When private thoughts go public 16

Editor’s note: Recently, a now-former Tump Administration official, Anthony Scaramucci, and current presidential advisor, Steve Bannon, gave reporters what they claim were to be off-the-record interviews. The full transcripts of both interviews soon became public. Neither Scaramucci nor Bannon appear to understand the rules under which journalist agree to receive off-the record comments. Locally, civic activist Phyllis Frey wrote an email to Press Journal columnist unilaterally declaring her comments to be “off the record.”  There is no indication, though, that Reisman made public Fry’s wacky email. It seems more likely Fry decided her rant too clever to keep private, and so shared it with others, perhaps with Vero Beach City Councilwoman Laura Moss. What we do know is that Moss read from Frey’s comments during a City Council meeting, thus making the email to Reisman a part of the public record. Below is the full text of Frey’s message to Reisman. Given Frey’s bizarre comments, that Moss seems to be on the same page with her is a bit troubling. 

Correction: The original version of this story posted August 17, 2017 at 8:01 p.m. indicated that Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss opened the August 10 Special Call meeting of the Vero Beach City Council with a statement that included excerpts from an email Phyllis Frey sent to Press Journal columnist Larry Reisman. While some of Moss’ opening statement reflects Frey’s views, it did not directly quote Frey’s email. One commenter to InsideVero, Susan Mehiel, cnfirmed that Frey’s email was sent to Moss and “was sent to 4 or 5 people after the meeting…”

Related story: Vero Beach Cultural Arts Village will be transformative

From:

Phyllis freyTo: larry.reisman reisman

Sent: Friday, August 11, 2017 8:55 AM

Subject: Fw: Follow up to the Special Call workshop: A star performance

Phyllis Frey

Good morning Larry,

Before I get down to a serious strategy, I thought I would impart a few private thoughts—off the record, about yesterday’s star performance by an all-star cast.

I set about my early morning reflections upon the charade that posed as a city council meeting yesterday. If all the world’s a stage, even Shakespeare would have been impressed by the parade of entertainers that strutted, pranced and danced their hour upon the stage, swirling like dervishes before the camera, entertaining all those “wonderful people out there in the dark” in true Norma Desmond fashion.

It was a five star performance by the art village. There were jesters hypnotizing the politicians who sat behind the dais, taken to their own final act of trolling for votes. The original purpose of researching and evaluating the Comprehensive Land Use 2035 POLICY Plan turned into a shadow puppet show then was shown the nearest exit. It was a document too boring, too filled with facts, much too sobering for such a giddy-faced crowd worked into a froth, lined up at the podium to extol the virtues of the arts. When the snake charmer brought the cobra from the basket, Councilman Winger was so entertained he said he would pass the Comp Plan on the spot as is! Bravo, bravo, another Zinger from Winger who was eager for the next act billed as “Salome’s Dance of the Seven Veils.”    More…

Moody’s economist speaks to Chamber’s Economic Leadership Alliance Reply

NEWS RELEASE

Dr. Mark Zandi, Bill Penney, and Helene Caseltine at Quail Valley on August 10, 201

On Thursday, August 10, the Indian River County Chamber of Commerce Economic Leadership Alliance welcomed Moody Analytics’ Chief Economist, Dr. Mark Zandi to speak to a small group at the Quail Valley River Club. Taking topic suggestions from the crowd, Dr. Zandi spoke brilliantly about subject matter most relevant to our local business owners and residents with regard to the U.S. and Florida economy. His overall outlook was positive.

Dr. Zandi directs economic research for Moody Analytics, a subsidiary of Moody’s Corp, which is a leading provider of economic research, data, and analytical tools. He regularly conducts briefings on the economy for corporate boards, trade associations, and policy makers, and has testified before Congress on topics including economic outlook, the nation’s fiscal challenges, the merits of fiscal stimulus, and financial regulatory reform. Having owned a home in Vero Beach since 2007, Dr. Zandi answered questions from the group spanning topics including unemployment, labor force, economic prospects, future recessions, real estate, the federal reserve balance sheet, and interest rates. More…

Old sees power sale closing in 2018 2

Former Vero Beach City Councilman Randy Old is running this fall to regain a set on the Council. Old this week issued the following “update” on the proposed sale of Vero Electric to Florida Power and Light. 

RANDY OLD

Randy Old

Short version: aiming to be signed by September 5th 2017, final FMPA approval by January 2018.

Longer Version:  at Tuesday’s City Council meeting both Florida Power and Light’s (FPL) and Florida Municipal Power Agency’s (FMPA) representatives together with Vero Beach’s lawyer brought the Council up to date on the progress of the sale. The numbers have not changed and they are approximately as follows:  FPL is paying $185 million, Vero is paying off its debt and exiting its Orlando Utility Commission (OUC) contract for $47 million, and exiting FMPA for $108 million leaving Vero with net proceeds of some $30 million. More…

Youngstown Ohio residents push to oust corporations from election campaigns Reply

Editor’s note: Locally, Florida Power and Light has spent more than $200,000 in pushing for passage of two local referendums and in supporting City Council candidates such as Tracy Carroll, Harry Howle, Lange Sykes and Laura Moss. At the state level, FPL has poured so much money into political campaigns and political action committees that the Tampa Bay Times editorial board this year described the Florida Legislature as “a wholly owned subsidiary of FPL.” 

RURAL AMERICA IN THESE TIMES

In their seventh attempt to put an end to the environmental threats the oil and gas industry pose to their land, water and right to self-governance, a community rights group in Youngstown, Ohio, is attempting to amend their city’s charter in order to ban corporate interference in their local elections.

With assistance from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF)—a non-profit, public interest law firm that provides legal services to communities facing outside threats to their local environment, local agriculture, local economy and quality of life—the Youngstown Community Bill of Rights Committee has gathered and submitted the signatures required to get the initiative, explained below, on their November ballot. Continue reading…

Airport’s World War II legacy ribbon cutting set for August 18 Reply

NEWS RELEASE

On Friday, August 18th, Vero Beach Regional Airport will conduct a ribbon cutting ceremony at the airport terminal lobby, 3400 Cherokee Drive in Vero Beach, to commemorate the Airport’s World War II legacy and especially celebrate the historical display of Lieutenant John Carney, United States Navy. Guests will start to arrive at 9:30 AM just after the Elite Airways flight departs for Newark, New Jersey.

Indian River County Historical Society, led by Carolyn Bayless and Ruth Stanbridge, presented the WWII artifacts which Ms. Alma Carney has held so dear for so many years to the Airport Staff. The artifacts are themselves a time capsule of LT Carneys experience as a Pilot trainee at Vero Beach Naval Air Station and his experience during WWII and Korean War. The Mayor of Vero Beach, Laura Moss, will be on hand to join Ms. Carney when she officially cuts the ribbon. More…

Vero Beach Cultural Arts Village will be transformative Reply

COMMENTARY

BARBARA HOFFMAN

How would you like to live in a home in a creative community where neighbors can live, work and sell their creations right from their homes? A community that appreciates and supports arts and culture? An established neighborhood – with small homes, large lots and tree canopied streets? A place where visitors will come to visit the shops and participate in the events?  

The Edgewood neighborhood residents and a Leadership Team under the Cultural Council of Indian River County have been developing the plans for the Cultural Arts Village. Located south of Route 60 between 14th and 20th Avenues, the Cultural Arts Village will complement the Downtown Arts District.

Starting with a design workshop held in September 2015 involving over 400 people; residents, architects, community leaders, historic preservationists, urban planners and city staff, putting their heads together to imagine what the Village could be. More…

An eerie silence 3

COMMENTARY

“Even our Representatives to Congress have two year terms. I fail to find any justification for increasing terms for City Council members.  More than ever before, Council members must be held responsible for their actions and face you the voter.” 

RICHARD WINGER

Richard Winger

It has always been said that 15-20 hours a week of “homework” was necessary for a City Council member to do the job.  I found this to be true from the very beginning. But recently there has been very little paperwork of any kind coming to my In-Box. Therefore no homework or study required.

This has been going on for a while now, and departs from past years when my 50 years experience with Fortune 100 companies was called upon for financial planning. It was especially troublesome when this year’s Budget session was approaching.

The Budget session has now ended leaving the City of Vero Beach underfunded and in deficit spending. This Council majority dismissed the long term financial planning that recent Council instituted, and for the third time they rejected Council Member Young’s request to have the Finance Commission study the proposed finances of the Electric Utility sale and its’ impact upon the City. More…

Behind closed doors 1

NEWS ANALYSIS

Though Moss has no legal authority to negotiate on behalf of the City, or to act with O’Connor as an ad hoc committee, that clearly seems to be what she is doing. Her actions, and those of O’Connor, could well be in violation of Florida’s open government laws.

MARK SCHUMANN

Jim O’Connor

Laura Moss

Today, representatives of the Florida Municipal Power Agency, the Orlando Utilites Commission, Florida Power and Light and the City of Vero Beach are to meet to discuss the proposed sale of Vero Electric to FPL.  Representing the City will be City Manager Jim O’Connor and Councilwoman/Mayor Laura Moss.

In explaining why the discussions will not be open to the public, and why other members of the City Council are not allowed to attend, O’Connor described the meeting as “administrative.”  The meeting may well be “administrative,” but it is also part of the entire decision-making process, or what Florida’s courts have described as “the inquiry and discussion stages.” These discussions, the courts have ruled, are also subject to the Sunshine Law.

Though Moss has no legal authority to negotiate on behalf of the City, or to act with O’Connor as an ad hoc committee, that clearly seems to be what she is doing. Her actions, and those of O’Connor, could well be in violation of Florida’s open government laws.

Addressing a similar situation, then Florida Attorney General Robert Butterworth wrote that for the Sunshine Law provisions requiring open meetings to apply, “2 or more members of a body or other entity or group to which the Sunshine Law applies must be present, or there must be delegation of decision-making by such a body to either a single member thereof or to an advisory group or committee used by the covering entity.” (Below is the full text of the Attorney General’s opinion.)

The City Council has never voted to delegate to Moss the authority to represent the City in its negotiations on the proposed sale of Vero Electric, but the Council’s acquiescence in Moss’ assertion of authority to do so could well be construed as consent.

If Moss, and now O’Connor, are skirting, if not violating, Florida’s open government laws and the City’s policies for handling public records, it will not be the first time. Last summer, as Chair of the Utilities Commission, Moss wrote the head of the Florida Public Service Commission, but failed to forward the correspondence to the City Clerk’s Office. More recently, Moss wrongly claimed as “privileged” documents that should have been public record, and Moss and O’Connor seemed to have collaborated in delaying the release of those documents until FPL was ready to make a public announcement relating to the documents.

Moss has publicly likened her role “like being the queen of Vero Beach.” If Moss is assuming she is above the law because “the monarch can do no wrong,” then she must think she is living in some country other than the United States of America.

At stake here is the interest of the City and the people of Vero Beach. With only Moss and O’Connor in the room, who is looking out for the people of Vero Beach?

Given that Moss was aided in her election by a $50,000 contribution from FPL to a political action committee supporting her, it is difficult to imagine how she can be expected to do anything other than capitulate to FPL’s every demand.

For his part, ever since assuming his position as City Manager, O’Connor has focused on protecting his job by shifting his priorities to conform to changes in the Council majority. Given that O’Connor well knows the current proposal is not a fair deal for Vero Beach, his going along with Moss can be seen as nothing other than malicious obedience.

More…

Will City Council members keep campaign commitments? 3

COMMENTARY

Editor’s note: Richard Winger is a member of the Vero Beach City Council. 

RICHARD WINGER

Richard Winger

Three days of budget discussions did absolutely nothing to bring our City into a financially secure future.  The can has been kicked down the road and it is financial management by crisis.

We now have deficit spending amid millions of dollars of financial shortfall.

All the good work of the last four Councils, when they began long term financial planning, was tossed away.

Summarily dismissed was the need to address the ancient stormwater infrastructure, collapsing culverts, unpaved and failing streets  and recreational facilities in need of repair.

Instead those monies were directed to other areas.  94% of the budget goes to City departments to provide services and cover fixed costs.  With employee numbers down, there is additional need to hire outside personnel to provide for essential services.

Prior Councils, in the recent past, addressed Employee Pension and Benefits under-funding, deferred purchase of cars and trucks, and deferred maintenance and repair of aging infrastructure/structures.  More…

Meter at City’s outside utility counsel running – now $136,757 2

MARK SCHUMANN

The City has not yet received an invoice from its outside utility counsel for work done in June. But the bill is now in for May, and it totals $73,051. Through the end of May, the Tampa based law firm of Carlton Fields has billed the City a total of $136,757 for crafting a letter of intent with Florida Power and Light, and working on contractual obligations the City has with Florida Municipal Power Agency and the Orlando Utilities Commission. These legal fees are ultimately paid by the City’s electric customers.

At some point, if the City is to be released of its long term obligations to the FMPA, all of the agency’s member cities will have to agree to the terms of just over $100 million.  One veto, presumably, will kill the deal.

On the OUC front, FPL had allowed for $20 million in its total offer of $185 million to settle the City’s wholesale power contracts. The OUC, however, has put Vero Beach on notice that the actual damages it will suffer could far exceed $20 million, perhaps as much as $50 million.  Resolving the difference could require expensive mediation, and perhaps even more costly litigation.

In negotiating the now defunct and shelved 2013 purchase sand sale agreement between FPL and Vero Beach, the law firm of Edwards Wildman charged more than $1 million. Edwards and Wildman was replaced by Tallahassee utility counsel Schef Wright. At half the hourly rate of Edwards Wildman, Wright defended the City against a lawsuit pursued by the Town of Indian River Shores. Wright also negotiated a revised agreement with the OUC that shortened the length of the contract and cut City’s wholesale power bills.

In dismissing Wright and hiring attorneys with Carlton Fields, Council members Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes, again signed the City up with a $500-an-hour attorneys.

 

Independence – gained and protected at a price 1

On this Independence Day, InsideVero salutes all residents of Vero Beach and Indian River County who have protected our cherished liberties through service in the United States Armed Forces. Below left is Vero Beach resident, Colonel Jim Thompson, U.S. Army Retired. Thompson, a graduate of Vero Beach Senior High School, completed ROTC training at Mercer University. He began two years of active duty service in September, 1954 at Fort Lee, Virginia, and served another 28 years in the United States Army Reserves, retiring in 1984 as Colonel. He served a total of 30 years and 30 days. Thompson and his wife, Lois, live in Vero Beach.

State Attorney asked to review Laura Moss’s handling of public records 7

Laura Moss

For a full ten days in advance of the release of Florida Power and Light’s letter of intent to acquire Vero Electric, Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss kept in her private possession a draft of the document. On May 1, Moss received the draft in an email from the City’s outside utility counsel with the law firm of Carlton Fields.

Rather than sending the correspondence to Moss’s official City of Vero Beach email address, the outside counsel instead directed  it to the Mayor’s private email address. Despite the fact that the documents in Moss’s possession should have been immediately forwarded to the City Clerk’s Office and made a part of the public records, Moss withheld the information until the afternoon of May 10. Without question the documents in Moss’s possession were the legitimate subject of public records requests made by Brian Heady, InsideVero and the Press Journal on May 2, May 6 and May 8,

Today, in an email to Assistant State Attorney Chris Taylor, InsideVero editor and publisher Mark Schumann set forth the reasons why he believes Moss should be investigated for a possible violation of Florida’s open records laws. The following is the full text of Schumann’s letter to Taylor. More…

Brovont raises questions about power sale ‘negotiations’ 1

MARK SCHUMANN

Glen Brovont

“Shut down,” “censored,” and “muzzled” are a few words being used to describe the state of Vero Beach’s Utilities and Finance Commissions. As Press Journal columnist Larry Reisman wrote this week, “In 3-2 votes two months apart, the council majority of Laura Moss, Lange Sykes and Harry Howle muzzled their advisory commissions from meeting to analyze the latest details of a possible sale.”

One community leader who is deeply concerned over the decision of Moss, Sykes and Howle to press ahead with the proposed power sale without conducting due diligence is Finance Commission Chairman Glen Brovont.

Brovont wrote and distributed an email yesterday raising as many as a dozen concerns about where the deal stands and where it may be headed.  The scathing email is written in code, so as not to violate the Council majority’s dictate forbidding discussion of the Orlando Utilities Commission, the Florida Municipal Power Agency or Florida Power & Light. Code or no code, it does not take a counter intelligence expert to read between the lines of Brovont’s message. Clearly he does not believe any meaningful negotiations are taking place between the City and FPL. Rather, it appears Moss, Howle and Sykes, all of whom were heavily supported in their campaigns by FPL, are simply accepting the utility giant’s opening offer.)

In addition to expressing concern about the the lack of due diligence and the apparent absence of any meaningful negotiations, Brovont questioned whether Council members are fulfilling their fiduciary responsibility to the City. He also questioned if the negotiations and surrounding communications are taking place in compliance with Florida’s open government laws.  (In late April, Laura Moss received email communication from the City’s special utility council on her private email account. Despite public records requests for the documents having been made on May 2, May 6 and May 8, Moss claimed the information was “proprietary,” and refused to turn the records over to the City Clerk’s Office until May 10 at 3:00 p.m. May 10 just happened to be the date when FPL was prepared to make public the terms of its proposed letter of intent to acquire Vero Electric. Moss’s deliberate delay in releasing what should have been easily accessible public records may well be a violation of the Florida Sunshine Law.)

The full text of Brovont’s email appears below. In deciphering his memo, it is helpful to note that the “Stalking Lion” stands for Florida Power and Light, the “Elephant” for the Orlando Utilities Commission and the “Rhino” for the the Florida Municipal Power Agency. More…

Worth reading: Press Journal columnist calls for careful vetting of power deal 1

“…And while power users likely will see significant cost savings, questions remain over how the city will cope financially without the $5 million to $6 million the electric operation transfers into the city’s general fund annually…This is the people’s business. It is the people’s electric utility and government. Any proposed deal must be fully vetted, with the public given plenty of opportunity to learn more about the proposal and to weigh in.” – Larry Reisman Continue reading…

So much for “conservative” support of local control 2

Corcoran touts Legislature as more responsive

Editor’s note: If House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s point is that through big spending in political campaigns corporate giants such as Florida Power and Light can gain control of local governments, as they have done in Vero Beach, he has a point. At the same time, though, FPL has poured so many millions of dollars into the campaign accounts of members of the Florida Legislature that one can now reasonably argue the Legislature is a wholly owned subsidiary of FPL. 

ADAM C. SMITH/TAMPA BAY TIMES

Florida House of Representatives Speaker Richard Corcoran thinks Tallahassee knows best.

Florida’s Legislature is more responsive to Floridians and less susceptible to special interest influence than local governments, House Speaker Richard Corcoran asserted to a skeptical and occasionally hostile group of Tampa Bay residents Friday.

 

“If you are a special interest or you are somebody that wants to curry favor, it is generally much more difficult in a comparative scale to get something through in the state government that would affect the state than it is the local government,” the Pasco County Republican told about 100 people gathered for the weekly Cafe con Tampa breakfast in South Tampa. Continue reading…

Related article… Local governments responsive to citizens

 

Decency. Diligence. Democracy. 

Where are you?  6

COMMENTARY

RICHARD WINGER

Richard Winger

There seems to be a reluctance on the part of a Council majority to examine the details of FP&L’s offer for our Electric utility.  This is difficult to accept.

The last contract was blindly signed by Council members who were not diligent about the terms, specifically to standing contractual obligations. After millions of our ratepayer dollars were later spent on legal actions, the courts confirmed those legally binding contracts.  The result was having a contract with FP&L which could not be executed.  We are supposed to learn by mistakes and not repeat them.

I have been working for 7 years to complete this sale and I am not stopping now. But it has become problematic.

When I bring up challenges to the successful completion of the sale my comments are routinely interrupted by Mayor Laura Moss who attempts to silence me. Vice Mayor Harry Howle then raises his voice, leans forward, turns towards me and proceeds with accusations that have no basis in fact.  Silence. The agenda moves on. More…

Finance Commissioners raise questions about power sale 3

NEWS ANALYSIS

“I share the concern of many ratepayers that the proposed purchase price of $185,000,000 may be insufficient.” – Dan Stump

“Sykes claims executive experience. In truth, the company he ran was a one employee, home based business. Similarly, Howle and Moss lack the financial experience to conclude a nearly $200 million transaction without advice and input from members of the City’s advisory commissions. Lacking that vital input, they could at least use some courageous guidance from O’Connor.” 

MARK SCHUMANN

Glen Brovont

Dan Stump

Peter Gorry

Vero Beach City Council members Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes last week voted to forbid the Finance and Utilities Commissions from discussing, reviewing, or analyzing the proposed sale of Vero Electric. (Like former Council member Tracy Carroll, Howle, Moss and Sykes all benefited from substantial campaign contributions from Florida Power & Light.)

Clearly displeased at being muzzled, Finance Commission Chairman Glen Brovont wrote to City Clerk Tammy Bursick, “While censorship may be in vogue, a finance meeting should be scheduled as soon after receipt of the budget data.” He added, “Even dictatorial societies found while the mouth may be shut, the brain can still question and think.”

Even Commission member Dan Stump, who headed a political action committee that raised and spent more than $100,000 supporting Moss and Sykes, is now calling for negotiation of the purchase price of Vero Electric. In an email to City Manager Jim O’Connor Stump wrote, “I share the concern of many ratepayers that the proposed purchase price of $185,000,000 may be insufficient.” More…

Howle, Moss and Sykes are selling out the people of Vero Beach 5

Lange Sykes' acceptance of so much outside money in his latest campaign, (90%), suggest that, if elected, he may have an extremely difficult time balancing loyalty to his patrons against his fiduciary responsibility to the people of Vero Beach.
COMMENTARY

“The troika seems determined to make the best deal possible for FPL and for Shores interests.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Imagine the suspicions that would be raised if a U.S. presidential candidate received 70 percent of their total campaign contributions from Russian oligarchs.

The Russians don’t care about public policy in Vero Beach, Florida, but Indian River Shores oligarchs sure do. They contributed heavily to the campaigns of Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes, and they joined Florida Power and Light in raising more than $100,000 to fund a political action committee to support Moss and Sykes in last fall’s municipal election. (Moss received 70 percent of her campaign funds from Shores residents. Sykes took in 90 percent of his campaign funds from the Shores.) More…

Indian River Shores Councilman derails Vero Beach’s Utilities Commission 2

City Code:

The utilities commission shall meet at least once every quarter.”

COMMENTARY

“…Howle, Moss and Sykes continue to insist a partial sale at $30 million would be a good deal for the City. Just this week though, Finance Director Cindy Lawson released a report projecting that a partial sale will lead to a 1.9 percent rate increase for the remaining customers and a tax hike on City residents of 9 percent to 12 percent.”

“With Howle, Moss and Sykes in the majority at City Hall, and with Brian Barefoot and Bob Solari behind the scenes pulling their strings, Vero Beach is quickly becoming like Venezuela, a failed democracy.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Robert Auwaerter – The fox in the henhouse

Laura Moss

In what appears to be a clear violation of City of Vero Beach Ordinances, the City’s Utilities Commission has gone dormant. Indian River Shores Town Councilman Robert Auwaerter, who just happens to also be Vice Chair of the Vero Beach Utilities Commission, has yet to call a meeting of the Commission in 2017.  Auwaerter assumed responsibility of the Commission when the previous Chair, Laura Moss, was elected to the Vero Beach City Council.

Vero Beach City Ordinances require the Commission to meet to elect a new Chair.  According to City Clerk Tammy Bursick, her office has inquired with Auwaerter monthly about convening the Utilities Commission. Each month he has declined to do so.

Auwaerter is a ally of Moss, who won election with overwhelming financial support from Indian River Shores residents and from a political action committee that raised more than $100,000 exclusively from Shores residents and Florida Power and Light. (Shores residents graced Moss with 70 percent of her campaign contributions. Lange Sykes took in 90 percent of his funds from the Shores.) One has to wonder if, in failing to convene the Utilities Commission, Auwaerter is taking direction from Moss, who appears to be receiving her marching orders from Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot and from FPL. More…

The latest conspiracy theory Reply

Listening to public comments made during yesterday’s Vero Beach City Council meeting, one might wonder if blowhard conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has contacts in Vero Beach. The latest suspicion theorizes that a broadly popular proposal to develop an Arts Village as a way to help revitalize downtown Vero Beach is a dark conspiracy being foisted on the community by leaders of  the Treasure Coast Regional Planing Council. And, as everyone knows, the TCRPC is controlled by United Nations officials who seek to create “One World Government.” All of this is absurd, of course, but that doesn’t keep devotees of County Commission Bob Solari from making such claims. Perhaps unwittingly, they are being used to create an issue for the next municipal elections.  If the electric issues is well on the way to being concluded by the end of this summer, Solari, the local Tea Party and other limited government extremists will need another issue to help elect candidates determined to turn the City of Vero Beach over to the County Commission.

OUC wants far more than $20 million to settle electric contracts Reply

Winger, Young decry lack of negotiations

NEWS ANALYSIS

“Who is looking at the financial implications of this deal? It is not being done.”  – Councilman Tony Young

“Given that, as candidates, Howle, Moss and Sykes were all heavily supported by FPL, perhaps Young should not be surprised to see them accept whatever FPL offers.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Tony Young

Richard Winger

In an email sent yesterday to Vero Beach City Manager Jim O’Connor, Orlando Utilities Commission Vice President Jan Aspuru put the City on notice that it will cost far more than $20 million to settle its obligations to the OUC. Aspuru noted that the letter of intent between Florida Power and Light and the City for the sale of Vero Electric provides no more than $20 million to release Vero Beach from its contractual obligations to the OUC. Vero Beach buys the bulk of its wholesale power from the OUC.

“I wanted you to know that the OUC’s damages will far exceed the $20 million if Vero Beach defaults on its contractual commitments to the OUC,” Aspuru wrote.

FPL is now offering some some $20 million less for Vero Electric than the company was willing to pay in 2014. Previous forecasts based on FPL’s offer suggested the City would net $30 million in cash from FPL. Aspuru’s caution raises the prospect that the City could wind up getting nothing from the deal.

Despite these developments, Council members Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes continue to insist FPL’s offer is more than fair. This week, over the objections of Councilmen Richard Winger and Tony Young, Howle, Moss and Sykes voted to impose a gag order on the City’s Commissions. Those boards are now forbidden from discussing or analyzing the impacts of the proposed sale. More…

Space Coast Symphony Winds and Chorus perform patriotic favorites at The Emerson Center Reply

NEWS RELEASE

Indian River County residents are encouraged to don red, white and blue and wave the flag during the Space Coast Symphony Wind Orchestra’s free patriotic concert, America the Beautiful. The concert will be performed at 2:00 PM on Saturday, June 24 at the Emerson Center, 1590 27th Avenue, Vero Beach, 32960.

Presented in conjunction with the Space Coast Symphony Chorus, America the Beautiful will showcase our national heritage as conductor and artistic director Aaron T. Collins directs the wind orchestra with music by John Williams, Richard Rodgers, Lee Greenwood, and marches from “The March King,” John Philip Sousa. The concert will open with an extended version of the “Star Spangled Banner.” The women of the Space Coast Symphony Chorus will perform several works with the ensemble, including “God Bless the USA” and “Hymn to the Fallen” from the film, Saving Private Ryan. Among the many rousing patriotic numbers will be a salute to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces; veterans will be asked to stand when their service song is played. Audience members are asked to wear red, white and blue in a show of patriotic solidarity.

Artistic Director and Conductor, Aaron T. Collins, considers it an honor to salute the USA and our veterans. “We owe everything to the men and women who have worn our nation’s uniform,” said Collins. “These concerts are a powerful way to come together as a community and celebrate our great nation. To top it off, we are thrilled to be back at The Emerson Center for this awesome concert.”

Main Street Vero Beach receives national accreditation Reply

NEWS RELEASE 

Elaine Jones

Carolyn Kleinpeter

Main Street Vero Beach has been designated as an accredited Main Street America™ program for meeting rigorous performance standards set by the National Main Street Center. Each year, the National Main Street Center and its Coordinating Program partners announce the list of accredited Main Street America programs in recognition of their exemplary commitment to preservation-based economic development and community revitalization through the Main Street Approach®.

“It is a great honor to recognize this year’s 828 nationally Accredited Main Street America programs for their outstanding work to transform downtown and neighborhood commercial districts,” says Patrice Frey, President & CEO of the National Main Street Center. “Main Streets are the heart of our communities, and the work they do to create quality public spaces, catalyze local entrepreneurship, and support downtown housing is more important than ever. Across the county, Main Street America programs truly strengthen the economic, social, and cultural fabric of their entire communities.”

The organization’s performance is annually evaluated by Florida Main Street, which works in partnership with the National Main Street Center to identify the local programs that meet ten performance standards. Evaluation criteria determines the communities that are building comprehensive and sustainable revitalization efforts and include standards such as fostering strong public-private partnerships, securing an operating budget, tracking programmatic progress and actively preserving historic buildings. More…

VNA welcomes new board member, Karen Schievelbein Reply

NES RELEASE                                                

Karen Schievelbein

The Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) welcomes Karen Schievelbein to their board of directors. A VNA and Hospice Foundation board member and finance committee member, Schievelbein’s professional background includes business development, financial analysis, risk management and accounting. She has served as chief financial officer for Blue Cross of California, Blue Shield of California and United Behavioral Health before becoming the chief operating officer of Spectera UnitedHealthcare Dental from which she retired in 2007. 

”The role of the VNA and Hospice Foundation is to strategically build and strengthen relationships with people interested in supporting the local health care delivery system  and specifically the areas of home health care, hospice services and community wellness programs through the VNA,” said Anne Cooney, Chair of the Foundation’s Nominating Committee. “Karen’s unique health care experience and accounting expertise aligned well with our organization’s commitment to accountability, fiscal responsibility and transparency for our donors and partners.”  More…

Our obligation to endow the City of Vero Beach 1

COMMENTARY

Editor’s Note: Richard Winger is a member of the Vero Beach City Council.

RICHARD WINGER

Richard Winger

The Good news in my message today is that FP&L has submitted a document stating their intent to finalize a Purchase and Sale Agreement at Council’s only meeting in July on the 18th. Their document includes details of their  “Due Diligence” for the Acquisition of our Electric Utility.  The draft had been submitted and now they will finalize it.

This “Agreement” will be something determined by each party: FP&L’s part is the “Purchase” and the City’s part is the “Sale”. When does the City start to work on our “due diligence”?  Surely it cannot be an Agreement when only one party to it has done “Due Diligence”.

This is where the Bad enters my message. Not only have we not done our due diligence, but we now learn the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) has just made it clear they find FP&L’s offer in the Letter of Intent for the Vero Beach exit unacceptable. This is the same situation we had in the prior contract which expired last December.  At that time FP&L wanted to pass along $26,000,000 to the ratepayers, to be attached to their monthly bills, to accommodate OUC’s exit cost. If we are face with that again, power bills would likely increase over current Vero Beach rates, given the City has gone down 15% and FPL has gone up 10%.  The differential has shrunk greatly.
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A possible ugly outcome for the budget 1

COMMENTARY

Editor’s note: Richard Winger is a member of the Vero Beach City Council.

RICHARD WINGER        

Richard Winger

The Good news is property values have increased by 6.9% and is expected to provide an additional $400,000 to City revenues this year.

The Bad news is we are going into our Annual Budget preparations with an existing more than a million dollar shortfall in funding for just street and storm water repair.  And, there is not enough money for existing staff.

Please don’t accept arguments that the City has too many employees.  That simply is not true.  Past Councils have systematically reduced staff to a barebones level.

The Ugly is there is no other significant revenue increase coming in. And, there will be a loss of annual funds, once the sale of the Electric Utility to FP&L is completed. More…

A Father and Son Memorial Day Reply

Jim and David Thompson  –  Once again my son David came to town and we went in uniform to the Memorial Day Service on Veterans Memorial Island. He wore his dress blues and I wore my BDUs. It’s our small way of paying tribute to those in Lincoln’s words who, “Gave the last full measure of devotion”.  (David’s grandfather, J.A. “Coach” Thompson, also served in the U.S. Coast Guard.)