The Tampa Bay Times' Steve Contorno reported Thursday that Commissioners Victor Crist and Sandy Murman have said they have gotten their tires punctured in recent days, which Crist on Wednesday attributed to vandals upset over his change of heart.
“In 26 years as a public servant, I’ve had a lot of tough issues,” Crist said, the Times reports. “But the meanness, the anger, the hatred, the fighting, the discontent, on both sides, is unprecedented.”
He didn't say who he thought was to blame.
Crist wasn't at the meeting where the commission reversed its decision, but in going public with his change of opinion he helped shift the momentum as the second vote drew near. Murman was ultimately the swing vote, and said her reversal was due to the revelation that it could be removed and cared for at a private site at no cost to taxpayers. Both are Republicans who had in June voted to keep the monument with conditions.
For that first vote in June another Republican commissioner, Al Higginbotham, had joined his Democratic colleagues in voting to remove that. During discussion that led up to the second vote, Higginbotham revealed that he had received some disturbing messages from residents.
"The one that was most alarming, it came predawn hours today, says 'being a traitor has permanent consequences. Your decision to erase history and monuments in your jurisdiction is genocide. You'll...' — he refers that I'll be dealt with here," Higginbotham read aloud from one of the messages.
Over the summer, debate over whether to keep the statue outside a county courthouse annex in downtown Tampa, or whether to move it to private property raged.
It brought out civil rights leaders and...civil rights not-leaders.
And for the most part, that debate was calm and thoughtful.
But apparently — assuming the dual tire slashings aren't some highly unlikely coincidence — some people are not quite ready for civilized debate.
Nice things, we can't have 'em, etc.