Martin County

Sewall's Point

Ocean Breeze

Indiantown

City of Stuart

Jupiter Island

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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1

 

OVERREACH

 

When does a local government’s ordinances constitute overreach?

Overreach happens more often than you would think. Let me give you a couple of examples. At the January 25th Stuart commission meeting, the commission passed an ordinance that mirrors the county’s in preventing the buying of vaping products for anyone under 21.

 

Libertarians, and I am one, believe that you should be able to make that decision for yourself at age 18. Unfortunately, in our puritanical and judgmental society, the state needs to make that determination for what are considered legal adults.

 

There was also discussion on the implementation of the punishment stage for two other ordinances. A couple of years ago, the city commission passed ordinances that banned the use of single use plastics and Styrofoam in city parks and buildings. The second ordinance banned the use of plastic straws throughout the city with a few exceptions.

 

Florida has preempted localities from the banning of plastics except straws. Stuart decided that they would do the banning wherever they could. Now is the time for enforcement, and no one wants to be the bad guy. Unfortunately, someone or department will have to be.

 

Some states have banned the use of single use plastic including stores being able to use plastic bags. I think Florida should follow suit and do the same to stop the polluting of the environment. It would be better if the federal government would pass that legislation. I believe it is legislative overreach for the tiny City of Stuart to do so.

 

Here is my prediction on these three ordinances. The state will raise the age of vaping to match the legal age for tobacco purchases to 21 and then preempt localities from passing any other regulation. The state will add straws to their plastic preemption. And at some point in the next year, the commission chamber will be filled with park users and those that hold events like the Arts Council that will be fined for one of their vendors at Arts Fest using a plastic bag or Styrofoam clamshell. Then that ordinance will be repealed.

 

You cannot get ahead of your citizens. If the residents do not want to follow a rule, then you won’t be able to keep it. Either your citizens will revolt, or the state will preempt your ability to pass the prohibition. 

 

2

 

OVERREACH II

 

A few weeks ago, FDOT put up signs that the Jensen Beach causeways were now no-fishing zones. This was due to anglers leaving behind a mess of garbage and fish parts. At a county commission meeting, the St. Lucie Riverkeeper argued that maybe the anglers would now keep the bridge clean. If not, he was offering to see if volunteers would do the cleanup.

 

Commissioner Smith, whose district includes the causeway, said that the anglers’ behavior has gone on long enough. While other commissioners were sympathetic, none bit at the volunteer suggestion nor did they buy in to the county taking over the cleanup.

 

There is a similar mess on the Old Roosevelt Bridge and FDOT may close it to fishing also. Commissioner Matheson has proposed that the city clean the bridge, and to deter messy anglers, Stuart cops would go undercover as fishermen to be able to catch the litterers in the act and cite them.

Some might call the stationing of undercover officers to snag the evil doers an acute police emergency. However, it is no police emergency but a political one. This bridge is owned by FDOT. They clean it at their expense. What is being proposed is that Stuart clean it.

 

Both ideas will cost the taxpayers money and remove police resources away from actual crime. They are bad ideas and another example of local government putting its nose where it doesn’t belong. If anglers won’t do the right thing, then why should the taxpayers pick up the cost so they can continue their reckless conduct?

 

3

 

CAN STUART CONTINUE TO THRIVE?

 

Long ago Stuart decided to stay small.

In many respects, it turned out to be the right decision. Port St. Lucie has over 200,000 residents and is projected to have more than 350,000 in the future. It is in the top 10 cities in Florida. 60 years ago, that city was an idea while Stuart was long established.

 

To quote Robert Frost’s final stanza of “The Road Not Travelled”:

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

Stuart had ample opportunity to grow by annexation. This has worked out well for Port St. Lucie. At one time, Stuart could have extended its borders by miles. Now there isn’t much empty ground left to annex. While Port St. Lucie vigorously sought out new development, Stuart did not. One way is not better than the other, but Stuart is now fairly limited in how it can grow economically going forward.

 

It isn’t only Stuart but all of Martin County that decided to remain as is. St. Lucie County and Port St. Lucie have had real growing pains. At times, it wasn’t always certain that they could pull it off. I don’t think that is in doubt any longer.

 

Stuart has had a spurt of growth recently and perhaps will have several thousand new residents if all the approved projects are built. The city’s population will still be less than 30,000 people which is not exactly a metropolis. New businesses will continue to be drawn to Port St. Lucie because it has the population to support them. Because housing is more plentiful there, the businesses will have ready access to employees.

 

Stuart’s, and to lesser extent Martin County’s, economic and population demographics are already known. With population growth of 2% per year, a couple of things are apparent.  Taxes to support the level of government services will need to be increased or those services reduced. Younger people will migrate to St. Lucie where housing costs are lower. Industry and commerce will locate where there is a government and environment that does more than give lip service to their needs.

 

Lastly, political power will flow to where the people are. For instance, Stuart once elected county commissioners because it was a population hub. Stuart’s population stagnated and political power went elsewhere such as Palm City. Government money flows to where the votes are. It is politics 101.

 

Speaking as an economically advantaged retiree, our quality of life is better here. The quality for many others is not so good. Young people cannot find a home to buy that they can afford nor a job. At this point, much of our future has already been decided by our past actions. I do not even think much of what we do in the present will change the ultimate outcome.

 

To read more go here

 

 

 

4

 

LNG NIGHTMARE

By Cecile Scofield

You had better hold on to your seat when you hear the train a comin.’  Even those pesky train whistles won’t give you time to run, and you cannot hide if you are anywhere near a spill of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) or breach of a containment tank.  LNG is “gas” in “liquid state.”  LNG has 600 times the energy of natural gas and occupies 1/600th the volume to facilitate storage and transport.  Once the genie is out of the bottle, you can’t put it back in. 

 

Growth in LNG exports has increased due to hydraulic fracturing of our natural gas.  On April 10, 2019, then President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order directing the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to initiate a Rulemaking that would allow the transport of LNG by Rail Tank Cars

 

On August 18, 2020, Earthjustice, Sierra Club, Clean Air Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Mountain Watershed Association, filed a Petition for Review in the United States Court of Appeals asking the Court to vacate the new federal rule that allows LNG transport in 30,000-gallon Rail Tank Cars.  Atty. Jordan Luebkemann of Earthjustice was quoted as saying, “It would only take 22 tank cars to hold the equivalent energy of the Hiroshima bomb.”

 

According to the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE), LNG will be transported by truck and/or rail from New Fortress Energy’s LNG facility in Miami to ports from Miami to Jacksonville.  NFE currently ships 10,000-gallon portable LNG tanks by rail to Port Everglades. 

 

Counties throughout the Treasure Coast should consider supporting the Petition filed by Earthjustice, et al, and keep virtual rolling natural gas pipelines off the rails in our neighborhoods, and moreover, LNG should be regulated in the state of Florida.

 

Cecile Scofield currently lives in Palm City. She is the Past President of Citizens for Environmental Justice of Greater Fall River, Inc. (Massachusetts) and former member of the Coalition for Responsible Siting of LNG Facilities, Fall River, Massachusetts

 

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5

 

NON-PROFIT PERSPECTIVE

By Carol Howaart-Diez

United Way of Martin County President-CEO

The pathway to lifelong success is first and foremost about making sure people’s basic needs are met. Access to food, shelter, transportation, health care, and utilities are basic needs for everyone. Yet, many of our friends and neighbors lack adequate resources to provide essentials for themselves or their families.

 

Even before the pandemic hit, nearly half of Martin County households struggled to provide the basics, living one missed paycheck away from disaster.  We refer to these individuals and families as our ALICE population (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed).  In the wake of COVID-19, more ALICE households than ever before were scrambling to cover their basic needs.  Loss of income, restrictions on going back to work, or childcare issues have forced families to make hard decisions. 

 

Thankfully for Martin County residents, there are many social services available for those in need.

 

Among the greatest needs for those financially impacted by the pandemic are rent, mortgage, and utility assistance. United Way works with two local nonprofits that provide these services: House of Hope and Salvation Army.  There are income guidelines and criteria that must be met to receive assistance.  Payments are made directly to landlords, utility companies, or mortgage holders – no cash is provided to clients.

 

So far, during the pandemic, between United Way’s COVID Relief Fund and the United We Care: Martin County’s COVID-19 Relief Fund, we have helped over 350 households avoid evictions and foreclosures.

 

It is important to understand that this is not a free hand out, rather a hand up during a tough time. United Way and our nonprofit partners strive to help individuals get back on track and guide them on the pathway to success using an empowerment model. As the old saying goes, if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. Our goal is to develop fishermen of our families so they can be self-sustaining in our community.

 

As 2021 progresses, we will continue to partner with other nonprofits, funders, and local government to help individuals and families caught in the economic storm wrought by the pandemic.

 

Next month I will focus on one of the most significant pandemic issues we’ll face in the foreseeable future — mental health – and the programs available to our community.  This is becoming increasingly important as the pandemic’s mental health toll has led to a spike in suicide attempts as people grapple with depression, isolation, and stress.  

Until then….

 

If you have questions you can always reach me at 772-283-4800 or to learn more about United Way visit www.UnitedWayMartin.org.

 

6

 

PINE’S PONDERING

By Tom Pine

 

Moving the Martin County Commission meetings back to the commission chambers from the conference room at the Blake Library made me sad and angry. There is no real reason for the move except maybe for someone’s ego.        

There is no way to social distance in the commission chambers compared to the setting at the Blake Library. The CDC under the direction of Dr. Anthony Fauci strongly advises the wearing of face coverings and six feet social distancing while indoors.        

So, it appears staff at Martin County Government knows better than the CDC professionals when it comes to best practices while dealing with Covid-19.        

This move by our local government also sends a bad signal to the small business community throughout the county, that it is ok to start cutting back on safety measures related to COVID-19.        

I worked at the nuclear power plant on Hutchinson Island on unit #2. I remember an article hanging on the bulletin board in our break room from the insurance institute that gave a projection that there would be at least five deaths on the job site by the time the job was completed.        

There were over ten thousand construction workers on that job site that lasted over ten years. We beat the odds dramatically, while two men did die it was considerably less than what was projected.          

It didn’t happen by chance, safety was always a top priority for everyone on the job site including workers and management.        

Over the past couple of months there have been major outbreaks of COVID-19 across the country including here in FloriDa, but in Martin County as usual we put safety in the back seat and take minimal precautions and hope for the best.        

The attitude of Martin County Government to take such minimal precautions at commission meetings during Covid-19 is unacceptable. I don’t want to hear about your thoughts and prayers after an accident, I want safety to be a priority before the accident ever happens.

I also have a problem with nonprofits that receive funding from our local government. My first question is always how much the people running these various nonprofits are paid.                  

 

Last year about this same time I emailed Martin County and asked how many nonprofits do we the taxpayers support, their response, nineteen different nonprofits.        

I contacted the agencies and received six replies to my inquiry regarding salaries. The Martin County Veterans Council stated that no one is paid at all for the service provided.  At the other end of the spectrum Children’s Home Society of FloriDa has four officers for a total of $757,724 and five non officer employees for a total of $ 662,931. That is nine people for a grand total of $1,420,655.        

So, I must ask the question, is it the taxpayers’ responsibility to support nonprofits where some of the people make considerably more than double the median salary of the taxpayers.

 

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

 

7

 

SYRKUS THOUGHTS

By Michael Syrkus

 

On January 20th, I had the distinct pleasure of visiting a good friend and mentor at his office in Orlando.

 

A man considered a living legend in his field, he has been instrumental in helping guide me through the practical application of citizen lobbying. A relaxed group of 4 men, 3 of us having lobbied together in the past, we sat in front of the T.V. discussing different topics.

 

Business was one of those topics of conversation. We were setting our goals out for the new legislative year in Florida, while also brainstorming our approach for D.C. After all, the regime change does not bode well for cigar smokers’ rights, or several other agricultural matters.

 

As we sat there, sharing a cigar, and sampling from a barrel of selected bourbon that would end up at a local central Florida charity fundraiser, it dawned on me that no matter how important the big picture may seem, it’s the small pieces that make all the difference.

 

There is no question, we must all take a stand and do our part to help shape the future. But is squabbling over the big picture the best way to go?

 

I remember fondly my time spent on the board of directors for the Martin County Republican Executive Committee. Today, I serve on the board of the Martin County Farm Bureau. Though I take great pride in the work I have done in these two groups, I recognize one great truth. The friends made and partnerships formed are worth more than anything else.

 

When the pandemic shut down most economic activity, it was these friends that helped to keep food on people’s tables. Connections from across the state and even outside Florida helped instill a sense of confidence that all would be well.

 

Many people today feel they must do all they can to change the course of the world. Instead, I would advise to paint YOUR small picture. Build YOUR community. Start at HOME if you want to change the world. Ultimately, your neighbors and neighborhood ARE your world.

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

8

HERBIE’S HOBE SOUND

By Herbert Howard

 

In my last article I mentioned the Hobe Sound Depot and how Commissioner Jenkins wants to return it to a prominent place in Hobe Sound from the Polo Grounds on Bridge Road.  The depot is privately owned, and the commissioner has been trying to charm the owners toward an agreement for its return. 

In an ensuing conversation about the depot’s history, he mentioned that it had once been stolen!  Yes, a gentleman by the name of Howard Yochum from Melbourne was charged with grand larceny in the amount of $5,000 for theft of the Hobe Sound Depot.  Seems he just loaded it on a flatbed and took off for Palm Beach County.    He was taken into custody in Palm Beach by Deputy Quackenbush (of course) and released an hour later.  A woman named Betty Bush (this just gets better and better) had purchased both the Jupiter and Hobe Sound Depots (she had a thing for depots, I guess) in 1966. 

 

This information grabs one’s attention immediately and just screams for clarification.  Why weren’t the depots in use?  Why did Mr. Yochum steal it?  Why did he head to Palm Beach County instead of Melbourne?  Was Betty Bush one of THE Bushes?  The family did and may still have a home on Jupiter Island after all. 

 

What was her strange obsession with railway depots all about?  Can you believe Mr. Yochum was released on bond for a grand larceny charge only an hour later?  I wonder if he ever served any time.  Or, if as this picture from the paper at the time seems to suggest, it was all a bit of a misunderstanding.  Let’s just go have a beer.  And to top it off, now we know how much an out of service railway depot was worth in 1966! 

 

I really hope Commissioner Jenkins gets his wish.  I couldn’t tell this story enough times if only to use the name Quackenbush. 

 

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

 

9

MCCHRYSTAL’ MEANDERINGS

By Frank McChrystal

 

I guess I’m an old man now! 

 

The once friendly roads of my hometown have become the mean streets of Martin County.  And there is no turning back time.  We the people with our political will or lack thereof have placed traffic control at the bottom of the priority list of the law enforcement budget.

 

I guess I’m an old man now. My instincts are good and they’re telling me it’s not safe out there on the mean streets.  I don’t blend in with the frustrated PSL worker bees, stressed out moms, and the Tesla vs European SUV racing in the street. And add to the speed demons, an entire generation that views the driver seat as the perfect spot for multi-tasking.

 

It’s sad watching residents approach the county commission begging for some speed limit enforcement in their residential neighborhoods.  Do they really think the populace is going to obey residential speed limits after blending in with the normal lawlessness on all other streets? 

 

Go ahead and waste some more money on speed bumps and fancy solar powered signs.  “Traffic calming” simply reminds today’s driver that they haven’t seen a human being writing a traffic ticket since 1984.  Holy hell, it seems like even the once notorious Sewall’s Point police have been neutered lately. 

 

We the people of Martin County didn’t create these mean streets overnight and there are no answers for the inevitable future US1 parking lot.  We signed off on gated communities that funnel traffic on to the very few main roads.  We re-routed I-95 way out west making it useless for Eastern Martin Co.  We made sure the “worker bee” affordable housing was built in PSL.  And we built a second East-West connector bridge in a spot that helps only Palm City traffic. 

 

And on top of these foundational issues, we all demonstrate a lack of political will to fund traffic enforcement.

 

It’s all relative for sure and I know the newly transplanted “southies”’ enjoy our perceived wide-open roads.  So, I guess I’m the old man now, remembering the paradise that was once Martin County.  I don’t blend in with conditions out there on the mean streets.  My instincts say it’s not safe but thank God I’m old enough and wise enough to not fear death.

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

 

10

HELP IS ON THE WAY

 

For the past couple of newsletters, I have reported on the drainage problems on Chase Court.

 

If you remember, the street would have standing water for weeks in the rainy season. Commissioner Hetherington met with the residents and was able to have Martin County engineering make a site visit and speak to some of them.

 

The drainage, water and sewar, and repaving is scheduled to begin in February. A project such as that has been in the works for a couple of years. I take no credit for moving it along, but Hetherington becoming involved could have pushed it up by a bit.

 

It was a confluence of events. Like so much in government, if they had communicated to the people when the project was to begin the residents may not have felt that they were being ignored. So much of governing is about communication. It is not enough that engineering knew what had to be done. The residents whose lives were impacted needed to know.

 

Unless the project does not begin in February, you won’t be hearing about Chase Court again.

 

Let me know if you have a particular problem, and I will see if I can help and get information.  

 

IF YOU ARE NOT A SUBSCRIBER DO SO FOR FREE HERE

 

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.
 

IF YOU ARE NOT A SUBSCRIBER DO SO FOR FREE HERE

The first letter is from Greg DeJohn:

 

I appreciate your presentation of our local governmental workings, actions, etc.

Just wanted to express my surprise over Stuart allowing a developer to walk away from, by their own metrics, a million-dollar obligation for $250,000.

There was a clear call for negotiation on the matter and the commission just rolled over? I must be missing something. There are 10 unknown lower income singles, couples, perhaps families immediately screwed by this inaction. When viewed over 30 years given tenant turnover conservatively every 3 years perhaps 100 families affected?

The message here is Stuart simply gives lip service only to the subject of attainable/affordable housing.

The next letter is from Rhonda Foertsch regarding the vaccination program at Martin Health

 

Dear Tom,

I wanted to make you aware of the efficiency of the vaccination process at the Martin County Department of Health. I am a semi-retired RN and I am a volunteer with the drive through COVID 19 vaccinations. Each day, when they have a supply of vaccines, they are able to give about 450 – 500 vaccines from 9-2. If more become available, I see them as able to expand their efforts to 5-6 days per week, with the volunteers and staff ready to do so.

I just wanted to comment on the screening process. Yes, there is a screening process at the triage tent after the patient’s appointment is confirmed, but as medical people, when patients get to the four vaccination stations, we all do a quick health screen as well as confirm name and date of birth. We also educate the patients on what they may experience as far as side effects and what to do to mitigate those effects. These are just “best practice” procedures that we all do as part of our due diligence to ensure patient safety.

Have an awesome day!

Another on vaccinations from Tom Herr

 

Hi Tom,

 

I read what you said about the shots and I disagree. The “first responders” should get the vaccine first because they are immersed in the virus everyday. The seniors can stay home and not be exposed to this killer virus. They can be second in line without near the exposure or danger to them. The seniors should be used to staying home by now anyway. We can wait a little longer to save the lives of first responders.
That’s just my opinion.

 

Thanks for reading this.

 

From Jack Swalwell regarding masks:

 

Tom, in your article about DeSantis, you state “I wish he had instituted a statewide mask mandate which has been proven to stop the spread.”  That is not true.  They do not stop the spread of the virus.  They may help slow it down, but they do not stop the spread.  Some people are wearing the same mask for months.  Be it new or old, exhaled air escapes from masks at the tops, bottoms and sides of the masks.  They may help, but will not stop the spread.  My wife and I wear them whenever we are out in the public and when we are with some of our neighbors as we know they do help.

 

Thanks for doing what you do.  I know it is more than a full time job meaning I know you spend more than 40 hours a week doing a great job and I appreciate it and I share your emails.

 

Thank you.

 

And I answered:

 

Thanks.. 

 

We will agree to disagree re masks. At this point either you are pro or con and no amount of persuasion is going to change minds. Keep on reading though.

 

 

And RJ Pozzi commenting on a variety of things:

 

“Senior staff and elected officials are “elites”. They get to spend taxpayer dollars with not much accountability. They come up with all kinds of reasons why it is justified. It seldom is. TOTAL AGREEMENT WITH YOU ON THIS T.C.”

 

The WM bid process and choice of the more expensive bid, MCFR contracts, Ed Ciampi “staking his reputation” on $10 million Waterpark “investment” that will sustain itself (it hasn’t), the Golf Course $5/$8 million overruns and the $3 million Beach Hot Dogs stands spending.

Dear F’s and N’s,

 

 

I am very concerned with the Martin County BOCC and its subscription into Regional Planning Boards. In effect the RPB’s cost us money and take away Local Control and the voice of the citizens and County sovereignty. They recently presented information/propaganda pushing the citizens to contact their representatives pushing them to vote against SB 62.

 

Governor DeSantis is FOR SB 62 since he is aware that Local Control is best for local citizens.

We citizens rather that our County make our own decisions. So, WE will contact our Reps and tell them to Vote FOR SB62.

 

 

Contact your State Congress Reps. Overdorf, Snyder or Senator Harrell and TELL THEM TO VOTE YES FOR SB-62.

 

One must wonder why our Commissioners would cede Local control and Leadership to a faroff board? That’s certainly NOT leadership.

 

 

IF YOU ARE NOT A SUBSCRIBER DO SO FOR FREE HERE

Jeff Joel regarding septic to sewer in Zeus Park:

 

Hi Tom..

 

I was reading an article of yours about Martin Counties septic to sewer conversion program. I am wondering when the county will be hooking up the Zeus Park neighborhood in Hobe Sound which is on septic now to the sewer system? I noticed new homes being built there now and they will be on septic instead of connecting to the sewer system which seems odd to me. Just wondering if you had any idea or who I should ask.

Thanks Tom…appreciate it.

 

And my answer:

 

Jeff:

 

If you look at the pdf presentation that is in the Martin section. It outlines where the county has scheduled projects for the next several years. 

 

That is only an idea based on funding etc. 

Laurie Carr has an idea regarding Memorial Park in Stuart:

 

Hello Tom

 

I have a proposition for the City of Stuart Parks Department, and it involves Memorial Park. This is a beautiful park, however it seems underutilized and looks “off limits” as far as being inviting to children. Much of the year the park looks empty when there isn’t an art show or other event. Ever since the park was developed, I have envisioned a climbing statue for children to play on. Perhaps the city could commission a local artist (Geoffrey Smith comes to mind) to build a statue representing the local area, perhaps a sailfish, or a historical figure that children could learn about and appreciate. Inviting more families to the park may help develop business across the street where a small empty strip mall stands.

 

Thank you!

 

And my answer:

 

Laurie:

 

I agree it is underutilized. 

 

It was designed as a passive park. Flagler was the one that has the play area as well of course as does Shepard’s and Kiwanis. All really within walking distance of each other. If you add into the mix 10th Street, the ball fields, and MLK playground within about 2 miles there are several children’s recreational areas. 

 

I know this is anathema to many, but the city may have too many parks for the small size of our footprint and for our population. It depends how much taxpayers want to pay for that department. 

 

The area across the street at Wells Fargo will be the new City Hall and the strip nearly empty center will end up as another use. 

Lila Williams is commenting on development:

 

Tom

 

I am saddened to see how many new condos & developments are being allowed in Martin County. Destroying tons of our beautiful trees and natural areas.

 

This County should not be allowed to approve ANY MORE developing until they can get the current residents on Public Sewer! There are septic tanks and drain fields all over this County leaching sewage into our rivers.

 

How can the powers-that-be allow new development when they can’t even take care of the people who already live here??

 

I smell corruption in our “Planning” & Zoning Departments.

 

From Retired Chief Louis Savini:

 

Thank you for such an informative publication. I look forward to reading the contents when I receive it. I think the information is very relative to our wonderful county. Thanks again Tom and much success.

Rachel Heid is asking about Rio development:

 

Hello Tom –

 

I always find your newsletter informative. I would like to inquire about Rio Marine Village. This parcel was formerly Rio Town Center and located where Jack Baker’s Lobster Shanty was many years ago. The NAC meeting is this Thursday, 6/28 at 6pm. The developer as well as LPA will be there to give info and answer questions. As an adjacent property owner I have kept up with this project over the years and each developer has a giant idea for this small parcel. I worry about the density and the variances that county is willing to vary. Currently our CRA allows 15 units per acre. This developer is proposing 198 units. The density just seems so high for the area. I am understanding of responsible development but this seems like too much density for the area. I appreciate all your knowledge and would love to hear perspective. I will attach the links below.

 

Thank you in advance for your time,

https://www.martin.fl.us/resources/rio-town-center

 

My response:

 

Rachel:

 

Sorry I didn’t get to you sooner, but I wanted to think about it more.

 

I do think it can be done if the proper infrastructure is included. The only way that is built is with density otherwise no developer can make a profit.

 

Whether this project is completed or not is a good question. Like so many others it will never get off the ground because of timing. It would remake Rio and that may be enough to scuttle the project. 

 

As it progresses, I will keep an eye on it.

 

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MartinCounty Friends-and-Neighbors-of-Martin-County-Commission

COMMISSION MEETING FEBRUARY 2, 2022

 

There was not much in the way of substance at this meeting, but it gave me an opportunity to understand commissioners’ motives on what they deem important.

 

After one more round of public comment from the usuals such as Riverkeeper Mike Connor and Florida Sportsman publisher Blair Wickstrom on how unfair the closing of the Jensen Beach bridges is to fishermen without boats, the commission sort of relented on the closings.

Smith reiterated his position that the place is a mess and has been for a long time. He said that people would never tolerate users leaving such a mess in any park. While Commissioner Heard felt they should have an agenda item to discuss this further, Ciampi and the rest felt that enough had been said. He wants these “volunteers” to speak with the sheriff, FDOT, and other government agencies to see if a program can be worked out with the fishing groups.

 

While county officials have said FDOT would only allow the bridge to be cleaned by county staff if the county took over all the maintenance, that is not correct. FDOT would sign an agreement to allow the county to clean the bridge and not take over maintaining the infrastructure. Why should local tax dollars be used for this cleaning so that at most a hundred or so people can be irresponsible.

 

A motion was made by Smith and seconded by Ciampi for the administrator to assign a staff person to be lead on this initiative with the other parties named above. It passed 5-0.

 

Duane De Freese, the Executive Director of the Indian River Lagoon Council, gave a presentation to the board. The NEP was just reauthorized with an increase in funding to $700,000 for 2022. He stated that Martin County is a leader in septic to sewer. It was a remarkably interesting and detailed report. For those that are interested they can go here

 

Almost at every meeting, a commissioner will announce (as they are required) that he/she will be using “my district funds” for a project or organization to pay for something not in the budget. This meeting, Smith announced that he was using his district fund to pay for an upgrade to the bar top being installed at Stuart Beach’s Sand Dune Café in the amount of $37,386.95.

 

In each commissioner’s district, there is a special MSTU that is collected from taxpayers that becomes those district funds. They are to be used at the district commissioner’s discretion in the locale where the funds were collected. That MSTU is not paid by those county residents that live within a municipality and none of those funds can be used for a project within the municipality.

 

Will the use of those district funds make that government-owned, operated, and built bar more beautiful? Without a doubt it will. I just wonder how many taxpayers within Smith’s district would think the bar at the new Sand Dune Café is worth their $37,386.95 in paid tax dollars. You can find the change order and specifics here

 

Maybe there needs to be better parameters around what and how these funds can be spent. I can understand a road issue or a drainage problem. Even an amenity like sidewalks or to pay for a pilot program at a park. It is always tough to decide when the expenditure is more a whim than a necessity. I doubt any commissioner will step on the toes of another in this regard. So, if there needs to be a more restrictive policy how would it be accomplished? 

 

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

COMMISSION MEETING JANUARY 25, 2021

 

Commissioners McDonald and Matheson are Stuart’s representatives to the MPO. During commissioner comments, they spoke about two proposed projects that may be done. The first was providing another left-hand turning lane on Kanner Highway onto Federal. That would have resulted in only one remaining lane for going straight or turning right. The project is on hold for now. At some point, there will have to be more right of way provided to accomplish that.

The second project was the doing away of the hot right from Federal Highway onto Palm City Road. While in the past I have not been in favor of that, it may be time to give it another look. Within the entire area, traffic is becoming more and more a problem.

 

Currently, there is a study being conducted of the Federal Highway corridor by the Treasure Coast Planning Council. Palm City Road, local side streets, Kanner between Monterey and Federal, and Monterey from Kanner to the bridge should be studied. There needs to be a more seamless way of getting from Point A to Point B. The study should also look at a complete street concept including a road diet for Federal Highway.

 

VAPING & PLASTICS

 

The second reading of the 18-21 Vaping Ordinance should have been a simple thing.

 

Instead, it was turned into a problem because it did not mirror the county by having licensing requirements. The city is not the county. While the county will be citing the violators which, eventually, could impair their ability to continue in business. In the city’s case, the fine will be assessed on the owner of the property. Which is better? Both have plusses and minuses.

First let’s remember the age to purchase cigarettes is already 21 throughout Florida and is a Federal law. Nothing there is changing. Last year, the Florida Legislature introduced a bill that would not raise the legal age for purchasing of vaping products from 18 to 21 but did ban flavored ones. This resulted in the governor’s veto. The age to buy these products then remained at 18 even though federal law, which supersedes state law, is 21.

 

Both Martin County and Stuart decided to step into the breach and raise the age to 21 for vapes. Both ordinances will do that. So why all the fuss? A county commissioner, a lobbyist, and a member of the county attorney’s staff decided to speak by Zoom to the commission to recommend that their ordinance include a license.

 

The city commissioners began interacting with all three of the speakers. I guess if you are a friend then it is no longer public comment where the commission listens for 3 minutes and take what they hear under advisement. What really irked me was the commission having the county attorney critiquing its own ordinance which had been crafted by their own attorney. The county commission would have never stood for it if the roles were reversed.

 

McDonald introduced fines of $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second, and $1000 for the third and subsequent ones plus, in all cases, a mandatory $300 magistrate’s appearance fee as part of the ordinance. It would be enforced by Code Enforcement. The motion was seconded by Matheson and passed 5-0.

 

There was a discussion item regarding single use plastics on city property including parks. After two years of “education,” it is now time to enforce penalties and fines.

I do not know whether the Boat Show violated the ordinance, but the Martin Luther King celebration certainly did. The ordinance calls for progressive fines. The city can keep the security deposit and refuse to give the organization another permit. The fines are levied against the permit holder.

 

The city is preempted from banning single use plastic in general throughout the city except for plastic straws. At around the same time of the single use plastic ordinance, the city banned the use of straws. Now the time for education is over and there are penalties attached.

 

In both instances, Stuart stands alone. The county has refused to do the same. If tomorrow, the state (better yet the federal government) was to ban the use of all single use plastic, I would applaud the effort. Several states have already passed bans. With only seven square miles of land, Stuart is trying to be an ecological utopia.

 

The city and county will spend taxpayer resources to enforce ordinances that most of us find silly. Local government is often preempted because they stray from their governmental lanes. They should stick to things that are truly local in nature such as development and public works.

 

I predict the state will pass its own vaping law preempting localities as they did with tobacco. I predict that they will preempt locals from banning plastic straws. And at some point, the chamber will fill with businesspeople and residents incensed at the park ban of plastics. That will result in a repeal of that ordinance.   

 

COMMISSION MEETING FEBRUARY 8, 2020

 

Utilities & Engineering Director Tim Voelker gave an excellent presentation on the new water system going in over the next few years.

 

It is very technical, and his presentation can be found here

 

The nearly $20 million price tag for the pipelines, wells and reverse osmosis system is necessary for the utility. The cost is high and rate payers already feel the burden. My bills for the utility now rival my FPL bills in the winter months when the air conditioning is off. Is there anything that can be done?

 

I doubt it because the Stuart utility doesn’t have enough rate payers to equally share in these large very necessary capital expenses. Another result of Stuart’s decision to not grow. Being a full-service city is expensive, and there needs to be a large population to support all the services.

 

Though the city provides water and sewer to a district that is larger than the current city boundaries, the utility is prevented from growing further because Martin County’s utility is everywhere else. At some point within the next decade or so, the city may find that their residents cannot afford the charges. Then what happens? A merge with Martin County utilities will not be out of the question.

 

There is a cost to the no-growth, little-town philosophy. To have local government costs money…more and more every year. You can spread the cost out over many users, or you must charge more to each user, or you can cut services. The same people that are now complaining about growth will complain when the cost of government increases to them or services cut.

 

WHAT IS A COP TO DO?

For some time now, America has been dealing with the issue of how a police officer should act when enforcing the law and even which laws to enforce. There has even been questions about whether officers should respond at all to calls when a mentally ill person is involved or domestic disputes. More progressive thought would say social workers and mental health professionals should be involved.

 

It appears that commissioners in Stuart want its cops to respond to all types of calls even those that have nothing to do with policing.

 

At this meeting, several commissioners announced officers’ involvement on projects that at best have a very tangential relationship to law enforcement and in one case nothing at all.

 

We have all heard about having an “undercover cop” to identify the irresponsible fishing folks who leave trash on the Old Roosevelt Bridge. That is one commissioner’s idea. If those that use the bridge as their fishing hole can’t take away their garbage and fish guts, then let an officer go undercover to whip out his ticket book. The city has already placed garbage cans and sends employees to clean up after the offenders.

 

Why can’t you just prevent fishing if those doing so leave a mess? There is no constitutional right to fish off the bridge. It blocks the sidewalk so that walkers and joggers end up in the road creating a hazard. There is a pier below to allow water access. And cops are expensive. If my kids made a mess, they were obligated to clean it up…not me. Tax dollars can be used for other things. 

 

Then there is the job fair being held. Originally it was strictly for those seeking information about becoming members of Stuart PD. Commissioner Matheson has now muscled in and made it a job fair for all. The Business Development Board will now assist as part of its $25,000 contract with the city (or as I like to say their welfare check). It will be held at the public safety building on M.L.K. What was once a police initiative has grown a bit.

 

And, then the attendees learned about Commissioner McDonald’s discussion with two patrol officers about the homeless. When he mentioned he was working with the two officers to come up with a program at the meeting, you could see that the chief (who was present) had not the slightest idea what was going on. Nothing that was discussed at the commission meeting had been vetted by the city manager, police chief, police captains, or even a sergeant.

 

During public comment, Helen McBride, a citizen activist, spoke about speeding on East Ocean and how the city needs more police and maybe should hire more to do traffic enforcement. Indeed, they will need to hire more if we expand their job descriptions to include programs for the homeless, job counseling, and undercover litter patrol.

 

Commissioner Meier might just be getting it. He quietly just said Stuart cannot be responsible for some things. In the normal course of his patrol, a cop can give a summons for littering. It isn’t the city’s obligation to provide a place for individuals to fish if they can’t “police” themselves. A cop is not a jobs counselor. So far, there are a few civilian employers signed up for the job fair such as Chipotle and Lowes both of which hire people by online applications.

 

Even if the BDB brings a dozen more such companies to the fair, all chains use the same process of internet applications to hire people. This is just a flimsy justification to give them that $25,000 dollars of Stuart tax dollars. Career Source has been tapped to assist.

 

Career Source is specifically funded to help employers and employees find each other and has training programs. It is on Central Parkway. They are open five days per week.  Their number is 772-214-3174 and their information-extensive website can be found here

 

The homeless is a much more challenging issue. It is not one that can be solved by the City of Stuart. The police must often deal with that population because they are on private property or in our parks. This is a national and state problem. The county does not want nor do they have the funds necessary to have any shelter program. The 7 square miles that encompasses Stuart does not have the resources either.

 

There needs to be some balance here. The city manager needs to do his job and place some order and procedures in affect. It can’t be every commissioner with an idea trying to execute it. In some municipalities, commissioners can only speak with the manager. Stuart has a more reasonable and relaxed policy.

 

Commissioners should be able to obtain information from department heads. They should be able to speak to the employees just like any other citizen to see what is going on in the trenches. It is impossible for commissioners to become program coordinators. Like Meier said, Stuart can’t do everything.

 

STRAWS & HIDDEN KEY

 

The city has begun enforcing the straw ordinance. It seems that the more well-known businesses are complying and not using plastic straws. We have saved the planet. What will come first…the state preempting the city’s ability to have such an ordinance or the state having a statewide ban?

 

To see who received citations go here

 

Almost two and half hours into the meeting, the commission finally did something that is in their wheelhouse. They approved a small infill project of 1.36 acres on Kanner Highway abutting property owned by ARC.

The rental property will be 2 stories and consist of 28 apartments. It is a good project for a piece of property where it would be hard to do anything else. The complete presentations with renderings can be found here

 

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

 

In the January 24th Newsletter, I reported on a proposed pre-k training program for students to obtain jobs at Jensen Beach High. School Board Chair Marcia Powers wrote a letter to me regarding the piece:

 

Hello Tom –

 

I want to clarify your synopsis of the school board’s discussion of building two Pre-K classrooms at Jensen Beach High School.

 

To clarify, I do not think all Pre-K teachers should have a college degree. However, I do believe that they are woefully underpaid. Until we, as a school district and a state, value these teachers and pay them appropriately, it will be hard to attract potential employees and students to this field. Under our current VPK system, requiring teachers to have college degrees would make the program cost prohibitive to families. Currently, VPK in Florida is provided mainly by private providers with public schools accounting for only 20% of the available seats. The VPK system in Florida would not be successful without providers like Gertrude Walden Child Care Center and many others, but they also need the ability to pay their employees a wage that reflects their value to our community.

 

My objection to the two vacant classrooms being utilized for Pre-K, stems from the fact that MCHS and SFHS are currently over capacity. JBHS will become an open school choice high school next year to hopefully alleviate more overcrowding at the other two high schools. Because a new high school will cost approximately $100 million to build, I think it is most responsible to leave any currently vacant classrooms at JBHS for high school students.

 

Thank you for reporting on the school board meetings.

 

Best regards,
Marsha Powers, Chair
Martin County School Board

 

And my response:

 

I did not communicate your position as well as I thought. 

 

You did so in your email beautifully. 

 

In general, we should as a society nationally be providing for not only pre-k care but day care in general for every child. I believe through primarily the private sector using adequate tax credits and vouchers this can be accomplished. As you know I am on the board of Gertrude Walden and strongly believe that every teacher and day care worker should be qualified but not necessarily with a college degree.

 

With proper funding those that work in those centers could be paid more than now. We as a nation just need to decide that this is the direction we must go.

 

Thelma Washington who is the executive director of Gertrude Walden also wrote regarding pre-k and childcare:

 

Tom,

 

Thank you, concerning the Early Childhood Program at Jensen Beach High School.

 

I agree with your comments as well as Marsha Powers.  At Gertrude Walden Child Care Center, the quality of instruction is high and teachers with the assistance of financial tuition from the TEACH program are able to obtain their AS degree and higher. 

 

I would be happy to partner with Jensen Beach High School as a work experience and training sight. I presently accept interns from the Work Force Solutions program and that has worked out well.  I’m sure most providers in Martin County would be happy to do the same.  For your further information, Dunbar, Hobe Sound Early Learning, Apple Tree and Gertrude Walden are all accredited as well. 

 

WE all have teachers with Associate Degrees.


Those who are early learning professionals, let us know about your thoughts, experiences, and ideas.

 

WORKSHOP FEBRUARY 2, 2021

 

This was a workshop that was very substantive yet for the lay person extremely boring.

 

The first thing was the Clifton Strengths Assessments. It is an hour-long assessment identifying your natural patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. It has 4 Domains and 34 Themes. At the end of it, you are supposed to know yourself better.

 

In large work settings, I guess it is important to be aware of your colleagues’ work behaviors to be able to partner with them more effectively. You understand their motivation and how they think about things and process information. You can then compare their work styles against your own and have greater understanding of how to develop more collaborative and successful work relationships.

 

You can find the superintendent’s and school board’s assessments here

 

Ms. Roberts put together a book of operating guidelines for the board. It outlines policies and procedures. You can find it here

 

Dr. White gave a presentation on the new Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking- B.E.S.T. Standards. The English Language Arts Standards will be implemented in 2021/22 year and the math in 2022/23 school year. It is strictly a Florida Dept. of Education product and it supposedly goes back to basics.

 

To see the presentation, go here

 

The Gerhing Group, the district’s health insurance consultant, presented its 6-month findings. So far this year, Florida Blue has paid 104% in claims. That means it has lost money. Not only by paying 4% more in claims than it collected but much more when you figure in the 20% in administrative costs assigned.

 

The large claims, those over $150,000, are 266% higher. The blended increase for the plans would be 13.8%. This is only for half the year but that doesn’t mean the board can wait six months to decide on any changes. Those will be done at the next few meetings.

 

You can read the entire presentation here

 

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

COMMISSION MEETING JANUARY 26, 2021

 

The commission passed 5-0 an ordinance that removed the 500-foot distance requirement between businesses that sell alcohol. This is to help Harbor Bay Plaza attract other restaurants. It does not expand the areas that businesses can open. The commission is looking to make sure that the retail area in town remains viable.

 

Many people do not realize that watering lawns and gardens is regulated by the South Florida Management District. For some time, there have been restrictions that that limit watering to twice a week. This ordinance just codifies it.

 

There will be a period of education before the penalty phase. Commissioners believed that it is important for local ordinances to mirror the district’s requirements when asking the district for grants and funding. It passes 5-0. To see the ordinance, go here

 

DIFFERENT ASSESSING AND TAXING DISTRICTS

 

The commission agreed to hire Commercial Divers Services as the low bidder at $43,425.00 to repair the bulkheads and the Island Road Bridge. The motion to approve passed 5-0.

 

Commissioner Campo stated that in this and other instances most residents are not benefiting from these repairs and improvements. He asked whether assessments or special districts could be set up so that things that are internal to different subdivisions could be charged to the lot owners in the future.

 

The Town Attorney said there would need to be a consultant to ascertain whether it was possible and then a determination made if it would be financially worth it. Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, who is currently on the SFWMD and is former mayor and commissioner, was in the audience and was not in favor.

 

Campo would like to workshop the idea. While I don’t think districts are the best way to go in the small town, I think the pros and cons should be discussed. If a past commission had not accepted the roadways and subdivision infrastructure, then those communities would be responsible for the upkeep and maintenance.

 

As an aside, I want to congratulate the Mayor Mayfield for running a very good meeting.

 

COMMISSION WORKSHOP FEBRUARY 9, 2021

 

It seems that every year commissioners wants to discuss the public comment portion of the meeting and how to change it. This year it was Commissioner Tompeck.

Tompeck ideas are the following:

 

Strictly enforce that comment cards must be submitted prior to the start of the meeting for

all items on the agenda.

 

Under Item II of the agenda, the public comments at the beginning of the meeting should

be restricted to agenda items not requiring public hearing. Public comments on nonagenda items should be at the end of the meeting. This prevents sales pitches or

advertising from slowing down the start of the meeting.

 

No responses from the Commission should be made during public comments. There was a case several months ago where you and the Commission tried to solve an individual’s problem which ate up 15-20 minutes of valuable time and wasn’t related to any business on the agenda. If a Commissioner wishes to reply to a public comment, that can be done at the end of the meeting under Commission closing remarks.

 

I think it would be worthwhile to briefly review the criteria for consent items, with the view of adding more non-controversial, low financial impact issues to the consent agenda.

 

With the new video and audio upgrades to the chambers, we should discuss the opportunities for residents viewing the meeting from their homes and the process for public comments. My recommendation would be for one-way viewing with public comments being submitted prior to the start of the meeting via email. There should not be separate public comments during each agenda item. I think this is the number one item that slows down the meetings. I find it terribly distracting when the Town Engineer is making a presentation and people are handing in comment cards to critique his presentation. Those comments should be made at the beginning of a meeting and no comment cards should be accepted after the meeting has started. Residents have the opportunity to review the packages prior to the meeting and can contact Commissioners with their specific concerns.

 

The others all agreed with the memo, but each commissioner had a critique. Tompeck apparently wants to speed up the pace of the meetings. The meetings are not being slowed down by the few people who comment. If anything, they are slowed by the commissioners who speak endlessly.

 

Public comment should not be looked upon by the representatives of the people as irksome though at times it can be.

 

The public should be given the opportunity to speak on every agenda item as well as on every motion before a vote is taken. In my opinion, asking the public to speak on a topic before the board has discussed it is not allowing them to speak knowing the entire item. During discussion, an item can change whereby a member of the public could have agreed with the original intent, but the item is now going in a completely different direction.

 

I go to more meetings than anyone in the county. I have seen procedures that are good and those that are not so good. I believe that the two best when it comes to public comment rules are Martin County and Stuart.

 

Both allow general public comment, and the public can submit cards any time before they speak even at times after they have spoken to the commission. Martin County has public comment at the start and end of meetings. Stuart has public comment at the beginning only but in general the meetings are much shorter. As to individual agenda items, both allow them during the item submitting a request card at any time.

Sewall’s Point is a small place. Perhaps once a year, there is an item that will have many people attending and wanting to speak. Commissioners need to listen to as many viewpoints in an open meeting as possible. It is usually three minutes well spent.

 

What commissioners should not do is conduct a question-and-answer session or debate with the commenter. They should politely listen and take the view expressed under advisement. People want to be listened to and they know that commissioners will not always agree. The important thing is for the commissioner to listen and the citizen to be heard.

 

Sewall’s Point has improved tremendously in the past couple of years regarding the running of meetings. I would hate to see it go backward.

 

ROADS AND GRANTS

 

One thing I have learned about supposed speeding on roads is that it is more a perception than a fact. That probably is the same for South Sewall’s Point Road where the commission may reduce the speed from 35 to 30 miles per hour. After much discussion and Chief Tina’s explanation on how FDOT decides about reducing speed limits, it was decided that there would be a speed study conducted by the police now while the speed is at 25 MPH during construction and when the road returns to 35 MPH after.

 

The Town Engineer explained that one of the grants that they have been waiting for will be coming but not for several months. That means the contractor on the South Sewall’s Point Road project will shut down. To begin again, it will cost the town about $145,000 because of startup costs. Unfortunately, this is a federal grant, and the town is not allowed to borrow or use its own money to front the project cost and then be reimbursed.

 

That is another problem of using only grants to do work on your infrastructure. But it appears no one on the commission wants to take a hard look at the cost of just using grants to facilitate capital improvement work.

 

The engineer’s presentation can be found here.

 

 

A NEW COMP PLAN

 

The Sewall’s Point comp plan is now over 30 years old. Since its creation in 1989, there has been nearly 500 changes in the statute that governs the requirements of what a plan needs. The update that was done some time ago was apparently not completed by a planner because it falls far short of what is needed.

 

To write a new plan over the next two plus years is slated to cost $122,000 in this year’s budget and $83,000 in next year’s budget. It is so expensive because the requirements are many and the information needed is specific to the individual locality. It would have been far cheaper if the plan had regular updates through the years.

 

When confronted with this, the commission was looking for all kinds of ways to not spend the money. How about grants? How about a fill-in-the-blank plan? “It is a shame that it will only sit on the shelf,” one commissioner said. “Let’s not do it,” was another comment.

 

Your LDRs must be in tune with your comp plan. There isn’t a choice. It isn’t an option. That is per Florida Statute.

 

If you have been reading this newsletter for any amount of time, you will have noticed that this town has not had the best management over the years. A good deal of that was because the managers either didn’t know, or care, or didn’t want to buck the commission. Since Berger has come on board, she is attempting to make sure the commission knows that these things are outstanding. It is up to them to choose whether they want to do what needs to be done.

 

This was put on hold while other options were being sourced. Sounds familiar. You can find the presentation and amounts for completing the plan here

 

 

MANAGER’S CONTRACT

 

Here is something else that never seems to go away…the manager’s contract.

 

The current one is up in October. Tompeck wants to know whether it’s time for negotiation. Campo thinks that Berger is great but still a neophyte, so he is not ready yet. He thought there should be some goals that must be achieved and then evaluated. He is not yet ready to commit to a longer time for her.

 

Having a term on the contract is in some way a red herring. The manager can leave, and the commission can terminate at any time. There are provisions in the contract and in statute for termination and severance.

As to whether there should be a raise in compensation or not and when, it should be discussed annually when the other employees are receiving raises. If the raise is not going to be in line with the rest of the employees, then the commission should appoint one of their board to negotiate on their behalf. Perhaps in Berger’s case since she was a new manager, there may need to be an adjustment in addition to a COLA this time. After this raise, it should only be the same amount as the other employees.

 

I think Campo has a point in making the evaluation more goal oriented. The easiest way to do so would be for each commissioner to give the manager two things for her to work on in the coming year. Then besides the regular evaluation, the commission can evaluate how far she progressed with their individual goals.

 

The question was asked if she wanted to stay. Berger answered in the affirmative. Mayfield suggested that they speak with her individually. 

 

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

COUNCIL MEETING JANUARY 28, 2021

 

The council had just come from witnessing Thelma Waters being inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame. The celebration was still going on at Timer Powers’ Park. Not only was the council there but several county commissioners. As one of the incorporators of Indiantown, the village has much to be grateful to Ms. Waters. The village’s proclamation can be found here

 

Jim Anaston-Karas gave a brief presentation around the council’s last workshop. He mentioned the progress that has been made and looks forward to their April workshop. He briefly spoke about the impending creation of the village’s fire/rescue department.

 

That will be reviewed on February 27th during a special workshop. Not only does Indiantown have a keen interest on what is decided but so does Martin County. If Indiantown decides to move forward, then there will be no going back. The county plans on moving out of Indiantown and setting up shop in a more strategic location for the county’s own growth patterns.

No one in Indiantown should be under the impression that Martin County will be there to respond when Indiantown is unable due to being on a call. If an ILA is signed it will result in substantial charges for every call made within the boundaries of the village. Not to mention the delay in response time.

 

Mr. Anaston-Karas’ presentation can be found here

 

MANAGER’S EVAL

 

It was that time of the year when the council evaluates the manager.

Manager Brown began by stating his accomplishments in the last two years since the beginning of his tenure. A strategic plan has been done. The water plant has been purchased. Land for a village complex has been bought. The village is ahead of schedule on the micro-resurfacing of roads. Two new departments have been set up with directors.

 

The council’s evaluation scores of Mr. Brown were impressive. Mayor Hernandez gave him 242 points out of 250 or 4.84 of 5. Vice Mayor Clarke was only one point lower than Hernandez’s scoring with 241 points or 4.82. Councilmember Stone came in next with 209 points followed by Anthony Dowling’s all 4s at 200. The hard marker in the group was Susan Gibbs-Thomas at 2.8 and 140 points out of 500.

 

Even though Stone gave a close 4th, he praised Brown’s work ethic and was glad he was in his position. Gibbs-Thomas said she took time and evaluated using her perspective. Clarke gave kudos.

Hernandez gave the longest defense of Mr. Brown. She said that he was not the only source of her knowledge. Many people were telling them not to do these things. But the real experts are sitting in this room. She has spoken to other elected officials who have been doing this for years and they are amazed at the speed of completed projects. Even if residents are telling her not to do things, they are getting done.

 

Stone made a motion to give Brown a raise of 3%. It was seconded by Dowling. His salary will go up to $145,350. Gibbs-Thomas explained that he gets other benefits such as a car allowance, cell phone, health benefits (which he does not take advantage of) and other expenses.

 

The Stuart city manager has similar benefits and makes $164,000 with more than 250 employees and the county administrator earns $185,000 with over a thousand employees.

 

The raise was approved 5-0. The evaluations can be found here

 

The hard part of making everything mesh and paying for it all hasn’t even begun yet.

 

ANOTHER CONSULTANT & APPOINTMENT

 

The council approved hiring a market consultant to do an analysis.

 

From the agenda item:

 

“The analysis is necessary in order for us to gauge interest in retail market conditions, determine a retail trade area and include a leakage study. The most economical way to meet these goals would be to retain the services of a retail consultant.

 

The consultant would be required to prepare a retail market analysis/study, as part

of the engagement, for Village Council review and subsequent approval. There

are a number of communities nationally that utilize the services of a retail consultant. This study will assist us in promoting the Village in and outside of the Village boundaries through providing important retail data to prospective developers interested in doing retail development within the Village.”

 

In my opinion, the market has already told the village what services it can support. If the council wishes to use up to $50,000 of taxpayer money to have a report with mostly boilerplate language, so be it. However, why isn’t there a defined scope of work or a plan to go out for a competitive bid for such services.

 

What the council is doing is allowing the manager to now go out and spend up to $50,000 without the council weighing in any further. The vote was 4-1 with Gibbs-Thomas voting no.

 

Once again, there was disagreement over an appointment. This time to an MPO committee by the council. Gibbs-Thomas and Dowling had candidates. Dowling’s candidate lived within the village boundaries and Gibbs-Thomas’ one did not though he owned a business within the village.

 

There is no application process nor any clear delineation of the qualifications for candidacy. David Haffner, Gibbs-Thomas’ candidate, was on Zoom and said the boundary didn’t matter, he was a resident of Indiantown. I beg to differ it does matter where you live. Mr. Haffner is represented in his interest by the government of unincorporated Martin County.

 

The council needs to institute an application process and rules for who qualifies for appointments.

 

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Town of Ocean Breeze

 

COUNCIL MEETING FEBRUARY 8, 2021

 

During the council meeting, a meeting of the zoning board was inserted. The zoning board is comprised of the council plus a non-voting school board representative. The school board assigned Li Roberts as their representative.

They met as the zoning board to recommend adoption of a series of comp plan changes to conform with current law. That went rather smoothly. Next came Mayor Ostrand once more pitching either buying or building a town hall.

 

There is a section of the plan where a feasibility study can be done as to whether the town hall idea should proceed. Ostrand continued to mention that the rental office they now have is just a room. There is no privacy for staff or to meet with people.

 

Vice President Gerold was the person most vocal about whether there was a need or not for such a place. Gerold said the new owners in the section of town known as Sea Walk being constructed by DR Horton pay or will pay about $1000 a year in taxes to the town. Probably next year, the rate will be reduced according to Gerold.

There is not a park or other amenity in the town. The people who live within the resort do not pay real estate taxes. It is part of their land lease cost to Sun Communities. Every elected official lives within the resort area. It is obvious that the entire government of the town needs to be looked at for viability.

 

President De Angelis kept asking about what services the town will provide that would require such a building Ostrand kept saying it is not about service but having a place to tie the town together. Government is all about providing service.

 

As the homes are sold, it is unlikely that homeowners will be anxious to pay the current $1000 a year for town taxes and increase it more so that a town hall can be built. The town would never be allowed to incorporate today. The only reason it did do so 60 years ago was because the owners of the then trailer park could exert more influence over what they did internally.

 

At some point those new homeowners need to be represented on the council and have at least an equal voice, if not a greater one, on how their tax dollars are spent. And it won’t be to have a place for three parttime employees to work and the council to meet once a month.

 

This will come back for second reading after the state approves of it. At that point, the council should place a dollar limit on the feasibility study. Otherwise, what appeared to be the council trying to appease the mayor in her desire could spend several thousand dollars on something that they have no intention of doing.

 

At the last meeting, the council would not allow a resident to remain that wouldn’t wear a mask. I agree with that decision for the welfare of the rest of the people who were at that meeting. In this meeting, the president wore his mask under his chin. No one said a word. Something wrong there.

 

It should also be noted that the photo of the council on the website still has Ann Kagdis as one of the members. She hasn’t been there for over a year. Her replacement, Bill Arnold, is nowhere to be found in the photo. No sense in having a website (though it is required by law) if it doesn’t have the right members being shown.

 

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Jupiter Island Jupiter Island Sky View

The next meeting will be February 17, 2021

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.

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Final Thoughts

FINAL THOUGHTS

 

In many regards, our national government is not operating as the Framers intended.

 

It is discouraging, disappointing and disastrous to our democracy because of Congress’ choice of actions going back decades. This is regardless of which party is in control. We were given a good framework for self-government by our Founders. It can be a government of the people and for the people. For that to happen, each American must perform his/her part.

Congress and the executive branches once again should play their assigned roles as outlined in the Constitution. The legislative branch was given the authority to make policies and laws. However, many have decided not to be legislators but political commentators. They are not statesmen but rather political hacks.

 

Nowhere in the Constitution is there a mention of political parties. President Washington and the authors of the Federalist Papers warned against political parties and how assiduous they can become. They were implicit in their warnings against having parties being part of the government. Unfortunately, almost from day one, America has ignored those warnings.

 

It has become worse and worse, and now Congress no longer does its duty as outlined in Article One. Because of politics, it has delegated to the executive many of its constitutional prerogatives. It has done so under the canard of “national security.” The rationale has become so ludicrous that President Trump was able to impose a tariff on Canadian aluminum.

 

For most of our history, tariffs could only be imposed by Congress. Because of congressional fear of making a decision, that power and others have been delegated to the president leaving us with an all-powerful executive. This is in contradiction to what was intended by those who wrote the Constitution.

 

Conservatives (and by that I don’t mean most of today’s Republicans) lash out at the regulatory state and rightly so. That state is an outgrowth of Congress’ refusal to pass well-crafted meaningful laws that can be enforced without the executive needing to create a large bureaucracy to do so. If Congress went back to writing narrowly crafted individual bills, then there would not be a need for so many agencies to interpret and then issue regulations clarifying the intent of Congress.

From the time I was in grade school, I learned about truly gifted legislators. Henry Clay and Daniel Webster in the 19th century along with Robert Taft, Robert Wagner, and Robert Byrd in the 20th century. These were men who put principal over politics. Who now is in the Senate that can match their eloquence…Rand Paul? Congress is a clown show represented by Matt Gaetz and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Politically opposite but both would rather be in a television studio creating outrage than in the halls of the Capitol doing the people’s business.

 

The American people have a part to play in this disfunction. We elected these people, and we continue to reelect them. We have embraced the British election system of voting party instead of individuals into office. In Britain MPs can live anywhere. They are voted in because of the letter after their name.

If you elect enough clowns, you eventually get a circus. We have our circus. How about we give the system the Framers devised another chance? It worked for a long time until we screwed it up.

 

To read my two Medium pieces go here

 

And 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

 

From The New York Times the housing crisis is a national one:

 

here

 

The next article from the Washington Post states that during pandemics there is more extremism:

 

here

 

The Tampa Bay Times writes that Marion County thinking about returning to an elected superintendent after 30 years:

 

here

 

Lastly from Route Fifty that government employees using their personal devices put their employers at risk for cyber-attacks:

 

here

Charts

 

The first chart is from Frame of Reference it outlines the education of all 46 presidents:

 

here

 

And two charts from The Visual Capitalist:

 

The first is the worlds oldest and youngest countries:

 

here

 

And what is known as the Buffet Indicator for all time high risk:

 

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)

Evaluation & Appraisal Report (EAR)

Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA)

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 Planning Agency (LPA)

Martin County Fire/Rescue (MCFR)

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)

Project Delivery Team (PDT)

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)

 

Photo Capt Kimo