Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dueling groups tackle 450th -- Gardner formed group out of 'frustration'; Boles: his group is on target

Dueling groups tackle 450th

Gardner formed group out of 'frustration'; Boles: his group is on target

Publication Date: 11/13/08

City Commissioner George Gardner has created a committee to start planning St. Augustine's 450th birthday in 2015, putting his organization in competition with the mayor's.

Mayor Joe Boles said there has been some "friendly sparring" between Gardner and himself over the committee. Gardner organized the 30-person, nonprofit group a year ago because the St. Augustine City Commission, particularly Boles, was "dragging its heels" planning the celebration, Gardner said.

The city hopes the event will garner national and international attention similar to Virginia's Jamestown 400th anniversary celebration.

"Jamestown started a committee 10 years before (the celebration) and had a federal commission with federal money," Gardner said. "We're frustrated that the mayor and the City Commission has not seen the need to formalize at this point."

Boles said if Gardner wanted to start 10 years out, he was St. Augustine's mayor then and he had his chance.

"I've only been mayor for the last two years," he said.

"I've been working on it since I took office."

Boles said he is putting together a committee that includes people who run the community, such as St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar and Glen Hastings, Tourist Development Council director.

"It's a lot more than having a bake sale," Boles said. "It's not something you put together lightly."

Boles also wrote legislation that passed in the U.S. Senate to form a federal commission and give $500,000 a year to the city until 2015. It will now have to go through the U.S. House of Representatives for final passage.

Gardner said his group meets once a month, with about 12 showing at each meeting. They have not officially begun to raise funds for the event, but Gardner would like to start getting sponsors. That's why he has repeatedly asked the commission to appoint his group as the official committee. The City Commission has continued to turn him down.

"The mayor disagrees and thinks that it should be a government commission," Gardner said. "We're seven years away (from the celebration) and we're in a down economy. We're got a real uphill battle. That's our sense of urgency."

Gardner's term as city commissioner ends in December, and he plans to put all his efforts after that into the committee.

Boles said he has met with Williamsburg's mayor, Jeanne Zeidler, a couple of times, including visiting her during the city's 400th celebration. Although Jamestown started planning earlier, Boles said things didn't really get done until a few years out. Williamsburg organized the Jamestown celebration.

"(Zeidler) thinks our schedule is fine," he said. "I trust her advice."

Gardner said he does not want to compete with the committee Boles puts together.

"Everything we're doing is designed to fold into whatever is created," he said. "The bottom line is we just feel we're way past time to get something done."

Click here to return to story:

© The St. Augustine Record

No comments: