Martin County

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Tom Campenni

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! – Tom

News And Views

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FINAL NEWSLETTER FOR 2020 & PLANS FOR 2021

 

This is the final newsletter edition for 2020. It has been a year that I am certainly happy to see ending.

 

On the bright side, with all the problems Martin County could have had because of the virus, it fared well economically as compared to other places. Covid did take its toll but not anywhere nearly as bad as to our south and in other parts of the country. In fact, our residential real estate market is on fire as houses sell more quickly than ever before.

 

The newsletter had a good year as we increased our circulation. It has become the twice monthly Sunday newspaper to bring our readers up to date on what is going on in Martin County government.

 

We will continue in 2021. I have tried to bring readers a broader range of perspectives with the introduction of other writers from around the County. I hope to have other residents write pieces from their viewpoints as well. Drop me a line if you are interested in becoming one of our regular contributors.

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I have tried to encourage our elected officials to write for us. I think it is important for them to tell us, in their own words, what they want to accomplish for the citizens of Martin County. As you can see, many of them did do so in this issue. Any elected official or staff person should not feel that they need to wait for an invitation to contribute. They are welcomed anytime to send something that will inform our readers. Those officials who do not are missing out on directly communicating with their constituents.

 

This newsletter started as a way for me to communicate with my constituents as a Stuart commissioner. Since then, it has grown considerably with more than 20,000 recipients. It has morphed from a simple email version to one requiring a website, graphics, and other programs. With growth has come expense.

 

While I will never charge our readers, I want to see if I can entice a few civic-minded businesses and individuals to become sponsors…those individuals and businesses who believe in our mission of providing in-depth information to our readers. My “hobby” is not inexpensive and as the newsletter continues to grow, I am going to need some help.

 

For more information on becoming a sponsor, please contact Chriss David at CHRISS@chrissdavidandassociates.com or 561-358-1119. She will explain how you or your business will be featured in the newsletter and on our websites.

 

I look forward to 2021 and all that it will bring to us. The year may see reduced revenue for government in the state and county. I will try to keep you up to date and explain how it will affect you.

 

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KIPLINGER’S NEWFIELD

Kiplinger’s project in Palm City, while not revolutionary in the rest of the country, is very much so in Martin County. This is the way development is supposed to occur. It is a complete “city” not a bunch of rooftops plopped down in a field.

 

I put the quotation marks around city because it isn’t an independent municipality but will still be part of unincorporated Martin County subject to all the rules and under the jurisdiction of the BOCC. So those that tell you that it will be an independent city are at best uninformed and spreading an untruth.

 

There will be development in this county and that is a fact. How it is done will determine whether Martin County does become a Broward or whether there will continue to be ranches and farms here. It was recently determined by a planning tool, that Martin County is considering buying, that the county will grow by about 20,000 residents in the next several decades. That growth will be accommodated by Newfield, the municipalities, and CRAs.

 

We need to save as much green space as possible by using those three entities. If not, farmland will become too expensive to farm and more and more of it will be turned over to development. And most of that development will not be in the Kiplinger mode.

 

Below in its entirety are the emails I received from Knight Kiplinger. I did not create links that you would have to go to if you wanted to read. I believe the soul of unincorporated Martin County will be determined by Newfield. It is that important.

 

KNIGHT WRITES

 

Hello, Tom.

 

I hope you are well in these difficult times.

Courtesy Pineland Prairie

I’m forwarding you the email, below, which I sent to Ginny Sherlock, with copies to the BOCC. I don’t try to rebut every untruth about my work, but her recent posts about the proposed Newfield CDD (Community Development District) were so full of errors of fact–about substance and process–that there was a risk that less-informed people would actually believe her.

 

I’m not trying to embarrass her, but simply want to correct the record, for the benefit of the public.

 

Ginny and Sarah also seem to have a bee in their bonnets about the fact that, four months after announcing the donation of our family’s 7 acres at Kanner and Indian Street to the existing Kiplinger Nature Preserve, the donation hasn’t been legally consummated yet.  Four months! Shocking! (Has government every moved so fast?)

 

Yes, our team is talking with the county staff about the wording of the Deed of Gift, such as permitted uses of the land (basically, anything that benefits public enjoyment of the land, including more parking, some picnic tables, a footbridge), etc.  We needed to have a new survey with metes and bounds and record plat done, etc., and this takes some time. (And I’ve had a few other things on my plate.)  It’s all in the home stretch, and should be wrapped up soon.

 

All for now.

 

With best wishes,   — Knight

 

KIPLINGER EMAIL TO V. SHERLOCK

 

Subject: The Newfield CDD…correcting some mistaken impressions…

 

Virginia Sherlock, Esq.

Stuart, Florida

———————————————

Hi, Ginny, Knight Kiplinger here. It’s been a while since we last talked, but I remember fondly our talk a couple of years ago about my vision for Pineland Prairie (which I have renamed Newfield) and the positive reception it was getting from the Guardians of Martin County and Nat Reed’s 1000 Friends of Florida, which recognized the quality of its design and environmental protections.

 

Happily, that’s exactly the plan that the LPA approved 5-0 and the BOCC, by a 4-1 vote. The detailed, implementing actions–developer agreement, Master Site Plan for Phase 1, and a Community Development District (CDD) for funding early infrastructure–are now being considered by the BOCC.

 

I also remember our comparing notes on our mutual early careers in New England newspaper journalism, before you became a lawyer and I became a publisher and much later, an amateur land planner.

 

When we were both young reporters back then, we learned from tough editors not to turn in stories that didn’t include comment from the subjects of the story, who are often in the best position to correct errors of fact before they appear in print, embarrassing the writer, the paper, and worse, misinforming our reading public.

 

I guess that advocacy attorneys don’t follow those rules, but I’m hoping that you still care enough about getting your facts straight that you will correct a number of factual recent errors in your recent posts about Newfield’s proposed Community Development District (CDD).

 

I see that you corrected one of your earlier errors in a subsequent post. Contrary to what you had written first, county staff did NOT hide the notice of the CDD, omit it from the published Dec. 15 agenda, or try to camouflage it as a “developer agreement,” which we both know is an entirely different animal.

 

Each topic was always a separate agenda item, in full view. Glad you caught your earlier error and now acknowledge that the CDD topic was, indeed, properly published in newspaper notices and the formal agenda for Dec. 15.

But your more serious errors relate to the essence of the Newfield CDD–its purpose, functions, and its path to approval.

 

You wrote that “Newfield is seeking state approval for a CDD for the Palm City property,” which is not true, and you repeated this error several times in various ways–that we are seeking STATE approval for the CDD. We are not.

Your write that “approval for a CDD is given by the Florida governor and Cabinet, not by county commissioners.” Wrong: A CDD can be approved by EITHER the state or by a county. Some developers–maybe most, including the Harmony project–choose to bypass their county’s BOCC and seek approval from the state, which in Harmony’s case, the state didn’t approve. Also contrary to which you have written, Martin County did not reject the Harmony CDD, which it didn’t have the power to do anyway. It didn’t take a position on the Harmony CDD application to the state. It wasn’t the Harmony CDD that the BOCC rejected, but Harmony’s request for rezoning…its development plan. (That’s another story.)

 

For our Newfield project, we chose NOT to bypass the BOCC and go to the state, which we were free to do. I believe in home rule. I believe that the same BOCC that has overwhelming approved our project at several earlier stages should also have the opportunity to review our proposed CDD and approve it if it finds merit. Our CDD application must meet basic state standards, but in our case, the power of review and approval rests entirely with Martin County.

 

Most misleading in your posts are your characterization of a CDD as some sort of full-blown “independent town,” “relatively independent from county oversight.” You say that “Newfield is going to be seeking approval from the state [wrong, as noted above] to establish a new town with semi-independent governance.” Your description would sound to the layman like an incorporated town, like Stuart or Jupiter Island, with a mayor and council providing “governance,” like setting its own zoning rules and local ordinances and superseding county authority on many things. But that’s not accurate; CDD boards, like ours in the future, do not typically do any of those things.

 

Almost as an aside–within parentheses–you admit that “The project still has to comply with the Martin County Comprehensive Growth Management Plan.” Thank you for noting that, because it’s absolutely true.  Every aspect of the Newfield development will comply with the county’s Comp Plan and, if approved by the BOCC, the Newfield Master Site Plan, and the entire community will be under the legal jurisdiction of Martin County. The CDD board of supervisors cannot change the approved land use plan.

 

A CDD, as I will explain soon in a FAQ primer for our BOCC before the Dec. 15 hearing, is simply a funding mechanism for the developer to help build and maintain the basic infrastructure and amenities within the new community–such as utilities, landscaping, a residents’ clubhouse or swimming pool, community garden and small playgrounds, etc. It funds these expenses by borrowing money in the muni (tax-exempt) bond market–on its own credit, not the county’s–and future homeowners in the new community repay those loans through an annual surcharge on their regular Martin County property tax bill. The CDD has no effect on the county’s finances and credit and will place no burden on county residents outside of Newfield.

 

The ultimate falsehood in one of your posts is the statement that the current BOCC has amended the Comp Plan “to make it virtually meaningless with respect to controlling development projects such as Newfield.”

 

Wow, if I had known that, I wouldn’t have spent almost four years creating and explaining to the public a very detailed, predictable development plan that the county staff, LPA, BOCC and public scrutinized and probed and finally approved! It’s a detailed blueprint for Newfield, unlike anything Martin County has ever seen before. It is these county-approved documents, not developer’s whim or a CDD board, which will control development, and this is far from “meaningless.”

 

Ginny, if as you wrote recently, you “have been unable to determine exactly what type of project is proposed,” then you haven’t taken the trouble to read the voluminous, detailed Newfield applications and approvals that are on the county Web site for all to see–the Comp Plan mixed-use category, the Form-Based Code for zoning, the developer agreement, and finally, the Newfield CDD application and staff recommendation of approval. Spend a few hours and you’ll “determine exactly what type of project is proposed.”

 

Not knowing how widely read your postings are, and how many people may now be under mistaken impressions, I’m taking the liberty of copying this email to our county commissioners and citizens who might want to virtually attend the Dec. 15 hearing.

 

I’ll be sending in a day or two a clearly written explanation of what a CDD actually does.  Please watch for it.

I hope this has been helpful to you. With all best wishes,

— Knight

————————————————————————

Knight A. Kiplinger

Editor Emeritus, Kiplinger Publications

Chairman and CEO, Outlook, Inc.

Sewall’s Point, Florida

 

The Newfield Community Development District (CDD): Some FAQs, in plain English…

By Knight A. Kiplinger

 

Dear Friends:

In reviewing my text more carefully, to make it conform to the county staff report on the Newfield CDD, I have revised the following FAQ and inserted it into the email sent to you previously, included in full below..  Pls. use this version. Thank you!   — KAK

————————————————————————————-

 

[REVISED:] Will the proposed CDD cover all of Newfield’s 3,400 acres?

No, the proposed CDD will encompass 2,112 of the 3,411 acres, the portion that lies within the Primary Urban Services District. But the first Master Site Plan within the Newfield CDD (to be considered Dec. 15 by the BOCC) covers only about 150 acres–Phase One of the development–on which about 1,214 residential units of various types and sizes may be built over the next five or six years.

 

—————————————————————————————————————————–

FAQs about a Community Development District (CDD)

 

By Knight Kiplinger, developer of Newfield

(written for the layman without the precise jargon of an attorney)

 

What is a CDD, of the type that is proposed for the Newfield community in Palm City?

A Community Development District, as authorized under Florida state law, is a legal entity created to fund, maintain and operate certain basic infrastructure and amenities within a Master Planned Community like Newfield, for the primary benefit of the homeowners within it. The infrastructure can include utilities within the new community, streets, a clubhouse and pool for residents, small parks and playgrounds, landscaping, natural lands, etc.  In a non-gated community like Newfield, it’s likely that many other county residents will get some ancillary benefit from some of these amenities.

 

Who creates a CDD?

The developer applies to either the state or the county for authorization to create the CDD. Many CDDs are approved by the state, but In the case of Newfield, permission is being sought directly from Martin County, by vote of its Board of County Commissioners–in the spirit of “home rule.”

 

How does the CDD raise money to fund the infrastructure and amenities, and how is it repaid?

It borrows money through the sale of tax-free revenue bonds. It borrows on the project’s own credit, not the county’s.  Repayment of the bonds will come from an annual fee paid by the homeowners on top of their normal Martin County property taxes. So residents of the CDD will pay both for normal county services–schools, public safety, parks and beaches, etc.–and for amenities within their community that benefit primarily themselves.

 

Is there any financial risk to the county from authorizing a CDD?

No.  Even though the county may sponsor the creation of the CDD, no county funds will be used to repay the bonds, and the county does not guarantee repayment in any way.  So the CDD does not affect the county’s finances or credit rating, and no current or future county residents who don’t live in the CDD are burdened.

 

Who runs the CDD after it is created?

A board of five supervisors, chosen first by the developer and later, within six years, elected by the homeowners in the new community, similar to the board of a homeowners association or a condo board. They can contract for services that the community needs.

 

Can they make laws for the CDD that supersede Martin County ordinances, such as for zoning and other land use?

No, the CDD and all residents of Newfield will be governed by county law. The CDD cannot change the zoning or level of development that the county approved in the Newfield’s Mixed Use amendment to the Comprehensive Plan and the various Master (and Final) Site Plans that will be approved by the county as the community grows.

 

So a CDD is not like an incorporated town within the county?

No. Unlike an incorporated town–say, Stuart or Jupiter Island or Indiantown–with its own governance of mayor and council, a CDD cannot legislate new basic ordinances that are different from the county’s.

 

Will the proposed CDD cover all of Newfield’s 3,400 acres?

No, the proposed CDD will encompass 2,112 of the 3,411 acres, the portion that lies within the Primary Urban Services District. But the first Master Site Plan within the Newfield CDD (to be considered Dec. 15 by the BOCC) covers only about 150 acres–Phase One of the development–on which about 1,214 residential units of various types and sizes may be built over the next five or six years.

 

What are some examples of other CDDs in our region?

Many other counties in Florida have authorized CDDs to enable developers of large Master Planned Communities to fund the huge cost of getting started. Examples include Avenir in Palm Beach Gardens, Veranda Gardens along Becker Road in Port St. Lucie, and Tradition, also in PSL. In Martin county, it appears that the only CDD is one created years ago in Indiantown, to develop an 800-acre parcel on which there has been relatively little activity. In 2018, the developers of Harmony Ranch applied to the state for permission to create a CDD on a portion of its land in southern Martin County, but it was denied. Martin County did not take an official position on that CDD application.

 

Anything else we should know?

CDDs, Developer Agreements and Impact Fees are all mechanisms to ensure that–as has long been the tradition in Martin County–“development pays for itself.” That is, the cost of providing additional public services to new communities are borne either by the developer or the new homeowners inside the CDD, not by current taxpayers.

 

——————————————————–

Knight A. Kiplinger

Editor Emeritus, Kiplinger Publications

Chairman and CEO, Outlook, Inc.

Sewall’s Point, Fla.

 

 

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OFFICE PRIORITIES  

By Incoming Property Appraiser Jenny Fields

 

This year has been quite the roller coaster and I’m sure most people just want to put 2020 behind them. But for me, 2020 was the highlight of my career. After working 31 years in the Property Appraiser’s office and learning every aspect of this office, I decided to enter the realm of politics and run for office. On August 18th, I realized my dream and was successfully elected as your next Martin County Property Appraiser. I cannot thank the voters enough for believing in me and my ability and I promise I won’t let them down.

As this year comes to an end, I have been very busy getting things ready to transition into this new role after I am sworn in on January 5th.  This office has not seen new leadership in 28 years so you can imagine all the things that will need a name change from business cards to signs. But my biggest priority, ending out this year, is our computer assisted mass appraisal (CAMA) conversion. Our office maintains the largest database in our county and this software is the heart of what we do, so it is extremely important to maintain integrity and accuracy when transitioning to another software application. To do that we have been all hands-on deck triple checking everything before going live.

 

This new software will provide cost saving tools and features, like automatically importing homestead exemption information, built in reports that eliminate hours of programming, minimizing computer downtime and importing tangible personal property assets. All of which will ensure we are operating more efficiently and continuing our commitment to process improvement.

 

Another focus of mine has been new items for our website. The first being a new look for the homepage. This isn’t going to be functionality changes but rather visual aesthetics giving it a whole new feel. The second is a property summary card, which will include a printable report of all property data and will layout all important property information in a more user-friendly manner. Another new feature is our improved sales search functionality, which will be super simple to use. I am also in the middle of putting together informative videos which will teach our community about many things like portability, homestead exemption, agriculture classification and navigating our website.

 

Finally, our office is aware of the impacts that the COVID-19 crisis has had on our community and respect that many of our citizens have concerns about the value of their property. We are working diligently to gather the data needed to analyze the full impact of what has happened to the values.

 

Implementing all these items will ensure I’m keeping my promise to increase community outreach and produce a quality tax roll. I work with an amazing team of professionals and with their help, we will make sure that everyone in our community knows exactly who we are and what we can do for them. This is my promise to you.

 

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FOR MY FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS

By Representative John Snyder

On January 11th, the 2021 legislative process will commence with ‘Committee Weeks’ which is the first step in crafting and reviewing potential legislation. Over the last several weeks, I have been attending legislative training and working hard to be able to hit the ground running on day one of my inaugural session. As we gear up for the work ahead, I am grateful for the opportunity to share my legislative priorities with the readers of Friends & Neighbors.

 

COVID-19 Recovery

 

This has been a difficult year for a lot of people, and my heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones to this disease. Every aspect of daily life has been in some way affected but I believe we are finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel with the coming vaccines. Governor DeSantis has been working closely with the Florida Department of Health to ensure rapid deployment upon FDA approval which will be a crucial victory because we cannot afford another shutdown. I will be working to pass comprehensive business liability protection so our small businesses, schools, restaurants, and churches can operate without fear of excessive litigation.

 

Public Safety

 

I am proud to say that I support and salute the men and women of law enforcement and will strongly oppose any effort to defund the police. Locally, we have seen a significant spike in organized criminals travelling into our community to commit auto-burglaries. This weekend alone, at least 16 cars were burglarized resulting in three handguns being stolen, and what will end up likely being thousands of dollars in credit card fraud from stolen wallets. I will be submitting legislation this session that will enhance the penalties for travelling burglars that think they can target our community.

 

Election Integrity

 

Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of our democratic republic. Florida officially shook the ghost of the Hanging Chad Saga and showed the rest of the country how election night is supposed to look. We have the third most populated state in the union and were able to produce rapid and reliable results within thirty minutes of the polls closing. We must continue to fight hard for election integrity and hope that other states take note.

 

Environmental Protection

 

This hurricane season was a record breaker with 30 named storms. Thankfully, Florida avoided any direct impacts, but we did receive significant amounts of rain this season. That triggered discharges like we have not seen in years and the negative impacts to our Lagoon and other waterways has been quick and noticeable.  Last year the environment received record appropriations to combat blue-green algae, build storm water treatment areas, and continue the effort to send the water south. I will be working to maintain, or come as close as possible, to these levels in the coming fiscal year.

 

Fiscal Conservatism

 

Much of our State revenue is driven from taxes collected through our typically robust tourism industry. When that came to a screeching halt in March along with the rest of the economy, it left us with an estimated revenue shortfall of $3-$5 Billion. Appropriations will be tight this year but if we practice strong fiscal conservatism, we will be able to navigate this recovery without falling into the trap of deficit spending that has ravaged many other states.

 

I know there are countless other issues that affect your daily life so if you would like to discuss any of these items or something else that is important to you, please feel free to contact me directly. My phone number is 772.545.3481 and my direct email is john.snyder@myfloridahouse.gov.

 

Thank you again for the opportunity to serve you in Tallahassee. I pray you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

 

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CHRISTMAS

 

This year has been a lonely one for my wife, Polly, and myself. We haven’t seen our kids and their families since last holiday season because of Covid. And we would always celebrate Christmas together. This is the time of year that many families come together and put aside the little fights and slights that may have happened through the year.

Something dear to us may be missing this holiday especially for people whose families are in different areas. That may mean no traditional Christmas, Chanukah, or Kwanza celebration. For me, one of those holiday traditions that will be lacking is that I will not be able to read my traditional rendition of “A Night Before Christmas” with now middle-aged children and their families with accompanying sound effects.

 

I pride myself on preparing meals that have dishes from our family’s different cultures to eat. Our table has not just our immediate family but frequently others that we or one of the kids have invited. That is what the season is all about…a welcoming to all to participate. Though this will not be a typical holiday for us, it will never-the-less be Christmas with all that entails though a bit constrained.

 

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” was a song written during World War II to express the longing that service men and women were experiencing. The lyrics are melancholy and hopeful at the same time. It conveys that this year the G.I. will be separated from his loved ones, but they will be present in his dreams with all the typical traditions.

 

Many of us will be separated but still bound by the remembrances of the past and hoping to be together again in the future.

 

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TERM LIMITS

 

There has already been a bill filed in the upcoming legislative session to have an 8-year limit on local school board members. Similar bills have been filed in the past but have died in the Florida Senate.

 

It is time that term limits be imposed on all locally elected officials in the state except for the constitutional officers. I exempt those offices because there needs to be a level of expertise to perform their duties which is unneeded for individuals who serve on county and municipal boards.

 

What happened to the citizen volunteer who sought election for county commissioner or town councilor as a civic duty rather than a career? What happened was the introduction of salary and benefits that turned the volunteer into a paid employee. In the case of a municipality, an employee who not only was receiving compensation but also deciding what that compensation would be.

 

There is something to be said about experience. Yet these positions are meant to be temporary like serving on the United Way Board. They should not be a career. And you certainly can run again after a break of a couple of years.

 

Each year, fewer and fewer people run for office because of the power of incumbency. Campaign contributions are more likely to go to the guy you know than the one you do not. The longer an incumbent is in office, the more they become beholding to entrenched interests from public sector unions to developers. Politicians need to get out and have a fresh outlook on what a regular citizen face.

 

Being called commissioner or school board member should be an honorific title for a few years not for life. If our state office holders have term limits, as does the president, so why not local officials? I think that should go for congressional representatives and senators too. But that is another story.

 

To read more go here

 

 

 

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PINE’S PONDERING

By Tom Pine

 

In 2020 Christmas will be quite different for me than any other Christmas in my lifetime.

 

On Saturday December 5, 2020 I stopped by the Jensen Beach Christian Church at 1890 NE Church St. where they distribute food to residents from 9 am to 11 am every Saturday. I spoke with one of the men that is usually there helping. He told me prior to the coronavirus they usually had about 90 to 125 people each Saturday to pick up food. Now since the coronavirus is in full force, hundreds of cars are lined up long before the usual start time of 9 am. They needed to open earlier to accommodate the increase.

 

This scenario is playing out throughout the county and it only appears to be getting much worse. Martin County’s positivity rate as of December 2, 2020 was 11.5 % the highest on the Treasure Coast. Anything over 5% is considered too high. Martin County is the only county on the Treasure Coast without a mask mandate.

As Christmas Day approaches life in America for those that are directly affected by the virus with the loss of employment will be hit hard. Thousands and thousands of families will be facing eviction as the present moratorium is scheduled to end.

This is the time more than ever we need to offer a helping hand to our fellow man in this time of crisis. If each one of us that is fortunate enough to have a little extra can help someone in need, we will be living the message of this season.

 

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah!

Tom Pine’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

 

8

 

SYRKUS THOUGHTS

By Michael Syrkus

 

I grew up in a non-religious household. My father’s family is Jewish, and my mother’s Christian. Through my youth, morality was always important, but was almost never framed in a religious manner.

 

As I became a father, and have become involved in agriculture, I find myself more and more interested in the history and theories of my religious forefathers. One of my favorite readings this past year was about the 4 questions that will be asked of us, as we enter the heavenly court:

 

Were you honest in your daily business dealing?

Did you dedicate time to STUDY the Torah?

Did you attempt a family?

Did you attempt the redemption of mankind?

 

How beautiful is it that the concern is first and foremost about our honor amongst each other?

 

How insightful that we are asked if we studied our religious texts, not if we accept them all without question?

 

The forethought that development of a family, in any way, is a sign of righteousness.

 

The fulfillment, that even just trying to do something good for your fellow man is a signal that we are worthy of the world to come.

 

At this time of year, I believe it is of the utmost importance that we recognize that we are all from many differing religious points of view. Some of you may not be religious at all, and that is great as well.

 

During this period of the year, where our calendar is marked by many traditions depicting our dedication to our faith, I ask only that you do the following:

 

Treat your fellow man honestly.

 

Take time to recognize the importance of the holidays to your neighbors, even if you don’t agree.

 

Spend quality time with your family, and friends who are dear to you.

Finally, try to do something good for your fellow man.

 

December can be a stressful time, and this year will surely cap a stressful year; but know that (in regard to stress) this too shall pass. Better days are ahead, and I look forward to sharing them with you.

 

Michael Syrkus’ opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

 

9

HERBIE’S HOBE SOUND

By Herbert Howard

 

Snow’s nice but…to all Martin County newbies…I mean y’all who moved to Florida and are spending your first Christmas here…you may miss the snow this year, but no worries. You will find that Christmas here it is not about the snow.

As I stood and watched the 1st annual (we are all hopeful of starting a tradition) lighting of the Hobe Sound Christmas Tree, I recalled how many years ago, I thought it just wouldn’t be Christmas without snow.  I came from far up north you see and, at least when I was a kid, we had snow on the ground or dancing in the air every Christmas I can remember.

 

We would go sledding down the hill on our farm after getting our new Christmas sleds.  Heck, we even went out to the woods and cut down our own tree.  Sometimes it was just ridiculously large.  Dad just wanted to show off.

But after many years of enjoying that lovely white, billowy wonder I moved South.  I took it for granted that I’d never really “feel” like Christmas again.

 

Tonight, standing in front of that makeshift cone shaped wire “tree” anticipating it’s lighting, neighbors, and fellow Hobe Sound Locals (HSL) were counting down the last 10 seconds proceeding the lighting.  The mood couldn’t have been merrier.  The kids ran to and fro, the bystanders in silly hats greeted each other with big smiles and everyone yelled “Merry Christmas” as the tree was lit.

 

The golf cart parade got underway led by the unofficial mayor of Hobe Sound, Harry, owner of Harry and the Natives restaurant. Harold Jenkins, our commissioner, commented that we in Hobe Sound didn’t have a big, fancy tree like some other parts of the county….” but this is all we need”.  And you know what?  He was 100% correct.

 

Merry Christmas, everyone.

 

Herbert Howard’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

 

10

 

SAILFISH LINE IN THE SAND

By Frank McChrystal

Witham Field and Sailfish Sands (formerly Martin Co. Golf and Country Club) will forever be joined at the hip.

 

The plans for the new 27-hole golf course, clubhouse, and practice facility are solid because they do a great job of mitigating the negative effects of Witham Field. The new plan takes all play out of the runway protection zone at the end of runway 12/30.  It strategically places the practice facility as far away from that busy runway as possible. And most importantly, the 54-acre blue course coveted by airport interests is preserved for the public.

 

Prior to the 1998 460’ extension of runway 12/30, MCG&CC (Martin County Golf & Country Club) was a thriving public facility.  In the entire country, only the public course in San Diego barely logged more rounds per year.  And then overnight the exponential growth of jet traffic created by the extension changed everything.

 

Five holes on the original red/white course at the end of 12/30 were at ground zero.  If you played the red/white on a busy day at Witham, you never went back.  The demise of MCG&CC had been guaranteed.  Those who criticize the expense of the new golf facility need to be reminded it’s another expense caused by the 1998 extension of runway 12/30.  And it’s a relatively small expense compared to the estimated 100-million-dollar home buyout and sound insulation program funded by taxpayers.

 

No one can be happy with the rising costs of the newly named “Sailfish Sands”.  The originally presented amount of $5.2 million was woefully incorrect.  Thank God we only do this once every 100 years.

 

In addition to the rising costs, it is important to understand that the new facility has no chance of breaking even until the entire project is complete.  And that may take another 3 years.  This period will surely become politically dramatic.  Keep in mind the airport interests still want the 54-acre blue course located at the southern airport border and close to A1A.

 

The airport boundaries are permanent and airport growth isn’t about physical growth.  It is all about jet traffic volume.  The airport interests, A/K/A “the business community” need all county operations and non-aviation businesses removed from the airport proper to open space for more jet hangers.

 

The 54-acre blue course and the fairground property are needed to move the 30% of non-aviation entities off airport property to accomplish the goal of making Witham 100% jet operations.  This equates to another 30% increase in jet traffic.  There is infinite market demand for jet hanger space at Witham thanks to the global elites fleeing the third world hell hole to the south that they helped create. Bluntly put, there is still plenty of interest in Sailfish Sands failing miserably.  And these airport interests have deep, deep, very deep pockets.

 

Sailfish Sands does the best possible job of mitigating the effects of Witham Field.  It will be successful and break even when completed. If not completed, it will fail.  Completion consists of three main parts.

 

  1. The new nine-hole course is perfect for beginners of all ages. It also takes all play out of the 12/30 RPZ.

 

  1. Completion of the new blue/gold course is the key to competing vigorously for market share. Its existing DNA and geological advantages over swampy courses to the west will put it in demand.

 

  1. The world class practice facility strategically located far away from busy runway 12/30 and adequate clubhouse will create revenue not previously existing.

 

The public should cheer for the success of Sailfish Sands.  It is the line in the sand that keeps jet traffic increase at bay.  The next 3 years will be rocky as the airport interests publicize the fiscal issues guaranteed until the project is completed.  They still want the blue course, and they will never quit trying.

 

Frank McChrystal’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

 

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Friends-and-Neighbors-of-Martin-County-Letters-To-Tom
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.
 

Our first letter is from Elizabeth Glynn

 

Good morning Tom and Polly! 

 

I really enjoyed your article, Polly, about Thanksgiving in Tom’s recent newsletter edition. My husband and I have said for years how sad it is that Thanksgiving seems almost overlooked.

 

For us, it’s such a special day to reflect on what we are truly thankful for. I think we are one of the few homes on our street that does not yet have Christmas decorations up. We are determined to continue to recognize Thanksgiving as its own wonderful holiday. 

 

I loved your reference to the Pilgrims salt and pepper shaker set from Publix. We have it too!

 

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! All my best to you and your family!

The next letter is from Jerry Hoge:

 

Tom,

 

I found your letter very informative and would like to see it continue.

 

How would I get some other friends addresses to you to include in your distribution?

 

And my Answer:

 

Jerry:

 

You can send the email addresses to me here.

 

Thanks.

Our next letter is from Lorna Moodie on a similar vein:

 

Hello Thomas;

Thank you for preparing these monthly newsletters with the latest news happenings in Martin County. As one of the newer residents of Martin County, your newsletter pretty much summarizes all I need to know as a resident. It’s informative, insightful, and thoughtful of you to prepare the newsletter, and I appreciate it. I will pass your information to anyone new to the county so that they are in the know. 

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Kind regards,

Lorna Moodie

And Response:

 

As a retired Realtor I know how hard it is for people to settle in. I appreciate it. Sign them up.

 

Have a Good Thanksgiving

And finally, from Walter Deemer who is a member of The League of Women Voters of Martin County of which I am also a member:

 

Tom:

An informal LWV South Florida Environmental Working Group was formed 18 months ago to share and work on area-wide environmental issues. It has representatives from Monroe County all the way up to Orange County, and thanks to a few real spark-plugs in Palm Beach and Broward Counties it has had some notable successes in getting the Florida League’s bureaucracy to adopt our suggestions and proposals. I took the liberty of sending this excerpt to them to make sure they were aware of it.

Meanwhile, I’d like to wholeheartedly thank you for the hard work you do to keep us informed; it’s very much appreciated by an awful lot of people, believe me.

With sincere thanks,

Walter

 

Greetings, All:

Tom Campenni is a LWVMC member who has been very actively involved in local government and who writes an excellent newsletter, Friends and Neighbors Of Martin County, to keep readers informed about local governmental happenings that might have otherwise escaped us. This, which he considers “a step in the right direction”, was part of today’s letter:

“There are some who want to sue the federal government to stop the discharges from Lake O into the St. Lucie. But a different lawsuit has begun that may affect the ecosystem of South Florida to a much greater magnitude than anything we could do.

An order was entered by a federal judge in Palm Beach to do an ecological study to determine the effects of the releases not only on the St. Lucie but also on the Caloosahatchee and its estuary, the IRL estuary, Hutchinson Island and other areas. The Army Corps and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service needs to study the impact of LORS not only on algae but also the impact on a number of species within the next year.

This is an agreed order between the parties. It is not going to be appealed. Is it perfect? The answer of course is no, but the government is trying to find a way to preserve the waterways of South Florida.

This has always been bigger that Stuart or Martin County. And to think that some picture-perfect ending was going to occur in the “Erin Brockovich” mode was and is sheer fantasy. This is one more step in the right direction, and it is a collaborative step that will lead us to a better result.”

To read the order go here
Meanwhile, while I was doing my afternoon birding at Sandhill Cove one day last week this rainbow appeared. I’m sharing it with you 1) In hopes it’s an omen of better things, 2) In hopes there’s an effective vaccine at the end of it, and 3) To wish you all the Happiest Thanksgiving possible.

 

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John Dixson writes about the School Board and Stuart’s dispute on impact fees:
 
Perhaps you watched the Oct 20th MCSB Mtg. This issue was mentioned By Laurie Gaylord at the end of a Power Point presentation she offered as a summary of her stewardship. She said it had occurred as the result of a Public Records Request and amounted to $500k of under-collected funds. She said she thought it would be handled by her successor. The mood and voice spoke to embarrassment, but in truth, I didn’t know exactly what she was talking about until I read your column this afternoon, and after reading how the agreement was structured and worded, I can well imagine the embarrassment.
 
Best,
MartinCounty Friends-and-Neighbors-of-Martin-County-Commission

A MESSAGE FROM NEWLY ELECTED CHAIR STACEY HETHERINGTON

 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

By BOCC Chair Stacey Hetherington

As the season changes, my resolve to keep our community safe and informed does not. We’ve weathered spring and summer with COVID-19 and extreme rainfall. Now, as we move toward the upcoming holiday season, one certainty is that Martin County remains strong and resilient. I’m thankful for the commitment of our citizens in continuing to wear facial coverings and following health guidelines that slow the spread of COVID-19.

 

During the BOCC’s reorganization meeting I received the honor of being elected unanimously to represent the board as its chairwoman.  I’m extremely grateful for the confidence my colleagues have entrusted it me. 

 

This year I will focus on the uncertainty of how the coronavirus pandemic will affect the county budget and the local economy in the coming year. My priorities will continue to focus on communications and transparency with residents, restoring the health of the Indian River Lagoon, public safety, employee retention, parks boat ramp renovation program, and road and other infrastructure improvements.

 

This holiday season many of us will spend time with family and friends and count our blessings. While 2020 has been an exceptionally difficult year, we still have much to be thankful for. This year has served to remind us to be thankful for what we often take for granted. I hope everyone stays safe and enjoys the holiday season.

 

I am thankful for all the residents of Martin County who have faced these challenging times with perseverance and kindness during hard times. Happy Holidays!

 

Stacey Hetherington

 

Below is a full list of Commissioner Hetherington’s 2021 goals:

 

Commissioner Hetherington, District 2

 

2021 Goals

 

 

  1. Improve effectiveness, efficiency, transparency, and responsiveness of government through communications and community outreach. DEVELOP a communications plan and establish guidelines for departments to use in measuring community outreach and customer feedback.  Incorporate technology and develop a Martin County specific app where residents can obtain information. 

 

  1. Review procurement procedures and implement a buy local, buy America policy.

 

  1. Collaborate with workforce development partners such as MCSD, IRSC, CareerSource and others to develop and implement training programs to increase employee retention and local recruitment of personnel across all County department. 

 

  1. Support programming that builds a workforce so our companies can expand.

 

 

  1. Strengthen collaboration between local, state, and federal programs to enhance resiliency opportunities to rebuild old and inadequate infrastructure, build new infrastructure to support sustainable 21st century economic growth, and protect vulnerable coastal communities.  Enhancing coastal resilience in the IRL watershed will require science-based planning, innovative thinking, challenging policy decisions, adequate resources and a long-term stewardship commitment.   We will continue to need to address the effects of harmful algal blooms, sea level rise, intensifying hurricanes, and erosion. 

 

  1. Review Parks Boat Ramp Renovation Program and identify funding sources and adequately fund capital projects to renovate and rehabilitate boat ramp assets.  Goals of boat ramp renovation program should include:
  • Increase Accessibility & Improve Safety
  • Decrease Maintenance costs by looking at materials and engineering designs that increase design life and reduce maintenance.
  • Reduce Congestion
  • Improve Aesthetics

 

COUNTY COMMISSION MEETING DEC 8, 2020

 

During commissioner comments, Commissioner Heard once again wanted to enact a mask ordinance. She gave some compelling reasons for it. Heard cited statistics and comparisons. She convinced me. But I was convinced before she spoke. She made a motion to immediately reinstate the mask mandate.

 

Commissioner Ciampi also is a believer. He has consistently voted in favor of requiring masks. The science is overwhelming. Medical professionals are 99% in favor of having a mandate. Ciampi would absolutely vote yes.

 

Sarah Woods, the county attorney, said that no action could be taken until the January 5th meeting to allow for proper public notice. Heard took the position that this was an emergency and could be done at next week’s meeting. Woods stated that under the statute it is not an emergency, and no other commissioner was willing to second her motion.

Heard then made a subsequent motion to do what is necessary to bring back an ordinance. Ciampi seconded because he believed then the public could come and weigh in once more. As if we didn’t know what to expect.

 

Harold Jenkins asked whether the governor had now allowed for penalties to be levied. Woods responded that there could be no enforcement penalties for not wearing a mask. Commissioner Jenkins then suggested that there was no point in passing the mask ordinance. Indeed, to pass an ordinance or a law just as political theater leads to people not respecting laws.

 

At that point, Chair Hetherington called for a vote. The motion failed 3-2 with Hetherington, Smith, and Jenkins voting no. Given Governor DeSantis’ order that no penalties could be imposed, a mandate would be useless.

 

NEWFIELD

 

It had grown quiet for the last year regarding Newfield. The wheels of government and development turn slowly. Yet, when it is a project backed by the Kiplinger family, you know it will go on. And in my opinion, it should definitely do so.

 

This week’s task was a proposed developer’s agreement. If the commission agrees to the business terms, then the final one would be approved after the lawyers tweak it. What is a developer’s agreement?

What a developer’s agreement is not is a site plan review. This agreement calls for how infrastructure will be paid for and if the developer will use impact fee credits to pay for improvements within the development. The purpose of impact fees is to offset the cost of new development on the existing infrastructure. For the library that will be in Newfield, the developer will receive 75% of the library impact fees to help fund the construction of that library building.

 

Commissioner Heard kept trying to make it seem as though Newfield will be developed without input. If one were to look at Chapter 11 of the Land Development Code, which is entitled Planned Mix Use Village, it expressly states how Newfield will be developed. This was the part of the code that was written specifically for that purpose for what was then known as Pineland Prairie (now Newfield).

 

There were extensive community meetings and then hearings before the BOCC passed this new section about two years ago. It has provisions for what needs board approval and what staff can decide. It is what is considered a form-based code. You can find it here

 

As a planned community, most of the heavy lifting has already been done. That was the purpose for Kiplinger spending all that time and money up front. Most of the decision-making regarding units has already been made. Unless Kiplinger changes how Newfield develops, Chapter 11 spells out how it will be ultimately built out.

 

Knight Kiplinger is not a utopian idealist who is developing 3400 acres out of some benevolent impulse. Neither is he some cold calculating home builder trying to pave over every inch of land and maximize every cent of profit. He is a thoughtful man who said at the meeting that as of right he could divide the property into 5-acre ranchettes that would be on well and septic. He called that a retro land use.

 

He went on to say that most of America has moved on from this outdated model. If he divided the property in that fashion, there wouldn’t be a store, a park, a school, or restaurant within the 3400 acres for thousands of people who would live there. This would result in as many cars as people. There would be no congregant center or place to gather and socialize…the classic definition of sprawl.

 

Kiplinger and his consultants have done a huge favor to the county by introducing a concept that has been around for decades. It requires a little more thought and, for the landowner, a little less profit to initiate. Yet it is sustainable as opposed to a sea of rooftops.

 

A motion was made by Ciampi and seconded by Smith to have the final agreement brought to the commission for a second reading. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.

You can find the staff presentation here

 

The applicant’s presentation is here

 

 

LEGAL FEES

 

Under Florida law, if an elected official is required to defend themself in court or before an administrative board, the government must pay the legal fees if exonerated.

 

Last year, an ethics complaint was filed against Commissioner Hetherington.

After consulting with the county attorney, she hired a lawyer to represent her before the Florida Commission on Ethics. The commission is in Tallahassee where the hearing was held. In September of this year the complaint was dismissed in its entirety. The amount to defend Hetherington was $35,583.00. The principal attorney she hired bills at a rate of $500 per hour.

 

The County has a policy of paying no more than $275 per hour. That was adopted last year after Commissioner Heard’s legal fees of over $400,000 were reimbursed after she was acquitted at her criminal trial. Heard was not in favor of reimbursing over the $275 per hour limit.

 

Heard read a carefully crafted statement that outlined her position and went into the fact that an outside attorney was hired to audit her legal bills. Her attorneys did reduce their bill after negotiation, and they were subsequently paid.

 

Former Commissioners Scott and Fielding were also indicted but those charges were dropped. Fielding’s legal bills are under audit and Scott has sued for reimbursement. County Attorney Woods stated that she wasn’t given time to look at Scott’s bills. TRICO, the insurance carrier, is defending the county in that matter.

 

It is true that there is a policy regarding $275 per hour, and $500 is much higher than that. Yet staff believes that because the ethics commission is in Tallahassee and it is a legal specialty, the increase fee is warranted.

 

Chair Hetherington passed the gavel to Vice-Chair Smith and recused herself from the deliberations and vote. That was a smart thing to do so that no one could say she influenced the item.

 

After Heard made her statement, Ciampi spoke and said he agreed with 90% of what Heard said. He was in favor of having all bills audited if they exceeded a threshold amount. Woods said she was comfortable given her years of experience to determine if bills were justified under $50,000.

 

Jenkins made a motion to have legal bills under $50,000 looked at by the county attorney and over that amount to be audited. Ciampi seconded and the motion passed 3-1 with Heard dissenting and Hetherington recusing herself.

 

Jenkins made a second motion to reimburse Hetherington the legal fees of $35,583.00. It was seconded by Ciampi. It passed 3-1 with Heard dissenting and Hetherington abstaining.

 

Since the county will pay the legal fees if charges are dropped or dismissed, perhaps people should stop bringing frivolous complaints which ultimately can cost the taxpayers. In some respects, these types of complaints are analogous to SLAPP suits. While those suits can silence an individual from expressing a point of view, these complaints can cause good people not to go into government.    

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City-of-Stuart stuart-city-commision-2020

COMMISSION MEETING NOVEMBER 23, 2020

 

This was a quiet meeting.

 

There was some discussion about masks. Stuart, Martin County, and Sewall’s Point now have in place a recommendation that people wear masks in public. There is no enforcement provision since the governor has taken the power to do so away from local government. The Village of Indiantown is more stringent in requiring masks but still has no enforcement provision.

 

I don’t expect Stuart or any other Martin County government to pass any new mandates. It would be foolish given that the governor has removed the proverbial stick from local government to enforce anything. Governor DeSantis, for better or worse, now owns the mask issue and no local elected officials need do anything more.

 

The city adopted its legislative priorities for the next session. The big one is that they are looking for a million dollars for their alternate water supply project. Stuart has been successful in the past, but the state is projecting huge budget shortfalls for tax collection. The anticipated shortfall in 2020 is $1.9 billion and in 2021, $3.4 billion. It is not likely that Stuart will receive anything from Tallahassee this or next year.

 

A handy chart from the Center of Budget & Policy Priorities gives these numbers for all the states. It can be found here

The other outlined priorities are the ones that are adopted every year including sales tax being remitted by online and out of state retailers. Others include coastal resiliency and environmental sustainability priorities and, of course, short-term rentals. There are others, and if they cost money or take away control from Tallahassee, they probably will not pass.

 

To see all of the priorities go here

 

 

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Martin-County-School-Board Friends-and-Neighbors-of-Martin-County-School-Board

MESSAGE FROM SUPERINTENDENT JOHN MILLAY

 

MARTIN COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT’S NEW SUPERINTENDENT

By Dr. John Millay

Greetings Martin County students, employees, families, and members of the community,

 

It is my honor and pleasure to officially introduce myself to the Martin County School District community. I feel very privileged, excited, and humbled for the opportunity to serve as your Superintendent of Schools.  The Martin County School District’s reputation for excellence is a testament to your commitment to the well-being and academic success of children.  The numerous opportunities offered to students both inside and outside of classrooms are nothing short of remarkable, and I am committed to building upon the established framework to ensure all students continue to be educated for success, achieve their highest personal potential and explore their interests in a safe, nurturing learning environment.  As a father of three (Allie, Maggie, and Jake), all educated in public schools, I fully understand the dreams and aspirations that all parents have for their children to have the very best possible education that also meets their unique needs and differences. 

 

Prior to my arrival in Martin County, I completed a very successful, 27-year career in Kentucky public education (serving the last 14 years as a high-performing school superintendent).  I remain passionate about student achievement, equity and access, the professional growth and success of faculty and staff, and empowering families and the community to become full partners in the educational experience offered in our schools. In addition to its reputation for academic, instructional, and financial excellence, the level of community support and engagement are what drew me to the Martin County School District.  As I participated in the interview process, I was impressed by the sense of pride employees and community members shared for the District and public education.  As I have traveled throughout beautiful Martin County over the last few weeks, I have met countless students, faculty, staff and residents who have been incredibly welcoming and excited to see what lies ahead for our school system. 

 

I look forward to continuing to meet and learn from each member of our community as we celebrate success and develop new goals for the future together. It has been said that no effective learning can occur without a relationship. I believe that relationships are central to learning, effective communication, cultivating a positive culture and developing an understanding of our common needs. As we are all members of the Martin County School District family, it is my hope that we will consistently work toward building bridges that will unite us.

 

In reviewing the District’s mission and vision statements, three inspirational words stood out to me as guiding principles for our work – All, Dynamic and Excellence. 

 

“All” literally means all – it means every Martin County student will be equipped to reach their highest personal potential, including our most vulnerable populations.

 

“Dynamic” means bringing a positive attitude, energy, fresh ideas and an adaptable spirit to our work each day.  It takes a lot of effort, a willingness to embrace change and innovative thinking to move a school district forward.  I will need everyone’s help.

 

“Excellence” is what we will strive for, knowing that success has no finish line. I know each of our teachers, administrators and employees truly wants to be the very best they can be. 

While we continue to navigate uncertain circumstances, I am confident we will conquer the challenges before us to move forward in becoming Florida’s premier school district and one of the highest-performing in the nation.

 

As I shared before, I am humbled and honored to have been given the opportunity to serve as your Superintendent of Schools.  My door is always open – please never hesitate to submit any questions, concerns, comments, or accolades you have about our schools or school district to me.  I can be reached at (772) 219-1200 ext. 30222 or millayj@martinschools.org. If you have a few minutes over the next few weeks, I would greatly appreciate hearing all of the initial ideas, input, feedback and suggestions you may have.  A survey created for this purpose is available herehttps://forms.gle/y4nE2K8ek6MiuTyaA

 you may remain anonymous when submitting your responses if this option is the most comfortable for you.   

 

It is an exciting time for all of us in the Martin County School District and I am genuinely looking forward to building relationships and achieving the vision and mission of our school district. 

 

 

WORKSHOP DECEMBER 2, 2020

 

Governor DeSantis and Education Commissioner Corcoran issued a new order stating that schools will have in person classes no matter what for the rest of the year.

detroit Free Press

The remote learning piece can continue with a new caveat. If an online student is struggling, then he should resume in-person classes unless the parents refuse. In my opinion, the state is not going to allow districts to go past this year in the offering of simultaneous online classes. There are other more effective ways for kids to continue with virtual learning, such as Florida Virtual.

 

Dr. Tracey Miller, Chief Academic Officer, gave a report on going forward that encompassed this and much more. The statewide assessment tests will be given, and the students must come into the schools to take them. Last year when these plans were being formulated, we did not have the data we have today. I feared and wrote that schools could be a hot bead of infection. I was wrong as were so many others.

 

Schools have proven to be a relatively safe environment as compared to bars and restaurants. Those are now open and so should schools be. The district will be applying for funds to hire a data scientist to help formulate plans going forward. Another good idea.

 

The district projects to have 18,942.4 students this school year. It has 18,140.62 students or a loss of 783.78. That means there is a decrease in funding of $8,192 per student for a total of $6.42 million. The governor’s order spares us all but $170,000 loss this year. The state will not continue to subsidize the district by millions of dollars so cuts may be in the offing for next year.

Nearly ¾ of the student body is in school while the rest is still virtual. The average grade for remote students is C while for those in person it is B. That will affect our school ratings. New Superintendent Millay wants the students back in the classroom. He stated that the dual means of instruction is stressful to teachers. It is not as if teachers are not interacting with online students.

 

Li Roberts said that the sequential subjects such as math are harder online. That makes sense since unlike history you need to master one step before going to another. The entire presentation including a more in depth look at the statistics can be found here

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Town of Sewall's Point Friends-and-Neighbors-of-Martin-County-Sewalls-Point

A MESSAGE FROM THE MAYOR

 

GREETINGS

By Mayor Kaija Mayfield

Tom asked me if I was interested in writing a short piece for his newsletter highlighting my priorities for the upcoming year, and I gladly obliged. I recently wrote a Message from the Mayor for our Sewall’s Point December newsletter that addressed similar topics, so the task seemed especially pleasant to take on. I also enjoy reading Friends & Neighbors of Martin County and believe it provides an excellent spot for Martin County residents to catch up on government happenings. So, thanks for the opportunity, Tom!

 

I was grateful to have been elected for another term as a Sewall’s Point Town Commissioner in early November, and I am also pleased to have the honor and privilege of being elected the Mayor of Sewall’s Point in mid-November, a position I will humbly uphold. There is much work to be done. I look forward to collaborating with my fellow commissioners to listen to our residents’ concerns and make progress on the projects that are important and necessary to keep our town safe, beautiful, and thriving.

 

One of these important and necessary projects is the road project currently underway at the southern end of South Sewall’s Point Road. It is the first step of a much larger project that will address the big picture of mitigating ongoing stormwater and tidal flooding. At the beginning of 2020, the commission identified stormwater management as the number one priority for the town. Building off the foundation of prior commissions, this commission is united and ready to move forward expeditiously and effectively.

 

While a significant focus will be on stormwater, please know that other issues affecting the town will be addressed. The improvement of stormwater drainage will directly affect and improve the health of our rivers, one of our town’s greatest assets. In addition, the prospect of sewer hookup in South Sewall’s Point (which would also affect the health of our rivers) will be addressed. Public Safety has always been a high priority for our residents, and the town will continue to support and facilitate the Sewall’s Point Police Department.

 

I am grateful for this opportunity to lead our wonderful town. I enjoy interacting and communicating with all our residents, always remembering that it is those residents whom the commission serves. We have a highly effective and hardworking staff who continue to improve our town, and who are also dedicated to serving our citizens. It has been a challenging 2020 for everyone, and I look forward to moving ahead into 2021 with humility, perseverance, and focus.

 

Thanks again!!!

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Village-Of-Indiantown Friends-and-Neighbors-of-Martin-County-Indiantown-Village

COUNCIL MEETING DECEMBER 10, 2020

This was a very prosaic like meeting. There were no life changing items on the agenda. The meeting moved projects along. Could it be that Indiantown’s government is becoming established and mundane? I do hope so!

 

If it is, then it is a sign of maturity. After several years, the citizens of the village should be happy about it. That doesn’t mean I agree with every decision that is made. We can disagree on the merits of an item instead of whether the item should have been placed on the agenda at all.

 

We are no longer vying for the soul of whether Indiantown will have “government lite” or not. The council has determined to go all in and hopefully have the tax base to support that vision. To understand that Indiantown is now a “municipality of the entirety,” look no farther than the agenda of this meeting.

 

As I have written in the past, Susan Gibbs-Thomas has become someone with a low profile at the meetings. She did ask questions when appropriate. She only made one motion all night. Both Guyton Stone and Jackie Clarke attended the meeting virtually which made it harder when motions and seconds were needed.

 

Gibbs-Thomas was the only one to vote against extending the emergency order. I agree with her, but I can’t disagree with the other four councilmembers for extending it either. It probably is time to have some normalcy even with Covid. Yet because of the craziness of FEMA still having a state of emergency, may make sense.

 

The councilmembers also mentioned Thelma Waters being inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame. She has been a booster of Indiantown her entire life. It was nice that she was recognized.

 

OTHER MATTERS

 

They approved continuing to spend $9500 per month for their outsourced finance department. The Village also will spend an additional $4800 for the utilities department’s financial services. That $4800 will come out of the utility fund. They will now be paying their outside finance department $14,300 per month or $171,600 per year. Is it time to consider an in-house conventional department?

 

When the manager and clerk proposed many changes to the personnel policy, one of the suggestions was to change the Columbus Day holiday and name it Indigenous Peoples Day. There has been a movement in the last decades to portray Columbus as a purveyor of genocide which is truer than not.

Manager Brown determined that the holiday should be renamed. Gibbs-Thomas asked why he changed the name of a federal holiday when the U.S. government hasn’t done so. She thought it was overreach on his part. Dowling went through all the reasons of why it should be changed. He made a motion to accept the policy changes with the new name. It failed 2-3 with Dowling and Hernandez in the affirmative. Then Gibbs-Thomas made a motion, seconded by Stone, to rename the holiday “Columbus/Indigenous Peoples Day” which passed 4-1 with Dowling dissenting.

 

The council discussed a sound ordinance, and it was determined that the one in place was sufficient. They discussed code enforcement and the need to tighten up on what is and is not acceptable. While staff would like to have more standards in place, the council was not enthusiastic. The message was, “Go slow.”

 

They discussed the new town hall complex and its construction. It seems that they are contemplating other things besides government offices. Suggestions included a swimming pool and/or banquet facility. All agreed there needs to be community input and that should get under way shortly.

 

Brown said he had been contacted by a developer who would build the facility and lease it back to the village. Such a move would negate finding financing. All want to hear more. Hernandez said that she wants to know the terms from the sale/leaseback soon because she didn’t want to rent forever. 

 

 I found that to be the most interesting and enlightening statement of the night. 

 

You can find the presentations on the topics discussed here here

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Town of Ocean Breeze

 

 The next meeting will be December 14, 2020

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Jupiter Island Jupiter Island Sky View

I was unable to attend the meeting held on December 9th.

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Final Thoughts

FINAL THOUGHTS

The United States has an infrastructure problem that is placing us at a disadvantage in the world. Our roadways, bridges, airports, and trains are doing well if they can come close to mid-20th century standards. At their worst it would be infrastructure that was built in the 1880s. This is something that is not acceptable.

VECTOR STOCK

While we are caught in a time warp in that regard, we are very much behind most nations with our internet capabilities. There are two problems…what and how internet is provided. Both show how we may not be capable of competing in a 21st century economy.

 

We have just come off an election that clearly showed the country divided by rural and urban centers. That political polarization is partly due to the economic opportunities that are lacking in rural America. One of the reasons for that is the lack of reliable inexpensive internet capability. As more and more of our economy becomes knowledge- based that lack of access hinders employment.

 

If one wanted to leave the cities and pursue his career in a more bucolic setting, this is a serious drawback. Or if a young educated person is forced to leave his hometown because of the lack of reliable internet, rural America will continue to wither. It is estimated that as many as 28 million Americans do not have access to this 21st century necessity.

 

A century ago, it was the same with electricity. It wasn’t until the 1920s and 1930s that the federal government launched massive programs to bring electricity to the farm. The same must be done today to bring broad band internet to all Americans.

 

The second part of the equation is the expense of internet. In most of the rest of the world, there are several internet service providers. in turn, this brings down the price, and competition brings faster and better service. For instance, in France there is an average of 7 providers in each area while in the U.S. there is 2.

 

If only the well off can afford internet, then even in cities where it is available, there becomes a desert where the poor can’t fairly compete. Covid has shown how important fast and reliable service is to our economy. Just like roads and bridges, internet is part of our infrastructure that needs to be fixed.

 

To read more go here here

 

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GET THE WORD OUT   Friends and Neighbors of Martin County are 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.

Tom Campenni 772-287-5781 (o) 772-341-7455 (c) Email: Info@friendsandneighborsofmartincounty.com thomasfcampenni@gmail.com

ARTICLES OF INTEREST

 

Articles I wrote in the past few weeks:

 

Tallahassee’s version of the “Godfather”

 

HERE

 

“History Is Just The Facts”

 

HERE

 

“The U.S. Needs A Social Safety Net”

 

HERE

 

Other Articles:

 

Our first one is from the Atlantic regarding those working in an office get bigger raises than those working from home:

 

HERE

 

The next is an article from David French in the Dispatch asking if Jews are being beaten in the streets can America be America:

 

 

HERE

 

From The Hill is it time to rethink zoning:

 

HERE

 

The New York Times asks Bill Bratton about police reform:

 

HERE

 

A press release from the Army Corps of Engineers regarding Lake Okeechobee:

 

HERE

 

The Miami Herald asks why Florida picked up the tab for lawsuits for doctors’ mistakes in child birth:

 

HERE

 

The Washington Post writes that Senators are the oldest in history:

 

HERE

 

Another from the Post explains why Florida was supposed to be more left but turned more right instead:

 

HERE

 

The Florida Phoenix writes it is time to get rid of the filibuster:

 

HERE

 

The Mew York Times has a test for us to take regarding the facts on the increase in crime:

 

HERE

 

Lastly from Pro Publica their story on America’s richest pay no tax:

 

HERE

 

 

 

CHARTS:

 

Two charts this week from Visual Capitalist on debt:

 

The first is on household debt:

 

HERE

 

The second is on government debt:

 

HERE

 

GLOSSARY

Annual Medium Income (AMI)

Basin Action Management Plan (BMAP)

Board of County Commissioners (BOCC)

Business Development Board (BDB)

Capital Improvement Plan (CIP)

Career & Technical Education (CTE)

Center For Disease Control (CDC)

Centum Cubic Feet (CCF)

Children’s Services Council (CSS)

Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)

Community Development District (CDD)

Community Redevelopment Board (CRB)

Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA)

Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR)

Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) 

Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)

Emergency Operation Center (EOC)

Equivalent Residential Connection (ERC)

Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU)

Evaluation & Appraisal Report (EAR)

Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA)

Federal Rail Administration (FRA)

Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)

Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)

Full Time Equivalents (FTE)

Future Land Use Maps (FLUM)

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)

High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)

Hobe Sound Local (HSL)

Indian River Lagoon (IRL)

Land Development Code (LDR)

Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS)

Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSUM)

Local Agency Program Certification (LAP)

Local Planning Agency (LPA)

Martin County Fire/Rescue (MCFR)

Martin County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO)

Martin County Taxpayers Association (MCTA)

Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU)

Municipal Service Taxing Unit (MSTU)

Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY)

Organization For Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD)

Planned Unit Development (PUD)

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)

Preserve Action Management Plan (PAMP)

Request for Proposal (RFP)

Residential Planned Unit Development (RPUD)

Right of Way (ROW)

Secondary Urban Services District (SUSD)

South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD)

South Martin Regional Utility (SMRU)

State Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP)

Storm Water Treatment Areas (STA)

Tax Increment Financing (TIF)

Urban Planned Unit Development (UPUD)

Urban Services Boundary (USB)

World Health Organization (WHO)

Zoning-In-Progress (ZIP)

Photo Capt Kimo