The great deception: Solari perpetuates ‘anti-sale,’ ‘pro-sale’ lie 1

COMMENTARY

“Unlike Moss, Sykes and Wells, who spend all their time trying to persuade voters they have magical power, Gorry, Old and Young have grounded their campaign messages in reality. Just as importantly, they seem focused on preserving and improving the community’s unique quality of life.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Brian Barefoot

Brian Barefoot

Bob Solari

Bob Solari

Fact checkers are busy today assessing the “truthiness” of statements made during last night’s debate between presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Locally, there is equaly as much work to be done holding accountable politicians like Indian River Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot and County Commissioner Bob Solari, who seek to influence the outcome of Vero Beach’s municipal election by creating an alternate reality.

In a guest column published in the Press Journal, Solari wrote, “For a better Vero, vote for pro-sale candidates.”  Amazingly, Solari has managed to imbed two lies in a single sentence. More…

Some are asking, “What electric system sale contract?” 1

On February 25, 2013, just three weeks ahead of the referendum, Carroll, Fletcher and Turner cut a cake, signed a contract full of blanks and holes and toasted to their success. Council members Richard Winger and Jay Kramer voted against approving the contract, and did not sign it, not because they did not approve of the sale of Vero Electric to FPL, but because they believed the City was committing to contract conditions it could never meet.

On February 25, 2013, just three weeks ahead of a voter referendum, Tracy Carroll, Craig Fletcher and Pilar Turner cut a cake, signed a contract full of blanks and holes and toasted to their success. Council members Richard Winger and Jay Kramer voted against approving the contract. As Kramer and Winger explained at the time, it was not that they disapproved of the sale of Vero Electric to FPL. Rather, they believed that by leaving key issues unresolved Carroll, Fletcher and Turner were committing to contract conditions the City could never meet.

COMMENTARY

“It seems some who have recently moved to the community, or who have grown weary of following the electric issue, do not know, or have forgotten that a purchase and sale contract between Vero Beach and Florida Power & Light has existed since the spring of 2013, and remains in full force until December 31 of this year.”

MARK SCHUMANN

A recent column by Indian River Neighborhood Association Chair, Honey Minuse, has some asking, “What electric system sales contract?”

Minuse referenced the purchase and sale agreement between the City of Vero Beach and Florida Power & Light when she made the point that the IRNA has never opposed nor endorsed the sale. According to Minuse, the only position the IRNA has ever taken on the proposed power sale was to urge the City Council to hold a referendum before committing one way or another.

It seems some who have recently moved to the community, or who have grown weary of following the electric issue, do not know, or have forgotten that a purchase and sale contract between Vero Beach and Florida Power & Light has existed since the spring of 2013, and remains in full force until December 31 of this year.

The agreement, which took a year to negotiate, and cost the customers of Vero Electric some $2 million dollars in legal fees, was put to a vote on March 12, 2013.  Council members Tracy Carroll, Craig Fletcher and Pilar Turner called for the referendum and signed the contract, overlooking or ignoring at least one important detail. There was no contract for voters to approve, at least not a fully negotiated contract, for the City had yet to resolve its issues and obligations with the Florida Municipal Power Agency. More…

Perhaps… 1

GUEST COMMENTARY

Editor’s note: Honey Minuse is Chair of the Indian River Neighborhood Association.

HONEY MINUSE

Note: As you read “Perhaps” please be reminded the only IRNA position on this Vero Beach Electric issue was support of placing the matter to a referendum. That was done and a contract for sale to FP&L was signed.

Honey Minuse

Honey Minuse

Two long-serving Council Members are leaving their seats, having chosen to no longer serve the people of Vero Beach. A sincere thank you is extended to both Pilar Turner and Jay Kramer for their unwavering dedication and for serving during a time of bitter divide. Well wishes are extended to them as they return to their personal lives with their families.

Perhaps their departure at this time is no coincidence. Perhaps reality set in when it was known the City’s contract for the sale of the Electric Utility to FP&L could not be executed.

Perhaps Mrs. Turner had nothing further she could do to complete the sale and perhaps Mayor Kramer exhausted his efforts trying to find a creative solution to advance a sale or a partial sale. And perhaps Contract Law and Florida Supreme Court rulings prevailed over wishful thinking and agitating behaviors. More…

With Moss, Sykes, Wells on Shores’ ‘team,’ who’s running for Vero Beach? 1

COMMENTARY

“Clearly they (Moss, Sykes and Wells) are single-issue candidates intent on doing the Shores’ bidding to the detriment of the people of Vero Beach. Anyone who believes they have other, broader interests, such as looking out of the City, its employees and taxpayers, is sorely mistaken.”

“With Moss, Sykes and Wells on ‘Team Shores,’ that appears to leave Gorry, Old and Young on ‘Team Vero Beach.'”

“It needs to be said, though, that many Shores residents are not necessarily Barefoot fans, have not latched on to this single issue like a dog on a bone, and may not even realize the extent to which Barefoot and his fellow Town Councilmen are willing to go to disadvantage the people of Vero Beach. Further, there are many in the Shores who do not live in John’s Island, the hotbed of so much righteous indignation and discontent. Four of five members of the Shores Town Council are John’s Island residents. It seems they agree to allow one Council member from outside JI. You might think of it as an ‘unregulated monopoly.'”

MARK SCHUMANN

"Let me die in this old uniform in which I fought my battles for freedom . My God forgive me for ever having put on another." - Benedict Arnold

“Let me die in this old uniform in which I fought my battles for freedom. May God forgive me for ever having put on another.” – Benedict Arnold – While their capitulation to wealthy Shores interested does not rise to the level of treason, Laura Moss, Lange Sykes and Norman Wells have clearly crossed over to the other side, and are in no way concerned about protecting quality of life in Vero Beach.

Since our reporting on Thursday’s electric issue meeting in Indian River Shores, some have asked what, exactly, Mayor Brian Barefoot said when he introduced Vero Beach City Council candidates Laura Moss, Lange Sykes and Norman Wells as part of the Shores “team.” Following is an transcript of Barefoot’s remarks.

Barefoot: “I’d like to recognize, we’ve got a lot of support from a lot of folks here. Debbie Mayfield, congratulations on winning the primary. You’ve got another step. She’s been a terrific help, and she is hopefully moving on to bigger and more powerful things in the (Florida) Senate, where I think she is going to get a lot more support than perhaps she has received in the (Florida) House on issues we care about. Everyone cares about the Lagoon. Everybody cares about the train. This electric thing is a different issue.

“We’ve got some candidates that are running for (the Vero Beach) City Council that are, quote, ‘pro sale,’ whether it’s a partial sale to the Shores, though the goal is to get the entire system sold, to get the City out of the electric business, which they have no business being in. Laura Moss, who by the way, I know you in the Shores can’t vote, but you can put in a good word for her to your friends.”

Moss: “I appreciate that. By the way, I am chairwoman of the Utilities Commission, and I have the honor and pleasure to work with your Bob Auwaerter.”

Barefoot: “Lange Sykes is also a candidate for City Council. Norman Wells, and Bob Solari we all know…Bob also has been an advocate for the sale. Dylan Reingold is the County Attorney. He has been a great help to Chester Clem, our attorney. So we’ve got a team here that from many different angles can try to keep this issue moving forward.” More…

Shores Mayor Barefoot seems not to welcome scrutiny of campaign contributions 4

COMMENTARY

“Despite Barefoot’s objections, we will continue writing about the important issues facing Vero Beach, our objective is not to make friends, but to report the truth.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Brian Barefoot

Brian Barefoot

At the invitation of Indian River Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot, approximately 40 Shores “friends” and residents met at the Shores Town Hall today to commiserate over the fact that some of the wealthiest people in the country, if not the world, are stuck paying electric rates within the statewide average. All would be well in the barrier island paradise, except that Shores residents north of Winter Beach Road are paying lower electric rates as customers of Florida Power & Light.

Discontentment rises out of comparison, which is why, despite their privileges, many Shores residents believe they have the great “misfortune” of paying Vero Electric’s clearly justifiable rates. To listen to Vero Beach City Councilman, and Shores ally, Harry Howle, Vero Electric’s rates are causing some Shores residents to buy fewer Christmas gifts than they would otherwise. Please!

In the name of economic justice, in defense of the Shores’ “sovereign” rights, and presumably to free up more of his constituents’ money for Christmas toy purchases, Barefoot and his fellow Town Councilmen have spent some $1 million in taxpayer money on a lawsuit and a petition to the Florida Public Service Commission. So far, the Shores’ seven-figure investment in attorneys has come to nothing, at least nothing positive. Prior to today’s public “whine” tasting, the Town’s five wise men held a shade meeting with their high-priced attorneys. Based on comments made following the meeting, it appears they discussed appealing the Shores’ case to the Florida Supreme Court. More…

Reader Comment: City of Vero Beach residents are at a crossroads 1

JIM THOMPSON
Jim Thompson

Jim Thompson

I have lived in Vero Beach since 1937. I presently reside just outside the Vero Beach city limits and have since 1969. It is hard to conceive how anyone with half a brain could possibly suggest that the Vero Beach City Council could even consider selling the Indian River Shores Florida Power & Light customers at a price less than that recommended by experts whose responsibility is to represent the city and advise them on a very complicated subject. It is even harder to conceive how people living outside the city believe they have the obligation and responsibility to influence the election of council members. It is not hard to conceive how the Indian River Shores “Team” would act to the detriment of the residents of Vero Beach, the very persons they have sworn to represent.  As others have so aptly stated, city residents are at a crossroads. May they take the proper direction. On another matter, after all FPL has done and is doing (PRESS JOURNAL and 32963) to take over Vero Electric (by hook or crook?) it appears to me that with FPL’s proposed rate increase and Vero Beach working to lower (again) rates the difference in rates will soon be minimal. I hope that as a customer of Vero Electric I NEVER have to call FPL when my power goes off. The hurricanes of 2004 and the present speedy service convince me.

Related Story: Moss, Sykes, Wells introduced by Barefoot as members of the Shores ‘team’

Moss, Sykes, Wells introduced by Barefoot as members of the Shores ‘team’ 4

NEWS ANALYSIS

MARK SCHUMANN

The gathering of 40 or so persons who turned out today for a meeting called by Indian River Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot included Vero Beach City Council candidates Laura Moss, Lange Sykes and Norman Wells.  Moss, Sykes and Wells were introduced by Barefoot as part of the Shores “team.”  In introducing the three Vero Beach City Council candidates for whom Shores leaders are busily raising money, Barefoot indicated he is confident they will support selling Vero Electric’s Shores customers to Florida Power & Light for the $30 million recently offered.

Vero Beach officials and their team of consultants say selling at $30 million will lead to higher rates for the remaining customers and higher taxes for the residents of Vero Beach.  According to their calculations, the price would need to be $47 million to avoid negatively impacting others simply to benefit Shores residents.  Vero Beach Vice Mayor Randy Old, who is running for re-election, has said publicly he believes ignoring the advice of the City’s consultants, and accepting $17 million less than experts believe is necessary, would be a violation of his fiduciary responsibilities to the resident of Vero Beach.

Old, along with candidates Sharon Gorry and Tony Young have all said they support a full sale of all of Vero Electric’s customers to FPL, if and when solutions can be found to resolving contract obligations and to funding a willing and qualified utility to assume Vero Beach’s position in three Florida Municipal Power Agency power projects.

Much of the 55 minute meeting was taken up by Barefoot and by the Town’s special utility counsel, Bruce May.  May described the long and expensive path the Shores has taken, (more than $1 million to date), and the legal rational used in seeking to force Vero Beach to turn is approximately 3500 customers over to FPL. Barefoot explained why he and Shores officials believe $30 million is a fair, “generous” offer for Vero Electric’s Shores customer base and related infrastructure.

“What we do next we probably won’t get into, because that’s not something that can be discussed in public,” Barefoot said.

Barefoot’s past actions suggest he is no fan of conducting the public’s business in the sunshine, but at some point, if the Shores Town Council is going to spend more taxpayer money appealing the Town’s recent setback before Florida Public Service Commission, that discussion will have to take place in public.

One member of the public who spoke today advised Barefoot to form a Political Action Committee to “inform” Vero Beach voters. Barefoot replied, “We are well aware that we can be helpful here, and we are going to try to be as helpful as possible.”

Within the past week, Shores residents Bill Grealis and John McCord sent out at least two email solicitations raising money for Moss, Sykes and Wells. One of the Grealis-McCord emails was directed to members of the Indian River Neighborhood Association. About IRNA members who live in the Shores, Barefoot said, “They’ve heard from us in the last week or so.” indicating the Shores mayor may be directly involved in fundraising efforts on behalf of Moss, Sykes and Wells.

 

 

Riverside Children’s Theatre presents Roald Dahl’s children’s classic The Witches Reply

 

NEWS RELEASE

Riverside Theatre LogoRiverside Children’s Theatre presents Roald Dahl’s award-winning children’s book, The Witches. Part of RCT’s 2016-2017 Student Series, The Witches performs on Friday, October 14 and Saturday, October 15 on the Anne Morton Stage.

One of Dahl’s lesser known books, The Witches still contains all the delicious dark humor for which he is known. First published in 1983, the story concerns a young boy and his grandmother, who stumble upon a convention of witches while they are on vacation. When the boy hears of their plan to turn all the children of England in to mice, he embarks on an adventure to defeat them.

“This is a great show for our students to tackle because there are many challenges to putting it on,” says Director Kevin Quillinan. “There will be a little puppetry and a lot of stage magic to help tell this story. Plus, the kids will also have the opportunity to play characters out of their comfort zone.” More…

Riverside Theatre presents Ring Of Fire Reply

The Music of Johnny Cash

 NEWS RELEASE
Riverside Theatre LogoRiverside Theatre, led by Producing Artistic Director/CEO Allen D. Cornell and Managing Director/COO Jon R. Moses, starts its 43rd season with the celebrated musical featuring the music of American Icon, Johnny Cash, in Ring Of Fire. Sponsored by John & Marilyn McConnell and Riverside Theatre’s Patron Producers’ Group, Ring Of Fire plays the Stark Stage from October 25 through November 13, 2016.

From the songbook of iconic artist Johnny Cash comes this crowd-pleasin’, foot-stompin’ musical celebration that tells a fascinating story of love and faith, struggle and success, rowdiness and redemption, and home and family. With more than three dozen classic Cash hits – “I Walk The Line,” “A Boy Named Sue,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Ring of Fire” and many more – a multi-talented cast, create a unique portrait of an American music legend. Though never impersonated, Cash’s remarkable story is told in an exhilarating and moving stage production. More…

Council approves millage rate and budget for fiscal year 2016-2017 Reply

MARK SCHUMANN

By a 4-1 vote, the Vero Beach City Council yesterday approved a budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year that includes at 10.05 percent increase in the property tax millage rate over the rolled-back rate. The rolled-back millage rate is the rate the City would need to set in order to bring in the same amount of property tax revenue as last year after accounting for increases is assessed property values. Mayor Jay Kramer voted to approve the budget, but opposed the tax increase.

This coming year’s millage rate of 2.5194 will raise an additional $350,00. This money will be used to establish a trust fund to help pay for post employment benefits, (OPEB), for the City’s retirees. Chiefly, the City’s underfunded OPEB obligation is health insurance subsidies for retired City employees. Rising health costs and increasing longevity have thrown the City’s funding for these benefits into a deficit. More…

Are electric rates really depressing property values in the Shores? 1

NEWS ANALYSIS

MARK SCHUMANN

Listening to Indian River Shores leaders complain to Florida Public Service Commission members, and to anyone else who will listen, you could easily get the impression Vero Beach’s electric rates are driving away prospect home buyers.

However, based on property sales information presented in a recent news report, assertions that the Shores is teetering on the verge of another real estate collapse seem wholly disconnected from reality. According to John’s Island Real Estate Owner/Broker, Bob Gibb, his company closed a record $23 million in sales in July. More…

Council affirms willingness to have PSC review electric rates Reply

NEWS ANALYSIS

Richard Winger

Richard Winger

Randy Old

Randy Old

Clearly annoyed at Indian River Shores Brian Barefoot’s propaganda-laden letters and statements accusing Vero Beach of “abusing monopolistic privileges,” the Vero Beach City Council yesterday, by a 3-2 vote, affirmed the City’s willingness to seek Florida Public Service Commission approval of its electric rates.  Council members Pilar Turner and Harry Howle opposed, Councilman Richard Winger’s motion.

“I think we should take action to stand by our earlier offer to have the PSC review Vero Electric’s rates,” Winger said during discussion on his motion to instruct special utility counsel Schef Wright to contact his counterpart for the Shores to seek cooperating in requesting a PSC review of rates.

“I think our rates are proper,” Winger said, adding, “but I’m not the PSC, and I certainly would never object to having our rates looked at.” More…

Council approves contract to continue decommissioning power plant Reply

 

Implementing an earlier decision to decommission the power plant, the Vero Beach City Council yesterday approved a $206,000 contract to South Bay Builders of Vero Beach to remove fuel tanks, water tanks, auxiliary tanks, a fuel building and a storage building. Work is already underway by South Bay to bring down the cooling towers. total of $600,000 has been budgeted in the 2015-2016 fiscal year for demolition on power plant site.

Implementing an earlier decision to decommission the power plant, the Vero Beach City Council yesterday approved a $206,000 contract to South Bay Builders of Vero Beach to remove fuel tanks, water tanks, auxiliary tanks, a fuel building and a storage building. Work is already underway by South Bay to bring down the cooling towers. A total of $600,000 has been budgeted in the 2015-2016 fiscal year for demolition on the power plant site.

Grealis and McCord push to raise Shores money to influence Vero Beach City Council election Reply

COMMENTARY

“By continuing to claim members of the Vero Beach City Council have it within their power to persuade the Florida Legislature and the Florida Supreme Court to set aside long-standing contract law simply to allow for the sale of Vero Electric, Grealis and McCord make themselves appear to be two more Shores leaders disconnected from reality.”

“Grealis, McCord and their wealthy Indian River Shores friends trying to buy a Vero Beach City Council election is not much different from Russian president Vladimir Putin attempting to influence the outcome of the current U.S. presidential election.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Bill Grealis

Bill Grealis

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

Indian River Shores residents Bill Grealis and John McCord are continuing a push to raise campaign contributions for three Vero Beach City Council candidates they believe will agree to sell Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customer base and related infrastructure at a price experts believe will lead to higher electric rates for everyone else on the system and higher taxes for the residents of Vero Beach.

Apart from whatever private conversations may be taking place over cocktails at the John’s Island Club, Grealis and McCord are blasting out email solicitations on behalf of candidates Laura Moss, Lange Sykes and Norman Wells. Their most recent email targeted members of the Indian River Neighborhood Association. Thought the IRNA has not taken a position on the sale of Vero Electric, the organization has in the past supported candidates more focused on quality of life issues. At the same time, the IRNA has opposed candidates inclined to relax or eliminate long-standing regulations against short term rentals. More…

Voters should look for council candidates who inform themselves and are committed to the city 1

KEN DAIGE

Ken Daige

Ken Daige

The best Vero Beach city council candidates are those who have a true heart for service.

The best candidates will respect the oath of elected office and state law regarding the health, safety and general welfare of the residents of the city they want to represent.

Candidates will study a map of our city boundaries and know where their potential constituents live.

These candidates would surely have taken the time to serve on a city board or commission thereby gaining knowledge of our Sunshine and Ethics Laws. Surely candidates will become intelligence gatherers and knowledge sponges, scheduling time to speak with other city leaders, department heads and available employees to gain a better grasp of the day to day operations of the city they want to represent. Interested candidates will read and gain understanding of the city’s operating budget and requirements, the city reserve funds and the city’s working enterprise functions.

Respectful candidates will study our city charter and gain valuable insight as to what would be expected of them as an elected official. Serious candidates will study and contemplate their oath of elected office knowing this will be the backbone of their tenure in elected office. They will research to understand the process of an elected position and the requirements expected of an elected official. More…

A present for your neighbors, yourself, your kids 1

LYNNE LARKIN

Lynne Larkin

Lynne Larkin

The season of giving is coming. A special holiday, non-denominational, that gives back all year round.

Election Day.

This is the gift we all need to give.  It’s free, it’s easy, and it means everything to our future.  Let’s not let it slip by this year. 

Local elections are the key to our happy lives, protecting the things for which we have all come to value in our area.  This is how we protect our parks, our trees, our water! Yep, it all starts at home, one vote at a time.

We’ve all been made keenly aware that our little island of green is vulnerable to unbridled growth.  Developers do what developers are allowed to do. They hate restrictions, they fight to make every penny possible, every acre a goldmine. But Vero Beach has always had a majority of people who understand how to keep this place truly golden for everyone. That involves commitment, that means voting.

To digress only slightly, haven’t we all dated a liar in our past? Right? They draw us in with imagined eden, then drop the bomb that really they’re all about themselves. Not uncommon. We learn not to believe every sales pitch, if we want to do well in life. More…

Is our way of life up for a vote November 8? 2

COMMENTARY picture2

MILT THOMAS

Whether you moved here last year, ten years ago, or even 50 years ago, if someone asked you what you thought about our community when you arrived, chances are you said, “I want Vero to stay just like it is.”

We hear that all the time. The irony is that Vero Beach and Indian River County have changed in many ways, yet those changes are transparent to newcomers. Why? Because what has never changed are our core values. Nor should they change.

Population of the greater Vero Beach area is now the same as Ft. Lauderdale was 50 years ago, yet we have retained the small town quality of life that communities to the south have lost. That is because civic leaders over the years have had a common shared vision that guided them in their decision making. That common vision included maintaining our small town atmosphere, excellent quality of life, countless amenities — and a city government leadership committed to keeping Vero “just like it is.” More…

Cultural Calendar Reply

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23

weekend-logoartonetworkingwebThe Cultural Council of Indian River County will hold a special Art of Networking on Friday, September 23 at 5 pm at Riverside Theatre to introduce the 2016-17 Arts & Cultural Events Guide. Then, beginning at 6 pm, enjoy free live music at “Live In the Loop’s” outdoor stage.

 

FRIDAY & SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23 & 24

AT RIVERSIDE THEATRE

Live in the Loop Outdoor Stage – featuring local musicians, Bob  Houston (Oktoberfest Band) on Friday and Minglewood (Grateful Dead Tribute Band) on Saturday from 6 to 9:30 pm.  Free to the public.

weekend-16-0825-litl-logo-600x405Comedy Zone – Oktoberfest Nights –  showcasing comedians Peter Fogel  and Rahn Hortman. Tickets $16-$22. Call 772-231-6990 or visit RiversideTheatre.com for more information.

 

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 24

weekend-cmyk-use-this—-The 4th Annual Celebrate the Arts Festival takes place on Saturday, September 24, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm in Riverside Park.  Situated under the oaks and incorporating the Vero Beach Museum of Art and Riverside Theatre, the Festival is the finest showcase of performing and cultural arts on the Treasure Coast.  Learn about the upcoming season from cultural organizations including theatres, orchestras, opera, museums, art galleries, performing arts venues, and more.  Children and adults will have great fun with the many activities offered at individual booths.  This FREE family festival includes arts, activities, cultural presentations and live performances throughout the day. Entertainment abounds on the Main Stage with dancers, choral groups, orchestras, theatrical skits and more.  Meet individual artists, authors, and speakers and enjoy presentations in the author/artist/speaker tent.  Purchase art, books, crafts, raffle chances, tickets to events and more.  Stroll the tents or watch the stage performances while enjoying food from local eateries: Chelsea’s, Chive, 14 Bones and Osceola Bistro.  Purchase beer and wine from Vero’s newest brewery, Walking Tree Brewery.  More…

The truth about electric rates Reply

The combined statewide average for investor owned and municipal utilities s $118.85 per 1000 kWh. Vero Electric’s rate is $117.58. Still, there are many utilities charging less than Vero Beach, and City leaders insist they believe rates will continue to come down, with a likely cut in rates coming in January. Meanwhile, Florida Power & Light is seeking approval for a $1.3 billion rate increase.

NEWS ANALYSIS

To listen to Indian River Shores officials, Vero Electric’s rates are unconscionable, unjustifiable, oppressive, the result of gross negligence,  and an abuse of monopolistic privileges. Ironically, Shores leaders and their attorney have made these charges before the Florida Public Service Commission, the very regulatory body that has approved for several investor owned utilities rates 15 percent higher than those charges for Vero Electric.

What Shores leaders do not discuss when making their harsh accusations of Vero Electric is the fact that following the PSC’s rate-approval formulas would leave Vero Electric plenty of room to ask for, and presumably receive approval for, still higher rates. More…

City residents should contact the Florida Public Service Commission 1

COMMENTARY

MARK SCHUMANN

PSC Commissioner Julie Brown

PSC Commission Chairman Julie Brown

At the encouragement of their leaders and their newspaper, “Indian River Shores 32963,” many Shores residents recently wrote the Florida Public Service Commission urging the PSC to grant the Town’s petition to be reassigned from Vero Electric to Florida Power & Light.

Though the PSC preliminarily denied the Town’s petition, and reversal of that position at the Commission Oct. 3 meeting could cost the remaining customers of Vero Electric an average of $566. Shores leaders proposed to force Vero Beach to accept FPL’s $30 million offer, though a team of five utility experts calculated it will take $47 million to carve off Vero Electric’s Shores customer base without leaving the remaining customer paying higher rates.

To prevent the Shores from pulling off a $17 million heist at the expense of the remaining customer of Vero Electric, Vero Beach residents, and customers of Vero Electric outside the Shores, can write the Florida Public Service Commission to express support for the Commission’s preliminary 4-1 of last Tuesday.

PSC Offices: contact@psc.state.fl.us

PSC Chairman Julie Brown: Commissioner.Brown@psc.state.fl.us

Vero Beach voters should brace for the fine art of the lie 1

Cover illustration, Set.. 10-16 issue of "The Economics"

Cover illustration, Set.. 10-16 issue of “The Economics”

COMMENTARY

MARK SCHUMANN

The three Vero Beach City Council candidates supported by Shores leaders, Laura Moss, Lange Sykes and Norman Wells, will likely be armed with sizable campaign war chests bolstered by contributions from wealthy Shores residents. It will be for the voters of Vero Beach to sift the truth from a mountain of lies. Bracing for an onslaught of campaign mailers paid for with Indian River Shores money, many may wonder exactly which are the biggest lies being told by the Town’s leaders. Here they are:

Shores lie number one: Vero Beach’s electric rates are oppressive, and an abuse of monopoly privileges.

Truth: Down from a high of $158 per kWh in 2009 to $117 this year, Vero Electric’s rates are well below those approved by the Florida Public Service Commission for several of the state five investor owned utilities.  The PSC allows investor owned utilities an 11 percent rate of return. Vero Beach’s rates yield the City what amounts to a 4.5 percent rate of return, or approximately 6 percent of total billings. This money is transferred from the electric fund to the General Fund to help pay for municipal services, such as police protection.  In contrast, profits for FPL and other investor owned utilities are typically not returned to the communities they serve, but rather are paid out in dividends and in generous executive bonuses. (Vero Beach has a contractual right to charge Shores customers a 10 percent surcharge, but City leaders dropped that fee years ago.) More…

Barefoot calls for a gathering of the “oppressed” 1

COMMENTARY

“In the simplest of terms, the plan by Shores leaders to interfere in Vero Beach’s municipal election by using their considerable wealth to finance their own slate of candidates is yet another case of the haves buying politicians and rigging the system so they can continue to take advantage of the have nots. What Shores leaders are really proposing is a revised “New Deal” – welfare for the wealthy.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Brian Barefoot

Brian Barefoot

Indian River Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot has called a “Town Hall meeting” for Sept. 22, where he plans to report on the status of the Shores’ litigation against Vero Beach, and to answer questions regarding “options going forward.”

If Barefoot can bring himself to speak the unvarnished truth, a skill which so far has alluded the mayor, he will admit to Town residents and taxpayers that the Town Council has spent more than $1 million in legal fees, and so far has nothing but setbacks to show for the efforts.

If Barefoot were to level with Town residents, he would also tell them their chance of winning an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court is close to nil, for the Indian River County Commission has already lost a similar appeal. If Barefoot really settled into a zone of truth telling, he would also admit that Town special utility counsel Bruce May’s threat to the Florida Public Service Commission to bring a Federal anti-trust lawsuit was perhaps the most absurd statement ever made before the PSC.

Given that the best predictor of future behavior and performance is past behavior and performance, Barefoot will likely shy away from truth telling, and will instead assure Town residents he “remains optimistic and hopeful” the “oppressed ” residents of Indian River Shores will one day prevail in their campaign for “rate relief.”  Imagining himself to be the incarnation of Moses, or perhaps Martin Luther King, Jr., Barefoot promises to lead his people to a promised land. “We shall overcome!” More…

Campaign finance reports available online 2

MARK SCHUMANN

Now that wealthy Indian River Shores interests have stepped up fundraising efforts for Vero Beach City Council candidate Laura Moss, members of the public may be interested in knowing from whom the candidates are receiving their campaign contributions.  That information is available online at the City’s website, www.covb.org.

Candidates Sharon Gorry, Laura Moss, Randy Old and Tony Young qualified early, and so were required to file campaign treasurers’ reports through August 31. They, along with newly qualified candidates Lange Sykes and Norman Wells, will next file finance reports on October 10.

Moss trails in fundraising with $4,185 received through the end of August, including $500 from herself, $500 from her husband, $300 from Pilar Turner, and $100 from Indian River Shores Vice Mayor Gerry Weick. Through August 31, Vice Mayor Randy Old was leading in campaign contribution receipts with a total of $27,550.  Gorry reported $4,903 in contributions, with Young having received $15,320 toward his campaign.

Elite Airways expands to flights from 3 to 4 days a week Reply

NEWS RELEASE

eliteExpanding upon its popular Vero Beach route, Elite Airways LLC has increased nonstop jet service between Vero Beach Regional Airport (VRB) and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) from 3 times a week to 4 times week on Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Mondays starting in November. Additional daily nonstop flights have been added during the week of Thanksgiving and the last two weeks of December to accommodate holiday travel. More…

Cultural Calendar Reply

ONGOING

ARTS IN EDUCATION WEEK Designated by Congress in 2010, the week beginning with the second Sunday in September is National Arts in Education Week: a national celebration of the transformative power of the arts in education. The Vero Beach Museum of Art is offering its FREE Artful Storytime program on Wednesday, September 14th at 10:30 am, and on Thursday, September 15th at 9:30 am babies are encouraged into the galleries with their parents for the Art Babies program, specially designed for encouraging 0-24 months to explore through singing, playing and other sensory activities. This program is free for members, $5 for non-member adults.  Visit VeroBeachMuseum.org for details.  More…

Shores residents attack Old, while soliciting campaign contributions for Moss Reply

COMMENTARY

“These accusations against Old have no basis in fact, and serve as further evidence Shores leaders are willing to abandon truth and decency in pursuit of their political objectives.”

“Given that a partial sale of Vero Electric’s Shores customers at FPL’s proposed price would benefit only Shores residents, while disadvantaging the remaining customers, what Grealis and McCord have begun with their email solicitation for Moss is a ‘Welfare for the Wealthy’ campaign.”

“For Grealis and McCord, the singular focus is to find three puppets who will do the Shores’ bidding on the Vero Beach City Council.” 

MARK SCHUMANN

Bill Grealis

Bill Grealis

Perhaps the most important question Vero Beach voters must consider this year is whether they have had enough of wealthy Indian River Shores interests seeking to buy control of the Vero Beach City Council.

An email fundraising letter sent today by Indian River Shores residents Bill Grealis and John McCord on behalf of Vero Beach City Council candidate Laura Moss falsely accuses Vice Mayor Randy Old of “publicly disparaging” the Utilities Commission and of serving as a “veritable cheerleader for the Florida Municipal Power Agency.”

These accusations against Old have no basis in fact, and serve as further evidence Shores leaders are willing to abandon truth and decency in pursuit of their political objectives. More…

Mr. Faherty, ‘divestiture oriented’ means what? 2

COMMENTARY

MARK SCHUMANN

Steven Faherty - a south barrier island resident who wants to influence the outcome of Vero Beach's municipal election.

Steven Faherty – a south barrier island resident who wants to influence the outcome of Vero Beach’s municipal election.

In an email sent to what must surely be a dwindling band of long-suffering devotees, utility activist Steven Faherty today said it is time to get rid of the “same old, same old.”

Though Faherty’s early financial models projecting windfall proceeds of some $170 million to the City from his proposed sale of Vero Electric are now completely discredited, you have to hand it to him for one thing. Faherty does not simply repeat the same old false assertions. He comes up with new ones, almost weekly.

Faherty’s most recent message to his followers was prompted by yesterday’s Florida Public Service Commission decision denying Indian River Shores’ request for the commission to redraw Vero Electric’s long-standing service territory boundaries. Faherty wrote, “This further shows why we (inside and outside ratepayers) need to get action oriented and divesture oriented City Council members elected in November rather than the ‘same old, same old!'” More…

Sole PSC member who voted with Shores not seeking reappointment Reply

COMMENTARY

MARK SCHUMANN

Lisa Edgar

Lisa Edgar

After a 4-1 vote by the Florida Public Service Commission yesterday denying Indian River Shores’ petition to redraw Vero Electric’s service territory to exclude the Town, the best Shores leaders and their high-priced attorneys can now do is prepare for an expensive appeal, hanging their hopes on the fact that one Commission member “agreed” with them.

The sole Commissioner who supported the Shores’ petition, (and ultimately FPL), was Lisa Edgar. On Jan. 1, Edgar will end her third 4-year, $131,000 a year assignment on the Commission. Edgar has not said publicly what is next for her, but if she follows in the footsteps of other former PSC members, she will move on to a much higher paying job as a lobbyist working for the utility industry. With her eyes perhaps on a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow ahead of her, Edgar may not have been listening closely yesterday when Vero Beach’s special utility counsel Schef Wright eviscerated Shores attorney Bruce May’s many unfounded assertions.

Edgar was first appointed to the PSC in 2005 by Gov. Jeb Bush, then subsequently reappointed by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2008 and by Gov. Rick Scott in 2012.  When it came time for Edgar’s third confirmation by the Senate, she faced some still opposition.  FloridaPolitics.com reported, “…Edgar came under fire during her last appointment, with tea party groups and others urging Scott to replace her, saying she wasn’t aggressively defending the state’ utility customers from rate hikes.” More…

Moss says Sunshine Law compliance could lead to “a reign of terror” 1

COMMENTARY

“Moss’ concerns about Kramer’s shirt, and about the release of her emails, make clear she does not value free expression any more than she does open government.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Laura Moss

Laura Moss

Clearly smarting over press reports about emails she recently sent to City Attorney Wayne Coment, Utilities Commission Chairman and Vero Beach City Council candidate Laura Moss said today, “Personally, I don’t mind, but others might.” Moss also said not being able to engage in confidential written communication about official business could lead to “a reign of terror.”

Moss made her comments at the close of the Utilities Commission meeting, while she was questioning the City Clerk about the dissemination of public information. Moss does not seem to realize that, as a member of a City commission, her every written communication about public business is a public record. In fact, every written communication to a City employee, City Council member, or member of a citizen advisory commission about public business is also a public record, regardless of who sent it. Even if Moss were not a member of the Utilities Commission, her emails to Coment would be part of the public record. More…

Are we now living in a post-truth world? 1

COMMENTARY

“Town leaders today claim it is untenable that some residents are served by one utility and some by another, but they never bother to acknowledge that the situation is of their own making.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Bruce May

Bruce May

robbie Stabe

Robbie Stabe

Gerry Weick

Gerry Weick

Town of Indian River Shores special utility counsel, Bruce May, Town Manager, Robbie Stabe, and Shores Vice Mayor, Gerry Weick, deserve the “Pants On Fire” award for their performance today before the Florida Public Service Commission.

When asked by Chairman Julie Brown if Vero Beach officials counter offered Florida Power & Light’s $30 million proposal to buy Vero Electric’s Shores infrastructure and customer base, Stable, with a straight face, said, “No.”  Stabe must have “misremembered” the truth, for when three members of the Vero Beach City Council voted to inform Shores leaders and FPL officials that they would consider a $47 million offer, that action, for all intents and purposes, constituted a counter offer.

Reading from a letter written by Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot, Stabe claimed the PSC’s establishment of Vero Electric’s northern service boundary at Winter Beach Road “divided the Town in two.”  In truth, the Town wound up with some residents served by FPL and others by Vero Electric when it annexed land north of Winter Beach Road.  Town leaders today claim it is untenable that some residents are served by one utility and some by another, but they never bother to acknowledge that the situation is of their own making. More…