Alachua County on Tuesday considered a replacement for Old Joe, the Confederate monument now removed from downtown Gainesville.
Old Joe was a gift from the Daughters of the Confederacy all the way back in 1904, and last year — two years after the church shooting in Charleston sparked an outcry against Confederate symbols — the organization’s current members were asked to take it back.
So what should replace it?
“Something that just everyone — everyone — can feel good about,” commissioner Mike Byerly said. “If they don’t like it, it’s just because they think it’s ugly, not because they think it’s morally wrong.”
One solution commissioners proposed was to have local artists submit ideas for what they would create in the space.
Commissioner Ken Cornell said there are plenty of themes to base those designs on.
“[For] themes, I like: free speech, racial justice, freedom, peace, unity,” Cornell said. “What idea speaks to you about what Alachua County means?”
Although commissioners don’t know what the costs or budget for the new structure will be, Chris Rose of the Alachua County Libertarian Party weighed in at the meeting about who shouldn’t pay for it.
“I would like to see it 100 percent privately funded,” Rose told commissioners. “I don’t think taxpayer money, whether it’s local or national, should be used to construct anything there on public property.”
The area where that statue was displayed is now just an empty concrete slab. In August, the organization removed the statue and took it to Oak Ridge Cemetery in Micanopy.
Local United Daughters of the Confederacy chapter president Nancy Miller denied on Tuesday the statue was taken to the cemetery, though it was seen there on Tuesday morning, surrounded by a high fence with signs warning of surveillance cameras.
Commissioners were supposed to decide Tuesday what to replace Old Joe with, but after nearly an hour-long discussion, no concrete plan emerged.