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Site of Holocaust memorial spurs debate

Photo by Arno Senoner on Unsplash

By Jim Turner

News Service of Florida

April 3, 2023

TALLAHASSEE --- As lawmakers consider setting aside a nearby site for monuments, the Senate on Monday rejected a proposed amendment that would have required completing a long-awaited Holocaust memorial in the current Capitol Complex by the end of January 2024.

Among the reasons for the rejection of the proposal by Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boca Raton, was that the nearby site has the “structural integrity” to handle the added weight of the Holocaust memorial and other planned monuments.

That comes after a major renovation project of underground parking garages in the Capitol Complex. Emergency funding was approved in 2016 after House and Senate underground garages were damaged by decades of expanding tree roots and the weight of soil and water intrusion.

“We just spent $100 million on our parking garages, and it never contemplated the weight of having all these memorials there,” said Sen. Jason Brodeur, chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Environment, and General Government Appropriations Committee. “So, what we are doing by putting it in one place, is we're able to engineer that it has the structural integrity to be able to support all these memorials.”

But supporters of the Holocaust memorial, which was approved in 2016, expect it to be an issue in upcoming budget negotiations.

“We're tired of hearing excuses,” Rep. Randy Fine, R-Brevard County, said Monday. “World War II started for the United States on December 7, 1941. It ended in Europe on September 2, 1945. It should not take twice as long to build a monument for the Holocaust as it did for the United States to win World War II.”

Lawmakers are considering building a “Memorial Park” across busy Monroe Street from the main Capitol and the House and Senate office buildings. The proposal is part of a bill (SB 2506) that would expand the Capitol Complex footprint to include the Holland Building, the Elliot Building and their associated parking garages across Monroe Street from the Capitol.

The Senate backed the plan 34-5 on Monday. Berman’s proposed amendment would have changed the bill.

“You shouldn't have a memorial seven years later,” said Berman, who was joined in opposing the overall bill by Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, D-Plantation, Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Hollywood, Shervin Jones, D-Miami Gardens, and Sen. Rosalind Osgood, D-Fort Lauderdale.

The House is expected to vote Tuesday on a similar bill (HB 5201).

Fine offered a similar amendment to Berman’s proposal, but he withdrew it.

“I don't disagree that maybe you need one of these (Memorial Park) in the future for all the other monuments that might come. Maybe there are only so many that we can do,” Fine said.

The new park would replace the 61-year-old Elliot Building with displays for the Florida Veterans’ Walk of Honor and Florida Veterans’ Memorial Garden, the Florida Holocaust Memorial, the Florida Slavery Memorial, the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys Memorial and a Beirut Monument that have been delayed by the ongoing renovations to the Capitol Complex.

The park is expected to make the displays more visible, Brodeur said.

Lawmakers approved the Florida Veterans’ displays and the Beirut Monument in 2014, the Dozier memorial in 2017 and the slavery memorial in 2018.

Proposed Senate and House budgets both include $2 million for the park work.

The House bill also includes expanding the Capitol footprint to the west to include the R.A. Gray Building, which houses the Department of State, the Museum of Florida History and the Division of Library and Information Services.

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