More controversy over Confederate statue in Gainesville

Is it too hot to handle? Controversy is swirling again around a 100-plus-year-old Confederate statue that sits at the administration complex in Downtown Gainesville, nicknamed “Old Joe.”   Weeks ago, Alachua County commissioners voted to move the Confederate memorial statue to the outside of the Matheson History Museum, right down the street. But, the museum’s top official said they don’t want the statue.

“The Alachua County proposed agreement stipulates that the Matheson will be responsible for the entire cost of moving the monument, putting the statue in context,” explained Peggy Macdonald, executive director of the museum.   The move alone could cost $15,000 she said, adding that the museum is taking heat from upset people.  “I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about why we wouldn’t want it. The people who don’t want the statue moved are now angry with the museum for not accepting it. We didn’t want to sound critical or defensive.”

Tuesday, county commissioners decided to talk more about the museum’s decision not to accept the Confederate statue. They want to talk it out with museum again.  Robert Hutchison an Alachua County commissioner said,  “I respect their decision. I also believe that it shouldn’t be their expense. If the community cares about moving this, the community will raise that money.”  They’re basically back at the drawing board now, Hutchinson said.  “The county doesn’t believe it belongs on this property. I really don’t think it’s the statue per-se, or even the war memorial. It’s the inscriptions on the statue.”

Why not just get rid of the statue altogether?  Hutchison said, “Because it is our history. It’s important for us to talk about our history.”

New on Wednesday, the museum was suggesting to the commission a few other options like taxing hotel guests, for example.  Macdonald said, “The county could pay to move it, the county could pay not to move it, but to add additional signage or statues or whatever it thought was fit. Really, this is the county’s opportunity to initiate a conversation.”

For now, the statue will sit right where it is in Downtown Gainesville, as it has since 1904.