For civil rights activists and local leaders who would rather that Tampa not look like a racist backwater, yesterday's Hillsborough County Commission decision to leave a Confederate monument in place at a courthouse annex unless the community could raise $140,000 in private funds was disheartening.
It's a daunting sum that amounts to multiple years' salary for many, many people.
And they had one month to raise it.
Well, apparently, those who do have the money — and empathy for black residents who have had to look at the thing (and contemplate its message) for years, or at least an interest in the city's image — are putting up large sums and have contributed enough money to exceed what may have seemed impossible just 24 hours ago.
Among these was Tampa businessman and former Tampa Bay Storm owner Bob Gries, who gave $50,000 to the cause.
“The world’s eyes are watching and I couldn’t sit idly by while a chorus of Tampanians call for this Confederate monument to be removed,” Gries said in a media statement. “I hope we can come together as a community to raise the remainder of the funds necessary to remove the monument. Tampa is one of America’s premiere cities and we can’t let this blemish our reputation.”
Among other donors were the Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce, former Bucs coach Tony Dungy and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn — and, as Fox 13 reports, three local professional sports teams, the Tampa Bay Bucs, Lightning and Rays have said they would donate to the fund as well.
Buckhorn and Dungy put in $1,000 and $5,000 respectively, according to their tweets, and — citing recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia brought on by white supremacists who were supposedly angry over ther removal of a Robert E. Lee statue — the chamber pledged $70,000.
It was Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist, a Republican who sought compromise on the issue of the statue, who proposed that the private sector raise half of the estimated cost of removing Memoria en Aeterna, which has sat in downtown Tampa since 1911.
Critics thought the commission was approving it as an indirect way to ensure the monument stay put.
If that was their motive, obviously, they miscalculated: A GoFundMe page set up last month to help with costs of moving the monument went from a few thousand to over $50,000 practically overnight. That's in addition to what Gries, Dungy, Buckhorn and the chamber kicked in. Organizers of the GoFundMe effort are now wondering what to do with the extra money.
Everyone else is wondering what other roadblock the Hillsborough County Commission's conservative wing is going to throw their way on this issue.
With enough money likely in the bag to pay the private sector's assigned share of its relocation costs, that makes for quite the back-and-forth.
No backsies, guys.