City of Stuart
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TALLAHASSEE OPEN UP
You must hand it to Governor DeSantis. He kept our businesses going and our schools opened. And we will be vaccinating everyone age 18 and older beginning April 5th.
Now it is time to open all state offices for business, especially the capitol. Private businesses have an incentive to be open so they can make money. There is no such incentive with the government. It is not only that the bureaucrats are working from home. We, the people, cannot make appointments to see them.
I always suspected that our legislators could not care less what local government officials and the public wanted. In the end, it was all about what the lobbyists and special interests wanted. At least there was a pretense of listening when the capitol building was open, and you could testify at hearings or try to see your representatives at their Tallahassee offices. That is not happening during this session.
Lobbyists can hobnob with state officials in the evening in the restaurants and private clubs that surround the capitol. Most of that is not available to the average citizen, and there is not even a pretense of that this session.
Unfortunately, the governor cannot tell the legislature how to do its business. For the rest of this session, it will be an uneasy quiet in the building. Meanwhile, Miami Beach has so many visitors for spring break that the cops had to declare an emergency. And the theme parks of Orlando are open for business, Tallahassee is closed to its customers…the people and citizens of Florida.
COSTCO IS A METAPHOR
For what seems like forever, Costco has been trying to locate a store in Martin County. Why has it been so difficult?
Anywhere else where Costco has wanted to locate a store, there has not been contention or consternation. It has been easy, and, in some places, people clamor for that store. Just ask St. Lucie County. In Martin County, it is as if a nuclear waste dump is being proposed for the parcel on Kanner Highway.
I do not think it really has anything to do with Costco. A reasoned logical argument will never win over those who so vehemently oppose the project. Because Costco has become a metaphor for development in the City of Stuart and Martin County.
Those who believe Costco represents all the evil of development will never be convinced that paradise will not be spoiled. Any change is offensive and therefore unwanted. The old petards of traffic and crowds will be hurled at any government meeting whether it is for Costco or a new condo or both.
So, if the Stuart commissioners believe that this project should be built, then approve it because it is the right thing to do. In the end, they are simply not going to please the crowd. What is right for the future of Stuart is their responsibility not whether they are re-elected.
With only 16,500 citizens, Stuart is perilously close to being unable to afford a police department, fire/rescue, or public utility. There will not be the tax dollars in a decade available.
Without more people and tax revenue, the city cannot continue as a full-service city. Stuart has a better ISO rating than the county which makes fire insurance premiums go down. That is due to Stuart Fire/Rescue. Stuart has better response times for all public safety functions. To maintain those services takes tax revenue.
People are the life blood of a city. It is amazing how many wish to pull up the bridge after they arrive and utter the words “quality of life” as if where they are living didn’t result in some scrub land having to be sacrificed at an earlier point in time.
Paradise lost or paradise gained…it depends on your perspective. Costco has very little to do with it. To read more go here
Last month I wrote about a Children’s Services Council Meeting. I wrote that the chair had spoken to some of his members outside of an advertised meeting. He had not.
At the suggestion of the executive director, I listened to the meeting again. I tried to first listen to a recording sent to me by his staff at my office. I could not understand it. I then was able to listen to the tape at the CSC offices.
No one from the nominating committee could make the meeting except the chair. However, I must question whether there was a meeting since there was no quorum of the committee. According to the tape, the only person who contacted other members was the director which is perfectly fine.
In the future, I would think there is no need for a nominating committee. There is no reason, and since the meeting would have to be open and advertised, it would serve no real purpose. The CSC should just do what every other board does and take nominations and vote in a regular meeting.
A MARTIN COUNTY COVID UPDATE
Below is a bulletin from Martin County:
COVID-19 Vaccine Update: March 25, 2021
The Florida Department of Health in Martin County (FDOH-Martin) is the lead agency on vaccine distribution in our area. Martin County is supporting the Florida Department of Health’s efforts to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to our residents and sharing available information. Vaccines are being distributed by the state to the Florida Department of Health in Martin County, Publix, CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and other providers, however, the supply is still limited.
As of Thursday, March 25, we have the following information to share:
- As of March 22, the groups eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida are:
- Persons 50 years of age and older
- 40 and older on March 29
- 18 and older on April 5
- Persons determined to be extremely vulnerable by a physician (form required)
- Long-term care facility residents and staff
- Health care workers with direct patient contact
- FDOH-Martin continues to offer vaccinations at a storefront at the north end of the Treasure Coast Square Mall between Ruby Tuesday and Forever 21. Vaccinations are available by appointment only and will be based on the list from the statewide preregistration system. Hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (depending upon vaccine availability). Appointments will be scheduled weekly, based on supply. Please note that this is not a drive-thru location.
- Utilize the statewide system to preregister for vaccination appointments when available.
- Visit fl.govto preregister by computer.
- Those without internet access can call(866) 201-7037 for Martin County.
- Please note: Residents who have scheduled an appointment through fl.govcan now reschedule or cancel appointments in the system. If you have an appointment scheduled and get the vaccine through another source, please cancel your appointment so the slot may be opened for someone else.
- Second shots will be given on Thursdays and Fridays at the mall location, and scheduling calls will begin the weekend before. If you are contacted to schedule your second shot and are not available for the appointment date, you will be put back in the rotation for the next round of appointments.
- Approximately74% of Martin County residents age 65+ have been vaccinated to date according to FDOH-Martin.
- Vaccination outreach to underserved areas: FDOH-Martin is working with community partners including the NAACP, House of Hope, Banner Lake Club, Florida Community Health Centers, United Way of Martin County and faith based organizations to ensure vaccine access for those living in underserved areas. Through a series of vaccination outreach events held throughout the county, FDOH-Martin has provided approximately 2,600 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to those who are eligible.
- Florida Medicaid offers free transportation to a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.Once your vaccine appointment is scheduled, let your Medicaid plan know you need a ride and they will take care of the rest. If you are not enrolled in a plan, call the Medicaid Helpline at 1-877-254-1055 to find out the name and phone number for a transportation service. Learn more
- Publix is offering vaccinations is now administering both the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, subject to availability. Check the Publix website at publix.com/covid-vaccine/floridaon Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 a.m. for appointments.
- CVS Health is administering the COVID-19 vaccine, however, there are currently no locations in Martin County. Monitor the CVS website at cvs.com/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine.
- Winn Dixie is now be administering the COVID-19 vaccine at two locations in Martin County. For information, visit winndixie.com/pharmacy/covid-vaccine/.
- Cleveland Clinic is working with FDOH to provide vaccinations based on eligibility criteria determined by the state. To receive a vaccine, you must be a Florida resident and an established patient who has seen a Cleveland Clinic Florida provider in the last two years for outpatient or inpatient care. Continue to monitor martinhealth.orgfor updates.
- To receive vaccination updates via Martin County’s alert system, text MARTINVAX to 888777. You can also sign up online at martin.fl.us/AlertMartin.
By Tom Pine
Since the election of President Joe Biden, Democrats have been taking a beating over the word socialism because of the Democrats desire to expand medical coverage to all Americans.
A national health care plan would be right in line with some of the other social programs that are typical in a free democracy. America is the only democratically elected government in the free world without a system of universal health care such as “Medicare for All.”
Democratic Socialism has been part of America since its inception. Some of these early programs were the various policing agencies, military, fire department, and court system. Some of the more recent ones were Medicare, Social Security, public bus service, and veterans’ health care. This is just a small sample of the more than fifty programs that come under the title of Democratic Socialism in every free country around the globe.
Now I would like to turn your attention to the businesses our own Martin County government runs. I’ll start with the food concessions on Hutchinson Island. The food concession on Jensen Beach started in the mid to late 1940’s and was always operated by a private business, not anymore. Martin County Parks and Recreation Department took over the operation of all food concessions on county property several years ago. Add to that the Water Park which is also run by county employee’s and soon they will be operating the Mooring Field on the Jensen Beach causeway.
I have spoken with several boaters about the mooring field at the causeway and the consensus was the mooring field location was a poor choice because the boats would be anchored in a windward location.
There is a mooring field in Stuart on the St. Lucie River, and it is owned by Stuart and operated by Sunset Bay Marina. That mooring field is in a good location because the boats will be anchored in a leeward location.
Finally, the Martin County Golf Course renovation with a price tag of at least ten million dollars with every bell and whistle known to mankind will also be run by county employees. I believe at least a couple of local golf courses in Martin County will close their doors within a few years of this renovation completion because they will not be able to compete.
Another example that caught my eye recently is the City of Port St. Lucie where the mayor is proposing a Twenty-Four Million Dollar Adventure Park on the backs of the taxpayers of his city.
These businesses that local officials have decided to operate and compete with the private sector are not Democratic Socialism. When local governments start running more and more businesses that used to be run privately, Democracy is in trouble because in the private sector money doesn’t grow on trees.
Tom Pine’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
By Michael Syrkus
“Comrade Napoleon is always right”, “I will work harder.”: the maxims of Boxer the work horse, from the literary classic Animal Farm. In under 200 pages, George Orwell delivers a brilliantly entertaining, yet eye opening warning about the dangers of communism. Every American should be required to read it, and soon. Who knows how long we will be able to?
In recent years we have seen a purge of literary classics because of historical references that may make others uncomfortable. To kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Fin were first seen as “reasonable” books to target, and now we have set our sights on Dr. Seuss.
The slide down a slippery slope has sped up. In a society of cancel culture, we are purging anything that may cause discomfort, but at what cost? In our race to prove we are evolved beyond all comprehension; we are quickly reverting to a period of barbarism.
Just as silence is the absence of sound, and dark is the absence of light; forced political correctness requires punishment for dissenting opinions. Who would have ever thought the President of the United States would scrub Dr. Seuss from approved reading materials? As I write this, there is a legitimate push to cancel Curious George, because of how he came into the life of the man in the yellow hat.
It is not morally okay to be aggressive and hateful in your opinions, but it is okay to have dissenting opinions. We don’t have to like history, but we must know it. George Santayana is most often credited with the phrase “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”
As we continue to eradicate statues from our squares, books from our libraries and flags from our public space, one can’t help but to remember the images of burned books in 1940’s Germany. How long till we devolve to that point?
At the beginning of the revolution on Animal Farm the commandments were written and what once was, is now changed in the dark of night: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
Michael Syrkus’ opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
HERBIE’S HOBE SOUND
By Herbert Howard
So, it’s spring!
And I know some people in Hobe Heights are a little nervous. Cognitively we understand that it was a 100-year rain that caused all the flooding last year. But, for those who were flooded, and in fact, flooded twice last spring, the approach of the rainy season is a bit unnerving.
Hobe Heights is an old neighborhood built in the ‘50s and ‘60s. I spoke with one gentleman who has resided there for 35 years. On Memorial Day last year, it started raining and it rained 30” in 10 days. He ended up with 17” of water in his home.
Few people in the neighborhood had flood insurance because Hobe Heights had never been designated a flood zone. Even though it is not the first time this has occurred. Just the worst time.
It first happened back in 1992. It was so bad that the county had to bring in portable toilets because the septic tanks were overflowing. Kids were out in the streets playing in the water.
The streets were submerged often. There would be standing water sometimes for days. My friend blames the golf courses built west of US1 where there used to be lakes. People used to catch bass in those lakes he said.
The runoff from Hobe Heights used to flow under US1 (which is why the highway is built up for a span) and into those lakes. Then the first golf course was built. The lakes were filled in and the water had no place to go. Swales were built, but not maintained. Aside from the building of now 2 golf courses west of US 1 and a 3rd approved, the original course is expanding. This time the county insisted on some proper maintenance and planning for water flow.
He’s been living in an apartment for nearly a year paying rent of $1,600 per month. He had paid his house in Hobe Heights off years ago. He will get no compensation for the rent he has had to pay. He is retired and 65 years old. He has made a lot of friends over the years in the Hobe Heights neighborhood. But now he is waiting for a check from FEMA for the purchase of his home. He’s had a couple of realtors assess the place, so he has some idea what it’s worth.
Currently he has no idea what FEMA will offer. But once he gets the check, he’s moving to Palm Bay.
While he has found his solution, those he leaves behind wonder if the water has had sufficient time to recede enough so that any amount of rain won’t result in a flood of the neighborhood again?
Herbert Howard’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint
By Frank McChrystal
Frank had nothing to say.
Frank McChrystal’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
ANOTHER QUESTION ANSWERED
From time to time, I receive emails from folks asking about a specific problem. Most times I answer the inquiries in the letter section. Sometimes if it is more complicated and ongoing, I will give the problem its own spot.
Julie Zahniser wrote me about work being done at the Stuart Causeway:
Recently I became aware that Martin County staff have submitted requests for permits to place rip-rap and boulders on the SE section of Stuart causeway, purportedly to stop erosion.
This spot has a lovely beach that lots of people like to windsurf, kitesurf and wing foil from. There is NO erosion on this beach and never was.
This sounds to me like a FEMA money grab to distribute more of our tax dollars to the contractors who would be doing the work.
They are also seeking permits to dump rocks on the SW side of the causeway. While this area does have some erosion, hardening the shoreline in this way is not the best solution and takes away one of the last areas for public access to the lagoon for non-motorized water sports. Hardened shorelines cause greater loss of sand and greater water turbidity. And once the access is destroyed it is forever.
I would love to see an article about these plans and the many better alternatives before it is too late. I have photos of hardened shorelines vs non-hardened shorelines and you will be amazed at the difference. And especially at the difference in both preserving nice safe access and the clarity of the water if you would like photos for your article.
I told her I knew nothing about it and was not planning on drafting an article. I offered Julie a chance to do so.
What I did do, however, was contact County Administrator Taryn Kryzda who had an answer in a couple of days from Jim Gorton, Martin County Public Works Director. Taryn forwarded me Jim’s answer:
This is a Parks Dept project related to coastal erosion damages that occurred during Hurricane Irma in 2017. Attached are representative photos of the areas in question that were submitted to FEMA along with the project worksheet.
I spoke with the Design Engineer who is working with the Parks Department on this project, and he provided the following summary of work:
There are plans to repair the erosion and much of the shoreline is being repaired with rip rap. However, the current design for repair of the shoreline leaves several damaged areas as beach only, and rather than having a long continuous rip rap barrier, there are several strategic wide gaps for direct access to the beach and water, while still remaining effective in stabilizing the shoreline from future damages. Also, most of the rip rap will be located further upland allowing a beach waterward of the rip rap.
Based on the above information and my dialog with the designer, it appears that the Parks Dept is aware of the use described by the resident below, and they have modified the design to account for that use.
Please let me know if you require additional information or clarification.
I forwarded Jim’s answer to Julie along with the pictures.
Julie was grateful for the newsletter’s ability of getting her an answer. It wasn’t nefarious as she first thought. In this instance, Martin County is trying to repair the shoreline and maintain it while still providing public access.
Thanks to Taryn, Jim, and the rest of the staff for the answers.
A JOB FAIR IN STUART
Commissioner Matheson asked that I publish his flier:
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IF YOU ARE NOT A SUBSCRIBER DO SO FOR FREE HERE
The first letter is from Mike Mortell regarding the buying of conservation land down south:
I Read your story about the land from Hobe Sound south.
I agree that sales tax is a great method but must be restricted to that land. Then I would take it a step further. Instead of having it dedicated to conservation, I would have it identified as certified for conservation as a mitigation bank so Martin County could sell wetland credits to developers like Blue Field in St Lucie County.
The Costco proffer has to buy mitigation credits and the only place that is approved is Blue Field. It is kind of a tragedy that it isn’t even in the same county. But if Martin County created a trust with the sales tax money and then redeposited the mitigation credits, it would be able to continue buying land in perpetuity.
The next letter is from Laura Picard:
I am a former Martin County resident. I do spend loads of time in Martin County.
It is sad that there is no reasonable affordable housing. That is why you are seeing the address you see.
Smokers do have rights, but must they be disrespectful?? I smoked for 43 years and did not behave the way some do. This is a problem everywhere. Our freedoms are being taken away from us very discreetly for years. My condolences for all the destruction of rights. Primarily enforced by bully sheriff’s and Stuart police. We truly need to respect each other simply as human beings and start coming together instead of running people out of town or arresting them. There is so much beauty all over Florida and corruption is ruining it. Thanks for all the wonderful updates. Praying for the best.
Nick Sacco writes about Costco:
Thank you for all the information you give us. I am a
Realtor and some new buyers ask about Costco. Do
you know if they are still interested in our area?
And my answer:
Costco was supposed to go to the Stuart LPA in a special meeting this month. Costco once again postponed it.
The project itself will have not only Costco and their service station but also 400 apartments. Many people are against this for the usual reasons. Most live outside the City of Stuart.Without the apartments, the developer cannot break even.
It looks now that it may begin the process in April but it could take longer. You and those that want Costco should write the city commissioners including the manager and state your preferences. This is going to be a tough vote and they need to know that everyday citizens will support it.
And from Timmy Stoklosa regarding formation:
Really enjoy your newsletter. I have a question for you. I often drive by developments where there is no signage as to what is being built there. To find out what is being built how would I access that information in the public records?
Thanks so much!
And my Answer:
You can call the number on the sign and they will give you the information. If you need more than is provided you can make an appointment to go to the Growth Management Department at the county that takes care of Palm City or if it is a blue sign it is Stuart. The same would apply.
If development is going on without any signage then it is being constructed as of right. That means no board is involved because nothing is not in the code. You can still call the county and city to get more info.
And lastly a place for us to get information from Walter Deemer:
As you probably know, the Army Corps of Engineers started discharging water from Lake O a week ago. If you want to monitor the effects the discharges are having on our estuary, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, a member of the SFWMD Board of Governors and the recipient of our 2020 Susan B. Anthony Award, is doing a terrific job of doing so on her blog: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/author/jthurlow325/. (She’s documented the effects via some breathtaking aerial photos of our area.)
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COMMISSION MEETING MARCH 23, 2021
The marine industries are an important part of Martin County. A working waterfront is integral to having a place for a portion of the marine industries to be productive and service clients.
One of Martin County’s assets is the waterfront. I do not believe there is anywhere else in Florida where as many people can live on a body water like here. It is much more affordable to do so than down south or in many towns further north.
There is a balance between the two. What we saw at this meeting was whether it is the government’s determination or the market’s decision as to how much should be permanently devoted to that purpose. Sometimes the commission is good with concepts but then has a problem when it bucks up against reality and friendships.
The CRA staff was getting ready to send a comp plan amendment to the state to have definitions conform in the CRA chapter with those in the rest of the plan. One thing the change would do would be to change marine service classification to allow for residential development with approval. Currently, in that category you can have anything from boat yards to marinas and even hotels and office buildings but no homes.
That may prove problematic for a Rio development being proposed and moving through the process. Commissioner Smith was trying to not have that category changed. He brought up what happened with Hinckley’s expansion in Rocky Point and how key that was. He mentioned the commercial dock that the county owns and how the entire neighborhood has boat yards next to residences.
Except for Commissioner Heard who understood what was happening, the other three stood mostly silent during Smith’s interrogation of staff. Commissioner Jenkins motioned to move ahead with transmittal to the state and work out the language difficulties between now and second reading.
Commissioner Heard asked why would the commission transmit something that is going to be changed? I agree. The only public speaker, Marcela Camblor, a planner, said if the use can have hotels and offices, then why isn’t having people live there acceptable? I agree again.
So, for our local elected officials, markets are convenient when they dovetail with what they are trying to accomplish. If for some reason the concept of markets stands in the way of a friend, then we need to make sure that the market doesn’t dictate use. When it comes to development, even if I do not agree with her, Heard is the most consistent. She is right to ask the question why not fix the language prior to sending to the state.
The vote was 4-1 with Heard dissenting.
SABAL POINTE & NEW PLANNING TOOL
The last infill project in Jensen Beach has been approved. It is a 36.2-acre site off Savannah Road which will have access through Cedar Street. There will be 68 single family homes with 2.31 units per acre. It abuts Leilani Heights. There is preserve area with a PAMP.
It was approved 5-0. To see the site plan and presentation go here
Clyde Dulin of the Growth Management Department made a presentation using the new planning tool. He ran through several scenarios.
One of the more fascinating ones was regarding changing the Treasure Coast Mall from retail to residential. Planners are fairly certain that malls like that are obsolete, and at some point, within this decade, these tertiary retail malls will close. The question is how do you repurpose them.
This new interactive planning tool helps greatly in this regard. With the need for fewer and fewer retail stores, planners need to have tools to evaluate what impact different subsequent development will have on government services. It turns out even with as many as 800 units at this site, there will be little impact on roads, schools, and even the need for more grocery stores.
There are other scenarios included in the presentation including for Newfield. You can find the presentation here
As my regular readers know, I am not a fan of the BDB.
In the 2021 budget, the Business Development Board received $450,000 from the county which actually means from the taxpayer. The attached report paints a great picture but how much of the good news is directly tied to their efforts? I reached out to the board president twice to find out, but I received no return call.
Just because you happen to be in the room does not mean you were the proximate cause of something occurring. But never worry! Local government is enthralled, and some commissioners even get to sit at the “cool” BDB table by being on the board. The hundreds of thousands in subsidies for their friends with your money will continue. As my friend, Tom Pine would say, the “Good Ole Boys” win another.
To see the presentation, go here
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COMMISSION MEETING MARCH 22, 2021
The commissioners had plenty to bring up during their comments. Commissioners McDonald and Matheson were just chock full of ideas that, in my opinion, were both good and bad.
Before their comments, the Treasure Coast Planning Council had presented an update on two projects that they are working on. That must have gotten the commissioners blood flowing because they were shooting out ideas both fast and furious. There is nothing wrong with ideas if they are focused. The commissioners did have a few focused ones.
For some reason, both McDonald and Matheson are consumed with the “hot right” onto Palm City Road from Federal Highway. They want the MPO to study to eliminate it. That may be a good idea traffic-wise but there are other considerations. What should be studied is Federal Highway from the Roosevelt Bridge to beyond Kanner Highway as a corridor. That study would take in not only how Palm City Road is affected but also the streets that connect the two and the rest of the corridor.
The street where I live, St. Lucie Crescent, is connected to Federal Highway a little north of Palm City Road. Even now when the light changes at Federal and Palm City Road, a backup occurs if not enough cars turn onto that “hot right.” That prevents me from turning onto St. Lucie Crescent going south on Federal Highway. My point is everything is interconnected, and there can be unintended consequences.
A better course of action would be to study the traffic patterns on the entire stretch of Federal Highway from the bridge going south past Kanner including the interconnectivity between the different streets such as Palm City Road and the neighborhood streets. The point is not to create a traffic bottleneck. At the same time, you need to slow down traffic on Federal so that it is more appealing for the businesses, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Now you have a dangerous and physically ugly street for all that use it.
A motion was made by McDonald and seconded by Matheson to bring the “hot right” to the MPO along with the placement of the light poles on Federal Highway. It passed 5-0
FOR HOME RULE…DON’T TELL THE LEGISLATORS
The Stuart City Commission is for home rule. They just do not want Tallahassee finding out.
There was another motion by McDonald and seconded by Meier for a resolution in opposition to HB 55 and SB 284 in the Florida legislature. These bills would prevent local government from regulating certain home design features. It is an infringement on home rule for sure.
The bill is being sponsored by Stuart Representative Overdorf in the House. Where exactly this resolution was going was not really spelled out in the motion. I know it was intended to be a feel-good resolution that is innocuous and meant not to anger anyone. That is what happens when the resolution is meant to go nowhere.
Unfortunately, this is a public meeting and either Overdorf was watching, or he had a spy in the room. The anonymity factor went out the window. He was a little upset with the commissioners. Overdorf cannot claim to be for home rule when he is getting resolutions that are against his bills.
Let me tell you a little secret as someone who fought hard when in local government about the home rule concept. The legislature doesn’t really care about what your local commissioners think or want. For the most part, local politicians do not control votes, or campaign contributions, or have foot soldiers to help with door knocking and signs. In other words, they are not much help to legislators in obtaining or keeping their offices.
Legislators get their money from the state party and special interests. They are assured election because districts are drawn to protect one party or the other. The election laws make sure of that.
And here is another secret, local government needs their legislators for appropriations. If they will not sponsor bills to bring home the bacon, then how is Stuart going to pay for its water plant or Sewall’s Point its sewers? If they want a check, then they better be nice and not get in the way of more important concerns than home rule.
To read more about home rule go here
WE MADE A DEAL AND NOW I WANT TO CHANGE IT
And lastly both Matheson and McDonald decided that a few complaints about the new Cube Smart on Federal and Palm City Road needed to be addressed.
There are some who will dislike anything that is different than before including a low intensity project like a storage site. A Race Trac 24-hour gas station and convenience store had been proposed for the site. That would have caused more disruption to the single-family neighborhood surrounding the parcel than any self-storage facility.
Led by McDonald and Matheson, the commission wants the developer to change the look of the structure which is a structure that was approved by the commission after negotiation. The commission wanted it to appear to be an office building so the design features mirror that. An art feature was also proposed that was accepted.
Now, because they heard a few complaints, they want to change the deal. They realize that any changes would have to voluntarily be made by the business at this point. One of those proposed changes would be to paint a mural using the mural program of the CRA. That is despite the fact they made the company add and paint reliefs on the building to make it look like an office building.
While the latter idea was Matheson’s, McDonald (not to be outdone) proposed having light shows on the building even though there are single family residences on three sides. That of course does not address what happens during the day and at night once the lights are shut off. For both ideas, there was some vague talk of the city not charging the requisite fees for any plan amendments and contributing more than they would to other art projects.
This all needs to be forgotten. When does election season begin and end? This sounds like a few commissioners are running and they believe that doing something about anything is a good idea. It isn’t.
The best politicians can do is have a governing philosophy and stick to it. Then all they need to do is make decisions based on their philosophy. Voters will support a candidate they do not always agree with if the candidate is sincere and consistent. The candidate just needs to be confident in his/her own positions.
The Business Development Board gave a presentation on its programs. It is going to pick up a guaranteed $10,000 from the city no matter what with the possibility of another $15,000 in projects. This is the price of admission to that rarefied club. The county gives hundreds of thousands more and Indiantown is right there with Stuart.
There were many shiny distractions in its presentation. Jobs, metrics, and other things purporting to have results but nowhere during the presentation did they say that they were the ones that brought any specific company to Martin County or Stuart. The only thing they could absolutely claim was 18 videos that they made.
That reminds me of the old adage, “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.” In Martin County there is no failure if you are fortunate enough to be part of the taxpayer supported dole. The contract can be found here
McDonald made the motion to accept the contract for $25,000 and it was seconded by Matheson. It passed 4-0 with Bruner momentarily off the dais.
McDonald made a motion to terminate the current Greenmarket licensee in 60 days as per the contract. It was seconded by Meier. The current operator has yet to show any insurance or completed financials as stipulated in the contract. They pay $2000 per year to the city and charge $35 to $50 per week to each of the vendors.
Armond Pasquale, with whom I seldom agree, spoke and is right on this point. It is currently a flea market and not a green market. So, it was rather amusing that the commissioners were so concerned with the welfare of the vendors instead of that of the patrons. The quality of the merchandise offered has been anything but enticing and the green part is extremely limited and unimaginative.
This was a long time coming for a variety of reasons. Now comes the political intrigue to see who gets to pay practically nothing and collect thousands. My money is on Stuart Main Street…the organization that keeps on getting. Bruner was ready to give it to them immediately.
There will be an RFP going out to see who will be the lucky one. What will happen is different than what should happen. It is time for the city to take control.
There is a couple of hundred thousand dollars on the line. The city is now giving it away and it doesn’t matter much if it is to another greenmarket organizer or Main Street. That is money that should go to the taxpayer to fund programs.
Now the city not only funds Main Street to the tune of $70,000 per year, they also have a reduced lease at the Flagler Center. If the City of Stuart gives them the trifecta of the market, the city is missing a golden chance.
Stuart is now big enough to run the downtown festivals to make the profit instead of outsourcing to Main Street. With all those subsidies gone, the city could hire two people. One would be the greenmarket manager and the other would be an events coordinator. They could do the work now outsourced to Main Street and the green market. It would be much more taxpayer oriented and patron friendly.
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SCHOOL BOARD MEETING MARCH 23, 2021
The board has approved an agreement with the Arts Council for them to inspect the high school building. The period will be for 60 days from April 1st through May 31st. It does not obligate either party to ameliorate any condition found on the premises.
I would be incredibly surprised if any obstacle found, including the site being a radioactive dump, would be serious enough to ward off the Arts Council. The goal seems to be locating here no matter what. Of course, this puts them far away from the Arts District and Downtown which makes little sense.
You can find the brief agreement here
One of the hardest decisions an employer makes is choosing health care insurance for its employees. The district is no exception.
The Insurance Committee of the board meets monthly for most of the year to find plans that are good for board employees but also affordable for the taxpayer. I need to disclose that I sit on this committee. There are no easy answers.
Three plans are offered. Most employees and retirees choose the HMO Plan. Then comes the PPO, which has the greatest employee payroll deduction, followed by the “HDHP” (High Deductible Health Plan) which had no cost to cover for employee-only coverage. That coverage will now have a deduction of $26.49 per paycheck.
The board adopted to renew with Scenario 3 of the attachment. This will have a total cost to the board of $608,183 per year. As I said, difficult decisions.
To see all the rates and scenarios go here
During comments, Vice-Chair Anderson spoke about being in a park and overhearing two mothers speak about how public school is not as good as private schools or charters. Anderson then went into how great public schools are and there is a misperception of that fact by the public. I think there are misperceptions.
Most students attend public school. For the most part, they receive a good education. Some excel and take advantage of all that is offered. Those kids mostly come from parent-involved homes. They learn how to enroll in the gifted programs and classes. They make the best out of dual enrollment where they can earn an associate degree while still in high school at no cost.
Some kids do not excel in the larger environment of a public school. They do better in a smaller setting and with more rigorous learning standards. Some parents like to have religious or ethical principles taught along with the standard curriculum. Then there is the growing home-school movement where parents get to spend perhaps too much time with their kids.
It is all about perceptions and ultimately choice. Anderson, the rest of the board, and the entire public-school bureaucracy are not going to be able to be all things to all students and parents. As time goes on, I believe we will see more and more parents choose different options. Vouchers are one way to ensure that choice will be an option. Education Commissioner Corcoran and Governor DeSantis should just keep pushing that idea.
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COMMISSION MEETING MARCH 22, 2021
I knew it was going to be a bad night when there was a problem in naming the police lobby after long time former chief, Lou Savini. Who doesn’t love Lou!
After the current chief endured much questioning, the commission voted 5-0 to do so. It was a harbinger of things to come. Or I could say the lack of things to come.
The two bright spots were that Mayor Mayfield was able to keep the meeting moving while her herd of commissioners were moving in many directions.
The second was the ability of staff to answer questions posed by the commission in an accusatory manner. It appeared the manager did everything possible not to lose it. At least there was one professional sitting on the dais.
COMP PLAN WOES CONTINUE
Imagine a business owner that last updated his business plan in 1989 before he first opened. That is Sewall’s Point and its comprehensive plan.
I will agree that the town has little undeveloped land left. Many would ask then why do you need a comp plan? First it is required of every local government to have one by the State of Florida. The state has said the town will be in violation next month.
A comprehensive plan is more than about development. It is a blueprint for everything from resiliency to parks. The state has certain requirements that all plans must meet. Many of these can only be developed after extensive consultation with stakeholders.
There have been 450 changes in the law since the last plan was done. That guarantees that the LDRs and other codes will need some updates. What changes and how much it will cost is anyone’s guess at this point. To do the analysis is a job all to itself.
It was surprising then that Commissioner Campo didn’t want to approve going ahead with the comp plan because it is open ended. The price to do the comp plan isn’t open ended and to say he can’t vote the money to do so is like saying he can’t vote the money to fix the road here because he does not know what it costs to run the sewer there.
Not surprising the vote to proceed with the plan was 3-2 with Fender and Campo voting no.
Then it was time to introduce a budget amendment to pay for the contract and other approved expenses and income just received but unbudgeted. A budget amendment is needed when the items, either expenses or income, were not in the yearly budget that had been accepted. This is quite common.
Budgets are expectation based on solid projections and within general acceptable accounting principles approved by the Government Accounting Standards Board. The town’s Financial Services Director is a Certified Financial Government Officer. When commissioners begin to say that tree fines or building permits shouldn’t be listed in the budget, it clearly means they do not understand the municipal budgeting process.
After a recess, Tompeck moved a budget amendment forward with just the money for Landry to write the comp plan. It passed 3-2 with Campo and Fender dissenting. Tompeck ended up being the commissioner that wanted things to move forward. He along with Kurzman allowed at least the minimum to occur.
GRANT WRITING & GRANT MANAGEMENT
Then came the item of the evening that was nothing but confusing.
The current dual grant management agreement with CAPTEC and CCSI has expired because it’s two-year cap of $190,000 has been exceeded. There are two one-year renewal options. The amount that CCSI needs to continue for grant management services for the next 12 months is $459,500 and CAPTEC needs $232,000 for a total of $691,500.
That isn’t for construction. It is to manage the terms of the grants…the free money. If the contract is extended, then the town must take $691,500 from reserves. The unrestricted reserves would be reduced from $907,487 to $215,987.
If the contract is not extended, then there needs to be an RFP to award a contract for grant management. That will take time to do. Both Fender and Campo said they can’t move forward because they do not have enough data. Let’s face it…all the different parts and names of the project are downright confusing.
What is exactly is being worked on? Is it Phase 1 Part 3 or Phase 3, the HMGP grant, the Indian River Lagoon grant, or something in between? Tompeck, who runs Fort Pierce utility, gets it. While it is very confusing, a commissioner cannot just say he can’t make up their mind because he needs more data. Much of the money for these services is spent or is ongoing.
Tompeck made a motion to continue the existing contract until September with a scope and dollar amount that passed 5-0. Then Tompeck made another motion to develop an RFP that was seconded by Kurzman and passed 3-2 with Campo and Fender voting no.
Berger should hire a grant manager to work for the town. There will be plenty to manage for the next several years. It will be substantially less than the $690,000 in the coming year. They should pay CCSI for any work already done. If they wish to employ their services for grant writing, that is a different contract than grant management.
Going forward, each project should have a different name and number and with a spreadsheet attached showing how the project is progressing with dollar amounts. There should be no mixing of projects. What you can’t do is go around in circles.
I have written before about grants and Sewall’s Point. Grants are a tool and should be employed. But they are not the only tool. The town is losing its reserves. It is time to use every tool available to finish these projects and then maintain them. This will require tax increases and fees implemented.
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COUNCIL MEETING MARCH 11, 2021
The council was asked to renew the contract with Quest Communications for another year. The contract called for a fee of $7,000 per month for 80 hours of work. That is a total of $84,000 per year. And then it got confusing.
Most of what they do are press releases and the village newsletter both in English and Spanish. Manager Brown explained that there was no one on staff that could translate things into Spanish as accurately. More importantly, he said that it was important to make sure that the correct translation was done to avoid misunderstandings. He is not wrong there.
At some point upon questioning of staff, Council Member Stone noted that the village had spent $67,000 in the current year. Stone then proposed that they retain the company at $90 per hour with a cap of $84,000 for the year. That seemed reasonable. The information the council sought was not given up easily by anyone.
Council Member Dowling, who I can never remember voting against spending the most money possible on any item, was very adamant that they should sign a contract that as a minimum number of $7,000 per month but not a maximum amount. Staff should have known better as well, especially since they had used $17,000 less in services this year than next year’s proposal.
Council Member Gibbs-Thomas was still against the contract extension. I think of all the council members, she is the one that will question the need of the expense. I wish that her colleagues would have a bit more of her questioning nature.
A motion was made by Stone to extend the contract at a rate of $90 per hour with a yearly cap of $84,000. It passed 4-1 with Gibbs-Thomas dissenting.
The Village is looking for someone to be an economic specialist and the pay will be approximately $60,000 per year. The specialist will report to the development & economic director. They will concentrate on bringing business to the community. The job description can be found here. here
Dowling, who has always seen a need to hire more people, moved to create the position. There was no second…at first. He said that at their visioning session, most of the council had agreed to this position. Brown said that position would manage business recruitment and bring an applicant through the process of obtaining the necessary permits, etc.
In February, the council authorized the manager to sign a contract of up to $50,000 for a retail consultant to advise on that matter. No such contract came before the council for approval, nor did I see one posted on the village website though it appears one has been signed. I was told by staff that the position will not overlap with the retail consultant.
What the council did approve was $10,000 to the Business Development Board as a retainer for some nebulous benefit.
Gibbs-Thomas, the council’s representative to the ex-officio position on the Indiantown chamber, questioned whether this is something that the chamber does. And, once again, the other council members piped up and said how the chamber was not helping the village. She also asked the truly relevant question about whether or not there is a need for a full-time person?
Mayor Hernandez said that this position was needed and passed the gavel to second Dowling’s motion. Hernandez added that the director needs someone to back her up when she goes on vacation or if she decides to leave. She also had consulted with an elected official from Doral in Miami-Dade, and they have such a person. Doral’s population is nearly ten times Indiantown’s size at over 60,000 people.
Hernandez added that she did not want to be dependent on FPL. At least that sounds like a good idea to me.
The vote was 4-1 with Gibbs-Thomas dissenting.
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COMMISSION MEETING MARCH 17, 2021
Who would have imagined that the Town of Jupiter Island would have had such a contested election?
Politics, like other things, is a matter of timing. Apparently current commissioner and mayor, Whit Pidot, still has the backing of the voters of Jupiter Island. He handily defeated former Jupiter Island and County Commissioner Anne Scott in the race for a two-year term )240 votes to 136 votes). It seems that Mr. Pidot knowledgeable and rather genteel manner was desired by the island.
Incumbent Harold Heck and newcomer Michael C. Brooks were elected to the four-year term seats. Brooks received 291 votes, Heck had 157 votes, followed closely by Emmet Smith with 153 votes and Joseph A. McChristian Jr. with 103 votes.
The commission re-elected Pidot as mayor and Maura Collins as vice-mayor for another year. It appears to me that Pidot has used his legal training to guide the town to some soft landings with thorny issues at times. On many occasions, the commission has allowed him and staff to negotiate on their behalf to achieve reasonable outcomes.
In this age of increasingly unpredictable weather, how far from the water should your house be?
This is an extremely complicated decision. Jupiter Island is a barrier island. According to Wikipedia, “Barrier islands are coastal landforms and a type of dune system that are exceptionally flat or lumpy areas of sand that form by wave and tidal action parallel to the mainland coast.” In other words, barrier islands are not meant to be static. They adjust to the ocean’s flow. That is what makes Jupiter Island so beautiful.
Yet when you are dealing with homes worth many millions of dollars, people want to take advantage of the property they own. In 2019 the setback rules were changed. It seems that some have second thoughts about any changes that were made. It is time to rethink those decisions.
After nearly 2 hours of discussion between themselves and the public, the commission decided to have staff engage the requisite experts to begin to look at the changes to where the setback lines should be. The motion passed 5-0
There was also a motion to enact what is known as “zoning in progress” moratorium to ensure that no more new construction or extensive exterior remodeling is done on lots that have either river or ocean front. Further, no new applications will be accepted by the town. However, applications already in Town Hall will be processed. The vote was 5-0
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Some people are too negative and believe that everything in America is wrong. Others see nothing wrong about America and believe that it is better than anywhere else. Those are two very naïve views and show no critical thinking.
I am incredibly happy that my ancestors decided to come here instead of somewhere else. With the magic of Facebook, I have interacted with family that settled in Argentina and Canada and those that decided to stay in Italy. In at least my case, being an American has made all the difference in my wellbeing and that of my children. I have a good quality of life.
Does that mean I do not see the wrongs that need to be fixed? Of course, I do, and I want to help fix them. That is why I write this newsletter and everything that I publish. What kind of impact am I having? I would say a small one. If I can make one person think more broadly, then I have accomplished something.
In this newsletter I want to leave you with a couple of thoughts. In the March 14th edition, I wrote about how the executive branch could be improved. You can find the story here
This week I turn to the legislative branch and make some suggestions. You can find the story here
I read a column by Nicholas Kristof about this year’s “Social Progress Index.” That led me to their study for 2020 which alarmed me. It showed us losing ground to other nations in different metrics from healthcare to our democratic freedoms to our economic standing.
The old saying from the 1960s of “love it or leave it” is not apropos here. I do love America and I want to make it better. I do not just want to go along with the worsening status quo. I need to do everything to make the country better and to improve it for those who come after me. Americans should not settle for the status quo or a deteriorating situation. They need to work on making our country and society better.
To read my story go here
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GET THE WORD OUT Friends and Neighbors of Martin County are your eyes and ears so that you know what is going on in Martin County’s municipal and county governments. I attempt to be informative and timely so that you may understand how your tax money is being spent. Though I go to the meetings and report back, I am no substitute for your attending meetings. Your elected officials should know what is on your mind.
ARTICLES OF INTEREST
From The New York Times that this could be Biden’s chance to save the Everglades:
Vox has a piece on the history of the Dining Room:
The Capitolist writes that even Florida Democrats are speaking out on the “60 Minute” hit job on DeSantis
Heather McDonald writes in City Journal about NYC the rising crime rates:
And from Rich Lowery in Politico Magazine regarding Republicans should be looking at DeSantis as the model:
Lastly from Lessons From History the worlds oldest languages that are still spoken:
Only one this week from the Visual Capitalist on the world’s richest families:
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