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

HOW CAN IT BE?

 

I often hear rumors about people in government misbehaving. Sometimes the source is a staff member. Other times it is from an elected official speaking in confidence. I don’t write about rumors or innuendo. Nor do I play gotcha with staff members or elected officials. My motto has been that nothing will be printed unless the speaker agrees. But, once you do or say something in public, it is fair game.

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For some time, there have been rumors swirling about the last election in Indiantown. I have stayed away from mentioning them in the newsletter except for when they were printed by other news organizations. Usually, anything you see on Facebook should be taken with skepticism. Yet innuendo and posts have continued.

 

One person who posted was Barbara Clowdus. She posts under the name of Indiantown Currents which is an online journal. Barbara is someone that does her homework. Even so, I stayed away from writing about what she and a host of others were posting about funny business in the last village election.

 

In the January 19th edition of Knowhere Treasure Coast News, more light was shed on the election especially between the incumbent, Guyton Stone, and challenger Guy Parker. Robert W. Burns III, a political consultant from Rockledge, took a keen interest in making sure that Stone was re-elected.

 

In a deposition in an unrelated case, Burns said that Brian West from Palm City (who owns land in Indiantown) paid or promised to pay Burns to help Stone. Burns never filed the required state disclosures for political consultants or PACs. Burns went on to say in the deposition that he met with council members. Stone claims he never met with him and does not know who he is. West has been charged with several felonies, including bribery of public officials in a Palm Bay real estate deal.

 

There is probably more to the story than a few forms not being filed by a so-called consultant. Whether anyone else becomes implicated is to be seen. Why West wanted Stone over Parker is something that needs to be answered in light of the bribery charges in another county. This is no longer a rumor.

 

To read the Knowhere story go here

 

2

 

LOT SPLITS

 

I received an email from Dick Guiles who is a neighbor. It is printed below in our letter section. The email is about a lot split on my street where I live in Stuart.

 

This is not the first time someone wanted to split the property into two lots. The zoning calls for 7500 sq foot lots. The current lot is over 16,000 sq feet so on the face of it, there should not be a problem. The lot is an irregular shape. The way it is proposed to be done requires different variances which would affect the neighbors and eventually one of the new lot owners.

To receive a variance, hardship needs to be shown. A hardship does not mean that a buyer bought one lot and now wants to make two lots out of it. A hardship is not created because when the board gives the lot split as designed, then an additional variance would be needed to allow 5-foot setbacks to make the split work. Nope, this does not pass the test.

 

The Board of Adjustment should deny this request. There may be a way to split the lots so that no variance would be necessary. It may be possible for a lot of this size to have either a larger house or a house that would have an ancillary cottage as a rental.

 

If the owner really wanted to have a lot split, then he should have spent some money and had actual drawings and renderings with what he wanted to place on both properties. It would have been a site plan that the neighbors would see, and the city could approve.

 

He probably still would have had opposition, but some might have been swayed if they knew what was to be approved. Now what the board and the neighborhood have seen is a drawing that looks like an amateur drew it…and perhaps one did.

 

When he bought the lot several months ago, the owner knew what he was buying. The city didn’t change the rules in the interim. The only question that remains to be answered is whether there is a hardship that would warrant granting his request.  

 

3

 

WHAT IS WRONG AND WHAT IS RIGHT

 

Governor DeSantis has been proven right in his order to have all of those over age 65 receive the vaccine first. As I wrote in the last newsletter, I believe his decision to prioritize that age group, even over essential younger workers, is the smart thing to do. This has been borne out by the CDC changing its guidelines to mimic Florida’s.

 

The roll out of the vaccine in Florida and the rest of the nation has been sketchy at best. The number of doses sent to the states is woefully inadequate for the number of people who are clamoring for it. It is hard for the states to plan when they have no idea what is going to be provided and when.

 

Even with the limited amount available, the way vaccine is being administered is slow and cumbersome. The counselling that goes with each shot takes time. At the place I received my vaccine, I was asked the same questions about my health twice. The process took 40 minutes including the 15 minutes of post-vaccine monitoring. How many people can someone administering the vaccine in this fashion do in a day?  The procedure needs to be streamlined including the education piece.

Governor DeSantis often steps on his own messaging when he is curt or dismissive of reporters. There is too much “gotcha” journalism but fighting with those that can get his message out is counterproductive, especially in a pandemic. At least in this arena, the press and the administration should be in lock step to save lives and vaccinate the public.

 

The governor has done an outstanding job with his water initiatives and his direction on expanding school choice in Florida. He was correct in not enforcing further business lockdowns that have proven so costly to our economy. I wish he had instituted a statewide mask mandate which has been proven to stop the spread. He inherited the unemployment website disaster earlier this year from the Scott years, but he needs to fix it.

 

Florida is the third most populated state, yet the public health system is ranked 39th in the nation. We spend just $65 per person on the Department of Health. There are fewer employees working there now than a decade ago when we had fewer residents. This is not the last pandemic we will see. Many more are predicted in our future.

 

Public Health clinics are one way we can get the most for our healthcare dollar. With proper staffing, they could have provided the guidance needed to implement a massive inoculation program on the scale that is needed. A plan should have been in place. Governor DeSantis needs to make sure that one is formulated for the next time.

 

4

 

A DISCUSSION

 

Jerry Rappaport, who lives in Sewall’s Point, contacted me regarding a panel discussion being held at the Rappaport Center at Temple Beit HaYam in Stuart. The discussion is entitled “Crime and Punishment: Can we make Florida’s legal system more just?”  It is being conducted virtually on February 3rd at 7 pm. The guest panelists are Sheriff Snyder, Public Defender Diamond Litty, States Attorney Tom Bakkedahl and District Attorney Rachel Rollins from Suffolk County, Massachusetts. It is being hosted by Melissa Holtzman of TC Palm.

 

It is obvious that that our criminal justice system needs improvements. How people are treated from arrest to trial to disposition is something about which we should be concerned. We pay taxes for what most experts agree is a flawed process. In the criminal courts, we pay to arrest, hold, prosecute, and most often defend a suspect. Finding a better way would be beneficial to all of us.

 

To view the discussion, go to here

 

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5

 

IS THIS GOVERNMENT WASTE?

 

I have written several times about the Business Development Board. It is obvious that I am not a fan.

Each year they receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from Martin County. What they do to justify that expenditure of tax dollars has always been a mystery to me. I have heard from elected officials and staff off the record for years about how wasteful those appropriations are. Yet it continues every year…year after year.

 

When I was a Stuart commissioner, I succeeded in having a motion passed that changed the way the $25,000 annual payment would be made to the BDB. Rather than the city simply paying them a lump sum of $25,000, incremental payments would be made when individual projects were completed pursuant to contracts. For two years, the BDB received nothing from Stuart.

 

Now, I understand that both Stuart and Indiantown will be sponsors of the BDB. Stuart has agreed to fund it at the the $25,000 level and Indiantown will spend a minimum of $10,000 (see further details in the Village of Indiantown section below).

 

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.

 

If the BDB, which is a private organization, is so necessary that tax dollars need to be used to fund it, then it should be part of the county government. I do not believe public involvement in such an organization is needed. Government’s responsibility is to foster an atmosphere where business can flourish and grow. If governmental policies do not promote good infrastructure, good schools and taxes not being squandered, business will feel welcomed.

 

Often staff and elected officials’ friends and acquaintances are other government officials and those that do business with government. Justifying the use of taxpayer dollars to benefit those friends becomes easy. We have just had that occur with the Waste Management contract and each year with the BDB government payments. There is no obvious graft or “under the table” payments involved. It more insidious than that.

 

As my friend and fellow newsletter writer, Tom Pine, would say, the good ole boys always get what they want. The rest of us do the paying.

 

 

6

 

PINE’S PONDERING

By Tom Pine

 

I’ve lived in Martin County for over forty-five years. 

The first time I became involved with Martin County government was with the illegal expansion of runway 12/30. Looking back to then, I began to learn how our government works. At that time one of the Martin County commissioners who was previously on the New York and New Jersey airport advisory board highlighted his role and expertise.           

Sometime in the early 1990s the “Good Ole Boys” in Martin County wanted to extend runway 12/30 at Witham Field, the county airport. So, the county hired an airport director to get the job done. I believe the commissioner mentioned above knew the “right” man for the job.            

Sometime in the mid-1990s the airport director made a presentation to the BOCC to expand runway 12/30. He blatantly lied when telling the commissioners that there were no homes in the path of the extension. That meant that the county would not have to do an environmental assessment. The BOCC voted 5-0 to move forward.

I lived just west of the airport on East 18th Street. It was a living hell after the completion of the expansion. It took several years of fighting the county for them to buy out our neighborhood. Two commissioners took out an ad in the Stuart News to apologize for not doing their due diligence before agreeing to the expansion.

The other three commissioners remained silent. Sometimes being silent is being loud and clear. They didn’t care how the expansion of the runway happened. They didn’t care about my home and the homes of my neighbors. All was well as long as the powers to be were made happy.

Today every time I hear a commissioner approve something because staff recommended it, I think who is getting burned this time. It doesn’t matter what havoc is wreaked if the Good Ole Boys get what they want.

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

 

7

 

SYRKUS THOUGHTS

By Michael Syrkus

 

Like most Americans, the images I saw coming out of Washington on January 6th are surely going to remain in my memory till I meet my maker.

 

Fatigues marching up the Capitol steps, Capitol police barricading the chamber doors, and side arms drawn in defense of our elected officials. These are images we as Americans view regularly coming from third world banana republics, but on the 6th, they came from home.

 

Let me clearly state, I don’t condone what transpired that Wednesday morning, but I am concerned about our communal response. Though every political organization and politico I can think of condemned those rioters, I have yet to hear one ask; “Why?”

 

Why did a quarter million Americans descend on the capital, on a day that is normally quite benign? Why did more than a thousand people storm into one of the most heavily guarded political buildings in our nation? Why?

 

It has become clear that people, and millions of them, are angry. Desperation has set in, and it has been a long time coming. Small business owners have spent decades building their livelihoods to watch that disappear while large corporations rake in record profits.

 

Divisions based on color, fiscal standing, religion, and political affiliation have grown tremendously. Months of political and social protest from both sides of the aisle (with thousands in attendance) all while funerals were placed on hold and family holidays were limited due to governmental decree. These may all be new symptoms, but they are from a classic disease.

 

Our nation has long seen a shift of power from local government to the states and federal governments. Millions of Americans feel disenfranchised from their leaders. More and more people are feeling as if they have lost their liberties, from both sides of the political spectrum. And we now find ourselves here.

 

Like all good history case studies, it will be years before we have enough valuable information from that day, but one thing is true: comfortable people don’t raid their nation’s capitol.

 

I sincerely hope that our leaders take note, and honestly ask the question: “Why

 

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

8

HERBIE’S HOBE SOUND

By Herbert Howard

 

Why do not more people attend neighborhood meetings. 

 

I have attended two this week. The local knowledge I acquired was both eye-opening and fascinating.   In a rather dry, but necessary Hobe Hills drainage project meeting held by the county, I learned everything I ever wanted to know about drainage in my neighborhood.  In fact, it wasn’t dry (pun intended), it was very educational and interesting. 

 

My neighbors were on guard.  Some like pit bulls, some like poodles; but all engaged.  Still in a neighborhood that numbers around 375 homes, I was surprised that more people weren’t in attendance.  I have a feeling some who didn’t attend are going to be surprised by the inevitable consequences of the project.  We, who attended, can say “I told you so” and feel much superior.

 

Later in the week Hobe Sound had its Neighborhood Advisory Committee meeting.  This meeting was more for “downtown” Hobe Sound.  Here is a bit of what I learned:

  • The county hasn’t had trash cans at parks for about 3 years now. Believe it or not there is less trash than when they did. People take their trash home! I am amazed.
  • We are looking at approximately $100,000 of improvements at Zeus Park of new playground equipment.
  • There will be 18 affordable homes built by Habitat for Humanity somewhere near Pettway.
  • The tomato farms west of Hobe Sound used to pump excess water off the fields. There are not farms there anymore, so the water table has risen! This, of course, added to the perfect storm last summer. (Also, and much less important, this must be why my wife is always complaining that she can’t find a good tomato.)
  • And the best for last…. Commissioner Jenkins has a dream which is to restore the old railway station to its rightful place in Hobe Sound. I never knew Hobe Sound had had a railway station. Much less that it was moved sometime in the late 60’s from “downtown” Hobe Sound to what is now the Polo Club on Bridge Road. They use it for their administrative offices. Which just seems wrong somehow. Jenkins has spoken with the owners (why does one buy a railway station?) and as soon as they are “finished” with it, they will hand it over. Now that is wonderful! They didn’t have to make such a promise. I can’t wait!

 

I bet you didn’t know any of that.  The bonus portion of attending the meetings was that I met genuinely nice people.  You can tell those attending really want more people to engage.  I left feeling like a real part of my community.   Each meeting was only one hour.  I think it was time well spent.

 

You can sign up to receive meeting notices by emailing Colleen Pachowicz, Commissioner Jenkins aide, at ComAide3@Martin.fl.us.  See you there!

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

 

9

MCCHRYSTAL’ MEANDERINGS

By Frank McChrystal

 

Frank will be back for our next edition.

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

 

10

HELP IS ON THE WAY

 

The last newsletter had a story regarding drainage issues on Chase Court.

 

Commissioner Hetherington went to that street and met with the neighbors. She promised to see what could be done. Now again I want to reiterate that she didn’t promise a remedy only that she would meet with staff.

 

Hetherington did do that, and staff promised to go out and meet with the people she had spoken with. I want to report that, as of now, staff will be meeting with the neighbors on January 26th.

 

 

 

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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.
 

The first letter is from Dick Guiles. It was the basis of my commentary on lot splits in the “News & Views Section.”

 

Here we go again. Once more there is an attempt to turn the lot at 823 SW St, Lucie Crescent into something it is not. There is now a request for multiple variances to try and split this lot and shoehorn houses onto it. The range of variances requested is paramount to throwing out normal zoning requirements, and there is no hardship that warrants that. This subject will be addressed at the January 28th meeting at 5:30 at the town hall. Construction based on these variances would crowd existing adjacent properties, and increase the density of houses unrealistically. Due diligence would have shown this lot to be suitable for one single family home and the owner of the lot was apprised of this prior to purchasing the lot. We, as a neighborhood, should oppose abandoning zoning and development rules where there is no hardship involved. The upcoming meeting will provide that opportunity.

 

Our second letter is from George Campbell on vaccine appointments:

 

Say something about Martin County Health awful on-line responsiveness to the need of seniors for vaccine! No call-backs, no ability to get in line, no nothing from a Governor who just passes the buck!

The next from Eula Clarke:

 

Good day Mr. Campenni:

 

Best Wishes for a Joyous Week.

 

I have been contacted by many persons this weekend regarding the “Friends and Neighbors” publication.  Thanks for including the letter regarding my vision for 2021 in your publication.  

 

Please note that I did send you an updated version which indicated that there was a typo in the Year when the referendum  was passed.  It was done this past August of 2020.  The correction was sent the day after the letter was first submitted but it may have missed your publication submittal deadline, hence the publication of the original version. 

 

Again, thanks for featuring the information provided.

 

Thanks for your service in providing information to our community.  I look forward to working with you in 2021.

 

With Best Regards,

 

Eula R. Clarke

Mayor

 

Readers I did receive two versions. Unfortunately, it was too late to make the small correction about the date of the referendum. The referendum happened in 2020.

 

And from Karen Kerwin in Hobe Sound:

 

Dear Tom,

 

Re Newfield being a walkable community versus Stuart, not so much.. Hobe Sound is a walkable community, i.e, church, school, stores, restaurants and beach! But the folks get into their cars 99% of the time.

Good Luck. Your devoted fan in Hobe Sound,

 

Richard Hoffman writes about Palm City

 

I am asking when the proposed new septic system for Palm City will begin/completed. The reason is that we have applied and received preliminary approval to build a four unit apartment in Palm City.

 

However, there is a contingency and that there will be no Use& Occupancy certs be issued until the new systems are completed. We had started to work with an architect but stopped when notified about the septic. No complaints about the public sewer, been long over due with the old systems leaking and close to water ways.

It comes down to a case of timing and when could we expect to start on plans to start working on the apartment project. The worst thing that could happen is to put lots of money into a project that is delayed by not being able to get a U&O certificate.

 

It all comes down to timing. Thanking you in advance.

 

My answer:

 

It is scheduled for the 1st qtr of 2022.

His response:

 

Thanks for your quick research on the palm city  project. Just to confirm your message.

 

The Palm City sewer project will start on The first qtr of 2022,with a completion date of ?

Thanks again for the quick answer this  means to me the time to allocate funds for this project to achieve the max TVM (Time value of Money).

 

We are both aware of the need for low cost rental housing in Martin County. We own a few rental apartments that I would consider low cost housing (less than $1,000 per month). When we last placed an advertisement on Craigslist. We had the first response  in 15 minutes followed by another 19 responses in the 24 hours that followed. We took the advertisement down because we had many qualified applicants. The biggest problem we have as landlords is saying no to qualified tenants.

Again Tom, Thanks for your interest helping with the dilemma of low cost housing in Martin county.

 

And my response:

 

This is the information I received.

 

You should contact Ms. Susan Kores and her CRA staff for more information. They are more than happy to help you. They want to help.

 

 

 

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COMMISSION MEETING JANUARY 12, 2021

 

The commission finished doing a switch of future land uses on a parcel of 500 acres bordered by SW 96th St and the St. Lucie Canal and Kanner Highway.

 

At first, it appears to be a good deal for those people living along 96th Street. It removes the possibility of industrial and commercial development along there by switching the zoning to agricultural. At the same time, an equal amount of acreage on the parcel’s Kanner Highway side will be zoned for industrial. The project is known as KL Waterside.

 

The Kanner rezone will have no warehouse building larger than 1,050,000 sq feet. More than one building can be placed on the parcel. The only limiting factor is there can’t be more than 950 vehicle trips per day. The applicant stated that they are working with someone to have a 500,000 sq. ft. warehouse.

While the land goes back to agricultural, everyone knows there is no agricultural use of any nearby property currently. My objection, like Commissioner Heard, is that it creates a free-standing USB outside the current limits. While the rezoned agricultural property has the designation of 20-acre ranchettes, I would suspect that soon the owners will be asking for either an extension of industrial using Kanner as the access point or new homes will go there.

 

I have no problem with development. We need more people and jobs to pay for the Martin County lifestyle. What we do not need is this continued piecemealing. That 500 acres is going to be developed. Agriculture is never going to reappear there. Let’s just stop pretending about what is going on.

 

The commission owes Martin County a coordinated plan on how we develop. What we are getting now is development that is not in our overall best interest. Leapfrogging the USB and then creating free standing ones is wrong. What we need is some structure and integration so that we can maintain open spaces. At the same time, the county should encourage development that has all the elements of good planning. What we have now is neither.

 

There were three separate hearings and votes on this. All three were 4-1 with Heard dissenting. The presentations can be found here

 

PRESENTATIONS

 

There were two presentations that should be briefly discussed.

 

The first one covered the county’s legislative priorities. Kloee Ciuperger, the legislative coordinator, gave a rundown of Martin County’s wish list for Tallahassee. It is much the same as every year. The monetary ask is $4 million to continue septic to sewer conversion. I doubt that any of these individual appropriations will be funded this year. You can find the presentation here

 

Utilities & Solid Waste Director Sam Amerson gave his presentation on the septic to sewer program. Martin County is making progress in converting. It is important that it continue but I don’t know how much Tallahassee will be funding those projects this year. At some point, I believe that the state is going to mandate hookups especially in urban areas. Martin County should be ready.

 

To see his presentation, go here

 

WASTE MANAGEMENT CONTRACT

After strenuous negotiations, the county was able keep the price that had been proposed in the original RFP for residential customers. As outlined in an earlier edition of Friends & Neighbors, Waste Management was the most expensive proposal but a favorite company of many. At times, commissioners seemed as if they were wooing Waste Management as a mate instead of picking a garbage collector.

 

Negotiation of pricing for business customers resulted in a negligible monthly price reduction over the contract price. All the trucks will be new and operate on natural gas as their fuel. There will be more routes added. The county will go to single stream waste and new 65-gallon carts will be distributed by next October.

 

Waste Management should give their government liaison employee, Jeff Sabin, a huge bonus for pulling this off. He would deserve every penny. In all fairness, he is an upstanding generous person for our community, as is Waste Management. Waste Management’s lobbyist, former State Senator Pruitt, should be given a bonus also for securing the higher fee.

 

The vote was 5-0 with every commissioner expressing undying affection. The staff presentation can be found here

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

COMMISSION MEETING JANUARY 11, 2021

 

The meeting began at the new time of 4 pm for the first meeting of the month. It went rather smoothly.

 

I want to thank Mayor Clarke about her kind words regarding the newsletter during her comments. During his comments, Commissioner Matheson mentioned that the board should not rush through agenda items. Commissioner Bruner apologized for doing just that at the last meeting. Both Matheson and Bruner made their points in a graceful way.

Agenda items need not be rushed. Development projects and other approvals coming before the commission need to be thoughtfully weighed. At the same time, there doesn’t need to be belabored points and windy self-serving speeches made from the dais. There is a happy medium.   

 

There were only two matters of any importance. The first was the annexation of 4 city-owned parcels within the county. They are currently adjacent to Haney Creek park and have been zoned with low density uses. The property was bought using grant funds meant for conservation.

 

Once annexed, the city will designate them to be as conservation and therefore will never be developed. It just makes sense that since the city owns the parcels, it also has legal jurisdiction. Now if there is a law enforcement matter, since the parcels are in the county, the sheriff must be called to handle it instead of Stuart Police Dept which does not have jurisdiction in the county.

 

The vote was 5-0

 

Staff’s presentation can be found here

 

The other matter was the adoption of a tobacco sales ordinance that mirrors the county’s ordinance. It makes sense that both jurisdictions have the same restrictions.

The ordinance can be found here

 

 

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

SCHOOL BOARD MEETING JANUARY 19, 2021

 

There was not much of substance at this meeting.

 

Jensen Beach High is expected to have less than 90% of capacity next year. It will be a school of choice. In other words, if a student wants to go there regardless of where the student is zoned, the student will be able to do so. You can read the brief one-page memo here

Board member Roberts did an excellent breakdown of elementary school population by race and ethnic group. Martin County’s school age population is changing. It is no longer only white and Black. There is a large and growing number of students from Latin America. At Warfield, nearly 90% of students are of Latin American origin and 65% are classified as an English Language Learner. To see the population tables for every elementary school, go here

 

Finance Director Carter Morrison presented the CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report) for the year ending June 30, 2020. You can find it here

Finally, there is the Superintendent’s update here

I hope there is something more going on behind the scenes.

 

WORKSHOP MEETING JANUARY 12, 2021

 

After a dozen years, the Interlocal Agreement for using school board fields and gymnasiums is becoming serious.

 

As a taxpayer, I have been confused for years as to why school fields, gymnasiums and auditoriums are locked up for half the year. It is as if we the people that pay for these facilities to be built are somehow barbarians that need to be kept out by locked gates.

Because of our obsessive fear for safety and impregnability of school property, we keep great facilities away from the community. Schools should be looked at as community centers. Perhaps this may be the first steps for this to occur again.

 

Both the BOCC and school board want this to happen, but the devil is in the details. There are expenses that are associated with use. It appears what has been going on for years is that the district charges hundreds of dollars for the use of a field. This prevents many kids from enjoying activities of just hanging around in a relatively safe environment after school and on weekends.

 

There needs to be a place for adults and kids to gather to play a pickup game of basketball or soccer. While the two governmental giants battle to allocate the cost of using these facilities (and I mean the true cost), we should not lose site of the reason these fields were built. The board and county will discuss this at their next joint meeting.

 

The presentation and points of discussion can be found  here

 

          PRE-K TEACHERS

 

Jensen Beach High School wants to begin a certificate program for students who want to become pre-kindergarten teachers. There is a real shortage of qualified people to do this. Yet there was some pushback on the proposal.

 

In order to convert two classrooms for use in the pre-school certification program at Jensen Beach, it would cost roughly $650,000. You can’t learn to be a pre-school teacher without the pre-school kids which explains the conversion of the classrooms. There is a shortage of classrooms already in the high schools and no intention of building anymore.

 

Board Member Li Roberts asked if it were possible to have two portables instead in the rear of the building where the classroom conversion was going to be made. Her reasoning is that portables do not count toward your available classrooms and this way the young kids are not in the high school itself. There also would be a drop off and pick-up loop for the kids.

 

Chair Powers questioned whether a program is necessary. The pay of those that receive the certificate will be about $10 an hour which is less than many fast-food employees. As the head of the Early Learning Coalition, she believes that pre-k teachers should have at least a bachelor’s degree. My question is would credentialing mean better pay and would the quality of the instruction be better?

 

Obviously, the more education one has in any subject, the better your understanding of the subject matter. Will that make you a better teacher for young children? Most pre-k classrooms are not in the public schools. They vary from tony private day care to places like Gertrude Walden in East Stuart. I don’t know whether places like Walden could possibly stay open if their staff was paid comparable to a public-school teacher with a bachelor’s degree.

 

The people who work in a place like Gertrude Walden are mostly not college graduates. Yet the kids receive more than adequate instruction and are ready for kindergarten. We need to be careful that we do not make it more difficult for these kids and their teachers who may not qualify if educational standards are raised. Women make up nearly all the staff and are raising their own families with this job.

 

Should Martin County spend all that money on one more certificate program? I believe the answer is no. If the district believes there needs to be such a program, then have classroom instruction at Jensen Beach and then the certificate students can go to existing pre-k classes for hands on training. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

 

SOUTHFORK EXPANDS

The preliminary plans for the new athletic complex at Southfork was presented to the board. Much of the detail planning still needs to be done. Nothing was decided and again it seems that they are building something to be used for the limited time that school is in session. This would be the time to make sure it is designed to meet state mandates and be used by the public.

 

The presentation can be found here

 

 

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

Mayor Mayfield pointed out a mistake I made in the last newsletter:

 

Hi Tom –

 

I hope you are doing well, and that you had a great holiday season.

Not a big deal, but I just wanted to clarify something your wrote in your January 10, 2021 newsletter. When discussing Resolution 897 regarding septic to sewer conversion, you state that I said it was a choice whether or not a homeowner hooked up to sewer until their septic failed. That is only true for North Sewall’s Point. As far as I have been told by Martin County Utilities, South Sewall’s Point (because it has more homes) would require a vacuum system, which because of its cost, would require mandatory hookup. One of the many reasons to try to acquire funding for the town to offset costs of such a South Sewall’s Point conversion!!

 

Thanks for your time, and I just wanted to make sure the information was straight.

 

Kaija

 

P.S. I usually read your newsletter straight from the link you send in the email; this time I started through your home page. You have done a really nice job with your website! I really appreciate all the info, objectivity, and trying to keep Martin County residents in the loop. Keep up the good work!!

 

My response:

 

I will make a correction.

 

That will be some meeting when you decide what to do. 

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WORKSHOP JANUARY 12, 2021

 

This was an abbreviated workshop replacing the one scheduled for January 9th that was cancelled.

 

The first part of the meeting was a discussion about where to find money to do everything that needs to be done. Mayor Mayfield wanted to explore where additional funds can be obtained besides real estate taxes.

Vice-Mayor Campo wanted to increase the road fee. Commissioner Kurtzman was looking at building fees. He stated that even if they were $150,000 for a house, it would be alright. Raising the franchise fee on utility bills was discussed. As was a stormwater fee.

 

Instead of commissioners throwing out ideas, staff should have prepared a presentation about what is possible. Impact fees can only be used for new construction and must directly benefit the project paying them. Road fees at .4% would add a minimal amount. Having permit fees so high would staunch any further new construction or substantial rehabilitation.

 

There should have been a chart presented which gave some idea about how much would have been collected if an impact fee had been imposed over the last five years. The same for franchise, sewar and road fees. That way the commission would have known if the amounts that would have been collected would justify imposition of a fee.

 

Town Engineer Joe Capra gave a presentation. Much of it was nothing very new. Finally, though, he came up with a list for yearly maintenance and then a CIP list with what needs to be done. You can look at it here

TCPalm

The list shows that the yearly total for stormwater maintenance is $295,000. Those are all level 1 projects. The storm water fee per month, if implemented, would be high. If the town continues its current path, then what is the outcome? The level 2 maintenance projects are for yearly roadway maintenance. That comes to $255,000. It assumes a 15-year schedule.

 

The CIP list has a level 1-10 ranking. The first 6 levels should be done. That comes to $38 million. Once the work is finished, there will be a yearly maintenance requirement. How many grants can one town receive? Not enough to do everything that needs to be done.

 

Kurzman stated that if the work had been done in 2005-2008, the cost would be 20% of today’s amount. Mayfield claims it should be discussed. Campo said this list is what he has been asking for and that they have come up with funding in the last 12 months.

 

Manager Berger wants to ask the state for $20 million. She went on to say that millage alone will not solve it. That is an understatement.

 

To see the presentation and back up go here

 

 

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

COUNCIL MEETING JANUARY 14, 2021

 

During council comments, Susan Gibbs Thomas asked when it would be possible to discuss the Fire Rescue Department again. That meeting will be held on Saturday February 27, between 9-1. The consultant will have a presentation and vendors will be available.

It was proposed that the Village become a $25,000 “CEO” sponsor of the Business Development Board. For that money, the CEO, Stone, as the village representative, will be on the CEO Council, the Village will receive 20 tickets to the annual awards celebration, ad in the journal, plus unlimited VIP Access to something or other. The BDB will put a job fair together for Indiantown. The flyer outlining all benefits is attached here

 

Believe it or not Anthony Dowling made a motion to be a sponsor at the Executive level. That level only costs $10,000. Brown did not know whether the BDB would do the job fair included in that price or would charge $5,000 in addition. Clarke seconded the motion to spend $10,000 plus if needed $5,000 more for the job fair. It passed 4-1 with Gibbs-Thomas voting no.

As an aside, most residents tax bill is about $100 to the village.

 

LOBBYING AND PRIORITIES

 

Gray Robinson, a lobbying firm, made a presentation last year and was hired by the Council. Their initial proposal was $48,000 per year. Brown negotiated the contract for $30,000. The Council voted 4-1 with Gibbs-Thomas voting no.

 

If this consultant is like others the village has hired, the $30,000 will rapidly increase to a higher amount in a matter of months. I understand that Kevin Powers, who was instrumental in persuading the governor and legislature to allow the village to be incorporated, volunteered to put together a lobbying strategy. The village decided on another track.

 

The contract for services can be found here

 

Brown also asked what the legislative priorities are for the council. After discussion, all agreed that the uptown road drainage project was the most important need for financing. That will be the one that they ask the state to fund at $2 million. The motion was made and passed 5-0.

 

Good luck to all local governments in getting anywhere near what they ask in this session. COVID has decimated the budget. This will be the year of very few, if any, individual appropriations. To see the entire legislative initiative package, go here

 

TERMINATE & HIRE

 

The Village staff wanted to terminate GFA from performing as the village’s building inspection and permitting department. Director of Community & Economic Development Althea Jefferson stated that they were unable to do what is expected. She said that residents are complaining but offered no emails or any proof. She went on to say that GFA had not returned her calls. GFA stated that they were never contacted.

 

Calvin Giordano & Associates, who had written the LDRs for the village, will take GFA’s place. Jefferson stated that the contract will be $4800 less per year and other services will be provided. The village is piggy backing off a contract from the City of Parkland. By doing this, Indiantown negates the need to do competitive bidding through the RFP process.

 

In both terminating GFA and hiring Giordano the vote was 5-0.

 

The contract can be found here

 

FINAL PZA MEMBER, NEW PAY PLAN & CITY HALL INPUT

 

Both Gibbs-Thomas and Dowling recommended individuals to serve as the 2nd business member on the board. According to both council members, their candidates were residents and business owners. Mayor Hernandez had someone else in mind, Amilcar Lopez. Hernandez stated that Lopez lived in the village and was in landscaping. It was never made clear whether he owned a business, which I thought was a prerequisite for being a business member of the board.

Clarke stated that they needed some Latino representation. Others agreed. Something that has been just below the surface has now been openly expressed by the council. Identity politics and who is from what race or ethnic group will be an open factor going forward. The council voted 5-0, and Mr. Lopez is now one of two business representatives on the PZA.

 

There was no application process with this appointment or any other. The council was asked to vote on people without any background material. As one of the members exclaimed, “we are done with this.”

 

A new pay plan was voted unanimously by the council for staff. When asked where the ranges of pay for each position were derived, Brown said from the people in this room and the HR Doctor, as the village’s consultant. There was nothing in the agenda item or backup on who this consultant is and what he or she was paid.

I googled the HR Doctor. He is a person named Philip Rosenberg. According to his website he has served as the HR Director for Broward County. To see the website, you can go here

 

If senior management’s pay is increasing when Brown’s contract comes up for renewal a pay increase for him will be likely. Must keep things in equilibrium. The new pay ranges can be found here here

 

Finally, the village is looking for input regarding the new village complex. There are meetings throughout Indiantown. For more information on how to participate go here

 

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Town of Ocean Breeze

 

COUNCIL MEETING JANUARY 11, 2021

 

The meeting was short and sweet. Nothing was passed or discussed that had relevance to the governing of Ocean Breeze.

 

One woman started yelling before the meeting began regarding the requirement that she wear a mask. The council was firm. She was given the opportunity to sit in the back far from the rest of us without the need to comply. That wasn’t good enough for her because she said she had a hearing difficulty. However, when different council members answered her using the same amplification system used during the meetings, she had no problem hearing.

 

Which got me to thinking about how much of a right does any one person have if it places society in danger? These meetings are held at the resort’s clubhouse which require masks. As the virus grows exponentially, why should one person’s discomfort endanger everyone else’s health?

 

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Jupiter Island Jupiter Island Sky View

COMMISSION MEETING JANUARY 14, 2021

 

The town has undertaken providing vaccine to its residents.

 

At first, I thought that the rich have an advantage over the rest of us once again. Then I quickly realized that what they are doing is what other municipalities could be doing. Their advantage may be that they have a well-run government. I guess that is what having the ability to adequately tax can buy.

Jupiter Island is carefully following Governor DeSantis’ executive order. They are prioritizing the still extremely limited vaccine doses to be given by age. (The first person to receive it was 99.) In total, the Town has vaccinated 40 residents so far with 400 having signed up. I applaud the town for showing how government can be used to help their citizens.

 

Places like Stuart, Indiantown, and even Martin County do not have the financial resources to make sure that all their citizens have a viable way to sign up for their inoculations. Our seniors are left scrambling to make hundreds of phone calls in the hope of someone at the health department will pick up and make their appointments.

 

Jupiter Island is not doing anything untowardly. More governments need to strive to be at their level of service. Perhaps someday we will get there.

 

There was also an excellent report given regarding COVID. It can be found here

 

NATURE CONSERVANCY TOWER

 

The Nature Conservancy’s Blowing Rocks wants to team up with the University of Florida to construct a 30-foot weather tower. It will be on the mid northern portion of the parcel between South Beach Road and the Intercoastal.

 

Each commissioner made recommendations as to what the conditions for approval would be. It appears most residents feel that a weather facility on the island would be a positive. The tower will not be accessible to the public and supposedly hard to see.

 

One commissioner mentioned that introducing things like a tower goes against the original grant to the Conservancy. There may be a point to that view. Yet that commissioner and the others feel that if development conditions can be adhered to by Blowing Rocks, then it would be a net benefit.

 

Staff will take ideas that were expressed by the commissioners and work with the mayor to comeback at the next meeting. The agenda package can be found here

 

 

ELECTIONS & ROADS

 

The next election for town commission will occur on March 16th. There will be three commission seats up for election. Two will be for a new four-year term (Whitney Pidot and Barry Hall) and one for two additional years (Harold Heck.) The qualifying period is February 16-March 1st. Those Jupiter Island residents wishing to run should contact Town Hall for further details.

 

Martin County and the town are still working out details for the South Beach Road project. The decision about which tress will be removed will be finalized in the next few weeks. The entire presentation can be found  here

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Final Thoughts

FINAL THOUGHTS

We hear how Facebook, Twitter, and a variety of other social media platforms are hurting free speech because they turned off Donald Trump’s accounts.

VECTOR STOCK

Both Trump and some Republicans have said that there is a liberal bias in their actions and that they should not be able to close accounts or censor those that use their service. The claim is that under Section 230, those companies have immunity from anything that is posted on their sites. And if they are not going to allow a free flow of viewpoints and even outright lies, then the section should be repealed.

 

If we examine that premise, we will find that what Section 230 does do is allow the modern realm of social media to operate. Imagine if you could not post or tweet without approval first. If Facebook and the rest of social media were treated as news outlets such as The New York Times, CBS, or CNN, they would be responsible for everything we post. If I posted that Trump has committed 15 murders, they could possibly be sued for liable.

 

In other words, without the protection that Section 230 gives these businesses, they could not exist. Like most private businesses, they have rules that we as users cannot violate. If you violate those rules as a private company, they have every right refuse to have you as a customer anymore.

 

The real problem with Twitter, Amazon and other such companies are that the government has allowed them to become monopolies. They have grown too large and control huge sectors of our economy. They need to be broken up as we did with Standard Oil over 100 years ago and “Ma Bell” more than 40 years ago.

 

America has become highly uncompetitive both internationally and domestically because we allow monopolies to exist in every economic sector. Facebook has so much control because there is no viable competition. The same goes for Amazon and Twitter. These companies need to be broken up. 

 

The real problem is not Section 230. It is the money that these businesses contribute to politicians to maintain their status quo. To read more go here https://thomasfcampenni.medium.com/should-section-230-be-repealed-910395c78cad

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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