Historic City News readers are asking if, four hundred and fifty years later, it is possible that politics and government in America’s oldest city, St Augustine Florida, still parallels the motherland of its founder, Pedro Menendez.
In his first Christmas Eve speech, Spain’s new monarch, King Felipe VI, told the world that seemingly endless examples of corruption across Spain “must be stamped out”, according to Associate Press accounts.
“There must not be favored treatment for those occupying a position of public responsibility,” Felipe said. “Public office must not be a means to profit or become rich.”
Felipe’s sister Princess Cristina, her husband Inaki Urdangarin, an Olympic handball medalist turned businessman, and 15 others stand accused of benefiting financially from a scheme with Urdangarin’s nonprofit organization. Christina was indicted two days earlier; and, if convicted, she could go to prison for up to eight years.
The conspirators allegedly embezzled public funds and laundered them through a private company owned by the couple. It was shown that the money was used to support a lavish lifestyle for Christina and her husband. Some of the spending included purchases for the couple’s Barcelona mansion, salsa dancing classes, and vacations at luxury hotels.
Parallels have been drawn between Spain’s former King Carlos and St Augustine’s former Mayor Boles — including an August Folio Weekly cover story portraying Joe Boles as “The Forever King”.
Spain’s 24-percent unemployment means workers face much higher joblessness than other countries in the region. Despite having college educations, young Spaniards who remain often end up in dead-end, low paying jobs. Many have become disillusioned with their prospects and have left Spain to seek work abroad. After decades on the throne, Spain’s citizens became outraged in 2012 when Juan Carlos went on a secret elephant-hunting trip to Botswana at the height of Spain’s financial crisis.
For Boles, it is a similarly perceived, elitist, highbrow attitude that approved international travel to Spain for elected city officials, city management and selected city employees — while taxpayers in St Augustine were struggling to keep their homes out of foreclosure.
St Augustine residents have complained about four years of fraud, waste and abuse in the name of the “450th Commemoration” including illegal advance payments of hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to First America Foundation; created overnight, and since dissolved, as part of a scheme to circumvent Florida’s sunshine laws.
In one of his last official acts as mayor, Joseph L Boles, Jr., a local attorney, dismissed a reduced budget for next year’s spending on the 450th Commemoration; instead moving to approve a nearly $1 million dollar budget, despite objections from the public and two elected members of the commission.
The King’s speech, watched by millions on television, is said to be the most important national address by Spanish kings; giving Felipe his first public opportunity to put his own stamp on the monarchy since Juan Carlos abdicated in June.
Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, and members of his administration, are proclaiming that Spain’s economy is rebounding and is growing faster than other European nations, thanks to austerity measures they invoked that prevented a financial meltdown. Kind of like Joe Boles, and 450th director Dana Ste. Claire, proclaiming that the taxpayers aren’t paying for the 450th, the parking garage is. Or Ste. Claire’s false declaration that the Picasso exhibit made money.
King Felipe isn’t buying it. At least under Felipe’s reign, it appears the insiders are being held accountable in legal proceedings for feathering their own nests with public funds.
Rajoy, must call national elections by the end of 2015 and he faces a tough battle to try to maintain the absolute majority his Popular Party won in 2011 — all the while, the northeastern region of Catalonia is poised to secede. And, as we saw in the elections last month, even King Joe Boles’ reign won’t last forever.
Some local 450th Commemoration critics, who regularly point out the still undefined master plan, unrealized strategic partnerships that were supposed to have raised millions of dollars from private sponsors, and, program funding from both the State of Florida and the United States Department of Interior, none of which ever materialized, have been placated with an implied promise of participation by the King of Spain, including a visit by the royals. King Felipe may, or may not, make that appearance in September.