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Recognition earned – not stolen by politics

Recognition earned – not stolen by politics


The community was exposed to the fraud, waste and abuses of the St Johns Cultural Council this week when it was revealed that the members of the Tourist Development Council had evaluated their performance at failing levels; earning only 55%.

Historic City News has heard from dozens of sources within the arts community that say they disagree with the tactics and mission of the St Johns Cultural Council but that they feel bullied into paid memberships to keep from being cut off from what they fear is their only opportunity to be part of local arts activities.

St Johns Cultural Council is persisting in an attempt to force local not-for-profit organizations to compete with well-financed, out-of-town, for-profit businesses for what few tax dollars are available to develop and produce authentic arts, cultural and heritage entertainment for our residents and visitors. Further, through their front man, Andy Witt, they have revealed plans that could lead to control of the ticketing of every arts, cultural and heritage event in St Johns County.

In an all-too-familiar show of political manipulation to favor Philip McDaniel and his clique of Cultural Council marauders, an appointed Tourist Development Council capitulated — awarding a management contract to the unqualified St Johns Cultural Council over a legitimate proposal from a well-qualified, well educated, well prepared and capable alternative from the University of Florida. The Cultural Council had no financial resources, they had no measurable track record, and they didn’t even have a qualified executive director.

But now, the chickens have come home to roost. The truth is coming to light and those involved in the corrupt enterprise will be held to account for their sins.

As a first step, the St Johns County Board of County Commissioners should re-designate The St Augustine Art Association as the local arts agency for the county. They are and have been a clearinghouse of information for artists, arts organizations, businesses, and the general public for the past 90 years.

Organized as “The Galleon Club” in 1924, and ultimately identified and incorporated in Florida in 1959 as “The St Augustine Art Association”, the group has and enjoys the use and participation of the authentic arts community; encompassing all levels of experience and education, from amateurs and students to top professionals.

A constantly emergent membership within the local arts community who have volunteered and donated their time, effort, and money, to sustain and grow the premier art center and permanent collection of local art, begun in the 1930’s, for the non-profit enjoyment and entertainment of residents and visitors to St Augustine and St Johns County, are uniquely worthy stewards of the designation of “Local Arts Agency of St Johns County”.

Michael Gold

St Augustine native, Michael Gold, is editor at Historic City News. He is an advocate for grassroots citizen journalism whose job is holding public figures accountable to the public. Founded on the Internet in March 2000, HCN has developed from a periodic newsletter, to an interactive platform, to a publication read by the area’s most engaged citizens. Historic City News is focused on news originating from or having an impact on St Augustine and St Johns County. Contact by e-mail

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Categories: Commentary, Opinion, Waste, Fraud and Abuse
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