Five cars burglarized in central beach area Tuesday night 1

NEWS RELEASE

Our officers located five burglarized vehicles last night (Tuesday), pursuant to a suspicious persons call in the area of Holy Cross Church. All of the vehicles were located on Riomar Drive and appeared to have been rummaged through. Nothing was missing from four of the vehicles, and a key fob was stolen from one of the cars. Our officers were able to get a description for the suspicious persons and their vehicle, and Indian River County Sheriff’s Office was able to make contact with that vehicle and made two arrests. We will update you as IRCSO releases more information.

In the meantime, please check your vehicles and make sure nothing is missing or has been tampered with. As always, please lock your vehicles and do not leave anything inside. Please stay safe and vigilant, and we will keep you updated.

Officer Anna Carden, 395, Vero Beach Police Department

City Council votes 4-1 to accept FPL’s letter of intent 1

NEWS ANALYSIS

MARK SCHUMANN

The Vero Beach City Council today voted 4-1 to accept in principle a proposal from Florida Power and Light to acquire Vero Electric for $185 million. The deal is projected to net the City $36 million. The likely sale proceeds will fall far short of the $180 million utility activists Glenn Heran and Steven Faherty once claimed would flow to the City from a sale.

A key component in FPL’s offer is a coupling of the proposed full sale with a sale of Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customer base. As a fallback, if the full sale cannot be completed, Vero Beach will be obligated to sell its Indian River Shores customers to FPL for $30 million.

Councilman Richard Winger, after sustaining a long and withering personal attack from Mayor Laura Loss, raised concerns about committing to the partial sale at $30 million. Last year, a team of utility experts concluded a partial sale as much less than $42 million would lead to higher rates for the remaining customers. As a candidate for re-election, former City Councilman Randy Old said agreeing to a partial sale at $30 million would be a breach of a Council member’s fiduciary responsibility to the City and to the people of Vero Beach. More…

Letter: Selling Vero Electric is Un-American 2

Editor’s note: The following letter received by InsideVero yesterday was also sent to City Council of Vero Beach, Town Council of Indian River Shores and Board of County Commissioners, Indian River County.

“I believe in municipal ownership of all public service monopolies… because if you do not own them, they will in time own you. They will rule your politics, corrupt your institutions and finally destroy your liberties!” – Thomas L. Johnson, Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, 1908

 

Selling Vero Electric to FPL is Un-American!

Please acknowledge about Florida Power and Light’s (FPL) upcoming multiple rate increases, surcharges and more increase(s) and surcharge(s) to come later.

Please acknowledge about FPL’s SurgeShield program is ripping off their customers. Vero Electric already have surge protections in all places and does not charge.

Please acknowledge about local media blackout (Indian River Press Journal/TCPalm and 32963/VeroNews) on FPL’s multiple rate increases and surcharges. InsideVero and out of town newspapers reported the increases.

Please acknowledge about Bob Brunjes, Indian River Press Journal/TCPalm publisher is married to Amy Brunjes, FPL executive.

Please acknowledge the current rates between Vero Electric and FPL is now less than 8% – greatly reduced from 34% in 2009. More…

Moss using personal email account for official City business Reply

For more than a week, Mayor Moss delayed turning over to the City Clerk’s Office official communication received on her personal email account

 

MARK SCHUMANN

Documents requested May 2 but not released until May 10 reveal that Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss has used her personal email account to conduct official City business.  The use of her private email address for City business would not necessarily raise questions, except that Moss has also delayed providing those documents to the City Clerk’s office. Below are just two of a number of emails Moss received on her personal email account from attorney’s with the law firm of Carlton Fields.

At the May 2 City Council meeting, Moss claimed City staff has been conducting “a thorough financial review” of the proposed sale of Vero Electric. None of the documents release by the City late last week suggest any such review has taken place. Clearly, there are only two possibilities. Either Moss is misleading the public about what review, if any, has taken place, or she and/or City Staff are withholding documents that are the subject of several public records requests.

Last summer, in her capacity as Chair of the Utilities Commission Moss wrote the Chair of the Florida Public Service Commission, but never provided the City Clerk’s Office with a copy of the correspondence. Moss’s letter to the PSC only came to light when it was made public by PSC staff.

 

Press Journal columnist misstates electric rate comparison Reply

The Indian River County Commission assesses a 6% franchise fee on the electric bills of country residents who are customers of Vero Electric, and of FPL. Similarly, If an when the become customers of Vero Electric residents and businesses within the city will also pay a 6% franchise fee, yielding an effective FPL rate of $108.69, compared to Vero Beach’s current rate of $116.08. The difference between the two rates is 6.4%, not 20%, as many continue to claim.

COMMENTARY

“Reisman and his colleagues at Treasure Coast Newspapers persist in presenting the rate differential between Vero Electric and FPL in a way that shows how much more FPL customers would pay, if they switched to Vero Electric. This is a misleading and meaningless comparison. The relevant percentage is the savings Vero Electric customers could expect by switching to FPL. At 1000 kilowatt hours, that number is 8.7% for county customers and 6.3% for customers within the city. At 1200 kilowatt hours, based on today’s rates, the savings would be 14.3% for county customers and 9.1% for customers within the city.” 

MARK SCHUMANN

For years, in comparing rates between Vero Electric and Florida Power and Light, the FPL-friendly Press Journal has followed FPL’s lead in quoting 1000 kilowatt hour rates.  Probably because this measure now yields the least favorable comparison from FPL’s perspective, the Press Journal is quoting rates at 1,200 kilowatt hours.

On the mainland, inside and outside the city limits, some 90 percent of Vero Electric’s residential customers use an average of less than 1000 kilowatt hours per month. Based on the most recent information available from FPL and the City, at 1000 kilowatt hours, the rate differential between the two utilities is 8.7 percent, $116.08 for Vero Electric and $102.64 for FPL. Reisman seems not to want to use these numbers, probably because he has for the last 7 years been telling his readers they could save 25 percent or more, if the City would only sell its electric system to FPL. In fact, the FPL-friendly Press Journal has played key role in leading the public to embrace an exaggerated sense of the benefits of the proposed power sale.

Not only has Reisman taken to using a different rate level for comparison, he misstates the delta. As of March, FPL’s rate for 1200 kilowatts of residential power was $122.40. Vero Beach’s rate was $142.87.  The difference between those two rates is 14.3 percent, not 17 percent, as Reisman claimed when he wrote, “That’s about 17 percent more than FPL rates.” The simple, undeniable, indisputable fact is that at 1200 kilowatt hours customers of FPL are paying 14.3 percent less than customers of Vero Electric, not 17%. More…

In the face of shifting facts, will opinions on power sale remain unchanged? 4

Vero Beach FPL* Differential
March, 2017 116.08 105.98 8.7%
October, 2016 116.08 94.63 18.5%
November, 2013 130.93 98.29 24.9%
June, 2009 158.82 104.37 34.3%
COMMENTARY

“If the residents of Vero Beach who continue to support the power sale believe the deal will lead to significantly lower electric rates, they are going to be disappointed. If they think the move will not result in higher taxes, cuts in services, and major setbacks for the City, they are sorely misguided.”

“Sponsored and supported by FPL, aided by a power-hungry County Commission, and advised by Indian River Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot, what Howle, Moss and Sykes most lack is loyalty to the City and to the people of Vero Beach. Bathed in blissful ignorance, and supported by outside interests, they are prepared to drive the City to the brink of financial disaster.”

MARK SCHUMANN

In 2009, utility activists Glenn Heran and Steven Faherty began making presentations throughout the community to build support for the sale of Vero Electric to Florida Power and Light. At the time, the rate differential between the two utilities was 34.3%. Not only did Heran and Faherty promise impressive savings on electric bills, they assured everyone the sale would net the City more than $180 million. The money, they reasoned, could be invested, with the earnings used to make up for the $7 million that is annually transferred from the electric fund to the General Fund. That money helps pay for municipal services, such as police protection, recreation programs, life guards and parks maintenance.

It has been eight years since the two utility activists, encouraged and aided by FPL, began persuading the public of the supposed benefits of selling Vero Beach’s electric utility. Over the past eight years much has changed. FPL’s rates have risen, but more importantly Vero Electric’s rates have continued to decline. As a result, customers of Vero Electric stand to save far, far less than originally promised. Based on information available through the Florida Municipal Electric Association, for Vero Beach residents, the effective rate differential is now 8.7%. According to rate information quoted on FPL’s website, the differential is just 6.3%. (According the rates currently being quoted by FPL on its website, the after residential customers using 1000 kWh per month is paying $102.64, this is $2.66 more than the 1000 kWh rate listed on the FMEA website. The difference may have to do with peaking charges, but suffice to say FPL’s rate structure is complicated.) More…

Candidate Randy Old releases statement on proposed power sale 3

Editor’s note: Former Vero Beach City Councilman Randy Old will be running again for a seat on the Council this coming November. Old today released a statement supporting the sale of Vero Electric on the terms recently proposed by FPL.  

FPL’s offer to buy the full utility system is coupled it with agreement to a partial sale of the City’s Indian River Shores customers for $30 million. If the board of the Florida Municipal Power Agency does not approve the deal, or if for any other reason it cannot be completed, Vero Beach will be obligated to sell its Shores customers and infrastructure to FPL for $30 million.

While running for re-election last fall, Old said agreeing to sell the Shores portion of Vero Electric for $30 million would have been a violation of his fiduciary responsibility to the City and to the people of Vero Beach. The statement Old released today does not make clear whether he now supports a partial sale at $30 million, though he did indicates some points in FPL’s proposal may “need to be altered or negotiated.”

Florida Power and Light Makes Offer to City Electric Business

Randy Old

FPL’s offer to the City to buy the entire electric business was announced yesterday. Simply put, FPL is offering to pay $185 million leaving the City with $37 million in cash after the City pays to exit its contracts with FMPA ($108) and OUC ($20), and pays off electric business debt ($20). This should be accepted by the City Council.

The agreements are long and detailed, and there may be some issues that need to be altered or negotiated, but most seem straight forward and reasonable. There are some key issues included. FMPA’s board must unanimously approve the transaction. One City voting against the sale could stop it. I believe that FMPA will approve the transaction and the full sale will be achieved. However, the other key point is, that if the full sale does not go through then, there is a commitment to sell the Indian River Shores portion of Vero Electric to Florida Power and Light.

FMPA reduced its price for Vero to exit its obligations from over $350 million to $108 million, or a 70% reduction. This reduction which happened in the fall, allowed the transaction to become viable. FPL’s past offer was similar to this in size but included our existing plant and other issues not appropriate in this offer. However, had past City Councils agreed to take FLP’s offer of $185 million, and had to pay $350 million to get out of FMPA, plus pay OUC $20 million to exit its contract, and repay its debt of $20 million, the City would have had a net loss on the transaction of $205 million ( +$185 – $350 -$20-$20 = – $205). An impossibility. With the reduced cost to exit FMPA, the transaction is not only possible but attractive.

FMPA changed its mind, was is the new CEO, was is the amount of legislative pressure in Tallahassee, or just a change of heart. But it doesn’t really matter; this is a reasonable transaction that should be accepted.

Next steps, be sure the city uses the proceeds of the sale wisely to minimize the adverse effect on Vero’s finances and its taxpayers. Also, it goes without saying, that it will be a huge relief to the community to have this issue not dominate and divide the city, as it has for the past several years.

Randy Old

Solari’s fingerprints all over deceptive email newsletter 2

COMMENTARY

In the name of liberty, Solari proposes taking from the people of Vero Beach the freedom to make their own decisions about development restrictions, protections against short terms rentals, and choices about levels of service from police protection to recreation programs.

Make no mistake about it, the current push to sell Vero Electric is not about lower electric rates. Underlying all the arguments made by Solari and his fellow County Commissioners is a darker motivation to force the City of Vero Beach into disincorporation. 

MARK SCHUMANN

An extreme limited government Libertarian masquerading as a conservative, Indian River County Commissioner Bob Solari is a master of deception.

A local “group” calling itself “American Conservatism” today sent out an email newsletter full of the exact kind of misinformation that has so confused in many people’s minds the real costs and benefits of the proposed sale of Vero Electric. Though no names of leaders or officers are presented in the newsletter, it gives at the organization’s address the home address of Indian River County Commissioner Bob Solari.

Solari, to be sure, embraces and typifies, not conservatism, but Libertarian, limited-government extremism.   What the Commissioner is really after, of course, is consolidated local government. Solari, who feeds at the public troff, hates government in any and all forms. He hopes and expects the sale of Vero Electric will lead to a fiscal crisis that will force the City to then sell its well-run and profitable water and sewer utility to the County. Solari, who is informally directing Vero Beach City Council members Harry Howle and Lange Sykes, also hopes for the consolidation of other public services, and eventually the absorption of the City into the County in a unified local government.

In the name of liberty, Solari proposes taking from the people of Vero Beach the freedom to make their own decisions about development restrictions, protections against short terms rentals, and choices about levels of service from police protection to recreation programs.

Make no mistake about it, the current push to sell Vero Electric is not about lower electric rates. Underlying all the arguments made by Solari and his fellow County Commissioners is a darker motivation to force the City of Vero Beach into disincorporation.

Solari’s propaganda piece included the following misleading statement. “One result of City service is that for the past 10 years COVB ratepayers have been paying some 20% to 30% more for electricity than private sector customers have been paying –  paying roughly an extra $200 million that could have remained in the community helping residents lead a better life.”

What Solari was careful not to mention is that for Vero Beach residents the effective rate differential between Vero Electric and Florida Power and Light is now down to less than 7%, to the 20% 30% he claims.

Further attempting to mislead the public, Solari’s newsletter claimed that over the next 10 years, the customers of Vero Electric will pay $200 million more than if they were customers of FPL.  Given the narrowed and continually narrowing gap between the rates of FPL and Vero Electric, the claim is preposterous.

Facebook comments on power sale reveal that some, perhaps many are misinformed, or uninformed 1

COMMENTARY

“If the general belief is that electric rates are going to come down 20% to 30%, and if the widespread assumption is that the sale will not results in tax increases, and/or cuts in municipal services, then pressing ahead with the sale amounts to malicious obedience.” 

MARK SCHUMANN

This past weekend, I took exception to a commenter’s assertion that, despite the unprecedented level of outside money that poured into last fall’s municipal election, the results were a fine example of democracy in action. In truth, the election of Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes to the Vero Beach City Council is a sad example of how money can buy power, especially when the press fails to do its job.

Last fall, more than $100,000, half of it given by Florida Power and Light and half contributed by Indian River Shores residents, funded a political action committee supporting Moss and Sykes. The committee used the money to carry out an extensive disinformation campaign of truly outlandish claims and promises. Further, Sykes received 90 percent of his financial support from Shores residents. Moss took in 70 percent of her campaign contributions from outside Vero Beach. Without question, outside money bought their seats on the Council.

The commenter wrote, “Their paths to office are in accordance with their constitutional rights, and now the City’s decisions rest in their hands.”

In a response titled “A failure of the fourth estate,” I wrote: More…

Meter running of City’s legal bills – $49,498.25 for first month 3

MARK SCHUMANN

Florida Power and Light officials yesterday submitted a letter of intent containing proposed terms for the sale of Vero Electric.  Today, attorneys with the law firm of Carlton Fields, all of whom charge $480 per hour, today submitted an invoice to the City totaling $48,498.25 for work done through the end of March in helping preparing and review FPL’s offer.

Next Tuesday, the Council is to consider, and will likely vote to accept, FPL’s proposed terms. At that point the expensive work of hammering out a formal contract will begin. The previous purchase and sale agreement between Vero Beach and FPL expired at the end of last year. The City’s outside counsel charged more than $1 million to write that now defunct contract.

Dereliction of Duty: Council members continue to allow Mayor Moss to exercise monarchial powers 2

Mayor Laura Moss, who recently described herself at the “queen” of Vero Beach, continues to mistake the ceremonial role of mayor with that of a chief executive officer. Moss recently refused to respond to public records request for copies of notes she took during meetings and telephone calls with representatives of Florida Power and Light. As of April 28, Moss also had in her possession a draft of FPL’s letter of intent to acquire Vero Electric. Moss was asked on May 2 to provide the documents as a part of the public record. She delayed releasing them until May 10.

Dear Editor:

I read with interest your article with regard to Vero Beach mayor Laura Moss and her letter titled “Dereliction of Duty.”  In this letter she shifts blame to the City Attorney for her wrongful and illegal attacks against citizens who express differing opinions.   

Having a police officer take any citizen into custody and removed from a public meeting and further issuing orders banning citizens from meetings is in short an attack on our fundamental freedom of speech. 

Her analogies that differing opinions are akin to yelling fire in a crowded theater are equally absurd. And her new attempt to blame the city attorney for not controlling her is yet another absurdity. Her allegation of his “Dereliction of Duty” is actionable. You can’t make false allegations against those under your command without consequences. And now the public record shows that mayor making formal allegations against the city attorney which become part of his job history.  If you were in the hiring position for a city attorney would you hire an attorney who has been accused by his mayor of not doing his job?

In summary, for city council members to allow or condone by inaction her behavior is the real “dereliction of duty.”  The other council members have an obligation to the taxpaying citizens to remove such a person from a seat of power.

Brian Heady

See: In the hot seat, Moss seeks to shift blame

Today, Coment provided the following response to Moss:

FPL ties partial sale to full sale, wants 99-year lease on City property 2

As a condition of its offer, FPL is asking to lease a portion of the power plant site for 99 years. The previous purchase and sale agreement between the City and FPL, which expired Dec. 31, 2016, called for the company to lease the entire power plant site for just 5 years.

NEWS ANALYSIS

To sell Vero Electric on the terms proposed by FPL amounts to malicious obedience, for the sale many people think they want will not lead to the results they are expecting. Howle, Moss and Sykes know this, but they seemed determined to press ahead anyway. Quite simply, they do not represent the interests of the people of Vero Beach. Like so much of the false and misleading political advertising that has poisoned recent municipal elections, Howle, Moss and Sykes are bought and paid for by FPL.

MARK SCHUMANN

Florida Power and Light today unveiled an offer to acquire Vero Electric in a deal the company says is worth $185 million.

Of the $185 million, $108 million would be paid to the Florida Municipal Power Agency, $20 million to the Orlando Utilities Commission and $20.4 million would to go retire debt on the City’s electric utility. Of the remaining $36.6 million, $6.6 million would partially underwrite pension obligations to existing employees of Vero Electric. Another $10 million is earmarked as rent on City land FPL proposes to lease for 99 years, leaving the City with net proceeds of $20 million on the deal.

To put FPL’s offer in some historical context, in 2008 and 2009, when utility activists Glenn Heran and Steven Faherty first began building support of the power sale they projected the City would net, not $20 million, but closer to $180 million. Interest earnings on the sale proceeds, Heran and Faherty said, would offset the loss of more than $6 million in annual earnings off the utility. Without that annual transfer from the electric fund to the General Fund the City will need to raise taxes and/or cut services. When support first began to build for the sale, the rates differential between Vero Electric and FPL was some 30%. Today, the effective differential is closer to 7%. More…

In the hot seat, Moss seeks to shift blame 3

COMMENTARY

“‘He was redundant, and that was the key. He was getting redundant,’ Moss said redundantly.” 

“Moss said, ‘Do you want him back in here? How late to you want to stay?'”

“Amazingly, Moss titled her memo to Coment, “Dereliction of Duty.” Moss is either loose with words, does not understand what constitutes “dereliction of duty,” or, to draw attention from her mistakes, is willing to level against the City Attorney a most serious charge.” 

MARK SCHUMANN

City Attorney Wayne Coment

Before election to the Council, Laura Moss herself made frequent appearances during  public comment time.

The list of ways Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss embarrasses herself and the City continues to grow.  Last summer, as Chair of the Utilities Commission, Moss wrote a letter to the head of the Florida Public Service Commission without providing a copy of the correspondence to the City Clerk’s Office. The omission on Moss’s part was a clear violation of City policy. (Ironically, the point of Moss’s letter was to inform the PSC Chair of a position taken by the Utilities Commission that was ultimately not adopted by the Council.  Now on the Council, Moss is quick to point out that members of citizen advisory commissions, such as she was at the time, are not the elected representatives of the people of Vero Beach.)

More recently, since her election to the Council, Moss has overstepped her authority by going around the City Manager to direct staff, by attempting to unilaterally cancel advisory Commission meetings without the knowledge or approval of her fellow Council members, by leading an effort to muzzle all dissenting opinions and legitimate questions about the proposed power sale, by describing herself at the “queen” of Vero Beach, and by refusing to provide documents in her possession which should clearly be part of the public record.

At last Tuesday’s Council meeting, Moss had Vero Beach resident Brian Heady removed from the Council Chambers when he objected to her false claim that the terms of FPL’s pending letter of intent to acquire Vero Electric are “proprietary” information. In fact, the terms of the sale, which supposedly Moss is negotiating, should be made public, not when Moss deems it convenient, but now. More…

Does anyone really wonder if money buys influence? 1

Laura Moss

Lange Sykes

Harry Howle

MARK SCHUMANN

In a television interview today, Iowa Congressman Rod Blum insisted he represents only the interests of the residents living in the district from which he was elected. In fact, at a town hall Blum is holding today he is only allowing residents of the First District of Iowa to participate. When asked if he would accept political contributions from outside his district, Blum got up and walked away from the interview.

Watching the Blun interview, I could not help but think of Vero Beach City Councilman Lange Sykes, who received 90% (ninety percent) of his campaign contributions from Indian River Shores residents. Laura Moss raise 70% (seventy percent) of her campaign money from the Shores. Along with Harry Howle, Moss and Sykes were elected with additional and significant support from Florida Power and Light.

Given the unprecedented flood of outside money into Vero Beach’s most recent municipal election, the important question the people of Vero Beach should be asking is whether Howle, Moss and Sykes can be expected to represent the people of Vero Beach, or the interests of the state’s largest investor owned utility and the residents of Indian River Shores.

Watch Blum Interview

 

Is Moss misleading public about ‘financial review’ of power sale? 3

Editor’s note: During last Tuesday’s Vero Beach City Council meeting, Mayor Laura Moss claimed City Staff has been conducting an ongoing financial review of the likely terms FPL will propose in a letter of intent to be presented to the Council at a special call meeting on May 16. When Vero Beach resident Brian Heady asked for the release of any documents related to Staff’s review and analysis of FPL’s pending offer, Moss claimed the information is proprietary and had Heady removed from the Council chambers. The information Heady sought is not proprietary, as Moss claimed. Saturday, InsideVero requested the information. Yesterday, apparently after the Press Journal weighed in, City Staff began releasing documents. Attorneys with the law firm of Carlton Fields, who are acting as agents of the City, appear to have informed City Manager Jim O’Connor that they will not release documents in their possession until FPL’s letter of intent is made public. 

Unless members of City Staff are withholding other documents in their possession, the information released yesterday makes clear Moss is not telling the truth in claiming Staff has conducted a financial review of the proposed deal. In fact, all Staff appears to have done to date is respond to requests from FPL officials for information the company needs to prepare an offer to acquire Vero Electric. What this means is that by the time FPL presents its letter of intent, company officials will have had months to consider the terms they are proposing. 

When the Council meets next Tuesday City officials will have had little, if any time at all to thoroughly review FPL’s terms. Despite this handicap, Council members Harry Howle, Moss and Lange Sykes have all indicated they will be prepared next Tuesday to accept the terms in FPL’s letter of intent. In short, there will be no negotiation on the terms of the sale. FPL’s offer will be a take-it-or-leave-it deal, and Howle, Moss and Sykes, all of whom were elected to the Council with significant support from FPL, show no inclination to negotiate the best deal possible for the people of Vero Beach.

BRIAN HEADY

Brian Heady

If there are no meaningful consequences for violating the Sunshine Laws then we have no real access to public records.

Our mayor said at the last meeting being mayor was like being queen.  In the current example the queen has wrongfully violated the constitutional rights of citizens by having me taken into custody and removed from meetings. Last Tuesday was not the first time.  

Her argument the information I requested is privileged is not legally defensible,  and the notion that no notes or written records of the FPL offer exist is impossible to take seriously.  A business entity such as our electric utility valued at over $200 million being offered for sale without a shred of written documentation is just not believable. If true this is completely and wholly irresponsible.  

More likely and more believable is there is a criminal conspiracy to hide the records from public view.  

Why?

 

Rate difference between Vero Electric and FPL now down to 6.4% Reply

 

The Indian River County Commission assesses a 6% franchise fee on the electric bills of county residents who are customers of Vero Electric and of FPL. Similarly, if and when they become customers of FPL, residents and businesses within the city will also pay a 6% franchise fee, yielding an effective FPL rate of $108.69, compared to Vero Beach’s current rate of $116.08. The difference between the two rates is 6.4%, not 20% as some continue to claim.

MARK SCHUMANN

According to Florida Power and Light, the company’s typical residential customers using 1,000 kilowatt hours per month is now paying $102.54.  Vero Electric’s rate for the same level of use is $116.08. One might conclude a move from Vero Electric to FPL will save the average Vero Beach residential power customer 11.7%.

However, anyone following the story of the proposed power sale knows Vero Beach’s rate includes a 6% transfer to the City’s general fund. Further, anyone seeking to report the story truthfully will account for the fact that the City will begin assessing a 6% franchise fee on FPL’s new Vero Beach customers. In short, accounting for an inevitable 6% franchise fee, Vero Beach residents would today be paying an average of $108.69 per 1000 kilowatt hours, if they were customers of FPL. That amounts to a rate differential of just 6.4%.

When the power sale was first sold to the public, the rate differential between Vero Electric and FPL was closer to 30%.  Further, the public was told the sale would net the City some $180 million dollars, and would not require cuts in services or increases in taxes.

Today, the rate differential between the two utilities is down to 6.4%, and it is obvious the sale of Vero Electric will lead to tax increases and cuts in services. More likely, the sale will leave the City unable to develop a balanced budget.

In spite of these undeniable facts, the Press Journal continues claim the rate differential between Vero Electric and FPL is 20%.  Further, the newspaper has yet offer any enterprise reporting on the likely impact of the sale on taxes and services. Assuming the newspaper’s staff is not intentionally misleading its readers, but is simply misinformed, I wrote the following letter today to reporter Colleen Wixon, local columnist Larry Reisman, editor Adam Neal and editorial page editor Eve Samples. More…

McKee Botanical Garden offers special for Mother’s Day Reply

NEWS RELEASE

On Sunday, May 14, McKee Botanical Garden will offer free admission to all mothers with any paid admission to the Garden in celebration of Mother’s Day. 

Treat Mom, Grandma, or someone who is like a mother to you, to a special Mother’s Day this year…instead of buying flowers, bring her to McKee Botanical Garden and give her a day filled with natural beauty. The memories you make will last longer than any gift you purchase.  “We want to honor all of the mothers and grandmothers on this special day by offering free admission with any paid admission to the Garden.  There is so much to enjoy in the Garden during this time of year” stated McKee Executive Director Christine Hobart. 

The Garden has more than 10,000 native and tropical plants, historic structures, and one of the largest collections of waterlilies in the state of Florida. 

McKee’s summer admission rates of $10 adults, $9 seniors and $5 children ages 3 to 12 apply.  Admission is free for members and children under 3.  Hours of operation are Tuesday – Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm and Sunday, noon to 5pm.  The Garden is closed on Mondays. 

McKee Botanical Garden is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to nurture and enhance a historic garden in a unique tropical setting for the education, enjoyment and enrichment of all.  McKee Botanical Garden is located at 350 US Highway 1 in Vero Beach.

Winger calls on Vero Beach residents to be informed, stay engaged Reply

COMMNETARY

Editor’s note: Richard Winger is a member of the Vero Beach City Council.  Today, he issued the following statement calling on Vero Beach residents to follow closely development at City Hall and to let their opinions be known. 

RICHARD WINGER

Richard Winger

On Tuesday, May 16  there will be two council meetings: The first at 9:30am is a Special Call.  We are expecting FP&L to present a “Letter of Intent.” 
The second at 6:00pm is a regularly scheduled City of Vero Beach Council meeting and is scheduled to deal with tearing down “Big Blue.” 
Both meetings will be held in the Council Chambers at City Hall.

I believe you all know I have been working towards a full sale of the City’s electric utility and I remain committed to it. The 9:30 meeting is very important to that end.  
Our prior effort to sell came from a Letter of Intent presented by FP&L in May 2011. It was merely accepted, not vetted, and 6 years and millions of ratepayer-dollars later, the sale could not be completed as written and the contract was allowed to expire by the current Council and Mayor December 31, 2016.

If we are going to finally complete this sale we must not repeat past mistakes.  We must vet the details of any written document requiring signatures by both parties and we must keep the public informed.  
Because they have muzzled me as a City Council member, I am not allowed to comment further, so I am sharing a Press Journal editorial which is a must read.  http://www.tcpalm.com/story/opinion/editorials/2017/04/27/our-view-thoroughly-review-proposed-purchase-fpl/100982566/
The sale of the Electric Utility is the biggest financial event the City of Vero Beach has ever, or will ever, go through and you are the owner.  A price must be fair to protect the future of our City. More…

Is City delaying release of public records? O’Connor says ‘yes,’ and ‘no’ 1

NEWS ANALYSIS

“In part that is right,” and, “No,” cannot both be accurate answers to essentially the same question.  O’Connor’s equivocation regarding the City’s rationale for not releasing the requested public records until May 16 further suggests City Staff is being pressured by Moss to conduct the public’s business in the shadows.

MARK SCHUMANN

Jim O’Connor

Contradictory answers City Manager Jim O’Connor gave yesterday regarding recent public records requests suggest the City is delaying the release of documents in order not to complicate efforts to negotiate terms of the Vero Electric sale in secret. Mayor Laura Loss claims the information requested is “proprietary.” It is not.

Moss, (who in the most recent election received $50,000 in support from Florida Power and Light), along with members of City Staff and attorneys with the law firm of Carlton Fields have been holding private discussions with FPL representatives on the proposed sale of Vero Electric. According to Moss, members of City Staff, likely O’Connor and Finance Director Cindy Lawson, have been conducting “a thorough review” of the terms of FPL’s pending offer.

FPL is to submit a letter of intent to City Council on May 16. That letter, Moss says, will become a part of the public record this coming Wednesday when it is included in the agenda packet for the May 16 special call meeting.

If the documents are not released until May 16, that will be fully 8 days after the initial request was submitted by Vero Beach resident Brian Heady. More…

Kept in the dark, Winger seeks attorney’s time sheets Reply

NEWS ANALYSIS

“FPL’s determination to acquire Vero Electric is evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of dollars the company has spent pushing referendums and sponsoring council candidates friendly to its cause. The larger objective, of course, is FPL’s desire to expand its customer base by acquiring additional municipal utilities in Florida. Vero Beach is just the first move in a much broader, state-wide chess game. FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy admitted as much in public statements made at an investor conference in March, 2013.” See: FPL president tells investors Gov. Scott is urging other municipal utilities to sell to FPL (Since 2013, FPL’s rates have risen steadily and significantly. Accounting for a franchise fee, the rate differential between Vero Electric and FPL at 1000 kilowatt hours per month is now less than 10%.)

MARK SCHUMANN

Richard Winger

Laura Moss

The law firm of Carlton Fields, engaged by the City three months ago, has yet to submit invoices for work the firm has done and is doing to negotiate a sale of Vero Electric to Florida Power & Light.

Absent invoices and itemized time sheets with which to assess the work of Carlton Fields, Councilman Richard Winger today submitted a public records request seeking those documents.  Even though Carlton Fields may be holding back on submitting invoices, surely the firm is keeping detailed records of time spent and work done. Those records will be needed to eventually prepare invoices. In his records request Winger wrote, “Such sheets, (time and billing sheets), should include time billed, or to be billed, and who acted or was “Present” (in person or on the phone) and on what specific day. “Present” means all personnel, whether from the City, Carlton Fields, FMPA, FPL, etc.”

Given Mayor Laura Moss’s secretiveness about discussions she has had with representatives of FPL and with Carlton Fields, it seems likely Moss may have requested Carlton Fields to delay submitting invoices and billing records.  Her goal would be to keep from public view as long as possible the nature of the discussions and of the work being done to craft a deal acceptable to FPL, to the Florida Municipal Power Agency and to the Orlando Utilities Commission. More…

O’Connor: No documents, no notes 1

On proposed power sale” “no documents, no notes.”

Claims City Staff has been conducting “an ongoing financial review.”

Following receipt today of InsideVero’s latest public records request, City Manager Jim O’Connor replied, “My office has no documents related to the proposed sale, but I have been involved in discussions, but there were no documents passed between parties in the discussion where I participated.”

When asked how staff could be conducting an ongoing financial review of FPL’s proposed terms without putting any information in writing, O’Connor replied, “I know better than to take notes in fact I usually will not carry a pen.”

O’Conner’s explanations make it unmistakably clear he and just one member of the City Council, Laura Moss, are negotiating the sale of a public asset and are doing so behind closed doors. Further, his comments raise questions about the veracity of Moss’s claim that members of City Staff have been conducting “an ongoing financial review” of the deal.

Moss, along with fellow Council members Harry Howle and Lange Sykes, seem set to accept FPL’s terms on May 16, the day the offer is scheduled to be presented. Based on what she has claimed so far, Moss seem likely to argue that the deal has already been carefully reviewed by Staff.

See: Power sale being negotiated behind closed doors

Power sale being negotiated behind closed doors 3

COMMENTARY

“Florida’s open government laws are intended to insure that the public’s business is conducted in the public, not in secret.  Moss appears to be flaunting, if not violating those laws. (In her recent election to the Council, Moss benefited from a $50,000 contribution FPL made to a political action committee supporting her.)”

Editor’s note:  Following receipt today of InsideVero’s latest public records request, City Manager Jim O’Connor replied, “My office has no documents related to the proposed sale, but I have been involved ini discussions, but there were no documents passed between parties in the discussion where I participated.” When asked how staff could be conducting an ongoing financial review of FPL’s proposed terms without putting any information in writing, O’Connor replied, “I know better than to take notes in fact I usually will not carry a pen.” O’Conner’s explanations make unmistakably clear he and just one member of the City Council, Laura Moss, are negotiating the sale of a public asset and are doing so behind closed doors. Further, his comments raise questions about the veracity of Moss’s claim that members of City Staff have been conducting “an ongoing financial review” of the deal.

MARK SCHUMANN

When it comes to Mayor Laura Moss’s negotiations with FPL, no one knows what is said behind closed doors.

During last Tuesday’s Vero Beach City Council meeting, Mayor Laura Moss acknowledged that the City’s outside attorneys have in their possession “complete information” on a pending letter of intent from Florida Power & Light. That letter is to be presented to the Council at a special call meeting scheduled for the morning of May 16.

At least based on public statements they have made to date, Council members Harry Howle, Lange Sykes and Moss intend to accept FPL’s letter of intent at the May 16 meeting. Unlike Howle, Moss and Sykes, Councilmen Richard Winger and Tony Young have said they will be reluctant to accept even an outline of FPL’s offer until the terms can be reviewed by the Finance and Utilities Commissions.

According to Moss, member of City Staff have access to at least the outline of FPL’s pending offer. The information, Moss said, has been the subject of “an ongoing financial review by Staff.” Despite Moss’s public admission that the specifics of FPL’s pending offer are in the hands of the City’s outside counsel, as well as Staff, no one at the City has yet been willing or able to provide the information in response to public records requests. More…

Laura Moss: Self-described ‘queen’ of Vero Beach 3

Mayor Laura Moss recently described herself as a “queen.”

Speaking to a group of children gathered for a tree planting event, Laura Moss recently introduced herself as the Mayor of Vero Beach. “What’s the mayor?,” one child asked. Moss replied, “Well, the mayor is like being the queen.”

Given the way Moss has recently muzzled discussion of the proposed sale of Vero Electric, it seems she sees her self-described role as “queen,” not as a ceremonial one, but more as that of a monarch with absolute power and authority over her subjects.

Last Tuesday, when civic activist Brian Heady appeared before the City Council during public comment time, he sought to make a public records request related to the proposed power sale.  Moss had Heady removed from the meeting.  By the time City Attorney Wayne Coment could offer Moss guidance on the likely illegality of barring Heady from the meeting, he had already left City Hall. Likely, he was headed home to begin preparing a lawsuit against Moss and the City.

The PJ, even the PJ, now questions strong-arm tactics of Moss 3

Editor’s note: In a recent editorial, the TCPalm.com-Press Journal editorial board finally questioned the strong-arm tactics of Vero Beach City Councilwoman Laura Moss. (The newspaper has yet to report on the unprecedented outside contributions Moss received from Florida Power and Light and Indian River Shores residents.)  The board, which until now has offered unquestioning and unqualified support for all thing FPL, is now urging the Council to thoroughly assess the utility giant’s latest offer to acquire Vero Electric.  “A review of a potential FPL deal will not occur overnight and must include thorough analysis of future settlements with the city’s existing power providers, the Orlando Utilities Commission and Florida Municipal Power Authority,” read the editorial.  Regarding the rate differential between FPL and Vero Electric, the Press Journal and FPL have long used each utilities 1000 KWH rate as a benchmark for comparison. Accounting for a 6% franchise fee, that differential is currently 8.7%.

PRESS JOURNAL EDITORIAL

Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss delivered her fellow council members and city electric ratepayers some good news recently: She expects Florida Power & Light Co. to deliver the city a letter of intent to purchase Vero Beach’s electric operation. Continue reading...

Editorial: Don’t make FPL customers pay for fracking Reply

TIMES EDITORIAL

Editor’s note: This is the second editorial this week on FPL’s attempt to gain permission from the Florida State Legislature to charge ratepayers for out of state fracking. The effort is now opposed by Florida’s top two daily newspapers.

Florida Power & Light’s wholly owned subsidiary, the Florida Legislature, is moving toward allowing the state’s largest electric utility to charge customers for its natural gas fracking projects in other states. This is nothing but a massive handout to a powerful monopoly at the expense of consumers who should not have to pay for this. If fracking is that promising, the utility’s shareholders should shoulder the financial responsibility. continue reading

Will FPL’S political investments in Howle, Moss and Sykes pay off? 2

And who is looking out for Vero Beach?
COMMENTRY

“Certainly a majority of Vero Beach voters have more than once expressed support for selling Vero Electric. What voters have never approved, however, is the kind of determination Howle, Moss and Sykes are showing to hand over the City’s largest asset on terms that are not carefully reviewed, and that might be terribly unfair to the City, its residents and taxpayers.”

MARK SCHUMAN”N

Laura Moss

At the Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, May 9, representatives of Florida Power and Light are expected to present a letter of intent to acquire Vero Beach’s municipal electric utility. Except perhaps for Councilwoman Laura Moss, who has been in direct discussions with FPL representatives, no one knows exactly what terms FPL will offer.

When Richard Winger first ran for a seat on the Council in 2011, his campaign theme was “A Fair Deal” for Vero Beach. Winger’s concern at the time was that the Council not simply cave to FPL’s terms, but instead negotiate terms that would be fair to the City. As it turned out, the Council majority of Tracy Carroll, Craig Fletcher and Pilar Turner approved a fatally flawed, unworkable contract that expired last December.

Now the new council majority of Harry Howle, Moss and Lange Sykes, all of whom were elected with significant financial support from FPL, seem set to swallow hook, line and sinker the utility giant’s new offer.  So determined are Howle, Moss and Sykes of concluding the sale on FPL’s terms that they have, over the objections of Winger and Councilman Tony Young, muzzled the Finance Commission by instructing it not to discuss the proposed deal. More…

Bruhn: Local government authority is under attack 1

GARY BRUHN/ TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT

Every year, your local governments come under attack by the same people who tell the federal government to stay out of their business – our state legislators.

You see, local government’s self determination, or Home Rule, is guaranteed by our Constitution. Local government can do anything not denied to them by state law. And every year, your legislators come up with new ways to impose their will on your local way of life.

This year we have an unprecedented number of bills that will impact you. continue reading…

VNA awarded $6,000 by Grand Harbor group Reply

Pictured from left are: Maureen McCaffery, Grand Harbor Community Outreach Program; Ann Marie McCrystal, VNA and Hospice Foundation Grants Committee Chairman; Caryn Llewellyn, Grand Harbor Community Outreach Program; Mary Linn Hamilton, VNA of the Treasure Coast President/CEO; Kathy Orton, VNA of the Treasure Coast Vice President Clinical Services; and Kerry Bartlett, VNA of the Treasure Coast Vice President Foundation

NEWS RELEASE

Recently, the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) was awarded a $6,000 grant from the Grand Harbor Community Outreach Program to provide a portion of the support required in the Medicaid-Eligible Patient Care Program (M-EPCP). Due to VNA’s 42 year commitment to providing charitable care, the M-EPCP provides funding for people whose low income qualifies them for Medicaid. Qualified patients are under the age of 65, and either under-insured, or without health insurance or money to pay for their health care. The M-EPCP will allow the non-profit home health organization to provide necessary, and sometimes urgent, medical care for an estimated 120 indigent home health patients during the next fiscal year. More…