Finding Common Ground: An Interfaith Conversation at St. Edward’s Saturday April 22 Reply

MILT THOMAS

Although this is short notice, an important discussion will be held at St. Edward’s School this Saturday, April 22 from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. in the Waxlax Center for the Performing Arts. The keynote speaker will be Dr. John L. Esposito, Georgetown University Professor of Religion and International Affairs.  Representatives from the local faith community will also contribute. The event is sponsored by the Breaking Barriers Club, a student-run club at the school.

Yesterday, at the Vero Beach City Council Vision Plan meeting, it took students from Vero Beach High School and the Indian River County Charter High School at bring the health of our Indian River Lagoon into focus as the most important issue facing our community’s future. The upcoming Finding Common Ground discussion is also an example of our students leading the way for us to focus on an issue of prime importance to our community and our country.

See the details below:

What is your vision for the future of Vero Beach? Reply

If it matters to you whether the now-decommissioned power plant site and other public lands are preserved for public use and are not sold for high-rise developments, consider attending Monday’s Visioning workshop. The meeting is to begin at 11:00 in City Hall.

COMMENTARY

MILT THOMAS

If you care about the future of the city we all call home, then you should consider attending tomorrow’s Vision Meeting at Vero Beach City Hall, 11:00 a.m. This is the second Visioning meeting held by the current Council, but unlike last month’s meeting, it will address specific issues. At least according to the published agenda, tomorrow’s meeting will not be a free-for-all public input session.

Here are the specific issues to be discussed:

Commercial Districts

There are five districts scheduled for discussion and the issues related to each:

  1. Historic Downtown

Although some would consider the beachside commercial area as “downtown,” the true downtown is between U.S. 1 and the western edge of the Twin Pairs at 20th Avenue. It includes City Hall, the main post office, Pocahontas Park, Vero Theater Plaza, Art district, Crestlawn Cemetery, County Administration complex, County Courthouse, Vero Beach Municipal Airport – in other words every government and historic property within Vero Beach’s city limits. Back in 1975 the state created a plan to facilitate the flow of traffic through downtown because I-95 ended at the SR 60 exit. That plan was implemented in 1991 and created the Twin Pairs. It is essentially a bypass through the heart of our Historic Downtown. Creating a more pedestrian-friendly downtown is one of the issues to be discussed.

  1. Royal Palm Pointe

The City created a destination out of what was formerly the western end of the original Barber Bridge. City taxpayers authorized $6 million of improvements to create parking and a public park that would attract visitors who would then shop at the businesses on what became Royal Palm Pointe. Today many of those businesses have been replaced by private, upscale condos and the concern is whether the vision of previous City Councils will fall victim to big money interests. More…

Catch the Fever at Riverside Reply

REVIEW

Tony Jacob Tischler) and Stephanie Alexandra Matteo) compete for first place in the 2001 Odyssey dance contest from Saturday Night Fever.

MILT THOMAS

The so-called Disco Era of the 1970s hardly qualifies as an era having only lasted about five years, but the soundtrack of those years – Saturday Night Fever – is timeless. You probably have one of the 40 million copies of that vinyl album somewhere in your storage unit. I don’t want to know if you still have the bell-bottoms and platform shoes, but if you do, you will want to drag them out because Riverside Theatre has a torrid case of Saturday Night Fever and you’ll want to catch it. On second thought, put those bell-bottoms back into storage. But don’t miss the show at Riverside!

Based on a 1975 New York Magazine article, “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night,”  the 1977 movie was a major hit and the 1999 musical theater adaptation of Saturday Night Fever ran on Broadway for 500 performances  long after the disco fad had faded. However, then as now, the music and story are timeless.

The main character, Tony Manero, was played in the film by John Travolta and handled superbly onstage by Jacob Tischler in this Riverside production. Tony works in a hardware store and lives for the weekends when he can strut his stuff on the 2001 Odyssey Disco dance floor. He gets no emotional support or encouragement from his parents, who idolize his priest brother.  His loser friends idolize him, including a wannabe girlfriend and dance partner, Annette (Nicole Colón). When Tony sets his sights on first place in a dance contest, a $1,000 grand prize and maybe a life, he spurns Annette in favor of a new girl, the relatively classier Stephanie Mangano (Alexandra Matteo).

More…

Vacation rental bill advances over Miami-Dade, beach cities’ objections 2

COMMENTARY

MILT THOMAS

Editor’s note: Just when we thought our quiet residential neighborhoods were protected with strong local ordinances regulating short term rentals, the State Legislature is fast tracking House and Senate bills that would abolish local control over the issue.

VBHS Golden Grads picnic this weekend Reply

MILT THOMAS

500 VBHS Golden Grads at Fairgrounds.

Class reunions are not unusual, but local high school grads take it a step — and a few generations — further. On Saturday, April 8, anyone who attending or graduated from Vero Beach at least 50 years ago is invited to the VBHS Golden Grads celebration picnic at the Indian River County Fairgrounds Ag/Demo Building(7955  58th Avenue). That means the “youngest” attendees are from the Class of 1967.

Chairman for this year’s picnic is Alan Kauffmann (Class of 65). According to Alan, “This is our third straight picnic and each one has drawn 500-700 attendees, including spouses. Many of those spouses are also graduates. In one case, Class of 60 grads Walter and Berdyne Fulford Williams married after graduating and are still married 56 years later.”

As in the past, name tags will be issued at the check-in stations and tables will be set up with signs indicating class years in case you haven’t seen some of your classmates and they may have…uh…changed a bit since high school.

Some classes are organizing separate get-togethers on Friday, April 7. The picnic hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. A barbecue buffet lunch will be served from 11:30-2:00 provided by 14 Bones Restaurant. Cost to attend is $20 and you can pay at the door.

For more information, contact Milt Thomas at (772)696-5710 or mjt686@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Private Lives are there for all to see at Riverside Reply

REVIEWprivate-lives

MILT THOMAS

Watching a Noel Coward play is like a journey back in time, especially when you consider Private Lives, which has been performed more times over more years than just about any other theatrical production outside of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. The premise has you struggling to suspend disbelief if you are under the age of, say, 100. Yet, it still provokes laughter and is certainly worth the price of admission.

The first couple we see out on the veranda of their honeymoon suite is Elyot (Jason Loughlin) and Sibyl (Liana Hunt) Chase. She is 23, a bit younger than the worldly and sophisticated Elyot whose sloughing off of Sibyl’s affection spells trouble on the horizon. Does he not love her? Is he gay? (Several stifled laughs from the audience occur when the term “gay” is used in its original meaning, not in the way we know it commonly today). Sibyl makes frequent reference to Elyot’s first marriage, apparently a disaster, and a sore point for Elyot.

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What exactly is the role of City government? 4

COMMENTARY
city-council-2-7

Vice Mayor Harry Howle, Mayor Laura Moss, Councilman Richard Winger

MILT THOMAS

Despite a community-wide call to action, the City Council this week rejected a proposal for establishing a storm water utility. Though some claimed otherwise, the move would not have have led to the hiring of more public employees, or the formation of a new “layer of bureaucracy.”  The proposal would simply have created a dedicated source of funding to pay for expanding, improving and maintaining the City’s stormwater system. Given that the Council, by a vote of 3-2, rejected the stormwater utility primarily on philosophical grounds, (limited government, low taxes), one must question the role and responsibility of local government.

The marathon debate that began mid morning and lasted until 3:30 in the afternoon, featured experts on water quality, conservationists, environmentalists and citizens all making impassioned pleas to pass the storm water utility. These speakers represent easily a majority of Vero Beach citizens concerned about the deteriorating condition of the Indian River Lagoon. They contend Vero Beach can and must to more to help address the crisis.

Speaking against the idea were limited government advocates and tax protestors. Mrs. Jackie Solari read a letter from her husband, County Commissioner and leading limited government advocate, Bob Solari, in which he demonized “another layer of government bureaucracy.” That was also his rallying cry when the County Commission refused to join the Indian River Lagoon Council, a consortium of all counties bordering the Indian River Lagoon created to coordinate efforts aimed at saving it. The net result of that decision motivated the three major Indian River County municipalities to join the consortium anyway. Last November’s election ultimately provided the one vote necessary for County Commissioners to “rethink” their decision and agree to join the effort.

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City Council votes against continuing stormwater utility study 5

MILT THOMAS

In a marathon City Council meeting today, Mayor Laura Moss, Vice Mayor Harry Howle and Lange Sykes voted down proceeding with the Stormwater utility proposal. Richard Winger and Tony Young supported moving forward with the proposal. After presentations by lagoon science experts, environmental activists, homeowners and limited government advocates, newly elected Moss and Sykes, joined Howle in postponing any decision on how to fund a stormwater utility or even whether to have one at all.

Public Resources Management Group (PRMG) first presented their electric system rate study update and cost of service analysis in anticipation of proceeding with the structuring of a stormwater utility, but concerns about the cost ($108,000 spent already and another $40,000 anticipated expenses) became the primary concern for majority Council members. More…

An Empty Plate in the Cafe du Grand Boeuf at Riverside Theatre is a tasty treat Reply

REVIEW

MILT THOMAS31991062250_7c3aef058f_z

I love to cook and among my favorite dishes is a Moroccan Tagine, a kind of stew that includes something for every one of my taste buds – savory (umami), sweet, sour, salty and bitter.  The Riverside Theatre play, An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf is such a dish, and like any well-prepared meal, it leaves you comfortably satisfied.

Yes, it is a play about food – or more specifically, it’s absence. Let me explain. It takes place at the Paris restaurant, Café du Grand Boeuf (Restaurant of the Big Ox) in 1961. The staff provides comic relief as they prepare for the restaurant’s owner and only customer to arrive. The headwaiter, Claude (Brian Myers Cooper), is a candidate for Ritalin if there ever was one as he flits around the stage in near panic mode trying to shake his staff into a modicum of professionalism. His reclamation project is Antoine (Daniel Burns), a recently hired, stuttering dishwasher, who Claude  wants to transform into a waiter before the owner arrives. Mimi (Maria Couch), is the restaurant’s hostess and Claude’s unhappy wife, who dreams of living the life of Jackie Kennedy as she complains about Claude’s anniversary present, a tube of lipstick.

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Murder, mayhem and great music in Riverside Theatre’s Chicago Reply

REVIEW

MILT THOMAS

chicago-riverside-7There are those people who love musicals and those who despise them. People love musicals because they use song and dance to advance a story; people who don’t like musicals consider breaking out in song and dance an impediment to a story.

So listen up if you are in the former group – Chicago, currently playing to packed houses at Riverside Theatre is a must-see event! If you see any musical, even if you have seen every version of this one, you know why Chicago is probably the most successful show in modern musical history. Well, not probably. Chicago IS the longest running American musical in Broadway history (20 years and still running), winner of six Tony Awards, two Olivier Awards and a Grammy. It spawned a movie version that won six Academy Awards in 2003 including Best Picture (first musical to win in 35 years), and another movie, All That Jazz, about original Chicago choreographer Bob Fosse, that won the Palme d’Or at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival.

As far as the latter group is concerned, those who might otherwise shun musicals, it’s safe to say that all this success had to pull in plenty of people like you, so why not give it a shot? Truly, you need to see this production! More…

Ring of Fire glows in the Riverside Reply

REVIEWring-of-fire2

MILT THOMAS

Johnny Cash is an American original and a household name to anyone over the age of 30. His music is household famous as well – “I Walk the Line,” “Daddy Sang Bass,”   “A Boy Named Sue,” and “Folsom Prison Blues” among many others. He wrote and/or recorded over 300 songs and sold over 90 million records. If you like Johnny Cash music, the best way to enjoy a retrospective of his career is to go see Ring of Fire currently at the Riverside Theatre.

This is my kind of musical. It is all music (32 songs) with short vignettes of dialogue about his life. We all know that Cash was a very complex man, an enigma, but that side of him is not the point of this show – it’s all about the music and the atmosphere of old-fashioned country culture around which that music was created.

The central characters – two male and two female – at times resemble Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash in their youth and then more mature. But often they all appear together on stage. The “young Johnny,” played by Benjamin D. Hale, is in character throughout the performance, but the “older Johnny,” (played by Jason Edwards, who also directed the presentation) is more of a composite, as are the female leads, Trenna Barnes and Allison Briner-Dardenne. All are excellent however as singers and performers as they take you through Cash’s early life during the Great Depression, then his musical career from start to stardom.

The real “hook” to this show though is the fact that all musicians perform on stage – and not just as musicians. Brantley Kearns, the fiddle player, also portrays the “grandpa” character and sings; Jeff Lisenby (music director), plays keyboard at the back of the band, but more upfront on the accordion; John Marshall plays “slapping bass” and acts in many scenes (he also did a virtuoso solo right after intermission that had the audience in awe). Sam Sherwood played guitar, mandolin and harmonica, all staples of Appalachian music; and Brent Moyer played guitar and did trumpet solo on the theme song, “Ring of Fire.”

Along with the usual expert craftsmanship we come to expect from Riverside sets, costumes, choreography, staging, lighting and sound, this musical will keep your toes tapping and hands clapping, put a smile on your face and joy in your heart. Thanks, Johnny!

Ring of Fire plays through November 13 with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; 8:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; 2:00 p.m. matinees on Wednesday and select Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Call 772-231-6990 for more information or visit the Theatre’s website at www.riversidetheatre.com.

 

 

Yes, we care about the future of Vero Beach 1

COMMENTARY

“Now we citizens of Vero Beach face our greatest challenge – preventing a takeover of our City Council by puppet candidates of Indian River Shores and FPL.”

MILT THOMAS

Milt Thomas

Milt Thomas

I first moved here 60 years ago and I am very concerned that Vero Beach election cycles since 2009 have been about outside interests trying to manipulate Vero Beach voters into voting for their puppet candidates so they can advance their own interests. Those interests are clearly not in Vero’s best interests.

This year’s City Council election represents the most serious challenge to Vero’s future of any election in our city’s history. You are being asked to vote for three candidates whose sole purpose is to approve a deal on behalf of Indian River Shores that would sell that town’s Vero Electric customer base to FPL for $30 million, $17 million less than what our city needs to fulfill its financial obligations. That would be an unprecedented dereliction of duty by city leaders who have a legal obligation to protect their constituents. Although $30 million is a lot of money, it does not cover the financial liabilities faced by city taxpayers and Vero Electric ratepayers.  But that is not the whole story. More…

Is our way of life up for a vote November 8? 3

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…

A simple guide to understanding the lingering electric issue 2

With decommission of the power plant, options for improving the look of Vero Beach's riverfront are wide open. For the foreseeable future, though, Vero Beach will continue to own its electric utility.  The following article by Milt Thomas explores why the proposed sale to Florida Power & Light has not gone forward.

With decommissioning of the power plant, options for improving the look of Vero Beach’s riverfront are wide open. For the foreseeable future, though, Vero Beach will continue to own its electric utility. The following article by Milt Thomas explores why the proposed sale to Florida Power & Light has not gone forward.

COMMENTARY

MILT THOMAS

There are many aspects of this issue that are important to the City of Vero Beach’s future, but to customers of Vero Electric, the only issue is what they pay each month for electricity. While the City continues to reduce electric rates, (down 8 percent since 2013, and 26 percent since 2009), people are still asking, “What happened to the sale of Vero Electric we were promised?” The following article is written to answer the question as simply and directly as possible without all the nuances and political intrigue.

Indian River County is currently served by two electric providers, Florida Power & Light (a publicly traded major corporation) and Vero Electric (a local, city-owned utility). Due to its size and financial resources, FPL offers electric rates that in recent years have been consistently lower than Vero Electric (or most other municipally-owned electric providers) rates. A fair analogy would be a major chain like Walmart offering lower prices than local merchants for the same products.

Many of Vero Electric’s customers live outside Vero Beach city limits, an arrangement agreed to many years ago when Vero Electric was the primary source for electricity in Indian River County. That agreement is due to expire next year. However, the state’s Public Service Commission has affirmed Vero Electric’s right and responsibility to continue serving its customers. The County Commission appealed the PSC’s ruling to the Florida Supreme Court, but lost.  

Back in 2009, When Vero Electric’s rate was $158.82 per 1000 kWh,  a local effort was undertaken to convince voters and ratepayers they should agree to sell Vero Electric to FPL. ‘Sell’ advocates Glenn Heran and Steve Feherty developed an analysis and presented it around town and in the media that showed the city would gain close to $180 million from the deal. This projected “profit” from the sale would, they said, more than make up for the revenue lost to the city by selling its biggest asset. More…

Media Watch: What constitutes a raise? No one at the Press Journal seems to know. 4

COMMENTARY

“Vero Beach’s ‘break-even’ number has been public for weeks, if not months. For Wixon and her editors to characterize the City Council’s action this week as “upping the price” is just more propaganda aimed at aiding FPL.”

MILT THOMAS

A front page story in this morning’s Press Journal carries the headline “Council raises electric offer.” According to reporter Colleen Wixon, “The City Council all but killed a potential $30 million deal with Florida Power & Light Co…..by upping the price by $17 million.”

As a reporter, Ms. Wixon could have easily found out the city’s position for some time now was that it needed at least $47 million for the Shores portion of Vero Electric in order to protect the remaining  customer base from continent liabilities related to that portion. As a community publication, the Press Journal and its editors should know that publishing a misleading story (on the front page) is not in the community’s best interests, especially with an election coming in 13 days.

The only possible excuse for the Press Journal getting this story so wrong is that its employees so seldom receive raises that they have forgotten the meaning of the word.The real reason for this morning’s misreporting is the Press Journal’s persistant bias in covering FPL’s efforts to acquire Vero Electric. We all know that the Press Journal has sided with FPL from the beginning (and we all know Treasure Coast Newspapers president is married to an FPL executive). More…

At what point is “political correctness” correct? 2

COMMENTARY

MILT THOMAS

 

Last week we heard about a series of bombings in Thailand. It happened a few days after the ruling junta, which had overthrown the legitimate government, held a constitutional referendum that many feel was rigged.

So why should we care about this? Because a friend of mine immediately assumed the bombings were a Muslim terrorist attack and blamed “political correctness” as the reason media outlets did not call it that. I pointed out that branding every incident as Muslim-inspired terrorism unnecessarily stokes up the underlying fear Americans have dealt with since 9-11.

It also led me to question the entire concept of political correctness. It seems we can’t say “what is on our minds” anymore because it will offend someone. Really? Now, before you agree with that statement you might want to think about what it really means. If you are standing in a room full of people and you are about to say something on your mind that is not politically correct, do you glance around to see who might be offended? Chances are it is a woman, a minority, a homosexual, someone of a different religion, a person with disabilities, a liberal or a conservative. So maybe the problem isn’t political correctness, but the problem is really “what is on our minds.”

More…

Compassion Vero to hold community forum Reply

cropped-CompassionVeroFINAL (1)Compassion Vero, a community-wide initiative of business, governmental, religious educational and non-profit leaders, invites the public to attend a gathering focused on how citizens can work together to improve every aspect of our shared living here in Vero Beach and Indian River County. The gathering will be held at 12:00 on Friday, August 12, at the Emerson Center, 1590 27th Ave in Vero Beach. A light luncheon with refreshments will be served at no charge.

The program will share the group’s mission and invite people to participate in one of two groups. The Positive Action Group will gather ideas to increase Compassion Vero’s visibility in the general community. The Idea Tool Box Group will discuss plans we are working on and solicit fresh ideas that can be added to the group’s “tool box.”

Compassion Vero formed in 2014 after an incident in a public meeting where an elected official showed disrespect for a citizen. That prompted a meeting of business, religious and community leaders that ultimately led to formation of Compassion Vero, an organization with the motto, “Respect for the Common Good.” Compassion Vero co-chair, Suzy Feeney, explains, “Compassion lies at the heart of all social, religious, ethical and moral traditions, calling on us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves.”

The organization’s goal is to elevate compassion to the center of our community life and show respect for the cultural and religious diversity of our great community. For more information about Compassion Vero, go to CompassionVero.org or check us out on FaceBook. To attend the August 12 event, please RSVP to CompassionVero@gmail.com or call 772-778-7880 so we can accommodate all for lunch. Thanks!

What do candidate direct mail ads tell us about the candidates? 2

COMMENTARY

Is this an ad for a religious revivalist or a candidate for public office?

Is this an ad for a religious revival or a candidate for public office?

MILT THOMAS

I have received, along with most Indian River County residents, mailers either defining or defiling candidates in the upcoming Republican primary. Taking the headline theme of each mailer, let’s see what they are saying to voters in order to convince us who we should vote for:

The State Senate candidates for newly created District 17 (Indian River County and Southern Brevard) are our own Debbie Mayfield and Brevard County residents Ritch Workman and Mike Thomas. Judging from mailers received, the race is between Mayfield and Workman.

Workman’s first mailer touted his credentials as a Christian (Defending our faith) and anti-Muslim. So much for non-Christian voters, especially Muslim-Americans. His second mailer details his stand against illegal immigrants. He has also sent out two mailers against “Dishonest Debbie.” Come on, Ritch; are you vying for the mini-Trump vote?

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What does our nation stand for on this Independence Day? 2

COMMENTARY

“Standing up for conservative values is not supposed to be a rejection of progressive values. Being Christian is not about rejecting those who are not. We are a nation of continuums, not of absolutes.”

MILT THOMAS

As we celebrate our independence as a free nation,  we should reflect on what is truly unique about us. Yes, there are many other democracies in this world, at least in name, but few countries go to the lengths we do to share our uniqueness.

So how are we unique? One way is the way in which we treat others. It is easy to criticize our foreign policy without acknowledging the core values underlying it. Chief among those values is compassion. As a nation we have always tried to help others. We like to think of ourselves as compassionate people, but there are times we must remind ourselves how important compassion is to our uniqueness.

America is a country of immigrants. Go anywhere in the US and you will find groups, cities and even regions that identify with their countries of origin. Chicago is the largest Polish city outside of Warsaw itself; Pennsylvania Dutch (“Deutsch”) country was settled by Germans; E. Nelson Fell founded Fellsmere, but also founded Narcoossee in the Orlando area – as a British colony. There are countless other examples, especially in major cities. What was New York without Irish, Italian and Jewish immigrants? Los Angeles without Hispanics and Asians? Detroit without Muslims? Yes, Muslims. And of course those among us who were forced to come here as slaves. More…

Performance at Riverside will leave you Howling at the Moon Reply

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MILT THOMAS

You can’t complain that the only things to do in Vero Beach this summer are playing golf or playing in the water (that’s where I play golf, unfortunately). The Riverside Theatre is alive and well with a broad palette of activities all designed for fun. This past Saturday, for instance, they held their weekly get together on the patio with food, drink and live music that is known as “Live in the Loop.”  Then at 7:30, we attended a show in the Waxlax Second Stage auditorium called “Howl at the Moon.” No, it wasn’t about werewolves, coyotes or trying to achieve an impossible dream. It Is simply a terrific, enjoyable evening that just may cause you to howl in delight.

The Waxlax was transformed from a theater into a cocktail lounge with cocktail tables for two or a crowd of friends. Waitresses served from a menu of food and drink, while on stage, two electronic pianos awaited the performers. Then Ken Gustafson and Katie Pinder Brown emerged, sat at their respective pianos and began an evening of great music, all based strictly on requests from the audience with unscripted patter to keep the audience singing, laughing and dancing to a medley of hit songs for the ages. It sounds like it might have been Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour (for the few audience members who know that reference), but it was a polished performance by two excellent vocalists and talented musicians.

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Are short term rental operators paying their fair share of business taxes? Reply

COMMENTARY

MILT THOMAS

Tuesday’s BCC meeting was, in Chairman Bob Solari’s words on a radio call-in show, a “knockdown,” with regard to approval of a short term rental ordinance covering unincorporated Indian River County. However, it may have been more of a sucker punch given his previous attitude toward regulating short term rental businesses in residential neighborhoods.

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Property owners win at County Commission 4

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I’m not one for sports metaphors, but Indian River County residential homeowners – represented by the South Beach Property Owners Association (SBPOA) and Indian River Neighborhood Association (IRNA) – are now the Cleveland Cavaliers of the short term rental championship. After being subverted by County Commission Chairman Bob Solari, derided and ignored by his Short Term Vacation Rental Advisory Committee and losing to the Planning & Zoning Commission, these outspoken and engaged citizen groups won a major victory at Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meeting. They unexpectedly reversed several key positions that had been recommended by the committee, P&Z and county staff.

  1. Licensing

The committee had recommended a three-year license, Chairman Glenn Powell’s majority (Glenn Heran and Joel Molinari, both limited regulation advocates, Angela Waldrop Realtor, Powell a short term rental operator) arguing that yearly renewal was too often. Staff and Planning & Zoning agreed. The SBPOA recommended one year licenses since that is what the State of Florida requires, adding that local regulations can be more stringent, but not less. The BCC decided to keep it at three years; however, if short term rental operators failed to renew the state license annually, the county license would be revoked. The fee for a county business short term rental operator license was set at $250.

  1. Noise

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Homeowners have one last chance to influence proposed short term rental regulations 3

COMMENTARY

MILT THOMAS

At the next County Commission meeting (Tuesday, June 21), staff will present the final recommended proposed ordinance covering short term vacation rentals in Indian River County.

However the Commission votes – and voting will occur after final public input on the proposed ordinance – several important points should be noted:

  1. The issue of short term rentals in unincorporated Indian River County residential neighborhoods only arose when the County Commission dropped a previous ordinance requiring such lodging establishments be confined to commercially zoned areas. The City of Vero Beach does not allow short term rentals in residential neighborhoods.

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We should all be horrified 2

COMMENTARY

MILT THOMAS

Enough is enough. When are we going to stop judging victims and start defusing the hatred being spread around by sick, anti-social gunman and not-so-presidential candidates. We don’t know yet this murderer’s true motivation, but whatever it is, it is wrong, and at some level, we have to all believe as freedom-loving Americans that it is wrong. Whatever your religious or political beliefs, there is no justification for taking 50 innocent lives. Not in America. Not anywhere. It is a perversion of the greatest magnitude in civilized society.

We can blame the proliferation of guns in America as a root cause of this slaughter, but that is no more a reason than to blame all Muslims for the actions of a few. What we don’t need is the blame game. This is a time to stand together as we did on 9-11.

 

P&Z rejects South Beach residents’ plea for stricter short term rental regulations 9

NEWS ANALYSIS

MILT THOMAS

Last Thursday, June 2, the Planning & Zoning Commission gave its decision regarding short term rentals in residential neighborhoods — and it was

alan polackwich

P&Z Chairman Alan Polackwich

not good news for residents. Ever since the state legislature in 2011 forbid local governments from putting restrictions on where vacation rental businesses could operate, the issue has pitted homeowners in quiet residential neighborhoods against business people buying homes to rent out on a short term basis to transient vacation tenants. The only caveat in the state mandate was that it would not preempt local governments where an ordinance against these rentals in residential neighborhoods already existed.

That was the case in the City of Vero Beach and until 2012, also in unincorporated Indian River County. However, the County Commission removed a restriction that prevented commercial tourist guest houses from operating in non-commercial areas. That eliminated the protection for homeowners against intrusion by vacation rental operators and created a furor, especially in beachside neighborhoods where the most desirable – and profitable – rentals are located.

More…

Former Mayor Sabe Abell in fatal accident 2

MILT THOMAS

Former Council members Deborah Fromang, BIll Jordan, Ken Diage and Sabe Abell, stook behind Caroline Ginn as she spoke before the Council.

Former Council members Deborah Fromang, BIll Jordan, Ken Daige and Sabe Abell, stood behind Caroline Ginn as she spoke before the Council in 2013.

Former Vero Beach mayor, Sabin C. “Sabe” Abell, 83, was killed yesterday afternoon in a single car accident at the intersection of 20th Street and 10th Avenue. His wife, Karen, was also in the car but according to a source, her injuries were not life-threatening.

Abell served as mayor of Vero Beach from November 2008 until November 2009. He remained active in the community since then and was seen frequently around town.

This story will be updated as information becomes available.

 

 

South Beach groups’ presentation to Planning & Zoning adds fuel to the short term rental controversy 2

NEWS ANALYSIS

“One home was valued at $1.37 million until the Property Appraiser lowered it to $780,000 based on problems caused by vacation rentals.”

MILT THOMAS

Dr. Miles Conway addressing the Planning  Zoning Commission

Dr. Miles Conway addressing the Planning Zoning Commission

Last Thursday, Dr. Miles Conway, representing the South Beach Property Owners Association (SBPOA), gave a presentation to the Planning & Zoning Commission detailing that organization’s view of the proposed regulations on short term vacation rentals. Conway took sharp exception to much of what has been proposed.

Background

The issue of short term rentals has not risen to the level of Lagoon pollution or All Aboard Florida in public consciousness and county government is in a position to keep it that way. The question is will they?

How would you feel if the people next door sold their home to someone in the business of renting out short term vacation rentals? Would your new neighbor be interested in the greater good of your neighborhood —  or a succession of strangers here for a good time in what amounts to a hotel room? More…

County Planning & Zoning hears proposed regulations on short term rentals Reply

MILT THOMAS

In a Planning & Zoning Commission meeting Thursday evening that lasted more than four hours, the South Beach Property Owners Association (SBPOA) finally achieved their “day in court” regarding the growing issue of short term vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods.  After Community Development Director, Stan Boling, presented recommendations of the County Commission-appointed Short Term Vacation Rental Advisory Committee (SRVRAC), SBPOA president, Dr. Miles Conway, presented a rebuke of those recommendations and unveiled alternate suggestions based on extensive research conducted by his organization.

In a presentation that lasted about two hours, Dr. Conway reviewed state requirements, examples of how other Florida counties are handling short term rentals, even other states, as well as how Airbnb, the leading agency handling these rentals, has extolled the virtues of this business with little regard to the impact they have on neighborhoods. Dr. Conway called up several residential homeowners who have had run-ins with renters. Two women who rent out homes to short term customers defended their rights to do so. STVRAC Chairman Glenn Powell defended his Committee’s findings and legitimacy. Vice Chairman Joe Paladin clarified some of the decision making.

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Catch Sister Act at Riverside asap! Reply

REVIEWsister act

MILT THOMAS

There are two excellent reasons for you to catch Sister Act at the Riverside Theatre before its successful run ends on May 1. First of all, the show is brilliant and more than entertaining. Based on the hit 1992 film of the same name (starring Whoopi Goldberg), Sister Act the musical was a Broadway smash as well. If you haven’t seen either, you can rent the movie anytime, but it would be a crying shame if you didn’t see the performance in these last few days it lights up the Stark Stage. Literally.

The production quality is as close to Broadway standards as you will ever see on a local stage. The story, acting, singing and dancing are superb, especially the vocal artistry of lead character, Deloris Van Cartier, played with heart and soul by Dan’yelle Williamson. As good as she is, Ms. Williamson is not the only voice among the cast that reaches out and touches the audience. And the music is original and contemporary, composed by Alan Menken (The Little MermaidBeauty and the BeastAladdin, and Pocahontas, Little Shop of Horrors) and lyricist Glenn Slater.

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Proposed short term rental regulations presented to County Commission 8

NEWS ANALYSIS

“Dr. Conway then brought up the Monroe County vacation rental regulations, which are considered the most effective and complete. They were recommended to the Committee for review in a resolution forwarded by Commissioner O’Bryan and approved by Commissioners Davis and Zorc, but voted against by Commissioner Flescher and Commission Chairman Solari. They were never discussed in the Committee.”

Short Term Rental Advisory Committee Chairman Glenn Powell

Short Term Rental Advisory Committee Chairman Glenn Powell

MILT THOMAS

Community Development Director Stan Boling presented the disputed Short Term Rental Advisory Committee results to County Commissioners on Tuesday.  The Committee had been formed last fall to develop and recommend regulations governing vacation rentals of less than 30 days. This has become an increasingly thorny issue since 2011 when the State Legislature decided short term rental properties could be located anywhere and local governments could not do anything further to prevent them. That legislation opened the door for transient rental properties in otherwise residential neighborhoods.

Boling’s presentation at the Tuesday BCC meeting was intended for informational purposes, giving Commissioners an opportunity to review the results before sending them on to the Planning and Zoning Commission for a land use perspective.

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