City of Stuart
Friends & Neighbors is designed to give you the information that is happening within our County. My goal is to inspire you to get involved and make a change to make Martin County the best it can be.
There is lot’s to do!
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With this newsletter we add two contributors to this section, Tom Pine and Darlene Van Riper. I hope you enjoy their slant on Martin County. Tom lives in the Jensen Beach/Rio area and Darlene has a home in Hobe Sound.
I am looking for someone from the Palm City area to report on the news there. If you think you could write a piece of between 300 and 500 words twice a month, we should explore that possibility.
HOW CAN I BE PRO AND CON ON THE SAME ISSUE?
After the last newsletter, I heard from people claiming I was both for and against masks.
This is not the first time. People believing that I am on both sides of an issue occurs primarily for two reasons. The first is they read a headline and go no further into the story. The second reason is that just stating what went on at a meeting can make people upset even before I venture an opinion. In both instances the person is more interested in finding something that reinforces their position than in learning anything new or discussing an issue more fully.
How can one take a reasoned position without knowing both sides of the argument? The mask is emblematic of people, both pro and con, not listening to the position of the people on the other side. I thought there were points made by both sides that made sense. And in general, nothing is black and white with these issues. There are always lots of grays.
If we cannot accept different opinions anymore, what have we become? We do not have to agree, but we do have to listen with respect to each other.
The County Commissioners listened for hours. They decided a mask ordinance was needed. They are not an enemy because after much thought and deliberation a decision was finally made.
In fact, the Commissioners worked hard to come up with a way that there would not be a criminal penalty involved and that it was educational instead of punitive. Smith, Hetherington, and Jenkins refused to pass something that would be criminal in nature. They were insistent that any punishment be no more serious than a parking ticket.
I often disagree with our elected officials, but I know how difficult it is for them to sometimes arrive at decisions. Masks were one of those gut-wrenching decisions. Jenkins and Ciampi will face no challenger this year. So, there was no fear of those who disagreed with their decision voting them out. All 5 just wanted to do what they believed was the right thing.
We should applaud them for that effort regardless of whether we agree with the decision.
TRUTH IN ADVERTISING
Most campaign mailers are puff pieces. What else can they possibly be? They are supposed to introduce you to the candidates without alienating any voters while showing the candidate in a flattering light. The candidates sometimes add their families and pets. Politics 101 states that a pol with a dog is good for votes.
Another truism is that a picture is worth a thousand words. A good piece has a couple of photos and the candidate’s name a few times. Most of us scan the piece, see if we know the name and look for the office the candidate is running for. The words you have on the mailer should tell the candidate’s story in a succinct way.
If you have too much verbiage, you are liable to say something idiotic. One candidate wrote that he was going to have efficient bridge repairs as one of his bullet points. I can tell you that from my time as a Stuart City Commissioner, you are not telling the FDOT how to repair the Roosevelt Bridge.
Mostly, I do not care which politicians endorsed you. It just means that you know other politicians. However, if you are endorsed by a newspaper or a nonpartisan civic organization, then it is as close to a community recognition as you can have. I want to know your record of volunteering in our community. Have you been on advisory boards? Have you bothered to go to meetings and find out what the issues are firsthand?
This should not be taken as an endorsement, but Troy McDonald has been to dozens of meetings during the past 7 months. Maybe during the meetings, he has been dreaming of the beach or playing a game on his phone, but he showed up and, to me, that is important. His opponent, Karen Rudge, has also been to meetings. Another candidate for another seat has been to fewer meetings that I have fingers on one hand. Last week, he signed up to speak at public comment and had already left when called. That does not show much commitment to me.
The real truth in advertising can’t be gleaned from a slick mailer or a quick exchange. The things I look for are a commitment to the job even before you are elected. A willingness to give of yourself to community organizations with your time, talent, and treasure. If you are running for something other than Commissioner, do you have qualifications for the office you seek. And finally, I look for some general agreement on the issues. Not on everything…but the candidate should at least hear what your views are. Also important is the candidate’s willingness to change his mind based on new evidence.
TRUTH IN ADVERTISING II
I had no intention of saying anything else about campaign ads. Then I received a mailer for the Stuart Commission District 3 race. Challenger Ed Galante must be desperate because his mailer proclaimed across the front, “Don’t Let My Opponent Defund Our Police!” Where he got that idea from is nowhere to be found in the incumbent’s record.
That type of political untruthful smear in any race should be avoided. In a Stuart City Commission race, it is ridiculous. We are supposed to be a small town with a fairly amiable citizenry. Mr. Galante’s claim to be pro cop is the result of an endorsement, not by members of the Stuart Police Department, but by their bargaining agent, the Palm Beach County Benevolent Association.
The incumbent, Merritt Matheson, was not asked by that union to be interviewed. That leads me to believe that the union may find Galante more acquiescent to raise pay. A deal that may lead to increase taxes and produce a bidding war with other City employees. I know for a fact that Matheson wants to increase pay for all City employees by 2 % which seems to me to be a reasonable objective in these times of COVID uncertainty.
If Galante had run for a different race, I might have given him my vote. I would not now for any race. Galante has never showed any interest in City matters. He has served on no volunteer City policy boards. He has not been involved with police events like the Back to School Bash. I have never seen him in the East Stuart community, at a water rally or, for that matter, helping to dish out food at Thanksgiving at Gertrude Walden or at the Christmas toy drive at the fairgrounds. I have worked with Matheson at all these events.
Matheson has always been my personal choice in this race. I wrote a letter of support that was published in The Stuart News. I was not against Galante but rather pro Matheson. Yet once you begin blatantly lying about your opponent, I must call it out.
This newsletter was not going to endorse candidates. I hope not to have to endorse any others regardless of my personal preferences. But because of a mailer that publishes a lie, this newsletter endorses Merritt Matheson, and while I may not always agree with him, he has the integrity to be my Stuart Commissioner.
We are supposedly a fiscally conservative county. Unless there is some reason to give a few bucks to a “good old boy”. A favor for this one or that one. A job or government handout is never too much to ask for.
Even though the voters and taxpayers say they want change, they keep electing the same people to the same offices. So, it would make sense the elected officials keep doing the same things. Of the three seats that were up for County Commission, only one drew any challenge. Yet, I heard at last week’s Commission meeting, people saying the same old thing during public comment. Things like you work for us and we pay your salary. All of which are true in principle but not in practice.
Probably the current Commission will be the next Commission. But there is one thing you can do when you go to the polls. Please vote no on re-authorizing the business incentive program. It is bad for business, bad for government and mostly bad for you, the taxpayer.
To learn more please read this here
Tom Pine has been commenting before the BOCC for several years now. He has sent emails that I have published. I asked him to become a contributor to the newsletter. Tom has accepted and so I am giving him his own subsection. I do not always agree with him, but his perspective is another voice for Martin County. He lives in the Jensen Beach/Rio area.
It is a sad day for Martin County residents now that free speech at County meetings are limited to those of us willing to risk our health to speak in person during this pandemic. While written comments can still be sent in, they will not be read aloud which makes them all but useless.
A couple of Commissioners can drone on and on often indulging in lengthy monologues. Yet in Commissioners’ minds it is taxpayers that have been sending in letters to be read at commission meetings that have been taking up too much time, three minutes max for each taxpayer.
At a recent workshop dealing with the severe flooding in Hobe Sound there was little useful information to be had. What I did learn was, several of the homes had flooded before and at least one home had flooded six times over the years.
So how many neighborhoods in Martin County flood on a regular basis. The neighborhood I live in now does, usually two to three times a year, it has been that way for decades.
The National Weather Service has been warning us for years about the high risk of severe rain and flooding which we have witnessed many times around the country. Now we have witnessed this right here in Martin County and it will not be the last time that we do.
I feel it won’t be long before this Board of County Commissioners moves to raise taxes for infrastructure spending at which time I will once again vote NO. I will continue to vote NO until this Commission starts spending all our tax dollars in an appropriate manner, which means No More Spending Of Tax Dollars On Their Dreams And Wishes.
Some of the more wasteful spending I have witnessed over the years has been the illegal extension of runway 12 / 30 at Witham Field, the Water Park, the Mooring Field on the Jensen Beach Causeway, the Millions and Millions of Dollars we dump in the ocean on a regular basis at Bath Tub Beach and Sail Fish Point, and the latest boondoggle…the Martin County Public Golf Course. It will have a virtual driving range and a massive club house. This project is already two million dollars over budget.
Another area of wasteful spending is the supposed beautification of Martin County, take Rio as an example. The circle in downtown Rio serves no real purpose. Both cross streets have no outlet which means extremely limited vehicle traffic. The reason there is a circle is because the people in power want an art display in the downtown area and that is what the circle is for, to hang a piece of art from.
The useless circle costs the taxpayers approximately $1.5 million. Down the street a little further, there was a shoulder on both sides of the road where bicyclists could safely ride their bikes. It is gone and now we have a median with trees and shrubs that will need maintenance forever and NO safe place to ride a bike. At one of the many meetings I attended I was told the circle and median made the downtown Rio area look QUAINT. Safety often takes a back seat in Martin County.
Shouldn’t our county leaders be spending our tax dollars for the basics such as Police, Fire/ Rescue, Roads, Water, Drainage, Sewer, Sidewalks, Parks, Trash Collection, etcetera, etcetera instead of their DREAMS and WISHES?
As we head into the August primaries the first thing that pops up to me is the renewal of the Business Development Board’s incentive program. Why would any taxpayer vote to reauthorize this ten-year agreement?
To start with over the past ten years the Business Development Board has produced nothing, yet we the taxpayers of Martin County have given them well over $4.5 million dollars over that same period for salaries, office space, rent and any other things they may think they need. It’s a private club that we the taxpayers pick up the tab for, I feel like I’m being played as a sucker and I’m not happy.
The whole premise is wrong, and I don’t agree with giving a tax break to one business over another. It is just picking winners and losers. This scheme was contrived ten years ago, I would not be surprised if Commissioner Smith didn’t have a major role in bringing this forward.
How many other Schemes like this one are we paying for? It is easy to see why we are always short of money for things like infrastructure.
When Dreams and Wishes, Beautification and schemes like this are the norm we, the taxpayers loose. Welcome to Martin County.
The Property Appraiser race is interesting, Jenny Fields is endorsed by her boss, Laurel Kelly. This means Laurel Kelly who has been the Property Appraiser for many many years in Martin County is putting her reputation on the line by endorsing Jenny.
The other person running for Property Appraiser is Kelli Glass Leighton, her campaign signs I believe are misleading on purpose. First, she uses the same color scheme as Laurel Kelly did for the many times she ran for re-election. Second, she uses only her first name in bold print, which gives the impression that Laurel Kelly is running re-election.
I feel Jenny Fields deserves a shot at the position of Property Appraiser because she is experienced and can hit the ground running when she is elected, and integrity is of the upmost importance.
Last but not least, the County Commission District # 1 race; Doug Smith, Jo Neeson, and the write in candidate Vincenza Zocco. The Hutchinson Island Reservation Initiative had a forum where all three candidates were invited to speak only Jo Neeson accepted. It can be seen on You Tube, I thought she did a good job.
This is the second election cycle in a row where there was a write in candidate, it smells a little fishy to me. Smith has not won a plurality in his district in the past two cycles.
Tom Pine’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors
DARLENE’S HOBE SOUND
Darlene Van Riper has been a resident of Hobe Sound since 1996. She is going to be a contributor to the newsletter and write about matters concerning South Martin County. Darlene has been active in politics and civic affairs for years. I think she will bring a unique perspective to the reader. Like Tom Pine, I do not always agree on her viewpoints. That does not mean her viewpoints are not important.
“A long time comin” is how Dist. 3 Commissioner Harold Jenkins describes the Bridge Road project which is now close to being finished. It does not look like it is, but the majority of the work has been completed. All the underground infrastructure such as the sewer and drainage have been replaced or added. The businesses are now hooked up. Mostly just the paving is left and that is the easy part.
FPL is still working on their part. But all those hanging electric lines have been buried! Bridge Road no longer looks like it is stuck in the ‘50s anymore!
Most businesses that populate Bridge Road, especially the older established businesses, have grinned through clenched teeth during the construction. They understand “the plan”. A plan that started 20 years ago.
Commissioner Jenkins was President of the Hobe Sound Chamber in 1993. The chamber’s executive director brought something called a CRA to his attention. Stuart now had one. The Community Redevelopment Agency uses TIF (Tax Increment Financing) which is a fancy name for a bucket of money geared to a specific geographical area to fund projects requested by the residents within that area.
Hobe Sound lobbied the county for years until it finally got its CRA. Yet the $2,957,957.69 project was still far from realization. The District 3 County Commissioners subsequently elected had other ideas. Then there was the delay caused by a diversion of dollars from all Martin County CRAs to Indiantown. Meanwhile, businesses originally engaged in “the plan” changed hands two or three times. But Harold persisted, as did the Hobe Sound Chamber.
The Bridge Road project will offer improved public safety by establishing wide sidewalks, cross walks, lighting and traffic calming, on-street parking, the under-grounding of all the utilities. It will add landscaping to improve the aesthetics of the area. I already mentioned the ever-important drainage and upgraded water and sewer. It will also develop a walkable community which will increase property values. Increased property values will encourage the redevelopment of existing assets. “It has been a struggle” says Commissioner Jenkins. “But we are making sure it’s done right…100%.”
Well, you know what! Kudos to Commissioner Jenkins and the Hobe Sound Chamber for remaining steadfast to your vision throughout all these years.
And, to everyone else in Martin County …when the year-long project is finally finished …well … y’all come see us in Hobe Sound and our new fancy downtown. We still will not be able to tell you why we live here. It is a secret.
Darlene Van Riper’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors
The first chart was sent from Ann Kagdis outlining where different risks fall for COVID:
And 3 from The Visual Capitalist:
The first shows the billions in on line gaming:
Next one explains the enormity of the online cloud:
And last from tells us that mortgage delinquencies are at an all time high:
I urge those who are reading this newsletter to send an email expressing their opinions on subjects. When a reader sends one, it will be included if I find it relevant and I have adequate space. I may edit the letter because of length and clarity. You don’t have to agree with me to have your letter in Friends & Neighbors. All you must do is send it to
Info@friendsandneighborsofmartincounty.com or fill out the form on the website.
Our 1st letter is from Stuart Commissioner Matheson:
I am not one to ever run a negative campaign. I believe our great nation would be better off if our elected officials and those campaigning for service would focus on their own merits and future plans. Unfortunately, campaigns of misinformation are all too common these days. Inevitably this leads to less confidence in all elected officials. With that in mind, facts do matter. Votes are recorded for a reason. My supporters have brought an issue to my attention which deserves addressing. The following is a quote from a social media post made by my opponent.
“Unlike my opponent who approved this, ￼I’m against explosive growth like these rentals located adjacent to single story residential homes like Windemere.
It adds 280 units without adding more police or infrastructure. There’s no elevators. The wood structure is protected by a sprinkler system but when the sprinklers fail is the fire department adequately equipped to fight a fire on the fourth floor?”
Here is the big catch, I did NOT vote to approve the referenced project (link to ordinance with voting record attached). I was the only commissioner to vote against the project. So, after reviewing this post there are two logical takeaways. 1) My opponent found an issue he has with the City and decided to blame the incumbent without taking the time to learn the facts or review the voting record; or 2) My opponent knew the facts yet chose to lie about them in an effort to slander me.
I am not sure either logical explanation is a chosen qualification for commissioner.
One final note regarding the comment: Commissioners do not have the authority to dictate building material on projects. That is done under the Florida Building Code. Also, any project of this magnitude is reviewed and will not move forward unless approved by Stuart’s Fire Chief, Police Chief, Building Inspector and Public Works Director.
Anyone interested in discussing upcoming projects in the City of Stuart is welcome to contact me at (772) 233-8406. I am always happy to hear from our residents. This dialogue is essential for me to be able to make decisions that are in the best interest of the people I have been elected to represent.
Stuart City Commissioner
The next is from John MacDaniel regarding risk:
> While the “positivity rate”is one factor to look at when assessing the COVID crisis, the incidence, mortality of and from COVID in the entire population are worth looking at as well. 34 (.02%) deaths and 2503 (1.5%) cases in Martin County as of July 8th and hospital bed availability of 51.4% seem to be mostly ignored.
> One death is one too many for sure, but let’s try to put this virus in perspective with other causes of morbidity over the same time such as the flu, pneumonia, heart disease, cancer and accidental deaths. These are the things that occur month after month and year after year and will continue to do so even after COVID is history. Maybe we should ban cigarettes, alcohol, sugar and automobiles?
> Keep up the good work and good luck with your foot surgery.
Jackie Vitali writes about mask and more:
I think you are spot on that the mask debate is a striking example of another pandemic our nation is facing: selfishness. Americans seem to want their personal liberty without any personal responsibility. A perversion of individualism if ever there was one.
But I have to hold in my heart that the majority of humans are fundamentally caring, and could be swayed toward responsible, community-minded behavior with the help of good leadership and a brush-up on critical thinking skills. My take is that the biggest thing driving this unnecessary mask debate, and so many of our nation’s ills of partisanship, is media illiteracy.
The internet is in its infancy. All of us are still learning how to absorb and analyze the incredible amount of information that now exists in our pockets. Basic media literacy would go a long way in helping us to synthesize information, decide whether or not a source is trustworthy, and separate fact from fiction. It may also help to break down the walls of the echo chambers so many of us (myself included) exist in.
We all need sharper tools to interrogate the massive amount of information we consume on a daily basis. I’m including below some basic questions, taken from Common Sense Media, an independent organization that helps parents navigate the children’s media landscape. While these questions are written for children, the majority of us could use a refresher.
Who created this? Was it a company? Was it an individual? (If so, who?) Was it a comedian? Was it an artist? Was it an anonymous source? Why do you think that?
Why did they make it? Was it to inform you of something that happened in the world (for example, a news story)? Was it to change your mind or behavior (an opinion essay or a how-to)? Was it to make you laugh (a funny meme)? Was it to get you to buy something (an ad)? Why do you think that?
Who is the message for? Is it for kids? Grown-ups? Girls? Boys? People who share a particular interest? Why do you think that?
What techniques are being used to make this message credible or believable? Does it have statistics from a reputable source? Does it contain quotes from a subject expert? Does it have an authoritative-sounding voice-over? Is there direct evidence of the assertions it’s making? Why do you think that?
What details were left out, and why? Is the information balanced with different views — or does it present only one side? Do you need more information to fully understand the message? Why do you think that?
How did the message make you feel? Do you think others might feel the same way? Would everyone feel the same, or would certain people disagree with you? Why do you think that?
COUNTY COMMISSION MEETING JULY 14, 2020
Several residents of Hobe Heights spoke regarding their homes and the flooding that occurred over Memorial Day. There were complaints that before the new drainage project was completed, flooding was not a problem. Could an inadequate project have caused all of this?
What is the responsibility of the County? Are the millions of dollars for buyouts something that taxpayer dollars should be used for? Is it justified to use state tax dollars to buy these selective people out? Questions, it seems, that the Commission is ready to answer in the affirmative.
Staff stated that the ground water table is very high in parts of the neighborhood. There is now literally nowhere for rainwater to go. There is no storage capacity. How did it get this way? Was it a fault of over development? Some of these homes are decades old. Yet newer surrounding development has perhaps stopped the natural flow ways.
The County is applying for a Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) grant with the help of our state delegation. They want a more robust pumping system, property acquisition of low-lying homes, increase retention pond capacity, and to raise the level of the roads.
The County staff recommends that 13 homes out of the 54 “at risk” be acquired. They also will have a new pumping station with generator so that even in a hurricane, it would continue working. The elevation of homes onto stilts is a 25/75 match. To do so, you would need to have sewer. It is estimated to cost $100,000 per home. This may be OK for Sewall’s Point, but at the price point of these homes, it would not be economical.
The Commission kept speaking about the CARES Act money, but this flooding problem is no more relative to COVID that to Christmas. A motion was made for staff to continue working toward their recommendations including perhaps a STA. It was 5-0 vote.
Hetherington asked about sewers and whether SMRU was willing to move ahead. They would if the County obtains the funds. Ciampi is ready to do all the proposed remedies whether the money comes from the state and grants or not. More than $8 million dollars is what he is proposing. I do not think our tax dollars should go to purchase properties that flood.
I have no problem with paying for sewers. I have no problem with figuring out a pumping system to move water away. I have a big problem spending tax dollars as if Martin County is an insurance company. We are supposedly a bastion of Republican Conservatives. Show me where an action like that is part of the dogma.
ST LUCIE AND WATER UPDATE
John Maehl gave an update on the St. Lucie and waterways including the Indian River Lagoon South. It was interesting and shows the progress we are making. As Commissioner Heard stated, we need to keep up the pressure.
The presentation can be found here
COMMISSION MEETING JULY 13, 2020
It is nice to see that East Stuart residents, spearheaded by President Jimmy Smith of the NAACP and Thelma Washington from Gertrude Walden, come to praise the Stuart Police Department for community involvement. In this time of so many communities being torn apart by racial animus, it is great to see brotherhood and solidarity between the police and citizens.
The police should be called out if something is wrong, but then they should also be praised when they do something right. Smith praised both our current Chief, Joe Tumminelli, and former Chief now City Manager, David Dyess.
Which brings me to a complaint of mine. Meetings now are running routinely 5 hours or more. With a starting time of 5:30 that means many of the important agenda items are being discussed to an empty chamber. This is depriving the public of being participants. One of the reason meetings were started at 5:30 was to allow for people to come after work. With 5-hour meetings, you are now asking them to stay past their bedtimes.
At least once a month, the meetings should begin at 3:30 and have the Arts Moment, proclamations, employee recognitions, and non-governmental presentations then. That way important issues can be done when the public will attend, and the Commissioners are not falling asleep.
This current schedule is not working. When I hear a Commissioner asking for a drink jokingly, I know the witching hour is upon us. The Commission, staff, and applicants are tired, and the applicants are spending a fortune on their lawyers and consultants to hang around. I think it is time to try something new.
What could have been a controversial project with neighbor opposition was not.
It is amazing how many people who do not live around the property or are not Stuart residents believe the project is too tall or too dense. At 13.35 units per acre and 4 stories it is neither. When situated next to the Indian Street Bridge, which will tower over it and across from the new Cleveland Clinic facility, it is proportionate to its environment.
To think that buildings of that size alongside of a 70-foot bridge are too tall, then some people have lost a bit of perspective. The 212-unit 2 building complex has set aside double the preserve land that the code specifies. And the PAMP will be part of the PUD documents and require the property to use the same specifications of management as does the City including banning herbicides containing glyphosate.
The developer reached out to neighboring Riverland and created a legal MOU which resulted in the association’s endorsement. There will be extensive plantings and a 10-foot cement wall between the parties. No one spoke in opposition.
This will fill a niche in the County’s housing needs not just the needs of the City of Stuart. It is important to note that if the applicant had constructed the office complex that he could have built by right, it could result in a much larger footprint and nowhere near as much open land. This is smart growth that also provides an absolutely needed product. To build the same number of units as single-family housing, you would have needed several hundred acres of undeveloped land or farms.
It was a good result as an infill project. It is across the street from an employer that has created many new jobs. They are planning on having some residents walk to work. The environmental impact is less than other development would have been.
You can see the entire presentation here
SCHOOL BOARD MEETING JULY 21, 2020
The meeting lasted a long time. Public commentators spoke for a long time, and the discussions by the School Board were long and thoughtful. It was hours long. Yet it was all necessary. Everyone needed to have their say.
Whatever the Board decides, it cannot be said that it was done in haste. They have considered the consequences of their actions.
It is unfortunate that the state believes that it should dictate when schools open but not about other things like the wearing of masks. There is a reason why Florida is now the epicenter of the pandemic worldwide. I am glad that our School Board seems more rational than Tallahassee.
How do we keep our teachers and staff safe and especially our students? Some in the public have a cavalier attitude toward the kids. They believe that the illness is less devastating to younger children. That could prove dangerous because it is untrue. What is true is that older students are just as likely to be sick as adults. Everyone, regardless of age, can spread the disease to others. These are facts.
There are 17 Florida school districts that have pushed back their start dates. Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Indian River have already done so. After hours of debate what was the result for Martin County? We could change our start date if the teachers’ unions agree.
The state’s unitarian response was to leave the decision of whether to have students return to the classroom or continue virtual schooling up to the individual parents. I agree with that philosophy in normal times. These are not normal times. It seems that many people, including our leaders, cannot distinguish between normalcy and emergency.
Individuals should decide for themselves and their families. Yet, when you have a possibility of an individual’s actions causing harm to others, then rights and responsibilities must be weighed. What DeSantis and Corcoran fail to grasp is that teachers may not want to be in those classrooms and take that risk.
And that is what opening means. Can the School Board do so regardless of federal and state threats and without the full support of the people in the classroom, driving the buses or sweeping the floors?
According to the schedule that has been agreed to in the union contracts, the teachers come back on August 3rd and instruction begins August 11th. Currently, the schools are closed the week of Thanksgiving and an entire week in December.
The Board would push everything back two weeks and then make up any time lost to instruction by eliminating those 3 days in November and 2 of the days in December. If the unions do not agree with that timetable by next Tuesday at noon, everything stays with the current timetable.
Will two weeks matter much? I do not know, but probably not. The Board like so many others in America, is playing for time and hoping for a vaccine to be developed. Or the state may close everything down again as our cases soar which leaves them to make the decision instead of the Board.
What happens if they go ahead and then are short teachers because so many decided it was not worth the risk to step into a classroom?
Perhaps in Washington and Tallahassee, it is a political game. But I can tell you it is not to the School Board. How they proceed is rooted in doing what is best for all. This is not the time for demonstrations or rhetoric. There needs to be calm consideration on how we proceed.
The Board will meet next Tuesday to decide. It will not be the last decision related to COVID.
COMMISSION WORKSHOP JULY 14, 2020
This meeting was devoted to the upcoming budget. Every Commissioner seemed happy with the process up until this point. There will be $1,000,000 in anticipatory grants and $3,000,000 in ad valorem and other fees and shared revenue.
They have budgeted a 10% increase in employee benefits. Finally, the computer and internet capabilities will be updated. Most of their existing computers have no cameras. In the age of virtual meetings, that is difficult. At the same time, the Chamber’s equipment is from the early 1990s. A world away from today’s needs.
It was nice to see a prepared budget that met the Commission’s needs. There will be changes, I am sure, as the process goes on. One change you will not see is an increase in the millage rate which will remain at 2.87%
To see the entire presentation please go here
COUNCIL MEETING JULY 9, 2020
The Manager presented the first pass at next year’s budget. Like Sewall’s Point, there will be no increase in millage. However, when comparing it with other municipalities, you must add the MSTU that is paid to the County. It is still a remarkable rate given the growth of the budget.
The argument of how much government the Village should have has been decided. Now, the question is how they manage the government. This budget seems to be responsible for the government that the Council has created.
When the Parks Director was speaking about the cost to sod a ball field at $100,000 it sounded as if some of the Council was experiencing sticker shock. That may be the biggest problem that they face…no realization of what true cost can be.
The presentation can be found here
NEW VILLAGE HALL
The present space that the Town is using belongs to the County. They want it back as of the end of September. That is not much time for them to set up somewhere else.
Earlier, the Council empowered the Manager to perform due diligence on two lots. After receiving engineering reports and other factors, staff has chosen the larger parcel of 5.1 acres. It appears they not only envision a Village Hall but also a community center with pool and possibly a fire/rescue station.
The cost is $1.45 million dollars. What the buildings and site work will be is anyone’s guess. A motion was made by Clarke and seconded by Thomas and passed 5-0.
The presentation can be found here
That may solve the long-term problem but not what to do by the end of September. Mr. Brown has arranged to have a modular of 4000 square feet placed on the property. The rent per month is $4600.00 plus about $40,000 in cost for breakdown and set up.
Several people spoke against spending that money, including David Powers. He wanted the Council to rent the vacant Indiantown non-profit building. It has 6500 square feet. There were no costs provided for that rental.
Mr. Brown wanted permission to proceed with the modular building while he discussed the rental of Indiantown Non-Profit. The Council voted 4-1 with Stone dissenting to proceed with that plan.
I reached out to both Brown and Powers to obtain the hard numbers. Mr. Brown wrote back and said that he was expecting something by Monday, and he would let me know. I never heard back from Mr. Power.
INDIANTOWN MEETING JULY 23, 2020
I want to congratulate Indiantown on its new meeting recording platform. It is by far the best system now being used hands down. The system has features that would serve other governments well. Public participation is easy and complete. Bravo!
SETTING THE MILLAGE
The presentation was a doubled edge sword. If you think that the Village is growing too fast and expenditures too out of control, then this will confirm that assumption. However, if you believe that the Village should have a full-fledged independent government then the presentation will comfort you in knowing that they are responsibly moving in that direction.
That is the crux of the issue confronting this Village. People that have complained about how the Village is wasting money, are wrong. In the eyes of the current Council a growth in services and personnel is what they want and have implemented. In that respect the mounting expenditures are justified and well spent.
If you believe that the Village was supposed to be government “light” then there is an election in a few weeks with two candidates running that are believers of that school of thought. I agree with the that model but the full-fledged one is being implemented responsibly.
The millage rate remains the same next year at 1.6304%. The income and expenditures are about 7.5% less than last year. What is not to like about that.
COVID could take a big chunk out of this budget as with all government. I think Indiantown is less able to absorb budget shortfalls than more established municipalities. At some point it can all go crashing down. Then what?
There is a philosophical disagreement with how to proceed that will be decided at the polls in the next two elections. We should not blame staff for implementing the Council’s big government approach. They are following their orders from the Council and doing so responsibly.
That is what elections are all about. To see the presentation go here
The Village will shortly be closing on the 5-acre plot that the Village is buying for the new Village complex. The Village needs to move by the end of September from their current County owned facility. They had contemplated placing a modular building at $4,000 per month and using that as offices.
Several speakers at the last meeting implored the Village to use the abandoned Indiantown Non-Profit space. Brown has come to terms with David Powers, the manager of that building for less per month than the modular for more space. It is also a hardened structure that will probably serve the Village better.
They will need to spend about $60,000 on modifications. The lease is for 2 years with two one-year extensions. To anyone who thinks a Village hall will be built much before the expiration of this lease they are wrong. This also makes it easier to build the complex since no disruption during construction.
The lease can be found here here
ROLE OF GOVERNMENT
If you want to build a church, ask a rich man to donate. If you want to help pay for a meal, ask someone who knows what it may be like to have missed a few. Indiantown’s Council is closer to the latter than the former. Perhaps that is why the Boys & Girls Club made a touch to help fund the continuation of their meal program.
Much happened when the schools shut down in March. One of the worries was that kids would no longer have access to the school meals program. 96% of Indiantown’s students qualify for reduced meals. Boys and Girls Club has filled some of that void. They have spent $86,000 on 26,000 meals.
The non-profit is asking the Village for a grant of $10,000 to offset a portion of the cost. My question to the Village is should the Village’s tax dollars be used for that. I would say no. The feds through the CARES Act has given the County money to help people who need that assistance.
The County has wisely brought in United Way to administer that money through its partners such as House of Hope and Salvation Army. They will be up and running in the next week. I have seen the agreement between the County and United Way and there are standards and protocols that must be met before reimbursement. Caseworkers will work with individuals and families to solve a multitude of problems the families may have.
The other question I have is when did Boys & Girls Club expand their mission to food. The School District has continued to feed kids as before. There are many food pantries throughout the County that United Way is working with to administer CARES money to those in need. Mission creep an expression usually associated with our forces abroad, amply applies here.
The Village should not become a social welfare agency, there is adequate provision and money available. There are also other non-profits already set up to handle food insecurity. Everyone needs to stay in their lane.
Next Meeting August 10th
Next meeting August 20th
Many things make people change their minds as they mature. It would be the rare human being that does not. New information comes to us or circumstances change. Our experiences both good and bad have an impact on how we live our life going forward.
Some of us can remember when making a telephone call anywhere but locally was costly. Now we think nothing of calling someone living thousands of miles away multiple times a day. The City of my youth was a safe place to live. The same city I inhabited in my 20s and 30s was dystopian and dangerous. Since then, city living has become more safe mirroring the 1950s and early 1960s. This is despite the delusional portrayal coming out of Washington.
An old Dusty Springfield song entitled “Windmills of Your Mind” explains how life is a circle that has no beginning or ending, and it revolves in perpetuity. I believe that is true. Your life is remembered as a series of events juxtaposed against what is going on in the wider world. And as your life goes along the circle, you live through similar events that happened earlier in your existence. It appears the same yet different.
A current example would be the civil rights movement of the 1960s and today’s protests and the riots that happened then and are happening now. The anti-war movement of the 1960s repeated that of the New York riots of 1863. Both were brought on by the conscription into the army sending men off to war.
In the realm of race, we will be condemned to continue that circle until we can see past color. We need to get to the other side of the River Jordan as the old spiritual goes. America needs to see its band of angels if we are to ever be rid of the curse.
To read more here
GET THE WORD OUT
Friends and Neighbors of Martin County is your eyes and ears so that you know what is going on in Martin County’s municipal and county governments. I attempt to be informative and timely so that you may understand how your tax money is being spent. Though I go to the meetings and report back, I am no substitute for your attending meetings. Your elected officials should know what is on your mind.
ARTICLES OF INTEREST
From The New York Times the housing crisis is a national one:
The next article from the Washington Post states that during pandemics there is more extremism:
The Tampa Bay Times writes that Marion County thinking about returning to an elected superintendent after 30 years:
Lastly from Route Fifty that government employees using their personal devices put their employers at risk for cyber-attacks:
The first chart is from Frame of Reference it outlines the education of all 46 presidents:
And two charts from The Visual Capitalist:
The first is the worlds oldest and youngest countries:
And what is known as the Buffet Indicator for all time high risk:
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)
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Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)
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Community Redevelopment Board (CRB)
Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA)
Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR)
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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)
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Indian River Lagoon (IRL)
Land Development Code (LDR)
Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS)
Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSUM)
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Martin County Fire/Rescue (MCFR)
Martin County Taxpayers Association (MCTA)
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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)