City of Stuart
Friends & Neighbors is designed to give you the information that is happening within our County. My goal is to inspire you to get involved and make a change to make Martin County the best it can be.
There is lot’s to do!
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I am looking for someone from the Palm City area to report on the news there. If you think you could write a piece of between 300 and 500 words twice a month, we should explore that possibility.
Martin County has a long history of vote by mail. Many of our voters, mostly Republicans, have taken advantage of this in our elections. I asked Vicki Davis, Supervisor of Elections, to write something about how she will be conducting this election.
We appreciate the chance to address the readers of Friends & Neighbors of Martin County.
With personal and official precautions around COVID-19 curtailing a lot of our in-person activities and social interactions, it’s no surprise that there’s an especially high interest this year in voting by mail.
Martin County has embraced voting by mail for some time. Generally, anywhere from 33 to 50 percent of the local electorate choose to mail in their ballots.
This year’s Presidential Preference Primary—which took place March 17, the day Gov. Ron DeSantis closed bars and ordered restaurants to limit their dining capacity by 50 percent—gave us a peek at how the public might respond to the primary and general elections. In-person voting dropped by 10 percent compared to the 2016 presidential primary.
We’ve received some questions about the security of a vote-by-mail ballot, particularly from those who are used to showing their photo ID when voting at their precinct.
When a vote-by-mail ballot is returned to our office, we verify the signature on the envelope against the signature we have on file. If the signatures don’t match, we notify the voter so he or she has an opportunity to cure the signature by signing a Signature Cure Affidavit for vote-by-mail ballot.
When doing so, the voter must also include a copy of their photo identification. Once verified, the vote-by-mail ballot is filed according to their precinct and locked away until the canvassing board convenes to begin the unofficial count.
When to get your mail-in ballot
Your last day to request a vote-by-mail ballot is 10 days before the election. So for the Aug. 18 primary, you’ll need to make your request by Saturday, Aug. 8. We’re required by law to mail it to you within two business days of receiving your request.
Keep tabs on your ballot
Voters can track their ballot at www.MartinVotes.com. Simply click on the “Track Your Ballot” link and follow the prompts. Also, voters always have the option of dropping their voted ballots off at the Elections Center, 135 SE Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., in Stuart, any time before polls close at 7 p.m. on Election Day.
Voting in person
For those who prefer to vote early or on Election Day, we’re adhering to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions’ recommendations for polling locations. That includes proper disinfection of surfaces, pens, sign-in stations and voting equipment.
We’ll offer hand-sanitization stations and space our voting booths to observe proper social distancing. We’ll also emphasize and uphold hygiene practices among our poll workers and make sure they’re provided proper personal protective equipment.
We do remind anyone voting in person to consider avoiding peak hours. Early morning, lunchtime and after 5 p.m. are traditionally peak periods on Election Day, so some may prefer coming to the polls during mid-morning or mid-afternoon.
Thank you and know your Elections Center team takes great pride in Safely Securing Your Vote.
STUART’S CHARTER REFERENDUM
In the last newsletter, I explained why I was opposed to the referendum re-authorizing the Business Incentive Program. This time, I want to explain to those of you who reside within the City of Stuart why I am in favor of the two referendum questions related to the City’s charter. As a point of transparency, I served as the Chair of the Charter Review Board.
That Board went through each word of the existing charter and discussed each provision. Though we came up with other suggestions for the Commission to consider, these were the two questions that the Commission wanted to move forward to the voters.
The first question was the issue of term limits and increasing the Commission term to 4 years.
Stuart is the only municipality in Martin County that has 2-year terms for Commissioners. Because of that, two Commissioners will always be up for election in what are considered off years where nothing else is on the ballot. There is a cost to having an election where there are no other races. And how many people realize that there was an election held last August and only the incumbents filed to run. If the terms are four years, Stuart will then have Commission races when there are gubernatorial, presidential and County Commission races occurring also.
The Charter Board felt that, as a trade-off, there should be term limits. The Board recommended limiting service two terms, but the Commission inserted three terms. While I disagree with the third term, I think it is important that we vote yes to establish the precedent.
When you hear people say the voters should decide how long a person should hold office by casting their votes during the election period, and in principle, I would agree. However, for that to work, incumbents need to have opponents, and they do not. In this election, there are three Commission seats up. Only one drew any opponent. The fourth seat which was vacated by Glass-Leighton is a special election to fill the remainder of her term of one year. That drew former Commissioner McDonald and Stuart resident Karen Yost-Rudge.
You cannot vote for someone else if no one is running. Term limits will allow you the opportunity to do so.
The second question in the referendum would force a sitting Commissioner to resign once he/she has opened a campaign account or declared to run for another elected position. Commissioner Leighton stepped down the day she was required to do so under Florida Statute. She followed the law.
Once she began accepting contributions under this charter revision, she would have had no choice but to resign. There should never be a question as to whether a Commissioner is voting yes or no because it is best for Stuart or campaign contributors and outside interests.
I urge Stuart voters to adopt these changes.
According to the governor, schools need to open in August not virtually but in the classroom. But this Hamletian public soliloquy between the District and the teachers serves no one well. It is time to move ahead so that parents and kids know what they can expect. The date the Board voted on last week for the new school year to begin was August 11th. By the time you read, this the schools will begin 2 days later.
The Board, District, and teachers owe the entire community a degree of certainty. There was a promise made not only to the kids and parents but also to employers and businesses. Perhaps to the Board, staff and teachers, life can be fluid, but the same is not true for the thousands that need certainty that the schools will reopen so that parents know where their kids will be and employers will know that there employees will be at work.
If there was going to be a change to the start date, that needed to be done several weeks ago, not now. Proceeding with reopening is fraught with uncertainty. At some point before there is a vaccine available, some classes will be closed and then reopened. That see-saw should be how we look at all businesses from offices to gyms.
I have written that COVID is not the flu but rather like polio in its impact on society. For a hundred years, the polio virus would flair up and we would close portions of our country until it was contained again. The only thing that stopped polio was a vaccine.
If, as individuals, a teacher or parent decides that being in school is too dangerous, he/she can opt out.
In six weeks, schools and other businesses may end up being closed because of the overwhelming number of cases. That does not mean the decision was right or wrong. It was just necessary to be made. Until a vaccine is found, this is the new normal.
THE FALLACY OF ROLLBACK
By Louis J Boglioli III
Mr. Boglioli is the Financial Services Director for the City of Stuart. He and I have been discussing the problems with instituting a rollback rate for the past decade.
A government adopting a “roll-back” rate for their millage, is meant to generate the same amount of ad valorem revenue for the government. That does not necessarily mean the same tax bill amount for the individual taxpayer. That is because each property owner’s taxable value is different, by category of land use, homestead, exemptions or can be influenced by not having any of the above.
Then each property’s taxable value can change each year, differently and uniquely from all other properties. Exemptions for example, are added or lost over time. The government takes the AVERAGE change in property taxable values, up or down, and then calculates the millage rate necessary to generate the same amount of ad valorem revenue from the new total taxable value.
Since our taxpayers’ bills are a combination of tax rates from the City of Stuart, Martin County, Martin School Board, and other entities, there is rarely a unanimous decision of all taxing authorities to go to a “roll-back” rate.
Moreover, if the government does adopt a roll-back rate, freezing their ad valorem revenues at the same amount as the previous year, several things occur. First, that never freezes expenses or the cost of operations. If one does not have a raise from their job, that does not stop the cost of living from increasing. So, the gap between ad valorem revenues and the expenses they are intended to fund, grows at a disproportionate rate.
Secondly, when one year’s elected council adopts a roll-back rate, the next council that tries to adjust the rate to catch revenues back to where they were, is faced with advertising a higher percentage tax increase than if the millage rate was left the same, when taxable values increase. In some cases, taxable values decrease, making the roll-back rate a higher tax rate than the previous year, which generally just confuses everyone. Once a roll-back rate is adopted, it takes multiple years to recoup lost revenues and gain equivalent ratios to expenses.
The more prudent approach to millage management is when property values increase at a rate sufficient to keep pace with expenses, (that being the job of the government is to control those expenses) is to set the millage rate at a sensible value to generate an appropriate and adequate amount to cover reasonable operating expenses and an incremental growth to fund future capital replacement and upgrades.
The cost of a road, park, or bench today is never the same 10 years from now. And if you collect the same dollar it took to build it today 10 years later, you obviously cannot afford to replace it.
In years where the property taxable value growth/increase is larger than necessary to keep pace with expenses, rather than reduce millage, a “millage stabilization fund/reserve” to keep the millage the same in years where property taxable values do not increase as much would be a preferred method.
BACK OF THE ENVELOPE
In the Martin County section of this edition, you will see that the Commission is exploring what to do with the fairgrounds when the fair moves to Indiantown. Staff has contacted the Treasure Coast Planning Council to provide a charette to determine what the possibilities might be for the property. The price tag is $195,800.
There were some hard gulps from the Commissioners, but the only one to voice strong opposition was Ed Ciampi. Ciampi thinks we should sell the property to let the market decide the fate of the parcel. Under that scenario, you do need to have an appraisal. Part of the appraisal process is finding the highest and best use for the land.
In my opinion, Ciampi is right that there is no need to spend almost $200,000 of taxpayer money to know what the best use is. The parcel has a railroad spur through it. It has the flea market behind it and the airport across the road. The County long ago determined the use.
It is ideal as an expansion of the airport industrial area. There is a way to have the County maintain ownership of the land and have it on the tax roll. It could provide needed high paying jobs and go a long way to be attractive to new businesses located here.
My explanation is included in the attached piece which can be read here. http://tomcampenni.com/2020/08/07/the-fairgrounds-next-moves/
By Tom Pine
Over the past several years I have brought many issues before the Martin County Commission.
One of the issues is three businesses in downtown Jensen Beach that take 70% to 80% of the public sidewalk for their own use. This has been an ongoing problem for years. I have shown photos at past Commission meetings where pedestrians can be seen walking in the street because the sidewalk was impassable in front of those businesses.
Now with COVID-19 in full force social distancing at the three locations is impossible. This makes the situation more dangerous, and since this Commission would not act, I brought it to the attention of law enforcement. I contacted the State Attorney’s office in early May explaining the situation and enclosed photos of one of the businesses.
The State Attorney’s office forwarded it to the Martin County Sheriff’s office to investigate. The Sheriff’s office passed it on to The Department of Business Regulation. Then on May 14, 2020 I contacted Code Enforcement and explained the situation.
It is almost four months since I sent my complaints, and nothing has changed. It just goes to show you how much clout the Good Ole Boys have in Martin County. Even safety issues have no meaning. It is all about who you know in Martin County, SAD.
While the Martin County firefighters take out a $50,000 ad attacking Jo Neeson who is running to replace Smith, they should be looking at the debt load that we, the taxpayers, have accumulated under Smith’s tenure.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, I received a copy of a document called Debt Management of Martin County. This document shows debt as of September 30, 2019 to be $187,383,352.00. In 2004 $9,000,000.00 In debt was issued, in 2005 $11,046,853.00 debt was issued. All other debt shown on this document did not start until 2010 or later. So, by far the majority of the money we, the taxpayers, owe was borrowed during America’s strongest economy ever.
So, if I were a firefighter or for that matter any County employee, I would be very concerned about Martin County’s debt load. Right now, this Pandemic is wreaking havoc on budgets across the country including Martin County. What is the chance of another pandemic in the next five or ten years? Or even more likely a hurricane like the one that devastated Mexico Beach in the Florida panhandle in 2018.
If either of these scenarios played out pensions for Martin Counties employees could be in trouble. This would be a direct result of poor leadership by our County Commissioners, including Smith who has been the longest serving Commissioner in Martin County.
Tom Pine’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
The Visual Capitalist compares countries on their health care to military spending:
The New York Times shows us Corona Virus spending in 9 easy charts:
I urge those who are reading this newsletter to send an email expressing their opinions on subjects. When a reader sends one, it will be included if I find it relevant and I have adequate space. I may edit the letter because of length and clarity. You don’t have to agree with me to have your letter in Friends & Neighbors. All you must do is send it to
Info@friendsandneighborsofmartincounty.com or fill out the form on the website.
My name is Don Barber, and I am a resident and shareholder of the Riverland Cooperative at 3500 South Kanner Highway, which is located next door to the planned Bridgeview development referenced in your Friends & Neighbors newsletter of July 26, 2020.
I am also a member of Riverland’s Bridgeview Committee, a temporary committee established by the Riverland Board of Directors per Florida Statute 710, and formed to advise the Board and take action on behalf of the Board in regard to the Bridgeview development. I also presented the Riverland position during the June 18 Local Planning Agency and the June 13 City Commission hearings, and will do so again during the last City Commission hearing that will probably be held on either August 24 or September 14.
A minor correction to one statement in the Bridgeview article is needed. Specifically, “The developer reached out to neighboring Riverland and created a legal MOU which resulted in the association’s endorsement.”
While a memorandum of understanding has been executed by both parties it was drafted by Riverland, and the Riverland Cooperative has NOT endorsed the project. Rather, and as stated for the record during the two prior hearings, “Riverland has no objections to the approval process for the Bridgeview project continuing forward.”
Any assumption that not objecting is also an endorsement would be incorrect and does not accurately represent the position of the Riverland community.
The below reference to Florida Statute 710 should have read 719.
The next letter is from Peter Rothwell:
I am very ashamed of my Florida for dissing the COVID 19 mask and 6’ space requirements. Seems like there are a lot of stupid people in FL. Glad I’m in NJ for the summer. Feels much safer!
COUNTY COMMISSION MEETING JULY 28, 2020
Joan Goodrich, from the Business Development Board (BDB), gave the Commissioners an update on its education campaign to pass the ad valorem tax break. It is called “Jobs On The Ballot.” But it is not about jobs. It is about granting a tax break for an existing or new company that moves to our area and provides rather well-paying jobs by constructing a building or new machinery.
Moving to the area and providing well-paying jobs are good things. Using tax dollars to do so is not. We have seen over and over that these subsidies do not pay for themselves in the long run. This would be especially true in Martin County. We abhor development. Our government dislikes doing the little things to encourage business such as having attainable priced housing.
The best thing Martin County can do is keep taxes low and have a good quality of life. We are never going to have great big manufacturing plants. Even something as mundane as adding a Costco becomes a pitched battle. It is only because the City of Stuart has begun to approve multifamily development that there is a chance, we will have enough housing.
If this BDB subsidy program is such a winner, then why in the ten years of its existence it has not once been used? Do not be fooled by the argument that it is necessary to have this tool in the toolbox. Or the second proposed reason is that St. Lucie County has one. Perhaps the BDB has not grasped that we are not St. Lucie County.
This requires voter re-authorization by statute. The legislature should have a time limit on more things. Let us sunset this chestnut and demand that County government be generally more friendly toward business. Business should be able to open without waiting months (and sometimes years) for necessary approvals.
FAIR…HERE AND THERE
There is no end to moving the Martin County Fair. It is one of those things that is perpetual. Over the years, there have been discussion, deals, starts and way too many stops.
The current “problem” is that because there is no lease signed for the site outside of the Village of Indiantown, the Association cannot find donors. There is a lease option that obligates the County to sign the negotiated lease if the Fair Association meets certain obligations. One of those obligations is to raise commitments of $3 million. That is not having $3 million in the bank…only the commitment by legitimate donors. This is a stumbling block apparently.
The Fair Association has many millions to go to fully implement their Shangri-La. $3 million is a drop in the bucket. Yet even though they have an option that in the private sector could be used to obtain financing, the Fair Association cannot move forward. Commissioner Jenkins is especially perturbed and is asking what can the County do to help?
The County has done much already. It has agreed to bring to the site water, sewer, and road improvements. It has given the Fair Association permission to do some preliminary land clearing work. Also of importance to remember is the $3 million figure that they need to raise was not one that the County pulled out of the air but one that the Fair Association wanted to have inserted before a lease could be signed.
What can be done? The Commission can vote to sign the lease without any conditions. What the Commission should do is finish all the water, sewer, and road improvements necessary and perhaps even put up a barn-type building to be able to have an agricultural fair. Then in exchange for that, a lease is signed, and the Fair Association would terminate the lease it currently has in Stuart.
If the Association wants to create a Shangri-La with motocross tracks, RV parks, show rings and museums, then they should go ahead. Though why is it so hard for Martin County to just have an agricultural fair? From the County golf course to Splash Water Park everything must be so grandiose. We have about 160,000 residents. Martin County is not St. Lucie or Palm Beach Counties. We say we do not want to be that and it is fine. Then stop trying to be!
The other part of the equation is what to do with the existing fairgrounds. There is a solution for that…and to find out is expensive. The County has a proposal from the Treasure Coast Planning Council for $195,800 to do a charette. Usually a charette is to hold presentations for all the stakeholders to find out what should be done.
We have many people with many opinions. The outcome of a charette would be a plan that will then sit on a shelf. It is not that the Treasure Coast Planning Council does not do a good job. It is a problem with the process. It is flawed and I have seen nothing being done at the end of that expensive process. Anybody remember the Duany Plan that was done for Stuart? A copy is sitting on a shelf in City Hall.
For a fraction of the cost, the County’s own planners and CRA Department can have different stakeholders come in and discuss the future. Better yet, Ciampi hit the nail on the head…get an appraisal and do an RFQ. Let the market determine highest and best use.
Once again, we are all capitalists until capitalism intrudes on our own belief about what is best. Jenkins wants to study the problem as does Hetherington and Smith. Heard believes it is too expensive (agree there). Smith still believes Virgin Trains will build their station at the location.
They will bring it back at the beginning of next year. A motion to do that was made by Heard and seconded by Hetherington. It passed 4-1 with Ciampi dissenting.
The Treasure Coast Planning Council proposal can be found here
The mandatory mask ordinance is set to expire on August 8th. The County Attorney has told the Commission that in order to extend the time period, another ordinance would have to be passed. That would mean the hours of public comment and vitriol would have to be endured again. The Commissioners and their families have been threatened and harassed for voting unanimously to institute it.
While I believe Commissioner Smith will be re-elected, he probably lost support because of his affirmative vote for the ordinance. He should be congratulated for taking that stand. The other four who voted yes lost friendships because of their stands. I believe that even if you disagree with their decisions, you should respect their integrity.
It is too bad that they and the County were placed in the position of making this decision. I find it ironic that the state believes in home rule in this instance. Tallahassee does not allow local government to pass an ordinance regarding regulation of home rentals r what to plant in front yards. Local governments are not allowed to interfere with where to place 5G equipment in the public right of way. Yet when it comes to this pandemic, local government gets to call the shots. We are in effect on our own with a global pandemic.
A motion was made by Ciampi and seconded by Heard to strongly encourage the use of masks. It is the same wording as the expired ordinance only strongly encouraged is substituted for mandatory. It passed 5-0
BUDGET MEETING JULY 27, 2020
In 2021, the City of Stuart has finally done it. After 14 years, it will be collecting as many dollars in property taxes as it did in 2007. A 2021 dollar is worth 25% less than a 2007 dollar. So, to be truly equal, the $10,850,000 in projected property tax would have to be $13,000,000.
The presentation can be found here
In 2008 and 2009, the City cut services and employees. It has continued to hold the line to a large extent successfully. The entire budget is $29,500,000. Ad valorem or real estate taxes account for 37% of Stuart’s income. This is the one source that is completely controlled by the City Commission. The other large revenue sources, such as Communication Services Tax, are collected and remitted by Tallahassee.
Most people do not realize that the Public Safety part of the budget is about $14,000,000 which far exceeds the real estate taxes collected. Stuart as a municipality can operate with a more entrepreneurial flair. If it were not for the ability to own and lease property or have a CRA, then ad valorem taxes would be higher.
In the past, the Commission has done rollback of the tax rate which means that if property values go up, then the City reduces the rate to collect the same amount of tax as the year before. The trouble with this methodology is that sometimes it can result in property owners receiving a tax increase, and when values go down (such as during the 2007/2008 recession), the City does not have enough income. This may result in higher rates at the worst possible time.
It is better to have any excess collection go into a reserve for those times when values go down. This would prevent raising rates when people can least afford it. Because of the way property tax law in Florida works with caps and exemptions, it could take decades to recover the tax amount. This results in raising the rate to offset the decline. It would be much better to place any excess in a reserve. Then when the lean times come (and they always come), you will not have to raise rates for people at the worst possible time.
The City’s Financial Services Director has written a more technical explanation that you can read in the News & Views Section.
REGULAR COMMISSION MEETING JULY 27, 2020
During her comments, Eula Clarke did something unusual. She read the pre-amble to the U.S. Constitution. She did not announce that was what she was going to do. She said she was not going to apologize for what she was about to say. I do not know whether others got a queasy feeling, but I know I did.
Once she began with “We the People of the United States…” I thought we were on safe ground. I was right.
“In Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility. Provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves, and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
When I asked her afterwards why she chose to read those words, she stated that she thought they had to be said. Eula was right that no apology was needed.
Formerly The Pelican
Remember a year ago when the chamber was packed with supporters for extending Pelican’s lease? They were all there to excoriate the Commission. Save our Pelican!!!! Stuart would not be Stuart without it were the cries. The Commission caved and gave Paul and Linda Daly a new lease. As we all know, they then turned around and sold it to Mike Matakaetis, owner of the Boathouse and other restaurants.
In the long term, that is a good thing for Stuart. Yet to get to a better outcome it ended up costing the City some money. As it turns out, those hundreds of people that were up in arms were the dupes of the Dalys. In order to keep local tranquility, the City said ok. It took less than a month for Paul and Linda to secure their retirement by selling that lease.
COVID, design, and problems with satisfying the City’s dealings with DEP have delayed Hudson’s, named after Mr. Matakaetis late granddaughter, from a speedy opening. The lease start date has been pushed back from September to next March. It was not unexpected nor unreasonable to do so. It will be a completely new restaurant with a completely new look.
The only thing missing was anyone in the meeting to comment or bemoan the now true death of the Pelican. Without the frenzy of a Facebook page, all those people have disappeared. It was not as if they could do anything. It would have been nice for one of those avid “Pelicans” to say sorry for costing the City’s taxpayers so much money.
THE CITY FINALLY MOVES
The Commission has authorized staff to proceed with borrowing $5,000,000 for the purchase of what is known as the Wells Fargo Building on Ocean across from Memorial Park. The lender is JP Morgan Chase and the interest rate is at 1.295% or less than 2019s CPI. The tenants in possession will more than pay for the interest and principle.
The current plan is to have City Hall move into the building in the future. Buying the properties are the right thing to do. It will move and increase downtown business. The area now, especially in the rear on Osceola, is woefully underutilized. This will be a game changer.
The more the City can develop on its main thoroughfares the better. It not only brings new residents and businesses but allows existing taxpayers not to have increases in their taxes. East Ocean, Federal, and Kanner were meant to have higher density projects. It makes sense.
What to do about the existing City Hall will continue to perplex the Commission. Politicians are not known for possessing much more vision than to the next election. Yet maybe this time things are different. We will see.
As far as the City buying the building, I think they made the right choice. This will not cost the taxpayers any money since it is being purchased and managed through the property management fund and not the general fund. With the surrounding CRA purchases that were already approved, Stuart is ensuring the future by broadening the tax base.
Staff had sent the application to be approved in Tallahassee. It was approved by DEO and it was ready for second reading. There were a few people that spoke against moving forward.
This development of 270 apartments in mostly 4 story buildings has a density of 13.5 units per acre which is less than current code. It also has more open space than what is required. It is located on Federal Highway in South Stuart.
Perhaps in the past it, would have been another strip center or maybe even a car dealer. Those are concepts that no longer work in the world we inhabit. They are sprawl in the worse sense of the word. Stuart and Martin County do not have enough residential housing. If you want to preserve open land in the west, there needs to be infill projects in the cities and CRAs.
Denser development belongs on our major thoroughfares. I live two blocks from Federal Highway in a single-family home. Between my home and Federal are townhomes, an office building, two 4 story condo buildings and a few other single-family homes. Nothing is self-contained. Everyone uses the same street. Guess what? There is no congestion and by about nine at night, there is hardly a car.
Springtree is self-contained. Those living in the apartments will not be going through streets where the single-family homes are. They will share Federal Highway and one or two connector streets. FDOT looked at the project and said there was no congestion.
One of the contentions is that a traffic light is needed even though FDOT says one is not. If the County believes that one is needed, then the County can pay for that or any other perceived traffic improvement with the $2,000,000 (according to the developer) in traffic impact fees it is receiving for the project. The developer is not paying impact fees for a road in western Martin County. The purpose of impact fees is to offset the problems that more building brings to a new project’s surrounding area.
This project will go forth and Martin County will receive the bulk of the fees and taxes being generated. This property could have chosen not to request annexation into Stuart. They did so because under the City’s codes building could be done. The County wants to move ahead with affordable housing such as this if they do not need to approve it themselves. There is a problem with that way of thinking.
The motion to approve was made by Bruner and seconded by Clarke. It passed 4-0
The presentations can be found here
TRIM MEETING AND SPECIAL MEETING JULY 28, 2020
This was the new CFO Carter Morrison’s first solo presentation to the Board. The state-imposed tax rate fell by .201 mils. That will not result in very much of a decrease in the average and probably when increased property values are taken into effect, it would be pennies either way.
The expenses are $382,340,000 for the upcoming year. The entire presentation can be found here
Over a thousand people did not tune in to YouTube to see a discussion on the District finances. This meeting is where the Board was going to decide when to reopen. The original dates had the teachers reporting back August 3rd and students on August 11th. Superintendent Gaylord requested that everything be pushed back to the 25th. To use the later start dates, a deal would have to be struck with the unions.
That is where it was left last week when it was sent to staff to negotiate. You would think that a week to do something that everyone wanted would be enough time. Apparently, it was not.
The kids need to have 54,000 minutes of instruction a year which is where the 180-day calendar comes from. Martin County’s union contract states that teachers will be at work 196 days per year. That leaves 16 days for workplace development, classroom preparation and anything else needed.
The contract states what days that will be devoted to what activity. If you move start dates, you need to make up those days somewhere. That is why there was the need for “giving” back days at Christmas and Thanksgiving. Another problem is that the first pay period ends on August 7th. If they do not go back to work by that date, there is no paycheck on August 20th which is when those that worked would get their first check including non-teaching staff.
A survey to see how many students will attend school remotely was done. 37% have picked the remote option. The rest will be coming to class every day. Teachers will be in their classrooms and the students from home will be live streaming from what would have been their classroom. Every teacher will have the same children for the year. Those that later chose to come back to class physically will be on par with their classmates. If a child become ill, he can stay home and still not lose a school day.
This is the plan and the District is ready to go. Parents need the schools to open. This is Martin County’s great answer to childcare, child nutrition, and everything else children need. Is it dangerous? It is not 100% safe. There will be classes that are shut down and perhaps entire schools that will need to close for a period time. But the alternative cannot be to do nothing.
Summer camps successfully operated this year. I know of several programs that closed for a period because of COVID related problems but they reopened. The kids had an organized place to go and the parents could go to work. It is not ideal, but this is what is required by Tallahassee.
The School Board was trying to accommodate teachers, students, and parents’ concerns. You cannot please everyone. There probably is a small contingent of teachers that do not want to come back into the classroom. That is understandable. Their alternative is to take leave for a time or resign from the District. They cannot be paid for sitting home.
We know the idea of virtual instruction did not work for all children last year. Even with a dedicated parent to shepherd his/her child, challenges remain. If parents feel the options for their children of attending school or participating with their assigned class remotely are not adequate, they can home school or sign up for truly virtual education with Florida Virtual. What cannot be done is nothing.
The District needs to take all reasonable precautions to protect their employees. It looks like they have done so to the best of their ability. If there is something else that can be done within reasonableness, then the District should.
I reached out repeatedly to several members of the union’s bargaining team, but they did not get back to me. I spoke to several School Board members, some for over an hour, to understand their positions. One good thing about writing this newsletter is we have time to go into depth on an issue. I would be glad to have the union write something explaining thoroughly their reason for not coming to an agreement.
The Board voted 5-0 to open school for employees on August 3rd and for students on August 11th. You can find the excellent presentation regarding hard numbers concerning reopening here
WORKSHOP AUGUST 4, 2020
It was a substantive in-the-weeds meeting, though two things stood out for me. The first was the public comments. Most thanked the Board for opening schools. One comment encapsulated what all the hubbub regarding delayed opening was all about, “are teachers more important than grocery clerks?”
I would add we ask our police, rescue, and other personnel to be out there. Are teachers in a special category? No one wants to see anyone come down with COVID. We never did total lockdown as so many other nations did. The economy tanked and the U.S. received no benefit. We cannot even agree to wear masks. We will never even have a partial shutdown again.
Schools need to reopen. It will result in some number of teachers, children and their families contracting the virus and possibly being hospitalized and even perhaps a few deaths. That is what we, as a country, have deemed acceptable. America and Florida have made the decision. Parents can opt out and have their kids stay home. That is their choice.
Government employees have the same choice. It is a choice every employee has. If you do not like the boss, you can go find another job. That is something many of us have done. There are no special categories.
SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH
The School Board’s Advisory Committee has completed its work. They have sent their recommendations on to the Board. As a member of that committee, we were asked not to comment until our work was done and the Board released us from Sunshine and Public Records obligations.
I was the Martin County Taxpayers representative. There were more than 20 others that were on the committee. We were tasked with recommending candidates from the 45 people who applied. We sent on our top 6. The Board can choose to pick from one of those or is free to pick another candidate. They are the final decision makers.
Some of us researched the candidates and reached out to our sources in the communities where the candidates have worked. The three ZOOM meetings that were conducted were highly productive. I believe this is a good process also for picking county administrators or municipal managers…much better than the rushed and not always successful methods I have seen for those positions.
Now it is up to the School Board to decide. I hope they meet the candidates and interview in person. While ZOOM has its place, it is hard to pick the right leader without looking into their eyes.
COMMISSION MEETING JULY 28, 2020
The Commission has decided to allow alcohol sales on Sunday to begin at 10:00 am similar to the other days of the week. Sunday sales currently begins at 1:00 pm. It was to accommodate the new tenant in the Prawnbroker space.
Vice-Mayor Barile wanted to know why it was not work shopped. Manager Berger said she had spoken to all the Commissioners and none had a problem with just bringing it for first reading as an ordinance. Barile also asked how Benihana’s has a Sunday Brunch starting at 11 if alcohol is not being sold until 1 pm.
They have probably been breaking the law for years. No one has complained otherwise there would have been a violation written. Since no one has objected to Benihana’s behavior, let us decriminalize the behavior and move on.
This proves to me there is no reason to workshop every change. The item was advertised, and no one commented. It will be back for a second reading and will be advertised again. To pass, this ordinance will wait another entire month until the next meeting even though there is a monthly workshop next week. No votes are allowed at workshops.
The motion passed 4-1 with Barile voting no
It also seems that the way Sewall’s Point appoints people to the Planning and Zoning Board is not clear. Whose term runs to when and even who is on the Board is a bit of a mystery. The Board is comprised of 5 full members and 2 alternates. If all the full members cannot attend, then alternates are called to fill in. It is a bit archaic.
That ordinance should be changed so that there are seven members and each Commissioner gets an appointee and two at large that the entire Commission votes to accept. Perhaps with Berger, things like this will be ironed out, but the Commission has to be willing to accept changes. I am not sure every member is.
Pam Busha was elected to the PZA 4-1 with Mayfield voting no.
There was an RFQ for CEI (Construction, Engineering & Instruction) Services. The two highest ranked firms were CONSOR Engineering with 280 points and Culpepper-Terpening with 270 points. The RFQ was not to do any work presently but, in the future. If there is a future need, then these would be the two firms that staff would contact subject to a contract. The first job will probably be South Sewall’s Point Road once funds are obtained.
CAPTEC Engineering has been the Town Engineer for over 30 years. Their current contract expires September of 2020. Berger wanted to bid out a new one. The four firms that responded were: CAPTEC, Culpepper & Terpening, Tiera South Florida, and Engenuity Group Inc. CAPTEC was rated first in all categories. The Commission chose to have CAPTEC remain as the Town Engineer pending negotiating a new contract.
SPECIAL MEETING JULY 30, 2020
How much should the Village do in the realm of social welfare? That was the question before the Council. The Boys and Girls Club was making an ask for $10,000 for a program they started which has been providing meals to kids since the beginning of the pandemic. The meals are prepared by local restaurants.
The CARES Act would not cover this program. If prepared meals are being provided, they must be delivered to the individuals such as Meals on Wheels. Restaurant take out is not acceptable.
Philosophically speaking, this government is prime to use Village tax dollars for these types of programs. This is in addition to the Indiantown Trust Fund which originated years ago as part of a development approval. The fund was at one time a part of the County and now is under the Village’s auspices. Yet where does all this largess stop?
Hernandez was ready to give the Boys and Girls Club money immediately even though it could not be done that quickly as explained by the Village Attorney. Dowling wanted it to go through the Trust, and he made a motion that was seconded by Clarke. The Club has a pending grant request for $10,000 and Dowling’s motion would have made it $20,000 that they would apply for.
The Director of Girls and Boys then spoke and said he was pulling his request from the Village and would not resubmit to the Trust. He sounded piqued that the request just did not sail through the Council. Apparently, the organization is asking for $10,000 from other places also.
I went on the club’s website to look for their financial report, but it was not there. You could obtain one if you contacted their office. You could also look up their tax return to get their figures. There are no secrets only time constraints on my part. Their budget is one of the largest in the County, I would venture to guess.
Yet none of that is important in this instance. The fundamental question is should the Village be using taxpayer dollars for this type of program?
When the Mayor asked whether Dowling wanted to rescind the motion, he said no even though the CEO of the Club stated he would not apply for the increase grant. The vote was 4-1 to pass the motion with Hernandez voting no because she believed they should get the money now.
I do not know what is going on! Maybe the voters will have a say in this election?
Next Meeting August 10th
Next meeting August 20th
The Framers never meant for the federal government to usurp authority from the states. There was to be a clear separation of powers with only enumerated authority in the federal realm. That is what the Tenth Amendment states.
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Yet almost from day one, the federal government has overreached and tried to take as much power from the states as possible. The courts have stretched the Commerce Clause to mean they can do about anything they want since “commerce” is so broadly interpreted. The same goes for the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Because of this broad interpretation, Washington can get involved in almost anything it wants.
With the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the executive branch now has a federal police force. The Founders tried to make sure that the federal government would never have such an organization. James Madison in Federalist 45 wrote “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite” Nowhere does the Constitution provide for, nor did Madison contemplate, a militarized national police force.
The “Federal Police Force” that the Founders knew were the U.S. Marshalls… all 13 of them. It was not until 1865 that the Secret Service was established to go after counterfeiters of U.S. notes. The FBI, though established under the name Bureau of Investigation in 1908, did not come into its own as a crime fighting force until 1935.
We have come a long way since then with hundreds of thousands of federal law enforcement agents to go with the multiplying federal criminal statutes on the books. Our liberty is at stake, and it is not over masks.
Thomas Jefferson wrote that “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.” Protest is how we became a nation. If peaceful protest become violent, it is not the responsibility of Washington but that of the locality to handle. It would surprise James Madison to see federal authorities in Portland or any other city with police powers.
The states need to reclaim their Tenth Amendment rights and send the feds home. To read my piece in Medium’s publication Thoughts, Politics & Beliefs on this subject go here
GET THE WORD OUT
Friends and Neighbors of Martin County is your eyes and ears so that you know what is going on in Martin County’s municipal and county governments. I attempt to be informative and timely so that you may understand how your tax money is being spent. Though I go to the meetings and report back, I am no substitute for your attending meetings. Your elected officials should know what is on your mind.
ARTICLES OF INTEREST
Our first article is from Route 50 regarding Puerto Rico’s affirmative vote to become a state:
From The Startup Milton Freedman still knows more about markets than The NY Times:
The History of Yesterday has an article regarding Adam Smith’s two revolutionary ideas:
From The New York Times a piece remembering the time that Martin Luther King was stabbed in Harlem and saved by the NYPD:
Another from Route 50 regarding New York City sending EMTs with cops to answer some calls:
And finally another from The History of Yesterday regarding a scientist that gave the world cheap fertilizer and a gas used to kill millions of people:
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