Candidates and the Arts: Albert J. Abbatiello

1. Public Funding and the Arts

Public funding is available in the form of grants (federal and state), private/corporate, other philanthropic organizations. There are likely many more sources of funding that I’m unaware of. It’s imperative the TOC and Cultural Council share ideas and strategies and work together to maximize the opportunities. If not already existing a full time grant writer/strategist could be appropriate.

Mutual understanding of the overall mission to attract tourists is critical especially with the 450th Birthday celebration in 2015. This singular event WILL create worldwide interest in St. Johns County and, I believe, put St. Augustine and the county on the tourist map for years to come.

2. Bed Tax Revenues and their use:

St. Johns County is obviously comprised of more than the Historic areas of St Augustine. This fact plus the rapid growth in the Scenic and Historic communities of Fruit Cove, Switzerland, Orangedale and the entire Scenic Highway Corridor along S.R. 13 has left many thousands of residents uninformed on local heritage, archaeological, and other resources of this county.

I believe one of the uses of bed tax dollars could be used for promotion to this mass of residents and will help increase tourism “from within” thus permitting our own citizens to “spread the word” to friends and family across the nation thereby further increasing tourism.

The cultural council has scheduled an event on October 2, 2008 in the Northwest that will bring a better awareness to this area of the Council, its purpose, and function. This is an obvious excellent use of Category 2 funds. Regular events of this:time type around the county, advertised as scheduled events on the TDC/Cultural Council calendar will create incremental increases in tourists interested in art fairs, stage and musical productions, bird watching/birding trails, etc.

I’m certain there are many more options for using the money and this can best be determined through planning and communications. One of my strongest campaign platform items is the creation of District Planning Committees, one for each District, to meet regularly to discuss problems, unique to each District, with the goal of reaching consensus on issues and making recommendations to the BCC and TDC.

Fireworks displays and holiday lighting seem to be wasted Cultural dollars since this activity is more for holiday activities rather than Arts or Culture and should/could be funded from Category 1. Why TPC aid should come from Category 2 funds is beyond me – seems to me this is advertising for a sporting event.

3. Arts and Recreation

As a commissioner I would support such a change by encouraging a budget line item for such activities. Actually, we could encourage other organizations, such as the Sheriff and/or Schools District, to provide some funding in their annual budget
considering the probable effect on improving the impact on our youth, delinquency, literacy and academic performance. This could help reduce enforcement costs to each organization.

I believe the county has spent sufficient money on athletic resources and more should be “earmarked” for other activities that would stimulate other interests that improve the quality of life as youngsters mature and journey through life.

I would also speak to the need for support of Arts and Culture in public forums including BCC meetings, business and educational speaking engagements.