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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Before making decisions, most people look at the facts. That is hard to do when you are not sure you are getting the truth. That is the way I feel about the government and the numbers for COVID-19.
The vaunted Florida dashboard apparently has not been accurate. The Florida Department of Health has not been entering all the data. Even in Martin County, through no fault of the County, it has not been correct. Apparently, negative tests are not being entered at the same time the positive results are. This means a true picture is not emerging in real time.
Did Florida fire the person entering GIS data because she refused to manipulate it to make re-opening the economy happen faster? I do not know whether that is true or not. I do know that without accurate data, it is hard to decide the risk/reward ratio that a person considers before doing something. It does not make my confidence in government stronger when the president says and does one thing and the rest of his government, including the CDC, is urging us to do the opposite (e.g., face masks).
Facts should be facts! There should be no dispute about numbers. Has this pandemic become one more reason to distrust those we elected and the governments they head?
This lack of trust by citizens will result in the economic downturn lasting longer than it should. When in doubt, the rational person will err on the side of caution. How many will not eat in a restaurant or be anxious to go somewhere because they cannot make a true risk assessment? Being 30 years old and going out and being 70 and going to the same place may have different consequences. You may have to go to Publix, but you do not have to eat a meal out.
When new projects come before Boards and Commissions, it is fraught with high anxiety at times. To receive approval, the staff or Commission will place conditions that must be met supposedly before final certificates of occupancy are given. Sometimes it is more outdoor lighting, better landscaping or even a sidewalk. Who makes sure all is done before the final certificate of occupancy is granted?
The Florida Building Codes are dictated by Tallahassee. Everyone must follow them. If it says a sprinkler system must be installed, then one must be installed with no ifs, ands, or buts. When it comes to Zoning or Land Development Codes, local government is in charge. That is the reason projects need approval if they want changes made. Usually conditions are placed on the project along with the changes. But who makes sure that all the conditions stipulated are completed?
If developers can say yes at a meeting and then sometimes not complete the conditions agreed on, then we have a serious problem. Many of the conditions that are written into the approvals are because residents had concerns about the project and the government is trying to address those concerns. If they are not met and certificates of occupancy are given, then what?
To read more
BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE A DIME
That title was a song that was popular during the Great Depression. In today’s economic devastation, it is not only individuals that may find it hard but also local governments. But not to worry! Some governments are able to wrangle more funds than others. Martin County is one of those that has not been able to tap the coffers in Washington from the CARES Act.
In fact, we are not even able to apply for funds since only governments of over 500,000 people can get anything. Palm Beach County has $60,000,000 to help their businesses recover from COVID-19. According to NPR, they have received a total of $260,000,000 under the Act.
If you are a small business owner in Martin County, you are out of luck. If you are in Wellington, you could be doing alright. This chart explains it
For almost a year, I have been relatively quiet about the Business Development Board (BDB). They have a new director and I believed it was only fair that she has a chance to show what she can do. I think the honeymoon is coming to an end.
I have always believed that government has no place in the private sector. The only reason I mentioned the CARES Act was because it is unfair that Martin County is not eligible, but Palm Beach is. If you are going to give corporate welfare, then do it for all.
These semi-private, largely government-funded entities like the BDB are supposed to bring business to the area. To bring business to the area, the County gave the BDB $450,000 of your tax money last year. And for that contribution, three jobs were created at the BDB.
They do put out nice brochures and the director will always speak to any Commission that wants a report. I am attaching a beautifully designed presentation that states they will work with their partners to have Martin County be even better than before. Of course, there is a cost to this ethereal help of $45,000. Brochure here
If you are a small businessperson, give them a call and see how they can help you. I am sure they will offer you constructive and informative ways about how you can pay your rent.
HOW STUPID CAN WE BE?
The above photo was posted on Facebook. It shows the willful disregard a local business has for Governor DeSantis’ instructions and orders about re-opening Florida. And, this is not the only local restaurant flaunting the executive orders. It does not matter whether you believe keeping bars closed or not is beneficial. It has to do with everyone’s duty to uphold the law…all laws and not just the ones you endorse.
Once society’s ability to do so no longer matters, then we are no longer a law-abiding county, state, or country. The Sheriff needs to immediately investigate as does the Health Department and the DBPR to see whether charges should be filed, and licenses revoked. If this business owner can so easily think he is not accountable for such a blatant infraction, how can I trust him to safely prepare foods, handle waste or make sure his employees are being hygienic.
Something like the pandemic either brings the best out in you or the worst. Nurses and doctors disregarding their own safety to help others is an example of the best. This business owner and customers are the worst.
We just cannot obey the rules we want and ignore those that we do not. That is the law of the jungle and not that of a civilized nation. I wonder whether there will be any ramifications for this behavior. Probably not and that is an example of why citizens hold government in such low regard.
All the charts are from the Visual Capitalist.
The first shows that Zoom is now worth more than the 7 largest airlines:
The next is the gainers and losers in retail in 2020:
COVID-19 and central banks responses:
Lastly rating government corruption around the world:
I urge those who are reading this newsletter to send an email expressing their opinions on subjects. When a reader sends one, it will be included if I find it relevant and I have adequate space. I may edit the letter because of length and clarity. You don’t have to agree with me to have your letter in Friends & Neighbors. All you must do is send it to
Info@friendsandneighborsofmartincounty.com or fill out the form on the website.
The first one is from Karen Coniglio:
Just an observance—since the restaurants were allowed to open this past week I had the opportunity to meet a few friends at Hurricanes for dinner and sit outside. The wait staff did NOT have masks, or gloves, disposable menus were NOT used, the table was NOT wiped down (we did that ourselves with our own wipes), and the staff cleaned the tables next to us reusing the same rag. However, Saturday night six of us ventured to Carrabba’s in Stuart–what a difference–we again ate outside on tables covered with a tablecloth that could be changed after each use, the staff all wore masks, gloves, used disposable menus and used every sanitary precaution. While the menu was limited, the choices were excellent. It was so nice to be out again with friends in a small group at a local restaurant that followed all precautions and made us feel safe in our surroundings. Kudos to Carrabbas’s and to all the other eateries that follow the guidelines recommended.
Remember to leave a little extra tip for people who have been out of work and thank them for coming back so that we can start to resume socializing again.
The second letter is from James Lynch of Ocean Breeze:
Here we go at Ocean Breeze! Gym not open even though restrictions are lifted. On the other hand not bad since the management is gone for the weekend and the Cabana and pool are packed with no supervision and no social distancing. Babies with diapers in the hot tub. People in the pool with glass bottles and glass drinks.
Thank you Sun Communities for taking my monthly rent and not taking care of the residents!!!
Should have mentioned most of this is RV renters
The next is from Tom Pine on something I wrote last week:
Subject: Corporate Welfare
Message: Thank you for this newsletter it is invaluable to anyone interested in our local governments
As usual you are right on when it comes to the boondoggle of corporate welfare .
Corporate welfare is alive and well in Martin County, just look at downtown Jensen Beach where two restaurants and a trinket shop take 70% to 80% of the usable public sidewalk for their own personal profit. While this has gone on for years right now because of the pandemic it makes any social distancing impossible and therefore adds more risk than necessary to the general public.
Code enforcement had 8,347 interactions with the public last year according.to the 2019 Annual Report but when it came to downtown Jensen Beach it appears they kept their eyes closed.
From Darlene Van Riper regarding the chart I gave on land use:
“From the Visual Capitalist showing how land is used. Only 2% is URBANIZED”. In skimming this article, I noticed land owned by government entities is not included in it. According to my research “The federal government owns about 640 million acres of land in the United States, about 28% of the total land area of 2.27 billion acres”. And, 13.07% of the land in Florida is owned by the FEDERAL government. The STATE owns 17.6% of Florida’s land and while it is difficult to put an exact percentage on the land that is owned in Martin County by the COUNTY, I have spoken to many past and present county commissioners who have not argued with a 22% figure. So, I think it is important for citizens to realize that if you add all of this up there is a lot of land that will NEVER be available for development. Whether it be for housing (affordable or otherwise) or for small businesses. Even agriculture, if allowed to farm “government owned” land, must pay the government for its use. We must not lose sight of the very basic fact that land is capital. It is the very essence of a healthy economy. Just sayin’
And my answer:
The chart was to show you how land is being used not who owns it. If any government owns property within an urbanized area it shows up in that 2% figure.
If I remember the largest single private landowner in the country is either King Ranch or Ted Turner, I would assume all of that property would be agricultural.
Two different metrics and we should not conflate. I just thought it was amazing that such a small percentage of property is in an urban setting regardless of ownership.
The next one is from Caryn Hall Yost-Rudge and a letter she doesn’t know will appear or not:
Hey Tom Campenni….a million thanks for what you do for our community!
I sent this last week to Stuart News….not sure if it will go to print but I had to write it to them.
You can use it in one of your newsletters, too, if you find it relevant for reaching your
readership…..Keep up the great work….
Thank you so much for Friends and Neighbors of Martin County. Priceless! Caryn Hall Yost-Rudge
While we in the city of Stuart are preoccupied with COVD19, we
still must keep abreast with the governmental decisions that are
being made now for our city, county and country. Our Supreme
Court made a non-decision against a Martin County citizen,
Maggy Hurchalla and it clearly did not consider all the residents
of Florida’s absolute right to address our commissioners without fear
of legal, punitive damages! Omgee!
I can produce numerous emails to the board at the very same time
that Maggy Hurchalla was sending her “alleged” criminal emails.
I can not attest to the veracity of her emails but I can attest to her
right to send them, as a citizen in this county and country. As far as
I’m concerned, if she said zebras have purple stripes and was a famed
zoologist, the MCBOCC was still responsible to do their due diligence.
The county has totally ignored any of my rational correspondence over the years
but chose to “allegedly” act because of Maggy Hurchalla’s emails? I’m confused.
I encourage my fellow citizens to pay close attention, not only to this case,
but to any other governmental actions that could cause egregious harm to any of your rights.
And lastly from Kallie Jurgens:
I thoroughly enjoy your newsletter. Can you tell me why the County built four new boat lifts at Sandsprit Park? Are they going to rent them out to residents? Or are they going to be used for law enforcement?
And my answer:
My understanding it is for the Sheriff and maybe the County.
Thanks for the compliment.
COMMISSION MEETING MAY 19, 2020
Commissioner Smith moved to open Hobe Sound Beach. Chair Jenkins wanted to remove the caveat that all beaches be open only to Martin County residents. Now that Palm Beach County has reopened their beaches, he felt no need to keep that restriction. County Attorney Sarah Woods stated it would be easier just to repeal the emergency order.
Commissioner Heard did not support opening the beaches to non-Martin County residents. She thinks that we need to be vigilant still. Administrator Kryzda stated that the control would be in strictly enforcing the parking rules. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.
The Jupiter Island Commission had passed a new interlocal agreement with the County regarding using the Town Hall lot on weekends and holidays. It is explained more fully under the Jupiter Island section. Smith moved to accept with Ciampi as second. It passed 5-0.
Smith moved to open the skate parks. It was seconded by Hetherington. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.
At the last meeting Commissioner Heard voted to allow organized sports to resume in the County’s parks. It appeared to me that position was contrary to her stance on reopening in general. After the meeting I sent her an email asking why she had in fact voted yes. Her reply did not reach me in time to be included in the last newsletter. Here it is below:
Sorry I’m too late, Tom. You’re right. I should have voted against league play. It’s a reckless proposal.
Unfortunately just published….I will add this in the next one.
She wrote back:
I’m going to ask to reconsider my vote at our BCC meeting tomorrow. Thanks.
And she did ask! Her fellow Commissioners extended the courtesy and the vote on league play is now 4-1 with Heard dissenting.
SHORT TERM RENTALS
Nerissa Okiye, the Tourism Director, has put together a plan to reopen short term rentals. The governor has issued a directive that counties may do so after submitting a plan to the state for approval. She has put together that plan, and it is like many others in the state. There would be no international rental or from domestic hot spots.
There is a weekly report that must be filed. There are other requirements. She spoke with the two largest short-term rental companies. For remember, this business is no longer grandma renting out a room for extra cash. This is big business. Smith was very skeptical about how it was to be policed.
The state has ended local control of whether these type rentals should be allowed or not in jurisdictions. In this case, the governor has given localities much greater latitude than during normal times. Smith did not seem to have concern about how hotels are policing people from other areas. It would seem to me Florida needs to decide whether tourism in all forms should reopen or not. If I can check into the Hampton Inn when I come from any place, I should be able to rent your house. I do not know how one is less safe than the other.
If your goal is to stop transmission of the virus, then nothing should be open. I think we should have a little consistency. In politics, that is not usual. Whether you agree with her or not, Sarah Heard is consistent when it comes to COVID-19. She believes you will not slow transmission if you open things.
A motion was made by Smith to send the policy to Tallahassee for approval. It was seconded by Hetherington. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.
It has now been approved by Tallahassee. You can see the policy here
During her comments, Commissioner Hetherington wanted to know whether any progress had been made regarding Zoom or another interactive mode for the public to use during Commission meetings. Stuart, Indiantown, School District and Sewall’s Point have been using this technology to hold either hybrid or virtual meetings. This has allowed the public to participate in real time.
County Administrator Kryzda has said that they were exploring, and they would try by the next meeting to implement it. This technology should now become standard even after the pandemic leaves. It allows citizens to give public comment in real time from wherever they are. This is invaluable. Staff may want to let this slip. Elected officials, do not let this happen!
The weekly Friday special meetings were cut back to those weeks when there is not a regularly scheduled Commission meeting. While Heard believed they served a purpose, the rest thought it was no longer necessary. A compromise was struck, and it was agreed that one meeting a week would suffice. Therefore, these special meetings would continue on the weeks when no Commission meeting happened.
As we have seen, the dashboard was pulled because the information contained was not all inclusive. Positive and negative test results were not reported simultaneously. Without some consistency, statistics are not giving a true picture. That was always the problem.
Ciampi once again brought up that all food handlers should be required to wear masks. He made a motion that was seconded by Heard. Smith stated that 99% were wearing masks (at least in the restaurants he has visited), and apparently, he eats out many times per week. Hetherington believes in using education. Jenkins said he would walk out if an employee was not wearing one.
Then Hetherington said something that made sense for not making it a requirement because the Sheriff would not enforce it. She is right that there is no reason to pass something that no one will enforce. It is too bad that, in general, we are truly short sighted. The motion failed with Jenkins, Smith, and Hetherington dissenting.
At the last meeting, the Corps and SFWMD made presentations. This time, it was a presentation regarding the Loxahatchee River in South County, and it was just as good as the two previous ones.
A couple of interesting factoids. One, the river is the last natural flowing one in Florida. The second is that Martin County has restored 10,000 acres of wetland habitat. It is fascinating and the presentation is well worth the look. Here is the link
CIP & GOLF COURSE
This was known as the workshop portion of the meeting. Before COVID-19 it was projected that the CIP ad valorem budget would increase by a little over $800,000. Because of the impact of our 2020 Depression, the CIP budget will fall by $2,357,000. That means there will be a shortfall of $3,100,000 from a couple of months ago.
This is not startling information. The Depression of 2020 (we are just beginning to feel the pain) will have severe ramifications on property values and tax collection. This will only worsen for governments during the next two years because of the timing of tax collection and when values are determined and implemented. Some may be partying like it is over, but we are far from through.
The entire proposed CIP budget is not yet on the County’s website. What is available was the County’s overview presentation. It can be found here
The “monster that ate our taxes” of this year’s budget is…big surprise…the Golf Course Clubhouse!
If you remember when this topic was discussed last, the BOCC decided to borrow $5,500,000 to refurbish the Course and buildings. Apparently the “Top Golf” like attraction may not be the money maker that only syaff imagined it would be. Blame it on social distancing. The department’s director, Kevin Abate, says he needs another $2,000,000 to build the clubhouse and finish up. You may ask how this overrun happened in a year? Well, you know how things can happen.
Smith and Ciampi are looking to move forward. Hetherington is looking to have it bid now before costs further increase. Since they have not even finished the design work, there is no firm numbers just estimates (sound familiar). A motion was made by Smith and seconded by Ciampi to finish design and bring back estimates. It passed 5-0.
If this moves forward, it has nothing to do with a better golf experience. The $5.5 million was already borrowed. That is the amount that staff said was needed. To complete this will mean that the County will either borrow more which will increase debt service or take it from somewhere else in a CIP budget which is already down $3 million from an earlier estimate. I guess no need to pave that road or put in new sewer there.
Beside Heard, who else will be voting no? Maybe one or, even more unlikely, two others. This is just one more example of our “exceptionalism.” We cannot just have a place to play a round of golf. It must include a spectacular event space. Why does the County government needs to compete with the private sector and build a “Top Golf”. Has it ever occurred to any Commissioner that something like Top Golf would be built by the private sector if they thought they could make money?
For what it cost to build and maintain our own water park, we could have built community pools in the CRAs for kids to go swimming…free. Martin County cannot decide whether it is a business or a government, and because of that, it sometimes does the governing part badly but always fails at the business part.
And, yet there are three Commission seats up for election, and so far, no one even has an opponent. If you complain about taxes and do nothing else, then there is no fear of the voter by the Commission. There is only useless chatter about how they are watching your tax money. And then everyone has a big laugh afterwards.
SPECIAL COVID MEETING MAY 29, 2020
Since it is a Covid-19 meeting let us start with Cleveland Clinic’s Rob Lord’s report.
The growth rate this week was 2.6% which is a good sign. We have now surpassed St. Lucie County in the number of confirmed cases, perhaps a bad sign. That is probably due to the increased testing that we have done in the past month. On April 29th, the day before the governor reopened the state in Phase 1 there were 5 patients in the hospital. Today there is 16. That is a bad sign.
There have only been 9 deaths. Mr. Lord stated that Cleveland Clinic since assuming Martin Health has brought in a great ICU team. When you are hospitalized with this disease you are very sick. The care you receive while in the hospital is important.
This is a debilitating disease. The virus may leave you with secondary problems that become chronic conditions and ailments. Lung and kidney disease may be with you forever. This is not the flu.
The County website Friday night posted that cumulatively there had been 601 confirmed cases and 74 hospitalizations.
ECONOMICS & CHILD CARE
Both the Business Development Board and the Economic Council gave presentations. The BDB touted their brochure which I highlighted in the News & Views Section. The Economic Council’s Ted Astolfi had David Heaton from the Children’s Services Council speak about what they are doing to make sure that enough space is provided for summer programs.
Astolfi then came up and said that 8000 Martin County citizens are currently unemployed. It will be impossible for these people to go back to work if summer programs are not opened. Because of the social distancing requirements only nine children and one staff member can be in a room at any one time. The availability of enough space is what is holding back these programs.
The greatest amount of space that is available and ideal are in the schools. They have facilities necessary to allow these social distancing guidelines to be followed. Astolfi is correct these buildings exist. There are hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure that the people already own. Why should they be closed to our community?
Astolfi gave an example that the School District wanted to charge the Boys & Girls Club $18,000 rent for the portables on the old high school site and then $70,000 for the removal of those buildings. He also states that at a chamber meeting, Gaylord said that the schools would not be hurricane shelters this season. Both Taryn Kryzda and Sarah Woods emphatically said that was not true. Not only does the County have an interlocal agreement with the Board but also it is in statute that the schools act as shelters.
Ciampi made a motion to have a letter written formally requesting that the schools be made available for programs with copies to the governor and legislators. It was seconded by Smith and passed 4-0. Jenkins was absent.
Now comes the boondoggle part of the economics lecture.
Martin County has 5 Chambers of Commerce, the Economic Council, and the tax supported Business Development Board to the tune of $450,000 per year. There are also state organizations such as the Department of Economic Opportunity that provides grants. Yet our data driven private and semi-private friends want the County to hire a national firm to do a survey to determine what we, the public, think about issues. They are going to segment the responses by age.
I remember when Anne Scott was a Commissioner. She was criticized for never wanting to do anything without hiring a consultant. This reminds me of the same thing. For just a little while it seemed that Martin County would hold down spending with the three new Commissioners that were elected beginning 4 years ago. I am not sure that will occur. This is one more waste of dollars. Who are the experts going to survey, I bet mostly the people who are at the chambers and Economic Council?
Our growth industries are assisted living facilities and self-storage units. Martin County’s best paying jobs are non-profit CEOs and government employees. Maybe the Commission can fund a new organization for Non-profit CEOs and their economic development. What the heck that is the real driver of economic development in Martin County.
COMMISSION MEETING MAY 26, 2020
I want to begin this section not with something that was on the agenda but something that was not.
Several months ago, a project was approved by the CRB and the Commission for new apartments in an old motel on Federal Highway by Frazier Creek. Some of you may remember that when it came before the CRB, they originally refused to vote up or down until a few things were attached to the application…like a site plan. As a member of the CRB, I said when it was first presented that it was not ready to move forward.
When it came back a few weeks later, there were a site plan, a landscape plan, and elevations. The only reason it was coming before us was because the existing structure had 19 hotel units, and to be converted to multi-family, only 15 units per acre were allowed. The project needed to become a UPUD to increase the density to the number of units already there. A plan was submitted that was not the most detailed but better than before. The CRB sent it to the Commission with conditions.
The Commission added a significant other condition when approval was voted upon. The building needed to hook up to sewer instead of staying on septic. It was a good addition because of the property’s approximation to the creek and the river. The other reason the hook up is beneficial is that if state and local government has spent millions to run sewer lines, then it should be mandatory (at least for commercial properties) to hook up once available.
The buyer of the property either had no idea what he was doing, or he thought he could skirt the codes. As I wrote above in the News & Views section, Florida’s building code must be followed. There is no wiggle room. And when you are agreeing to hook up to sewer, then that is in your plans. You cannot say I forgot. The developer wanted to come back to the Commission to ask not to hook up to the sewer.
I know the neighbors were not happy regarding the project. The sewer hookup was a promise. Several Commissioners behind the scenes began to let it be known that the developer should not come back for that relief. He got the message and did not move forward with his request. Occasionally, the system works.
This should show that Stuart needs some reforms. The first is that like the residential sewer hookup finance deal where the costs are paid over a period of time, the same needs to be offered to commercial properties. However, for commercial properties it should be mandatory that hookup occur within a defined time limit.
The second and equally important matter is that the City needs to more closely follow its master plan. In this case, what is the benefit to having a single-story motel building in that spot. Is that compatible or comparable to what we want the City to look like. Stuart may be using the PUD process to do what is always best for a developer but not for the entire City.
I am for density and infill where appropriate. Our codes and comp plan should not be ignored in order for one project to move forward. This ultimately will weaken our economic development. The PUD process should tweak individual projects to make them economically possible. We cannot ignore the overall development criteria for an area.
That does not mean that the plan is not changeable. What was once an acceptable character for an area may over time need to be changed so that the area can remain viable. Then the City needs to engage the stakeholders and come up with area wide changes. A continuous stream of “one offs” will only weaken our overall City.
SHOPPES OF COLORADO
While the above was not on the agenda, the Shoppes of Colorado was. This is the project that is being developed by Ted Glasrud who owns the building across the street that houses Fruits & Roots.
If you look at the plan, you will notice that the parcel is an unusual shape because of Frazier Creek. Two streets dead end on either side. Like many other roads in Stuart, dead ends are standard. It is hard to have connectivity. There is the challenge with how low the property grade is. The developer is bringing in fill. To put it politely, the parcel has challenges.
The Commission felt that it was not ready to come forward. Commissioner Leighton could not put her finger on it but just did not quite believe that the drainage would work. (I had the same feeling.) Matheson was skeptical about the oak trees being cut down because they gave the sidewalk shade. Bruner wanted a boardwalk along the creek (Attorney Mortell said that it is not possible because of environmental concerns.) Meier felt that the adopted plan for Colorado Avenue was not being followed.
After more than an hour of discussion, no vote was taken, and it was returned to staff with several suggestions. Another example of not ready for prime time.
You can see the presentation here
STUART OCEAN TOWNHOUSES
Between the Pointe and Kingswood on Ocean Avenue is a parcel that is the quintessential infill project. The project will have an 80-foot buffer with Kingswood, a lake, rain gardens and a very suburban feel. It will be 14 buildings of 2 story town homes. There is 7.25 units to the acre which is less dense than its neighbors and less than current zoning allows.
At first, Kingswood was making noise to oppose the project. A few of the residents were saying all kinds of crazy things such as suggesting it should be an over-55 community so there would not be children. Watch out children would jump into their pools. I wrote a piece about how silly it all was. The Stuart News ran a story about the fight to come.
Yet at the meeting, no one spoke against the project. It was a rare love fest between the neighbors and the developer. Pulte, the developer, Bob Raynes, the attorney, and Michael Houston, the land planner, had ten meetings before this one with Kingswood. They worked to alleviate everyone’s fears. It showed last night.
The project could have been at least twice as dense by right. But this is the product that Pulte builds and believes there is a market for in Stuart. It is one more option for 80 families to call home. A little something for everyone.
A motion was made by Leighton and seconded by Clarke. It passed 5-0.
You can see the presentations here
This was Commissioner Leighton’s final meeting. She is resigning to run for another office. While we may not have always gotten along temperamentally, policy-wise I agree with her more than not. She has been a Commissioner for 8 ½ years.
SCHOOL BOARD MEETING MAY 26, 2020
If all you do is watch cable news, then you know 98% of the content is about COVID-19. It is often presented through a political lens depending on the station. That political mindset has permeated from the federal to the state and even locally. Even when discussing something such as District summer programs, that pro or con attitude is present.
Schools are no longer just places of learning. They are where we feed our children two or more meals per day. Where they spend time after school and for some before school time. Schools have become our default childcare centers, athletic arenas and summer camps. These are just facts.
Everyone is anxious to return to normalcy. Yet after more than two months of closed schools, virtual learning, and little contact, is opening things up appropriate at this juncture? The Superintendent and her staff have said that summer school and reading programs will be virtual. She has also said that summer programs offered by the District were cancelled since it was determined that CDC guidelines could not be followed.
The Board discussed the possibilities of summer activities should be looked at considering Governor DeSantis lifting restrictions. The lifting of restrictions had not happened prior to the Superintendent’s announcements. What happens now?
I would imagine that some of the programs will in fact be greenlighted. Most if not all will be done by the District’s “partners”. A new survey by USA Today finds that 18% of teachers will not go back into classroom this fall. The percentage is 25% of teachers over 55 who are the most experienced ones. It is unlikely that many District teachers will want to spend time in schools this summer.
Which brings us back to what does it mean to be a school district today. This Board clearly feels it is more than just education. We have many private, semi-private and public organizations involved with children. The one unifying force are the schools. That is why this Board is faced with difficult choices.
If you bring kids back this summer, will a spate of new virus cases doom the fall school year. I have not spoken to any parents who have told me that virtual learning takes the place of in-school instruction. Perhaps children already being home schooled previously have parents that are comfortable with that experience. For the 95% of parents who work, are not suited, or believe school is about other things such as socialization, they want schools open.
In the fall, District schools just may be a place to have classes again. That is only if during the summer of providing for children’s every other need, the virus does not spike, and we start all over again. The Board made no decisions regarding summer programs.
SPECIAL BUDGET MEETING MAY 28, 2020
Participating in a budget meeting virtually is not an easy thing. I want to congratulate, Audra Curts-Whann for doing a great job in making this presentation. Only Li Roberts comprehended everything, and that is because numbers are her profession. The Board and the listening public got the concepts and were a bit foggy on the details.
The public does not believe that a school board member should be an accountant any more than an engineer or a pedagogical expert. That is why there is staff. And that is why having the right staff is important. Unlike being a constitutional officer where you should understand the subject matter, a board person really sits up there in place of the public.
If an elected official can remember that simple thing that they are there in our place and not for their own agenda and ego, they have the right attitude. That is why it is important that the elected official does not consider that position their career. Then they become just part of the problem. Two terms and out is the way it should be.
This was the preliminary budget which is more an overview. The next budget meeting will get more in the weeds and numbers will coalesce. To see Audra’s presentation
Even though it was a budget meeting, the pressure continued to be placed on the District’s facilities to open for summer.
As I wrote above the Superintendent is not in favor of having either their own programs or outside organizations like the Boys & Girls Club this summer. Why it is so critical to open facilities is that there needs to have much more room devoted to programs because of the social distancing rules. The governor did open summer camps but there can be no more than 9 children and a counselor in every room. So where last year you could have as many kids as would fit with the needed supervision, it has all changed this year.
Since our childcare system is so ad hoc, kids and their working parents are at a loss without these school-based programs. That is why the School Board continues to be under parental and political pressure to open facilities. The Board is resigned that summer school and other learning programs will be virtual (funny education is secondary). Athletics and day care are where the push back is.
Superintendent Gaylord did say that the pandemic has changed this dynamic. She mentioned the deep cleaning needed. There are 52 kids that have had COVID-19. I am sure her employees are not happy if the schools open. She also said that lawsuits had started in other districts because of COVID.
Our entire system of not only daycare but unemployment compensation and a host of other programs are not built for the world we live in today. COVID-19 has just made it so self-evident. Most infectious disease experts believe that what was normal in 2019 will not be the new normal going forward.
Even when a vaccine happens the virus does not disappear. The only infectious disease we have ever eliminated was smallpox and that took 200 years. We need to examine all our institutions. The belief that schools and their buildings are for educational purposes only is antiquated. That is why our School Board representing us needs to think about the institutions they oversee differently.
The meeting was held on May 26th the same night as Stuart’s meeting and the School Board. As of press time the meeting tape had not yet been posted on the Town’s website.
COUNCIL MEETING MAY 28, 2020
There was an exceedingly long report given by the Health Department. In most cases I would say too long but given that Indiantown is a hotspot, probably not. The other hot spots I have been told are Golden Gate and the neighborhood behind Monterey and Kanner known as Little Madrid. In the dashboard both are listed under Stuart. Those neighborhoods are in unincorporated Martin County. The residents there have family and work connections to the Village.
The head of the Health Department said that Martin County testing had exceeded the governor’s benchmark of 2% of the population. There has been 4.2% of the population tested in the County. While Governor DeSantis may feel that 2% is enough, that does not nearly give the amount of data that is needed. The CDC website predicts about 135,000 Americans will have died from COVID-19 by June 15th. There is no flattening on the graph only a steady climb.
Indiantown and Martin County will continue to see not a decline but probably a rise in new cases as we go through the summer. So perhaps the Council spent an inordinate amount of time discussing this subject but given the severity of what the Village faces, it was what was needed.
NEW FACE & OTHER COMPANIES
Althea Jefferson was introduced to the Council. She has been hired as the Director of Community & Economic Development. Her salary is $70,350 per year. You can find the job description here
I hope she finds success.
With the purchase of the utility company, there will be a large need for engineering firms. In government you pick your contractors most times before you need them. In other words, they are prescreened. There were ten firms that applied and the top five were presented to the Council. Staff is recommending that the top three ranked firms be the ones that the utility will have ready to go when needed. Individual contracts to perform specific work with dollar amounts would be given out as the projects are known.
The three firms ranked the highest were: Kimley-Horn & Associates, Holtz Consulting and Captec Engineering. Once the Village purchases the utility their contracted work will be paid from the enterprise fund. All funds needed for anything having to do with the utility will be paid by the rate payers.
To see their presentations, you can go here
NEW TOWN HALL
The Village has been advised that the County building where they have been working will not be available forever. The Village is continuously expanding staff and if not already will soon be out of room there. Indiantown does not have an overabundance of office space available. It would be difficult to rent enough space. Complicating matters they will be adding a Fire/Rescue Department which requires a fire house and room for a Police Department in the future.
Village Manager Brown has been looking at properties for more than a year. He has come to the Council with two possible lots to purchase. He was asking that the Council authorize him to enter option contracts for the two parcels or at least one of the parcels.
One of the lots is owned by Indianhead Partners and the other by Mr. Rimes by Rimes Market. With an option contract, the staff will have 60 days to do their due diligence. There is no down payment.
That did not stop the Council from arguing which parcel would be better. The argument might have been a little premature. Dowling appeared to really want the Indianhead lot. It seemed that Gibbs-Thomas and to a lesser extent Hernandez were for the Rimes lot. Because the Rimes lot would be purchased for more than the appraised value, the vote must be a super-majority of 4 Council Members.
A motion was made by Clarke and seconded by Gibbs-Thomas to sign option contracts for both properties. It passed 4-1 with Dowling dissenting.
If the Village is going to grow in this way, they will need more space. One of these parcels is probably the best way to accommodate that. You can see the appraisals and the contracts here
Once purchased they will need to design and build the new Town Hall.
What I did not think correct was that individual Council Members thought it was fine to negotiate prices on their own without any authorization from the Council. Ms. Hernandez believed that it was her responsibility and not Brown’s to do so. I am incredibly surprised no one mentioned that at the meeting! Her recitation at the meeting of her discussions with Mr. Rimes was an example of naivete unmatched. As a real estate professional for 50 years, I can tell you that her negotiation skills have much to be desired.
Mr. Brown sometimes you need to rescue the Council from themselves!!!
At present there are no meetings scheduled.
COMMISSION & SHORE PROTECTION MEETING MAY 18, 2020
Mayor Pidot and the Town Attorney drafted a proposed new parking agreement with the County for Hobe Sound Beach. Most of the provisions were lifted from the 2007 agreement that had expired. The agreement covers the weekends and holidays for 54 spaces at Town Hall. It is almost identical to the past agreement.
The Town has decided that they will not allow the County to use those spaces for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend unless it signs the agreement. It is a good deal for the County and the Town because it prevents illegal parking on the side of the road. It passed 5-0. The Commission gave Mayor Pidot the right to make minor tweaks to the agreement if needed.
The proposed agreement can be found here
The Town Manager gave the Financial Report. The Town’s income and expenses are within budget currently. The report can be found here
Lastly, at the Shore Protection Meeting, there was an extensive briefing on the current conditions. Staff was seeking $42,991.00 for Gahagan& Bryant Associates to conduct this summer’s survey and analysis. The motion passed 5-0.
It was decided to see whether Jupiter Island could partner with the County for the survey. The Commission was told by staff that the Town’s survey is more in depth than Martin County. The Town will speak with Martin County staff. For those who wish to have a better understanding of shoreline protection, you can look at the presentation here
Many people can only view the Electoral College from whether they believe their candidate needs it to win or not.
The institution itself should be looked at in its historical context and whether going forward it still serves a purpose in our election process. The Electoral College was born out of compromise not some grand ideological construct. Slavery was at its core and how we counted those considered chattel for all other purposes.
There was the Hamiltonian view that the College would allow only the finest people in every state to choose the president. The “regular” people need not bother themselves with that difficulty. Perhaps that was merited at that time, but both slavery and aristocracy are not very relevant today.
Should the vote of a Republican in New York mean as much as a Democrat in that state? And conversely should a Democrat vote in Mississippi mean the same as that of a Republican vote there? The Electoral College may dissuade citizens from voting.
The only president ever to receive all the electoral votes in his elections was George Washington. Since then, partisan politics has been paramount in presidential elections. It began with the election of our second leader, John Adams, and has only gone downhill since.
To read more on why I believe the Electoral College is antiquated
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
Our first article is from Route 50 regarding Puerto Rico’s affirmative vote to become a state:
From The Startup Milton Freedman still knows more about markets than The NY Times:
The History of Yesterday has an article regarding Adam Smith’s two revolutionary ideas:
From The New York Times a piece remembering the time that Martin Luther King was stabbed in Harlem and saved by the NYPD:
Another from Route 50 regarding New York City sending EMTs with cops to answer some calls:
And finally another from The History of Yesterday regarding a scientist that gave the world cheap fertilizer and a gas used to kill millions of people:
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