City still needs way to pay for monuments

During the October 24th 450th workshop conducted by the City of St. Augustine, staff and commissioners listened to a presentation by Access Public Relations, a Jacksonville – Tallahassee based “public relations” firm and registered lobbyist, relevant to fund-raising for the Spanish Constitutional Monument and the 450th Commemoration.

During Monday night’s meeting, staff and at least one commissioner alluded to “disappointment” in how the agreement is working out.

Historic City News asked Access Public Relations owner, John Finotti to give his response or to characterize his impression of the work he is doing. We also asked if he could explain the relationship with Marty Fiorentino’s company, The Fiorentino Group, as it relates to the contract with the City of St. Augustine? Finotti classifies Fiorentino as a “partner” on his website. We will publish any response if it is received.

As it did with the defunct First America Foundation, the city agreed to pay for services that have been of no value; in that Access Public Relations is guaranteed $2,500 monthly for six months — and has yet to raise any money for the Spanish Constitutional Monument or the 450th Commemoration.

Should they produce any funds in the remaining months, on top of the $15,000 guarantee, Access Public Relations will receive an additional fifteen percent.

City Manager John Regan, who was not hired to run the 450th anniversary commemoration or the three additional piggybacked events; and, who readily admits that “party planner” is not one of his strengths, has stepped in and may have negotiated a deal that addresses the immediate demand to honor commitments made for the 2012 commemoration of the Spanish Constitution.

Raising to three the number of replicas of the plaza’s Constitution Monument obelisk that will have to be made, Regan says that the for-profit sponsor company who is promoting this weekend’s marathon, Miami Tri Events, is interested in soliciting private-sector donations from the Hispanic community in south Florida for sponsorships that might cover the cost of producing all three replicas.

The City has already committed to Aviles and Cadiz Spain that we will provide each community with a replica of the monument, at our expense, in exchange for unspecified but reportedly significant artifacts for St. Augustine’s 450th Commemoration. Mayor Joe Boles said, “We need to be about honoring those commitments.”

The third replica, under the still-unfinished proposal from Miami Tri Events, would become a gift from the City of St. Augustine to the City of Miami. Latin American’s are the principal owners of Miami Tri Events and they say the Cuban community is excited about their connection to St. Augustine and our centennial plans.

One forward-looking comment, advanced by Miami Tri Events through Regan, is that when a constitutional government replaces communism in Cuba, the monument might be “re-gifted” to the “new” free Cuba. Discussion included some concerns that Cubans may resent the gesture; in view of strained diplomatic relations between Spain and Cuba that go back to the Spanish-American War.

“We’ll still be in the role of banker,” Regan admitted. Miami Tri Events says they might need to collect the sponsorships as “pledges” over a period of three or four years.

Regan told the commission that the Mayor would be in Miami on December 9th, attending a Federal 450th Commission meeting. Regan wanted to get a sense of support or objection from the commission as a planning tool for the Mayor.

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News staff photographer

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