FPL funds attacks on Kramer 5

Florida Power and Light’s political action committee, Clean Sweep for a Brighter Tomorrow, recently sent out this mailer attacking Jay Kramer.

COMMENTARY

“When Vero Beach voters cast their ballots, either in early voting or on Nov. 7, they will have to decide whether they want their local government controlled from City Hall, or from FPL’s corporate offices in Juno Beach.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Former Vero Beach Mayor Jay Kramer resigned from the Vero Beach City Council last summer to run for a seat on the Indian River County Commission. Kramer lost to incumbent Bob Solari in the Republican primary, and is now seeking to return to the City Council.

Through a political action committee to which it gave at least $50,000, Florida Power and Light is trying to stop Kramer, as well as former Councilman Randy Old, from returning to the Council and having any say in how the company takes over Vero Electric.

Yesterday, a mailer attacking Kramer went out under the name of Clean Sweep for a Brighter Tomorrow. Clean Sweep is a political action committee wholly funded by FPL. Because the FPL-funded PAC is artfully dodging requirements to report its contributions and expenditures to the City Clerk’s Office, it is not known how much more money FPL may have given Clean Sweep since its initial contribution of $50,000 in late September. More…

Campaign cash from utilities? ‘I’ll accept it,’ Richard Corcoran says Reply

Richard Corcoran – Perhaps relaxing from the pressures of raising money to further his political career.

Editor’s note: It was Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran who reportedly used a lobbyist as a conduit to deliver a threat to Florida Municipal Power Agency leaders that they needed to find a way to make it possible for Florida Power and Light to buy Vero Electric – or else.  It appears that in order to first buy Vero Electric, FPL had to take a significant investment position in the political franchise that is Richard Corcoran. 

Locally, Vero Beach City Council candidates Harry Howle and Val Zudans are being supported by a political action committee that received all of its $50,000 in funds directly from FPL. The PAC is currently flooding local media and mail boxes with misleading advertising greatly exaggerating the savings and benefits to come from the sale of Vero Electric to FPL. 

If the contract between the City and FPL is to be signed before the Nov. 7 municipal election, as FPL quislings Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes have pledged to do, then why is FPL spending big money to control the outcome of yet another Vero Beach municipal election? The answer may be found in looking back to the spring of 2013, when FPL asked the Council to agree to changes to the previous purchase and sale agreement. By FPL’s own admission, those contract changes would have cost the public $26 million. Perhaps what FPL is driving for is a solid Council majority that will follow their every directive as the utility giant takes over Vero Electric. 

MITCH PERRY/FLORIDA POLITICS

While GOP gubernatorial rivals Jack Latvala and Adam Putnam feud over campaign contributions from investor-owned utilities, Richard Corcoran is watching from the sidelines.

As reported by FloridaPolitics last week, Agriculture Commissioner Putnam’s political committee has received nearly $800,000 from the utilities, and another $1.8 million to political committees that may have been re-directed to him. Continue reading…

FPL’s quislings, Howle, Moss, Sykes, rush power sale through without review 2

Provision for partial sale is the real Trojan Horse
COMMENTARY

MARK SCHUMANN

Moss – Team FPL

Howle – Team FPL

Sykes – Team FPL

Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss claims proposed revisions to the City’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan contain a “Trojan Horse.” Moss’ assertion is so delusional it raises questions about her fitness for office. Ironically, if there is a Trojan Horse endangering Vero Beach, it is a provision in a contract Moss and her fellow Florida Power and Light quislings, Harry Howle and Lange Sykes, are rushing to sign before the Nov. 7 election.

Imbedded in the several hundred page contract, which just arrived at City Hall yesterday, is a provision that will require Vero Beach to sell the Indian River Shores portion of its electric system to FPL, in the event a sale of the full system proves impossible. Several members of the Finance Commission have spoken out publicly against tying the full sale and a partial sale together in one contract, and the Finance Commission as a whole has urged the Council not to agree to a partial sale under the terms currently proposed by FPL. More…

Inventions of the press and other falsehoods 4

COMMENTARY

“So, when Wixon wrote, ‘…Vero Beach officials repeatedly said they tried to reduce rates,’ she is simply not reporting the truth. For in truth, Vero Electric’s rates have come down, while FPL’s rates have and will continue to rise.”

MARK SCHUMANN

In a story on the latest proposed contract between Vero Beach and Florida Power and Light for the sale of Vero Electric, Press Journal/TCPalm reporter Colleen Wixon wrote, “For their part, Vero Beach officials repeatedly said they tried to reduce rates for all customers.”

Tried?

In fact, over the past four years, Vero Electric’s rate for 1000 kilowatt hours of power has come down 11.2%, while FPL’s rate has risen 6.6%. Still further rate increases for FPL, already approved by the Florida Public Service Commission, are set for the next few years.  In addition to these scheduled FPL rate hikes, the company recently announced it will be seeking PSC approval to assess additional storm recovery charges.

In total, coming rate increases for FPL could well erase any rate differential between Vero Electric and the state’s largest investor owned utility. More…

FPL-sponsored Council majority pushing power sale contract forward without review 3

COMMENTARY

“I insist that the Finance Commission be allowed to do their job.” – Richard Winger

MARK SCHUMANN

Including the $50,000 Florida Power and Light recently gave to a political action committee supporting candidates Harry Howle and Val Zudans, the company has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars sponsoring City Council candidates who will agree to its every demand as it seeks to takeover Vero Electric.

FPL’s investment is paying off. Council members Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes, all of whom occupy seats on the Council that were essentially “bought” by FPL, seem determined to speedily accept without any negotiation on the City’s behalf, and without any review by the Finance and Utilities Commissions, a new purchase and sale agreement of some 500 pages.

Howle, Moss and Sykes are pushing through the power sale exactly as FPL would want them to, without serious negotiation and without public review. They are serving FPL quite well, but their actions raise questions about whether they are also serving the people of Vero Beach.

Why the rush to sign the contract before the Nov. 7 Council election? Why the absence of any serious negotiations? Why the determination to prevent the members of Finance and Utilities Commissions from reviewing and discussing the terms of the contract in public? More…

Zudans makes misleading claims on proposed electric sale 1

COMMENTARY

MARK SCHUMANN

Supporting Harry Howle and Val Zudans, FPL seems determined to “buy” two more seats on the Vero Beach City Council.

In an “Insight Opinion” column published May 18 in the island weekly, Vero Beach City Council candidate Val Zudans made more than a few misleading claims.

Zudanse asserted that the power deal, which the City Council is set to sign later this month and before the Nov. 7 election, will “close the last chapter on the big blue boondoggle that has defined every recent local election cycle….it allows ‘Mayberry by the Sea’ to return our focus to enhancing our local culture.”

In truth, Zudans and fellow candidate Harry Howle are running their campaigns on the electric issue. Both are supported by a political action committee wholly funded by Florida Power and Light to the tune of $50,000.  Despite the fact that he is clearly a pawn of FPL, Zudans brought himself to write, “it is important to support candidates who aren’t pawns of special interests groups…”  More…

Zudans plays ‘TRUMP’ card, claims accurate reporting on his positions is ‘fake news’ 2

COMMENTARY

“Zudans can pretend truth is whatever he wants it to be, but his own words speak for themselves.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Val Zudans

Donald TRUMP

During a recent candidate forum sponsored by the Taxpayers Association, Val Zudans dismissed as “fake news” InsideVero’s reporting on positions he has taken on selling Vero Beach’s water and sewer utility to the County and on the City’s continued ownership of other enterprise funds.

Donald TRUMP, who now claims to have introduced the term “fake news,” would surely give a wink to Zudans’ attempt to weasel out of any consequence for his past statements by attempting to discredit the media.

The claims and denials Zudans made today are in direct contrast to earlier statements he had made on the issue. In a column published in the island weekly on April 13 of this year Zudans wrote, “Get government out of every business where they have no business…Government has no business in the marina business when others can do it much better at lower cost. City government should not be in the water and sewer business if the county can do it better at lower cost.”

Zudans can pretend truth is whatever he wants it to be, but his own words speak for themselves.

So, I will say what I have said before, if Val Zudans is elected to the City Council, and if Harry Howle is re-elected, it will not be long before they are clamoring to sell the water and sewer system to the County. The consequences could be devastating for the City.

On top of the power sale, the loss of enterprise fund revenue from the water and sewer system will be more than the City can absorb without having to drastically cut services. These service cuts will almost surely include turning over public safety to the Sheriff’s Office.

When it comes to bristling at being held accountable, Zudans and TRUMP have good company. As President, Thomas Jefferson, a great defender of the free press, found accountability by the media annoying. At one point during his presidency Jefferson wrote, “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper.”

In attempting to shift accountability from himself by blaming the media, Zudans is proving that he is just another politician. His positions may be relative, but truth is not.

Related story: What Vero Beach’s taxpayers should know about their water and sewer system

 

Old outlines his priorities a candidate for City Council 2

COMMENTARY

Editor’s note: Randy Old is a candidate for the Vero Beach City Council. Old previously served on the Council from Nov. 2014 to Nov. 2016.

RANDY OLD

Randy Old

I am running for City Council because I enjoyed the two years on the Council, I felt that I was just beginning to contribute, and if I had another term I could be much more productive. My long career in business and finance could be a benefit to the city, and I feel strongly about giving back to this wonderful community.

I am pro sale…I feel this is the first time that the City has a reasonable offer to sell Vero Electric, the community has voted to sell it, and the subject has been toxic for several years harming the ability of the council to pay sufficient attention to the routine matters of maintaining and operating the city. However, selling it is only half of the job, the other half is insuring that the sale’s adverse effects on the residents is minimal, and this will take time, effort, and expertise. This is where my background can help.

I am in favor of doing all we can to help the lagoon, and this includes establishing the storm water utility.

I am for stopping or delaying the fast train coming through Vero

I am for passing the comprehensive plan as soon as possible

I participate in other Vero projects, I am the chair of the Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee, and on the Finance Commission.

Civic clubs now outlets for Moss’ misinformation campaign 3

COMMENTARY

MARK SCHUMANN

This flyer was recently passed out at a meeting of the Vero Beach Rotary Club. Moss and company seem determined to use every means possibly to spread unfounded fear and anxiety.

If someone told me Councilwoman Laura Moss, activist Phyllis Frey and some of their friends with the local Republican Alliance for American Greatness visited Roswell, New Mexico in search of unidentified flying objects, the news would come as no surprise. Moss, Frey and their RAAG friends are, after all, given to embracing the wildest of conspiracy theories.

Recently, RAAG, (a club within the Indian River County Republican Party), sent out invitations encouraging attendance for an event at which Moss is to peddle an unfounded theory she and Frey have concocted about how revisions to the City’s Comprehensive Land Use Plane were somehow written, not by City Staff and by members of the Planning and Zoning Board, but by outside consultants and bureaucrats connected with United Nations Agenda Twenty 21. More…

Winger questions Republican Executive Committee’s sponsorship of ‘crucial meeting’ 2

COMMENTARY

“On ethics, transparency, transportation and infrastructure Moss has earned the grade of “F.” And for its endorsement of Moss last fall the Press Journal editorial board deserves an “F” as well.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Richard Winger

Laura Moss – Self-described “Queen of Vero Beach.”

Recently, the Indian River County Republican Party Executive Committee, which is closing its doors and claims to be unable to find new office space to rent, sent out an invitation seeking attendance for what it described as a “crucial meeting.”

At that meeting City Councilwoman Laura Moss plans to peddle a bizarre conspiracy theory about how revisions to the City’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan were written by “nameless bureaucrats” outside of Vero Beach. Moss, having apparently fallen under the spell of activist Phyllis Frey, sees all manner of ghosts and goblins hiding in proposed revisions to the City’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan. More…

Heady outlines position on power sale, other issues 1

GUEST COMMENTARY

Editor’s note: Brian Heady is a candidate for the Vero Beach City Council.  Nov. 7 voters will chose among 6 candidates to fill two seats on the Council.

BRAIN HEADY

Brian Heady

Generally speaking I believe:

1. The sale of our electric utility should be an open bid / purchase offer process inviting any viable utility to bid or make offer.  Analysis of all bids and open discussions by advisory committees.  No break up of system prior to that process. 

2. Any new plan for development or change in any codes should have a review by City Council with their additions or strike outs incorporated and then a vote.

3. Twin pairs parking temporarily by simply a restripe of lanes with parallel parking in one lane of each direction downtown.  If it works then a permanent solution.

4. No sale of ANY city real estate assets without a review of financial consequences.  

5. No further erosion of city owned assets.  

6. City police ABSOLUTELY favorable to any takeover by county sheriff.  

Have Indian River County Republicans fallen for Moss’ and Frey’s scare tactics? 5

COMMENTARY

“If anything is a threat to home rule for Vero Beach, it is that outside interests are essentially buying seats on the City Council. In the election to be held Nov. 7, FPL has already invested $50,000 to support Harry Howle and Val Zudans.”

MARK SCHUMANN

To listen to Vero Beach City Councilwoman Laura Moss and activist Phyllis Frey, you’d get the idea that the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council and the Seven 50 planning group, under the direction of United Nations “bureaucrats,” authored recently proposed revisions to Vero Beach’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan. According to other member of the City Council and of the Planning and Zoning Board, nothing could be further from the truth.

But Moss and Frey are not going to let facts get in the way of their grandstanding. Sadly, the Indian River County Republican Executive Committee appears to have falling for this nonsense. Just today, the IRCREC sent out an email inviting people to attend a luncheon on October 26 at which Moss will peddle the bizarre conspiracy theory she and Frey have cooked up. More…

Howle and Zudans would eviscerate the City of Vero Beach 7

COMMENTARY

“With a 4-person anti-city City Council majority, the challenge will not be to ‘Keep Vero Vero,’ but simply to ‘Keep Vero.'”

MARK SCHUMANN

If on Nov. 7 Vero Beach voters elect a Council majority determined to set in motion the eventual disincorporation of the City, it won’t be because they have beed duped. No, all the cards are on the table.

Candidates Harry Howle and Val Zudans, who seek to join Laura Moss and Lange Sykes in an insuppressible 4-person majority, have in the past made it crystal clear they want, not only to sell Vero Electric, but to divest the City of its other enterprise funds. If Howle and Zudans are elected, on the chopping block will be the water and sewer department, solid waste services, the marine, and possibly even the airport. The loss of all enterprise fund revenues will cripple the City, which is exactly what Howle and Zudans seek to do. More…

FPL pours another $50,000 into a Vero Beach municipal election 4

Supporting Harry Howle and Val Zudans, FPL seems determined to “buy” two more seats on the Vero Beach City Council.

COMMENTARY

“In addition to selling Vero Electric, Zudans and Howle have expressed support for handing the City’s water and sewer utility over to the County. Zudans has also advocated turning responsibility for public safety within Vero Beach over to the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office. To get elected, both candidates may cynically, but only temporarily, backtrack from these positions.” 

MARK SCHUMANN

During the most recent legislative session, the Tampa Bay Times editorial board described the Florida Legislature as “a wholly owned subsidiary of Florida Power and Light.”  Sadly, the same may soon be said of the Vero Beach City Council.

A flood of political post cards funded by FPL began arriving in local mail boxes today. Supporting candidates Harry Howle and Val Zudans, the mailers were prepared and paid for by Clean Sweep for a Brighter Tomorrow, a political action committee that recently received a $50,000 cash infusion from FPL. More…

Council set to pull trigger on full or partial sale of Vero Electric Reply

NEWS ANALYSIS

MARK SCHUMANN

The hypocrisy Vero Beach City Council members Laura Moss and Lange Sykes displayed in Tuesday’s meeting was shocking. Moss and Sykes made it clear that, if allowed, they would spend months pouring over every detail in a non-binding proposed Comprehensive Land Use Plan, yet even though they do not yet have in hand the proposed purchase and sale agreement for the sale of Vero Electric, they are determined to approve the contract by election day. More…

‘Queen Laura’ latest storm to visit Vero Beach 4

COMMENTARY

MARK SCHUMANN

Laura Moss – Self-described “Queen of Vero Beach.

Vero Beach Mayor and self-described “queen” of the City, Laura Moss, finally got called on the carpet this week for her continued dictatorial behavior. “This is not Venezuela, Mrs. Moss,” Councilman Richard Winger said during Tuesday’s Council meeting.

Throughout her term as mayor, Moss has repeatedly overstepped the very limited authority given her by the City Charter. Most recently, Moss took it upon herself to direct the City Clerk’s Office to move a discussion item submitted by Winger farther down the agenda. Winger sought to propose that the Council press forward with completing revisions to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan by its Nov. 7 meeting, so the document can finally be submitted to the state.

When it became obvious Winger’s proposal had majority support, Moss said, “This is why I put this on the agenda under Members Matters, because this is what I thought would happen.” More…

Daiges respond to commenter’s assertions about Comp Plan 4

GUEST COMMENTARY

Related Story: Discussion on Comp Plan revisions is far from over

DEBORAH & KEN DAIGE

If one takes the time to read the Comprehensive Plan/Land Use Development Regulations Amendment Draft, one will notice the current plan with strike outs and the amended phrases. Most of the amendments add clarity, further explanation, and add statutes and building codes not in the current code. The amendments add further property right protections to older neighborhoods who have asked, repeatedly, for help with many serious conditions within their neighborhoods. The amendments to the Comprehensive Plan actually strengthen our local home rule character.

The following italicized are our responses to Ms. Susan Mehiel’s comment under: Discussion on Comp Plan revisions is far from over

smehiel says: September 25, 2017 at 10:53 am

(1)Susan Mehiel: “They do not seem to speak about what is actually in the Comp Plan.” I’ll tell you. The Comp Plan states: More…

City’s legal and consulting bills for utility sale at $337,386 and counting 4

NEWS ANALYSIS

MARK SCHUMANN

Randy Old

Harry Howle

To prepare the previous and now defunct purchase and sale agreement between Vero Beach and Florida Power & Light, the City paid more than $1 million in legal fees. That contract, which was signed by Tracy Carroll, Craig Fletcher and Pilar Turner, failed to address and account for the City’s contactual obligations to the Florida Municipal Power Agency and its bond holders.

In the latest push to sell Vero Electric to FPL, the new council majority of Harry Howle, Laure Moss and Lange Sykes, all elected with significant support from FPL, has run up an additional $337,386 in legal and consulting fees.  Since May of this year, the law firm of Carlton Fields has charged the City $332,710. And additional $4,675 has been paid to the firm of Nabors Giblin and Nickerson for counsel on bond issues.

Any sale of the full system must still receive unanimous approval from the member cities of the FMPA’s All Requirements Project.  As it is being written, the current purchase and sale agreement will commit the City to sell the Indian River Shores portion of the electric system, even if one or more FMPA ARP members block the full sale.

As a candidate for re-election last fall, then City Councilman Randy Old said he believed a sale of the full system at the price proposed would not be good for the City, its residents, or the remaining customers of Vero Electric. To approve the partial sale at the price offered by FPL, Old said, would be a violation of a Council member’s fiduciary responsibility to the City and to the people of Vero Beach.

Old was defeated for re-election, loosing by 27 votes to Lange Sykes. Sykes received 90 percent of his campaign contributions from Indian River Shores residents. During the election, as he was seeing support for Sykes among wealthy Shores residents, Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot described Sykes as “a member of the Shores team.” Sykes was also supported by a political action committee that received half of its $100,000 in contributions from FPL.

This year Harry Howle is running for re-election. Like Sykes, he too was first elected with support from a political action committee funded in part by FPL.

As a candidate this year, Old now supports the partial sale. If the retired banker was right last year, then the legal fees now being passed on to the customers of Vero Electric will prove just a fraction of the negative impact on rates that will result from handing Shores portion of the system over to FPL.

 

With election approaching, councilman urges city residents to ‘be engaged’ Reply

TONY YOUNG/VERO BEAC CITY COUNCILMAN

Tony Young

Dear Friends, Family & Supporters, Vero Strong! We have another storm in the books. It never ceases to amaze me how incredible our hometown is in good times and in tough spells. We are speeding through the months. The work never ends but that is a good thing. Here are some items that are on my radar.

Hurricane Irma recovery is going in a deliberate responsive manner. Your city was proactive with the multiple efforts necessary to absorb the storm impact. We learn from every natural disaster. But your understanding, resilience and generosity played a major part in keeping the potential harm to a minimum. Hurricane season runs through November. Please stay alert and plan accordingly. More…

Discussion on Comp Plan revisions is far from over 3

“Essentially those against the Comp Plan are infringing on our property rights.”

Editor’s note: Former City Councilman and current member of the Planning and Zoning Board, Ken Daige, and his wife, Deborah, wrote the following summary of this past Wednesday’s special call meeting of the Council at which proposed revisions to the City’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan were debated.

DEBORAH AND KEN DAIGE

Summary – 9-20-2017 special call meeting of the City of Vero Beach Comp Plan:

Brief Translation – Comprehensive and Land Use Plan – The city’s blueprint and outline of land use, city provided levels of service, interlocal agreements for state and county infrastructure within the city, and funding for any and such projects.

1) The beginning commentary was from the majority of city council who lean toward not adopting the Comp Plan preferring to ‘stand alone’.

A motion was made by councilmember Sykes to prolong the process with a cooling off period while Mayor Moss rewrites the Comp Plan with the city manager and city planner. Councilmember Howle second the motion, which passed 3 to 1 (Moss, Howle and Sykes yes – Young no), at the culmination of the meeting. Winger left earlier in the meeting and was not there for the vote.

The P&Z Board was criticized in an insulting manner and accused of designing a Trojan Horse, the implication was that the P&Z Board and ‘outside influences’ such as the Regional Planning Council were the invading Trojans out to destroy the city.

2) Then the scheduled speakers: More…

Moss takes aim at revised Comp Plan, gets pushback 18

“We have heard what various people are against, but we haven’t heard very much about what you are for. If you don’t like what your Staff and your Zoning Board has prepared, where is your plan? Show us your plan.” – Carter Taylor

“And there is no merit to any statement that the Comp Plan provides for increased heights and densities throughout our city. Taking sentences out of context, giving them new meanings to justify some unknown theory is not acceptable.” – Honey Minuse

“In my opinion, opening the meeting with a negative statement was telling everyone in the audience who had come to support or speak on the Comp Plan, ‘Don’t even bother. I’ve already made up my mind, and I’m not going to listen to you. So, go ahead and talk, but it makes no difference to me.’ And that, to me, should not have occurred at any City Council meeting.” – Linda Hillman

NEWS ANALYSIS

MARK SCHUMANN

Laura Moss – Self-described “Queen of Vero Beach.”

Activist Phyllis Frey, seemingly sees the Devil in every detail.

Vero Beach is many years overdue in revisiting its 22-year-old Comp Plan. Now, after more than a year of work by City staff and the Planning and Zoning Board, the City finally has a draft of a revised comprehensive land use plan ready to be submitted to the state.  All that is needed now is for the City Council to amend the plan as it sees fit, and then forward it to the state.

That process has been slowed, if not stymied, by Mayor Laura Moss, who has publicly stated that she sees the plan as “a Trojan Horse,” “a death warrant on the city as we know it,” and “a threat to home rule.”

Moss’ attacks on the Comp Plan echo objections raised by local activist Phyllis Frey. (Moss and Frey live in the same six-story building on the barrier island, a structure that would not be allowed under todays’ building regulations.)

Though perhaps well-intentioned, Frey’s criticisms of the plan are rooted in fear, not in any positive vision for managing and accommodating inevitable growth. Worse, Frey’s objections are conspiratorial, fantastical, devoid of reason and fact, and are, quite simply, disconnected from reality. These unfounded concerns would be harmless, had they not been embraced and championed by Moss. More…

United Against Poverty offers a hand up for Hurricane Irma survivors Reply

NEWS RELEASE

Thousands of low-income families throughout the Treasure Coast are without food due to power outages in the area. To meet the needs of the community and continue to help vulnerable families, United Against Poverty’s Product Partners have committed, for immediate delivery, 25 truckloads of food to provide relief. Each truckload can feed 1,200 families.

“Many of our neighbors have been adversely affected by Hurricane Irma. Thousands of working poor families have lost food and income due to businesses being shut down,” explained Austin Hunt, CEO/Founder, United Against Poverty. “Let’s step up together and provide a hand up. Your donation is needed now more than ever. If you don’t have the means to give financially, we also need volunteers.” More…

Humane Society cancels Sept. 23rd Dogtoberfest event Reply

NEWS RELEASE

The Humane Society of Vero Beach & Indian River County (HSVB) was planning on holding the first annual Dogtoberfest event on the Humane Society’s beautiful 38-acre campus on 77th Street in Vero Beach south of the Indian River Fairgrounds but Hurricane Irma had other plans.  The Shelter has been forced to cancel the event scheduled for Saturday, September 23rd.

During the hurricane, the Humane Society sheltered 349 animals and their caretakers for three days and cared for an array of dogs, cats, gerbils, bunnies, birds and livestock throughout the storm. In addition to feeding and sheltering the animals, HSVB staff and volunteers worked round the clock to administer to special needs pets in need of medication and specialized care. Included in the array of animals staying at the Shelter during the storm were animals of first responders. HSVB also co-organized and managed the county’s only pet-friendly shelter at Liberty Magnet School.

The entire supply of animal crates was depleted in the days leading up to the storm as HSVB staff gave away crates to house animals at the pet friendly shelter and others in need of crates. Special stackable crates are needed to replenish the supply. If you’d like to assist the Humane Society of Vero Beach & Indian River County in rebuilding their supply of crates and other storm preparedness items, please visit www.hsvb.org/ways-to-donate

Partial sale of electric system could be a full disaster for the people of Vero Beach Reply

“Old, and others who once had serious questions about opening the door to higher rates and higher taxes, now seem to have concluded that a partial sale would be the lesser of two evils. The even less attractive alternative, they seem to believe, is to stand up for what is best for the residents of the City and the remaining customers of Vero Electric, for doing so will likely result in Indian River Shores monied interests and FPL continuing to poison politics in Vero Beach.”

Peter Gorry

Editor’s note:  In the summer of 2016, the Vero Beach City Council voted 3-2 to reject Florida Power & Light’s $30 million offer to acquire Vero Electric’s 3500 customers and transmission and distribution lines in Indian River Shores. At the time, Councilmen Randy Old, Richard Winger and Tony Young argued the partitioning of Vero Electric for $30 million would lead to higher taxes for the residents of Vero Beach and higher rates for the remaining customers of the City’s electric system. (Harry Howle and Pilar Turner supported the deal.)

Citing the work of independent consultants, Old, Winger and Young  concluded it would take closer to $45 million to ensure the carving up of Vero Electric would not negatively impact the City, its residents and electric customers. (At the time, Old said approving the partial sale at $30 million would be constitute a breach of a council member’s fiduciary responsibility to the City and to the people of Vero Beach. Old, and others who once had serious questions about opening the door to higher rates and higher taxes, now seem to have concluded that a partial sale would be the lesser of two evils. The even less attractive alternative, they seem to believe, is to stand up for what is best for the residents of the City and the remaining customers of Vero Electric, for doing so will likely result in Indian River Shores monied interests and FPL continuing to poison politics in Vero Beach. More…

Who will benefit from electric sale? Certainly not the people of Vero Beach! 1

Editor’s note: Vice-Mayor Harry Howle recently asserted that the sale of Vero Electric to Florida Power and Light will leave the city in a “damn good” position. The following analysis, almost surely beyond Howle attention span, if not over his head, confirms that he, and all those now supporting the sale of Vero Electric, are dead wrong about the supposed financial benefits of the deal. In truth, the sale of Vero Electric will seriously damage the City financially, while yielding only marginal of benefits to the customers of Vero Electric. 

Even more damaging that a sale of the full system would be a partial sale, in which the Indian River Shores portion of the system would be carved off and sold to FPL. Tomorrow, InsideVero will publish an analysis of the likely negative impacts of a so-called partial sale.

“Netting the lost fund transfers, franchise fee and net interest income effects, the resulting $4.1MM in net reduction in City revenues may be financed by a combination of (1) increased water utility rates, (2) reduction of General Fund service levels, or (3) increase in ad valorem taxes. (Sale of city assets is not included as a potential revenue source, as suggested, because by definition of prudent financial management practice, non-recurring gains or revenues are never used to fund recurring expense.)”

LEXINGTON

Much adoo about…

Political Analysis

The sale of City of Vero Beach Electric is, and has been for nearly a generation the bitter Third Rail of local politics. If one good things comes from the Full Sale, it will be the end of the poisonous political atmosphere perpetuated in the name of this issue.

Who Benefits?

Harry Howle – A single-issue councilman giving unquestioning support to all things FPL.

In the meantime, who benefits from this awful business?

Political careers and organizations and at least one highly-profitable media platform been built on flogging the electric utility.

So it’s much adoo about the activists, their political allies and their dedicated media outlet.

Second, Indian River Shores and South Beach customers will benefit. It is acknowledged that they provide a disproportionate share of the profits reaped by the electric utility. Moreover, it is acknowledged that they cannot vote for the governing body that controls electric policy and rates. These circumstances led a group of them to pool their money to buy an election, and install a City Council that performs to their will.

Their mass-deployment of election capital was greatly magnified by the constant barrage of electioneering propaganda issued from their captive “news” outlet.

It used to be “how you played the game.” Today, the Big Egos get their way by any means. Congratulations – you ‘won.’

Undoubtedly, FPL benefits. They will receive an enormously profitable enterprise.

Lange Sykes – Received 90% of his campaign contributions from Indian River Shores residents.

Given the mark-to-market equity valuation of $64 million as shown below, the system produces about $13.5 in operating cash flow, against which it must spend about $4.0 million to sustain capital investments, leaving $8.5 million in free cash flow.

That’s a return on equity for the City of Vero Beach Electric of 13.3%.

FPL’s regulated return on equity is only 9.6% – 11.6%; Duke Energy earns 6%. Southern Company 11%.

And that’s before the axe comes out to chop down local resources, cut capital spending, cut staff, cut customer service and cut local response. From a reduced cost base–and with political leverage in Tallahassee to enforce continually rising rates, the FPL acquisition will be a goldmine for FPL.

After all, they have put up with – instigated – all the political nonsense and have stuck with it for all these years for a reason – profit.

Corruption

Figure 11 – Leona Helmsley, wealthy New York real estate magnate, famously observed that “only the little people pay taxes.” She became known as the “Queen of Mean.”

Laura Moss – Self-described “Queen of Vero Beach.”

But what’s in it for the We the “Little People” of Vero Beach? Fifty cents a month off your electric bill? A 43% hike in your property tax bill? Is that it—this is all we get?

Unfortunately, no. There’s more: We get corruption.

The Mayor, along with her two council trustys on the City Council, rolled into office on a tidal-wave of special interest money from, you guessed it, FPL.

When asked by a quizzical child, “what is a mayor?” the mayor intuitively responded that it’s “kind of like being Queen.” This moment of honest reflection—shared between a grown-up and an innocent—is apocryphal in explaining the Mayor’s self-image, her imperious style and authoritarian conduct.

Buying an election and a city council to benefit special and sectional interests is extraordinarily bad behavior for those otherwise up-standing citizens of Indian River Shores that donated to “Operation Flip Switch.” More…

Time To Pass the Comprehensive Plan 5

COMMENTARY

RICHARD WINGER/VERO BEACH CITY COUNCILMAN

Richard Winger

The conspiracy theorists are at it again, and this time they were joined by Vero Beach’s Mayor Moss. The occasion was a special call City Council meeting to address the updated Comprehensive Land Use Plan (Comp Plan). If you were to believe these individuals, the Plan is really a hidden plot to destroy all that we hold special in our City.

All local governments in Florida are required to have Comprehensive Land Use Plans. And they must be updated, and sent to the State for review. This update is what Staff and the Planning and Zoning Board have worked on intensively for over a year, A draft is ready for Council to modify or approve and transmit to the State for their review. The transmittal to the State is years overdue, yet a 3 vote majority voted to postpone it even further. More…

The next battle: ownership of Vero Beach’s water and sewer utility Reply

COMMENTARY
Related story: City’s water and sewer utility a vital asset

MARK SCHUMANN

In his most recent “Utility Update” newsletter, utility activist Stephen Faherty signaled what many already suspect. Once a new contract for the sale of Vero Electric to FPL is signed, the next move by local limited government extremists will be to persuade the people of Vero Beach their is something wrong with owning a water and sewer utility that returns some $1 million a year to the General Fund to help pay for basic municipal services.

Faherty wrote, “After the end of the year, it would be good for the City to ask the County to dust off the County’s past offer to buy the City’s WSI system which included connecting the City WSI plant on the 3rd corner to the County’s WSI system (cost would be about $35 M to move the WSI plant from the Lagoon if I recall correctly from prior City estimates) and then clearing the 3rd corner for City use.”

Several year ago, the County made an offer of approximately $20 million to buy Vero Beach’s profitable and well-run water and sewer utility. Though the County tried to package its bargain-basement offer as a magnanimous attempt to rescue Vero Beach, the truth is that the County very much needs Vero Beach’s water and sewer customer base to make its own over-built system more viable.

On the other side of the table, the City does not exactly need the County, or it’s insultingly low offer. Vero Beach’s rates and service are at least comparable to the County’s, and the City’s system, by all reasonable measures, is well run. (I know a couple who own property in the City and the County. Their dog will drink City water without hesitation, but does not much like County water. Personally, I’ll trust one dog’s taste preferences over all the experts the County might hire.)

More…

Zudans absent more often than not 1

Local ophthalmologist Val Zudans, who is running for a seat on the Vero Beach City Council, now holds a position on the City of Vero Beach Planning and Zoning Board. Since mid May, Zudans has been absent from four of four scheduled meeting of the P&Z Board. One can only hope that if he is elected to the Council he will have more interest and more time to discharge his duties.

 

 

Everyday socialism, American-style, is happening now all across the country 2

Editor’s note: The City of Vero Beach Utilites and Finance Commissions will meet Aug. 30 to review the terms of the proposed sale of Vero Electric to Florida Power and Light. City Hall watchers expect the Council to approve the terms of the proposed sale when it next meets in September. As Vero Beach prepares to hand over its municipally owned utility for net proceeds of little more than existing cash reserves, the following article on public utilities is worth considering.  This article exploring the benefits of public ownership of utilities was first published in 2013 by truth-out.org.

According to the most recent bills comparisons published by the Florida Municipal Electric Association, FPL’s rate for 1000 kilowatt hours per month is $106.05, allowing for a six percent franchise fee. Vero Electric’s rate is $116.08. Based on current rates, then, Vero Beach residents could expect to save approximately 9 percent on their electric bill, if the deal were to close now. However, FPL will be making a number of rate hikes over the coming years, all of them already approved by the Florida Public Service Commission. Whatever saving Vero Beach residents will see on their electric bills will be somewhat offset by cuts in services and/or tax increases, as the City deals with the loss of $7 million no transferred annually from the Electric Fund to the General Fund.

For a start: It’s often forgotten—or simply not known—that there are more than two thousand publicly owned electric utilities now operating, day by day, week by week, throughout the United States (many in the conservative South). Indeed, 25 percent of US electricity is supplied by locally owned public utilities and co-ops.

Moreover, most of these now conventional “socialist” operations have a demonstrated capacity to provide electricity at lower cost to the consumer, not to mention cheaper and more accessible broadband. (Nationally, on average, customers of private utilities pay 14 percent more than customers of public utilities.)

One obvious reason: Public utilities and co-ops simply don’t pay the same exorbitant executive salaries common in the private sector. They get pretty much the same work done for far less. General managers of the largest class of publicly owned power companies earned an average salary of roughly $260,000 in 2011. Average compensation for CEOs of large investor-owned utilities was $6 million—almost twenty-five times as much.

Also, of course, public utilities and co-op producers don’t have to pay private shareholders any dividends. And they return a portion of their revenues to the city or county to help supplement local budgets, easing the pressure on taxpayers. A recent study found an average transfer of 5.2 percent of revenues to municipalities—compared with average tax payments by private-investor-owned utilities of 3.9 percent.

Continue reading…

Old clarifies comments about management of Vero Electric 1

Editor’s note: Vero Beach City Council candidate Randy Old issued the following statement today clarifying his position on the City’s capacity to manage a $100-million-dollar-a-year electric utility business.

Apology Necessary: To the Staff and Management of Vero Electric

I wrote an article entitled “Update on The Sale of Vero Electric” that came out in the last couple of days and it said “Vero has proven that it cannot run a utility” and I meant that the complicated task of running a $100 million utility business was too complicated for a City Council that turned over every couple of years. It needed a structure of people who knew the business, a Utility Authority, or a consulting agreement with a Utility Management Company who could help the City Council make good decisions. In no way was I criticizing the City of Vero Beach employees of the utility, in fact I should have commended them for putting up with our community for the past 10 years while this keep/sell debate was raging and jeopardizing their jobs. I have spent a good deal of time talking to staff trying to understand the situation, rode around with Ted Fletcher just after the last hurricane, and have tremendous respect for him, Tom Richards before him, and his whole unit. I was criticizing City Council people like me, not knowledgeable people in Vero Electric. My apologies.

See Old’s original statement: Old sees power sale closing in 2018