Iwo Jima memorial plans scrapped in Sarasota

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SARASOTA - The debate over bringing the original Iwo Jima Memorial sculpture to the Suncoast is over. The Sarasota Public Art Fund canceled the plans to buy the statue and bring it to Sarasota.

"We're saddened by the fact that they don’t really want the statue here,” says Matt Erney, commander of VFW Post 323, about the proposal to buy the original Iwo Jima Memorial statue. The iconic World War II statue depicts the raising of the American flag by U.S. Marines. "We were really excited about it, having it here in Sarasota on the bayfront."

But that excitement was short lived.

"The majority of the commission, it was clear that they wanted to committee it to death, and that’s exactly what they did," says Erney.

During Monday's commission meeting, there was a 3 to 2 vote to not approve the statue proposal, but instead create several committees to study the impacts of bringing the statue to the Suncoast.

"The donor realized that they were not going to get past the committees and realized that’s what the majority of the commission wanted, so the donor pulled the contribution out," says Sarasota Mayor Shannon Snyder.

That donor is the Sarasota Public Art Fund, led by chairman Tom Savage. The group is also responsible for erecting the Unconditional Surrender and the Complexus statues along the bayfront.

Mayor Snyder speculates on the reason behind commissioner's decision. "The only art that’s appreciated in this community is unless government buys it. Donated pieces of art don't come along very often, especially large ones and ones with substantial historical value.”

Synder says he's disappointed that the bigger picture was not the focus. "Once again, this just proves that this is Sarasota. And it’s very, very disturbing to think that a million dollar plus gift and saluting our veterans has been turned down."

In the meantime, those who would have enjoyed the statue the most say they are left hanging. "It’s a no-brainer to me; I really think Sarasota is going to lose out on a national treasure for our veterans of World War II," says Erney.