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  • | 4:00 a.m. August 27, 2009
  • Sarasota
  • Opinion
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Had there been a public poll before Sarasota’s Public Art Committee voted Aug. 12 to reject $500,000 to keep “Unconditional Surrender” on the bayfront, probably no one would have expected the committee to approve it.

Come on, we all know how official Sarasota works: If it’s good for the city, oppose it.

Rich Swier, president of the Sarasota County Veterans Commission, who lobbied at the committee meeting for the statue, pegged the situation perfectly when he told a Sarasota Observer reporter: “They voted to suit their own personal views of art. They just blew off the people of Sarasota.”

It’s not over, however. The Sarasota City Commission will have the final say next month.

Supporters of the statue should never surrender.

This battle can be — and should be and will be — won.

First, let’s get over the discussion of whether the statue is art. We have to agree with Sarasota Observer letter writer Margie DiGiovanni, who commented recently on some of the other “art” that has adorned the bayfront. Wrote DiGiovanni:

“Remember our little car dance in front of a major building? Having been hit by an 18-wheeler, the last thing I wanted to see was a car wreck every time I visited downtown.”

Make that ditto. But oh well, Sarasotans tolerated the menage of clunkers.

Instead of what is and isn’t art, city commissioners should focus on all of the positives “Unconditional Surrender” has created for the city. Time and again we hear the same thing — and this is the best reason for keeping the statue on the bayfront: It’s a great magnet for drawing people and activity to the bayfront — much better than a “pedestrian friendly” roundabout! And most important of all: It makes people happy.

We’ll acknowledge that its setting is lacking in context. It’s just there. But that can be easily remedied — and should be. Spiff up its surroundings, perhaps create a better landing site, add appropriate landscaping or fencing. Make it even better and easier for tourists to visit, enjoy and snap their photographs of lasting memories.

No one is saying “Unconditional Surrender” should be a permanent fixture on the bayfront. But at a time when this city could use some positives and when we’re in the midst of the waning of the generation that lived the historic moment this statue represents, surely city commissioners can see and have seen the benefits of this “attraction.”

Never surrender. Keep “Unconditional Surrender.”


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