attention than the art that was displayed on the drive.

  2. Dean Case says:

    As above

  3. Arthur Harreld says:

    AMEN to Dean Case comments of September 20, 2020 at 8:14 PM. Keep it along the bay front. People old enough to have a true appreciation for what WWII really meant to the world and the USA citizenry truly enjoy it. For those that aren’t old enough, take time to read the history of that era and try to absorb the feeling of relief our nation felt as EVIL had been defeated at least temporarily.

  4. Dean Case says:

    We are filled with pride when driving by the statue “Unconditional Surrender.” It is a reminder of the time when America was at its finest, all Americans working together to win the war, rebuilding America as the greatest nation in the world. Americans were stronger, the great fabric of the American spirit and created a stronger America. It would be so great to experience that wonderment again; we fear it can never be and are so sorry for future generations. We are no longer united and this is the most critical problem America faces. This statue represents much more than a nurse and a sailor embracing.

  5. Carl F. Berg says:

    Put it back. Its a part of our history. At that time, this was the real world.

    Carl Berg
    U.S. NAVY, 1957-1961..

  6. Larry Shanks says:

    Remove Unconditional Surrender. Ask the U.S. Navy if they want it exhibiting an assault by a seaman on a woman he didn’t know grabbing her and kissing her without her compliance. She publicly stated that he was a stranger and she did not want him to grab nor kiss her.

  7. Dick Lyons says:

    City Manager should be fired. This is one of a number of recent blunders. Sarasota deserves a strong mayor form of government. Wake up!

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