Was County Commissioner Solari’s political advocacy from the dais within the law? Reply

IV.031113.Solari on the line

BY MARK SCHUMANN

During last week’s County Commission meeting, held at public expense and recorded for broadcast and rebroadcast at public expense, Commissioner Bob Solari took advantage of his position on the dais to advocate for passage of tomorrow’s referendum on the proposed sale of Vero Electric to Florida Power & Light.

Solari’s “shout out” for a “yes” vote was also communicated in a memo to his fellow commissioners, a memo produced and copied at public expense and then included in backup materials for the March 5 meeting of the County Commission.

If Solari’s actions were not in violation of Florida election law, he was certainly skirting the line. More…

Decision time: both sides in power debate gearing up their efforts 1

A newspaper ad placed by the Voices for Vero political action committee opposing the sale agreement with Florida Power & Light, arguing that lower rates could be had sooner if the city and FPL would negotiate a partial sale.

A newspaper ad placed by the Voices for Vero political action committee opposing the sale agreement with Florida Power & Light.

Both sides in the debate over whether to sell Vero Electric to Florida Power & Light under the terms and timetable currently proposed are turning up their efforts as a binding, March 12 is now just five days away.

Citizens for a Brighter Future, a political action committee headed by utility activists Glenn Heran and supported, at least in part, by Florida Power & Light, has been sending post cards to registered voters, and has posted blue and white “YES” signs around town.  The group also ran a full page ad in the current issue of an island weekly newspaper.

Florida Power & Light has been filling mail boxes with its own post cards, all clearly intended to influence the outcome of the referendum.  The company is also running a series of newspaper ads.

Opposing the sale is Voices for Vero, a political action committee supportered by activists who insist the contract the city IV.Yes!has negotiated with FPL is a “bad deal,” and will not lead to lower rates for another four years, if ever.  Voices for Vero has stakes some 400 “NO” signs around town, and began a series of newspaper ads today.

Both groups vow to work through the end of the day Tuesday to turn out the vote

A sign of concern? Reply

Sign Ordinance.1B

Sign Ordinance.3BAt the risk of politicizing what has traditionally been a community event, Citizens for a Brighter Future, a political action committee funded in part by Florida Power & Light, ringed the Under the Oaks Art Show  today with signs promoting Tuesday’s referendum on the proposed sale of Vero Electric.

In violation of city code, the group’s political signs were placed in the park and in city right of way at the entrance to the park and along Beachland Boulevard.  After the city received a formal complaint the signs were removed.

Electric deal has woven into it a hidden agenda Reply

BY MARK SCHUMANN

During a City Council meeting two weeks ago, Councilwoman Pilar Turner said the move to sell the city’s electric system has always been about “liberating the riverfront.”

Addressing the City Council this week, utility activist Mark Mucher said the two objectives in the proposed sale of Vero Electric have “always been” to get Florida Power & Light rates and to remove the power plant from the riverfront.

Notice what Turner and Mucher do not say.   They make no mention of wanting to negotiate the best deal possible for the city and its taxpayers. More…

Most Popular: As guiding light is withheld, the public isn’t being told the whole truth 2

BY MARK SCHUMANN

IV.Mark Schumann Head Shot

While serving as editor of the Vero Beach Newsweekly, a Scripps publication, I reported on the proposed sale of Vero Electric to Florida Power & Light, including informing readers of the work City Councilmen Jay Kramer, Richard Winger and others have done to explore options that might be better for all 34,000 customers of Vero Electric. More…

Planning and Zoning board okay with Twin Pairs changes Reply

Board members Lawrence Lauffer, Honey Minuse and Mark Mucher; in foreground, Monte Falls, Public Works Director

Board members Lawrence Lauffer, Honey Minuse and Mark Mucher; in foreground, Monte Falls, Public Works Director

 

MILT THOMAS

The Vero Beach Planning and Zoning Board yesterday voted 4-1 to recommend long debated changes to the downtown Twin Pairs. Planning director, Tim McGarry, presented results of the Kimley-Horn and Associates study, “SR60 Twin Pairs Traffic Calming Feasibility Study” to Board members and an audience composed largely of traffic calming supporters. More…

Former Finance Commission member challenges Council on electric sale 5

Former Finance Commission member William Teston

Former Finance Commission member William Teston

Former Finance Commission member William Testen addressed the City Council yesterday, voicing a number of concerns about how the city has negotiated the sale of Vero Electric.

While emphasizing that he believes the electric system should be sold or operated competitively, Testen was most critical of the Council’s decision to not issue a formal request for proposals from all qualified buyers.  Former Councilman Warren Winchester has more than once brought the same concern before the Council. More…

Finance Commission chairman projects impact of electric system sale 1

BY MARK SCHUMANN

Finance Commission Chairman Peter Gorry

Finance Commission Chairman Peter Gorry

VERO BEACH – In presenting a model which projects city’s finances following the sale of the electric system, Finance Commission Chairman Peter Gorry told the City Council yesterday the likely tax consequence for city residents and property owners will be a 50 percent increase, from $2.04 to $2.9 per thousand in assessed value.

With a combination of staff reductions and other savings, along with revenue increases from new fees, such as a 6 percent franchise fee on electric bills, the city will still need to close a budget gap of approximately $2 million, Gorry said.

Though Gorry’s estimate of a 50 percent increase in city property taxes was a higher number than some wanted to hear, it was also lower than projections others have made.  There have, for example, been suggestions that property taxes would likely double. More…

For the truth, read beyond the headlines 9

BY MARK SCHUMANN

Out of yesterday’s nearly one-hour presentation by Finance Commission Chairman Peter Gorry, a headline writer for the local daily newspaper chose to highlight a side comment by Councilwoman Tracy Carroll about exaggerated claims of looming budget cuts for recreation.  “Officials: Rumors hurting electric sale,” reads a lead headline on the front page of today’s Press Journal.

Notice that at least publically, though, Carroll takes no exception to the wildly exaggerated claims being made by proponents of the sale. More…

County, Verotown group at impasse on new lease for Vero Beach Sports Village 1

BY MARK SCHUMANN

According to Vero Beach Sports Village Vice President Craig Callan, more than 120 teams from around the country are scheduled to train and play in tournaments this spring at the county-owned sports training complex.

According to Vero Beach Sports Village Vice President Craig Callan, more than 120 teams from around the country are scheduled to train and play in tournaments this spring at the county-owned sports training complex.

The hottest item on the County Commission agenda this week was the stalled negotiations between the county and the Verotown investor group, which is now leasing and operating the Vero Beach Sports Village.

According to Vero Beach Sports Village Vice President Craig Callan, the meeting did not go well, at least not from the perspective of Peter O’Malley, former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  O’Malley heads the Verotown group, which includes his sister, Terry O’Malley Seidler, former Dodgers Hideo Nomo and Chan Ho Park, and Minor League Baseball. More…

Florida Trend Magazine reports on proposed sale of Vero Electric 1

BY MIKE VOGEL/FLORIDA TREND MAGAZINE

Pulling up to the city-owned electric plant on the Indian River waterfront, an unsentimental Craig Fletcher reminisces about the power plant called “Big Blue.” “I was just out of high school when they put this No. 1 tower up there,” says Fletcher, a 1960 graduate of Vero Beach High.

Nowadays, Fletcher is the city’s mayor, a mayor on a mission: Sell the city-owned electric utility to NextEra Energy’s Florida Power & Light and see Big Blue leveled. “All anyone ever says is, ‘You’ll never make it — you’ll never make it happen. You’ll never get there,’ ” Fletcher says.

They have reason for skepticism. Selling a city-owned electric utility is all but unprecedented in Florida. And it may stay that way; Vero’s proposed sale to FPL is far from a done deal.

Read More: www.floridatrend.com/article/15334/a-surge-in-interest-for-floridas-municipal-utilities

Florida Utilities: Death of the Buyout Clause Reply

BY MIKE VOGEL/FLORIDA TREND MAGAZINE

If Vero Beach voters decide to sell their utility to Florida Power & Light, it likely means selling it for all time.

Traditionally, cities cut an exclusive “franchise agreement” with a company like FPL to provide service to its citizens. The agreements would include a “purchase option.” That part of the contract allowed the city, if it didn’t renew the franchise agreement later, to buy the poles, lines and other power distribution gear that the utility had installed on the city’s rights of way.

Read More: http://www.floridatrend.com/article/15351/florida-utilities-death-of-the-buyout-clause

It is time to move forward with traffic calming measures for downtown Vero Beach Reply

BY MARK SCHUMANN

Now is the time for business owners, residents and others who are supportive of efforts to revitalize the downtown area to stand up and speak out.

A practical and well-considered proposal to finally alter what amounts to two drag strips bisecting downtown Vero will be considered again by the Vero Beach Planning & Zoning Board this Thursday at 1:30 at City Hall.  Advocates of implementing practical traffic-calming measures in the downtown area should make every effort to attend this meeting. More…

A Daily Ray of Hope: Up With People Reply

McKenzie (Utah), Maddie (Sweden), Kinsey (Wash. D.C.) and Alicia (Belgium)

McKenzie (Utah), Maddie (Sweden), Kinsey (Wash. D.C.) and Alicia (Belgium)

“We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?’ asked Piglet.

Even longer,’ Pooh answered.”

― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

One-hundred and twenty adventurous, thoughtful, and talented youth from around the world were in Vero Beach this past week, as the Up With People world tour made a stop on the Treasure Coast.  The youth offered two performances of “Voices,” performed service work and raised money for local charities, including the Gifford Youth Activity Center and the Daisy Hope Center.

Why I should stay out of bars 2

Don’t worry, this is not about banning alcohol or the dangers of too much drink (I am quite familiar with that one), but I had an embarrassing experience Saturday night that reminded me of other bar-related embarrassments in my past.

MILT THOMAS

MILT THOMAS

I am ashamed to admit that I had never visited Earl’s Hideaway in Sebastian, the oldest continually operating business in that quaint little town. I have passed by it a number of times, usually during the day, and really had no occasion to stop in. The lineup of motorcycles outside also did nothing to encourage me.

But this past Saturday, my friend Tim and I decided to go hear a band that was playing at Earl’s. Tim had been there a number of times (he drives a pickup truck and a motorcycle). He told me I might seem a little out of place so don’t start any fights or try to pick up any women, neither of which I have done in at least 50 years. Basically, I should just keep a low profile regardless of what the people around me were doing.

Now, of course, he was joking with me, or so I thought.

More…

Can two guys from Vero Beach save Haiti? Reply

John Engle, Co-director Haiti Partner; Charlotte Terry, HP Advisory Committee; Kent Annan, Co-director HP, Rev. Jack Diehl, Our Savior Lutheran Church

John Engle, Co-director Haiti Partners; Charlotte Terry, HP Advisory Committee; Kent Annan, Co-director HP, Rev. Jack Diehl, Our Savior Lutheran Church

MILT THOMAS

The words disaster and Haiti are almost synonymous, but it wasn’t always that way and doesn’t have to be in the future. At least that is what Kent Annan and John Engle of Haiti Partners believe.

Haiti Partners is one of about 10,000 NGO groups trying to battle earthquakes, hurricanes, corruption, disease and ignorance in a country few people believe will ever rise above its misery. Just a few days ago, Newark mayor Cory Booker came to Vero and told of the seemingly insurmountable problems he faced when he took office – crime, corruption, unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, a failing education system. Add to that an earthquake that killed more than 25% of a country’s population, destroyed 90% of the buildings and roads, left millions homeless, rampant disease, totally failed infrastructure, then  pile a devastating hurricane on top of it, and you have Haiti.

More…

County’s economy doesn’t need another self-inflicted wound Reply

BY MARK SCHUMANN

Peter O'Malley

Peter O’Malley

Since former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley stepped up to the plate a little more than a year ago and offered to help revitalize the Vero Beach Sports Village, the county-owned sports complex has been giving the local tourist industry a much-needed boost.

O’Malley, leading a group of investors, which includes his sister Terry O’Malley Seidler, former Dodger pitchers Hideo Nomo and Chan Ho Park, and Minor League Baseball, has made important strides in bringing back to life the county’s sports and conference center, formerly the historic spring training home of the Dodgers.

With the help of Vero Beach Sports Village Vice President Craig Callan, Verotown LLC has drawn literally hundreds of baseball, football, lacrosse, soccer and swimming teams from around the country to train and compete in tournaments at the Sports Village.  The center is also hosting corporate meetings, couples and church retreats.

According to estimates by the Treasure Coast Sports Commission, Vero Beach Sports Village has contributed more than $20 million in direct economic impact to the local economy since May 2009, benefiting hotels, restaurants, retailers and other businesses.

Unfortunately, because the County seems more inclined to shoot itself in the foot than to make a forward-thinking business deal, all the progress and promise for the Vero Beach Sports Village may grind to a halt. More…

Tickets still available for Habitat Cracker HoeDown Saturday, March 9 Reply

:  DE PLANE! DE PLANE! Habitat Cracker Hoedown Committee members check out the new event venue: the Sun Aviation Sun Jet Center. Robin Patton, Connie Poppell, Anna Valencia of Presenting Sponsor Girard Equipment, Inc., Andy Bowler and Chair David Taylor.

: DE PLANE! DE PLANE! Habitat Cracker Hoedown Committee members check out the new event venue: the Sun Aviation Sun Jet Center. Robin Patton, Connie Poppell, Anna Valencia of Presenting Sponsor Girard Equipment, Inc., Andy Bowler and Chair David Taylor.

There are still (a few) tickets available for Indian River Habitat for Humanity’s popular signature fundraiser, the Habitat Cracker HoeDown, coming up Saturday night, March 9. Thanks to the generosity of Sun Aviation, the event will take place in the Sun Jet Center at the Vero Beach Municipal Airport.

More…

Fellsmere Farms doubles gift to United Way Reply

united-way-lock-up-cmykUnited Way is stretching to reach a fund raising campaign goal and Fellsmere Farms has stepped up and doubled the annual corporate gift to $15,000. Employees have also pledged $4500 through payroll deduction.

“This comes at a great time,” explained Michelle Malyn, United Way Director of Development, “in order to serve the thousands of county residents that are depending on our support of human services, we need to make and increase our campaign goals. This year’s campaign wraps up officially next week but we will certainly continue accepting gifts and use the dollars effectively.” More…

Former Governor of Missouri to speak at Emerson Center Reply

Kit Bond

Kit Bond

Former Governor of Missouri Kit Bond will speak at the Emerson Center as part of their cultural calendar of lectures on Wednesday evening, March 27 at 7 p.m. The speech will be on the oversight of the U.S. Intelligence Community as well as other policy issues.

Christopher S. “Kit” Bond, a sixth generation Missourian, is a graduate of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and received a law degree from the University of Virginia. His vast experience spans from practicing law in Washington toD.C.to becoming an Assistant Attorney General under former Senator John Danforth, elected State Auditor then chief counsel of Missouri’s Consumer Protection Division. More…