I must be missing something.
I am in accord with raising the parking fee for visitors to $10 per day and lowering the rate to $1 per day for people who have a Park Now card. I fully agree with the additional funding this will provide the city and the proposed expenditures with one notable exception.
I do not understand at all why our city would budget $328,000 for a celebration (and that $328,000 is budgeted not for programs and projects, but for salaries and professional services) while our city cannot budget monies for the Galimore swimming pool and community center.
I am also confused by the federal 450th Commission. I thought a major part of getting the “big names” was the idea that they could raise millions of dollars for our 450th anniversary. Have we received any of the federal monies that were promised?
Am I correct that the city has contracted and is paying for a fundraising firm for the Spanish Constitution Bicentennial? What happened to the funding from Spain that Mayor Joe Boles assured us would be forthcoming? I remember clearly him discussing the fun that was had at the old Days in Spain and how he loved riding a horse through the center of town. I remember clearly how Boles also told then-City Commissioner George Gardner, my husband, that a celebration the scope of the 450th could not be done with bake sales. Evidently, someone decided that this anniversary had to be bigger than Jamestown’s 400th anniversary in 2007.
I have heard talk of the Pope attending, the King and Queen of Spain, the President of the United States, the King and Queen of Greece, but to my knowledge no one has committed to date. Many of the parties I have heard about for this anniversary will not be affordable for the public to attend anyway.
What happened to our city celebrating our anniversary and just having fun? The economy in the United States and the rest of the world is precarious. Why should we expect to throw a huge party for the rest of the world and pay for it?
If my calculations are correct, and this is a budget item for the next four years, that adds up to more than $1 million in party expenses. We have many varied active community organizations that I think could pull together and throw a few great parties for our celebration without city funding.
We could direct this funding to celebrate in 2015 with quality legacy projects such as a shining Galimore Community Center; possibly the start of a free clinic patterned after the Wildflower Clinic in West St. Augustine; financial support of an improved homeless shelter, adaptive reuse of historic Lincolnville properties or maybe an improved, low-fee shuttle system for our downtown area.
The public should be involved in this decision-making. The public should be allowed to speak at all 450th commission workshops.
It is a darn shame we did not start having bake sales in 2007. We might have had some money provided by the taxpayers who at least would have gotten a cupcake for their hard- earned money.
These are my own views and do not necessarily represent the views of my husband, a former mayor of the city.
Sally V. Gardner
St. Augustine, FL
Sally Gardner has lived in St. Augustine for 23 years. As an owner of the Charlotte Street Toy Shop for five years, she has worked in St. George Street stores and has been actively involved in community organizations. Among those are the Lincolnville Crime Watch, the Woman’s Exchange of St. Augustine, and treasurer of the Foot Soldiers Remembrance project for six years.
Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News staff photographer