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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In my last newsletter, I wrote about what I perceived to be possible violations of Florida’s “Sunshine Law” by Mr. James Stuckey, Esquire, in his communication with certain Stuart City Commissioners. At the end of the piece, I suggested that the Commission should report Mr. Stuckey to the authorities.
Upon careful reflection, I acknowledge that I should not have opined that Mr. Stuckey had broken the law or committed an ethical violation. Arriving at such a legal conclusion was wrong. It is not the job of this newsletter and I should not have published such an opinion.
For that, I now wish to retract those statements and I apologize to my readers and to Mr. Stuckey. I have removed the piece from the website, and it will not be re-published.
Florida has six constitutional amendments on the ballot this year. The newsletter does not intend to endorse any individual candidate for any office. I will give you my perspective on the amendments and how I intend to vote.
The first amendment question wants to enshrine in the Florida Constitution the notion that only citizens can be voters. Florida law already forbids non-citizens from voting. The legislature has passed the appropriate legislation. This just clutters the Constitution with no justification. I am voting no.
The second amendment wants to increase the minimum wage to $10.00 and raise it every year by $1.00 until it is $15.00 and index the wage thereafter to inflation. The Constitution is no place to put minimum wage requirements. If citizens feel the need to have an increase in the minimum wage, then lobby the governor and legislature to do so. I am voting no.
The third amendment allows all registered voters to vote in primaries for state legislature, governor, and cabinet positions regardless of political party affiliation. The two highest vote getters regardless of party run against each other in the general election.
My only problem is that the amendment should cover local races also. If political parties want to select their candidates in a closed system, then they should conduct their own elections to pick their nominee and not have taxpayers pay for it. This is a half-step in the right direction that should be taken further and applied to all elected officials. I am voting yes.
Amendment Four would require any constitutional change to be voted upon in two elections instead of the current need of only one. The same voter thresholds would apply. Why place additional checks on the right of the people to have initiatives? If the Legislature did its job, then there would be no need for citizen-initiated amendments. I am voting no.
Amendment Five extends the home portability period from two to three years. Currently, to capture your “save our home” amount when you sell a home, you need to buy a new home within 2 tax years. This amendment will extend that window to 3 years. In general, our real estate tax system has become quite unfair.
Florida, thankfully, does not have an income tax. All to often, state income taxes become a way for politicians to enact tax breaks for different interest groups. Florida real estate taxes have now taken that place with all the unfairness and giveaways that exist in states that levy income taxes. Property tax is meant to be levied on the value of a property. This is regardless of whether the property is owned by a ninety-year-old widow or a fifty-year-old billionaire.
The real estate tax has become one riddled with exemptions and exclusions for supposedly good reasons. The last thing that is needed is one more limitation. I am voting no
Lastly, Amendment Six provides for another one of those exemptions. This one allows for the exemption that combat-related veterans’ injuries enjoy being carried forward to a widowed spouse. Though all for a noble cause, once again this takes property taxes one more step away from value to need. I am voting no.
THE CRIMINALIZATION OF CHILDHOOD
Like most boys, I can remember being sent to the principal’s office for doing something wrong. Today, something as trivial as a shoving match with another student can end up with the child being arrested by the School Resource Officer (SRO) who is a deputy sheriff.
By placing law enforcement officers in schools supposedly for the safety of students against intruders, I believe Florida may have substituted one danger for a far greater one. Far too often, when a disciplinary problem arises, an SRO is called instead of the principal. This is not why law enforcement is assigned to every school.
We need to take a step back and restore to school personnel the primary responsibility for disciplinary problems. Kids are not adults. They do stupid things! We shouldn’t make a stupid thing a crime. Nor should we use law enforcement as a disciplinary tool so easily.
To read more go here
YOUR TAX COLLECTOR
By Ruth Pietruszewski
Our Tax Collector, Ruth Pietruszewski, has been busy upgrading her offices and the services that are being provided. This is the first of a two-part article that she has written.
In the Tax Collector’s office, patriotism is not just a word; it’s our way of life here. We care about the people we serve. We value our veterans, first responders, and all who protect and serve us. We respect our flag, and our government office genuinely is “Of the People, By the People, and For the People.”
We strive to regularly provide exemplary customer service, quality work, and unmatched efficiency. We love to provide choices, so everyone’s lifestyle is accommodated. Our payment choices not only include credit card, debit card, cash, and FREE e-checks, but we also offer payment by apple pay, google pay, Samsung pay, android pay, and pin debit, all bundled with point to point encryption for your personal security.
If you have a question in Martin County? Call our information center by simply hitting #TAX or calling 288-5600. A real human will answer all your questions and process your transactions contactless. With the onset of Covid-19, we have worked tirelessly providing constituents the ability to do most services online.
We had to close to the public for 6 weeks during the Governor’s “Stay At Home” executive order; however, we continued to serve the public every day. We continued to work by programming our phone system to a round robin, so all clerks received calls one at a time and bounced equally to each office. We programmed our cashiering systems, so all clerks had the ability to take FREE e-checks over the phone for constituents, even if they did not have a computer. While we were closed to the public, we built thick glass barriers to provide a protective and comfortable environment for staff and the public before reopening. Each cashier has their individual microphone to speak with the customer and about three feet down from the cashier, the customer has an intercom, so there is NO face- to-face contact. We also had hand sanitizer dispensers installed, provided masks and gloves, and had the area sanitized regularly during the day. Markers were placed to determine spacing for social distancing.
We implemented SAME DAY/NEXT DAY tag renewal service online at all four locations, and for those who want to remain contactless, we have a drive through window at our Palm City branch for you to pick up your registration renewal or license plate without coming into an office.
We have a new business tax express. New businesses have the ability to start the new business process, allow documents to be uploaded, renew an existing business tax and make payment on a BTR.
By Tom Pine
The Martin County Commission meeting of Sept 15, 2020 was a double blow to low- and middle-income families in the County.
I am a middle-class resident who is now retired. I was a blue-collar worker. The majority of Commissioners designated that a class of blue-collar workers should be paid extraordinarily well. Martin County Fire Fighters are now the special ones and will be paid more than any other blue-collar worker in the County. As one Commissioner stated this is not sustainable.
It has been suggested to me that there may be a couple of Fire Fighters that have parents in upper management in Martin County government. Wouldn’t that be nepotism at its finest. That is probably endorsed by the Good Ole Boys to keep everything local.
The second blow was when the Commission awarded the trash collection contract to Waste Management even though they were not the low bidder. Why “waste” other companies’ time and money going through the bid process if you’re just going to hire the Good Ole Boys anyway. And to suggest that picking up garbage requires some unique characteristic that only one company has is not to be believed.
These types of decisions are made over and over again. Taxes being increased to pay for these services leads to more food insecurity for other blue-collar families as their expenses rise to be in this County. Some will even be forced into homelessness.
Not too many years ago, organized crime families ruled many American towns and cities with the use of violence. Later they learned it was easier to befriend our elected officials. Now we have the Good Ole Boys.
On a different note, will we ever get our sidewalks back in downtown Jensen Beach?
Tom Pine’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
By Michael Syrkus
As with every even numbered year, this summer has given us a slew of negative attack ads, T.V. spots with feel good images-yet nothing that demonstrates one’s ability to be a public servant.
Whether it be federal, state or even local elections, we see the same tired approach. Smear your opponent, inundate with positive pictures, and never wade into the arena of detailed proposals or relevant information.
Though this trend has seemed to worsen year to year, there is one candidate that has stood out from the rest. A candidate who has demonstrated that there is still some hope left for the electoral process. That candidate is Toby Overdorf.
Representative Overdorf, over the last 2 years, has utilized his position as a community leader in a manner that I have not seen from essentially any elected official, regardless of governmental position. From the forwardness of weekly updates of what had transpired legislatively, his availability to meet either by phone or in his local or Tallahassee offices, or the dissemination of pertinent information within the community, Toby has shown that there are still people within politics who can perform in a leadership role.
A simple observation. When the Roosevelt bridge structural issues first arose, Toby (though not a direct responsibility of his) was one of the first people to widely begin distributing FDOT updates, road closures and detour routes. The proactive nature of addressing tolls for those who could not utilize US 1, and the consistency or following up when the situation evolved demonstrated to me that he is a man who is willing to take the lead when a challenge arises.
When the initial detour route brought Downtown Stuart through a school zone, while the school was actively running a daycare, Toby answered his phone, heard my concerns, suggested remedy, and followed up with FDOT afterwards. Something I have never experienced in my decade plus of grassroots political activism.
I’m not a resident of District 83, and I would never presume to tell a person how to vote, but I will say this…we need more leaders like Toby.
Michael Syrkus’ opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint
HERBIE’S HOBE SOUND
By Herbert Howard
Did you know there are 16 restaurants in Hobe Sound? At least there were before… COVID. I’m not trying to replace the Chamber of Commerce, but I consider this little burg to be rather amazing. I have often wondered why exactly. I mean if you drive up (or down) US 1 as your first time through Hobe Sound, “through” is exactly what you’d be and quick.
There is nothing to draw the eye or pique your interest. In fact, when I moved here many years ago, it was even more non-descript. One accelerated through Hobe Sound (pronounced by out-of-towners as Hob E Sound) so one could get to Palm Beach.
To satisfy my curiosity, I put out a little query on Next Door. For those unfamiliar with Next Door, it is an email-blog kind of thing that isn’t supposed to be political, but it is, after all, an election year. I digress.
I received the following responses back from my fellow HSLs which stands for Hobe Sound Local. And, it is a “thing” here in Hobe Sound. You’ll start noticing the bumper stickers now that you know. So, back to the poll.
Here is one response, “You live here for all the reasons you don’t want to live somewhere else. Friendly people, smaller community atmosphere, beautiful uncrowded beach, no additional government telling you how to live, great place to raise kids, wildlife, Old Florida feel, peaceful, close to other areas that have big stores and malls but not here, and lots more. We like it more because we appreciate having less. Those that can’t appreciate this should move to someplace else more to their liking.” I really liked that one. (Especially the last sentence after saying what “friendly people” we are).
The next comment was, “I also moved here because of how awfully busy is the traffic north and south of Hobe Sound. It is more like the quiet, one horse hamlet I was used to up north.” I just love it when people talk about the traffic here. If you’ve lived in NY, Miami, D.C., or Chicago you would just never refer to this as “traffic.”
And another one, “we chose it because it felt low key, unassuming and welcoming. For the most part it still is.”
Yet another, “I think it was meant for me to live here. I had no idea this place existed”. Me too!
One more, “Hardly had to look when pulling on to US1”. HSLs seem to be obsessed with “traffic”.
Well, my conclusion is that I still cannot pinpoint why we love living in Hobe Sound. Except maybe that so many (there were many more and much longer responses) HSLs took the time and were so enthusiastic about responding. Humm.. Must be something in the air…
One happy HSL 😊
Herbert Howard’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
The first chart is from 538 regarding the Senate races:
The next three charts are all from the Visual Capitalist. The first is on the 10 economic cities that are power houses of the economy:
Top military spending by country:
And last the top 50 fast food chains:
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 only letter this week is from Caryn Hall (Yost-Rudge)
Thank you for this newsletter!!
It gets better and better……I was already a Tom Pine fan from MCBOCC meetings but
Syrkus Thoughts and Herbie’s Hobe Sound are fantastic!
Regarding your goal: “to inspire you to “get involved” and make a change to make MC the best it can be.”
ZOOM article 9/20/20 regarding public comment:
“But public comment should be done in person…..only fair if we are asking elected officials, the same goes for anyone who wants to address them.”
The ZOOM meetings are the only way many of our residents can “get involved” and make a comment….they are strapped with raising young children, rent, mortgages, no jobs, etc…. they want to be involved.
In this instance, the “same does not go for anyone whom wants to address them.”
We pay them, of course they should all show up. We the people don’t have to, now…..unless the commission
is going to do something outrageous and we show up with our pitchforks…only 3 mins now, though! (LOL)
Please re-think your stance on this and a million thanks for all this information!
Caryn Hall (Yost-Rudge)
COMMISSION MEETING SEPTEMBER 29, 2020
Martin County does not lack governmental entities. They seem to exist in silos never thinking that they may be levying taxes on the same set of taxpayers to provide duplicative services.
One of my big peeves (and apparently the County Commissioners agree) is how the School District refuses to allow citizens access to their facilities. Both Commissioners Smith and Ciampi brought up that subject during Commissioner comments. Why is it that outdoor and frankly indoor facilities can only be used by students during the school day? In the evenings, weekends, and during the summer, they are locked up tighter than an arsenal.
Not only kids should be able to use them but so should adults. Schools are community facilities. The County and the municipalities should not have to spend their capital budgets on duplicating basketball, baseball or football facilities that are closed once school is no longer in session. It is taxpayers that are being duped.
The staff of the School District needs to realize that those gyms, auditoriums, and fields do not belong to them. I want to applaud the Commission for being persistent in this matter. It will probably be the new Superintendent that will need to accomplish this goal. Commissioners keep it up.
I remember when Christ Fellowship first proposed buying its 321-acre campus near South Fork High School in 2012. Some thought it would ruin the County. I also remember reading that they would build a center for the life of their large community which was why so much acreage was needed. They did build a 50,000 square foot campus but used only a small portion of the land. We were told that they had no intention of selling any of the property.
As Ciampi commented, things change especially after expanding and buying the Digital Domain Campus in Port St. Lucie. They find that site more suited to their ever-increasing number of congregants. Martin County, who approved this mega church, is now being asked by the church to continue in its current location but also to allow the sale of 293 acres to Pulte whose proposed development would add 284 homes.
In essence, at this meeting, the County was being asked for a change in the residential density from one residential unit per two acres to allow less than ½ acre lots for the final product. It is in the Secondary Urban Service District (SUSD). The plot already has county water and sewer lines. It is next to the Florida Club and Foxwood. According to staff, the reason for the larger lot size requirement in the SUSD generally is that there are only wells and septic and therefore more room is necessary.
Pulte will be donating 20 acres of the property to Operation 300, a local charity for military families. There website can be found here
On the roughly 270 acres remaining, Pulte anticipates building a community of 284 homes. What the Commission had to consider was not a site plan but a comp plan amendment and future land use map change. This will then go to Tallahassee for approval, which is likely, and then come back to the BOCC for a 2nd reading.
Most people who spoke were against it. The people who usually speak at these hearings are nearly universal in their opposition to a change. Commissioner Heard believes that this will set a precedent for the agricultural land around the site. She thought it would be an urban enclave.
Ciampi, who is not afraid to use as many words as possible, reiterated the history of the church and how things change. Once completed, the homes, will pay $1.7 million in taxes annually (the church currently is exempt from taxes) and more than $3 million in impact fees. The County Attorney stated several times that allowing this to go forward does not create a precedent since each comp plan amendment stands on its own.
Smith, Hetherington, and Jenkins reiterated what Ciampi had said for the most part. Jenkins mentioned NIMBY. A motion was made by Smith that was seconded by Ciampi to transmit the comp plan amendment to Tallahassee. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting. Another motion was made for the FLUM change by Smith and seconded by Ciampi that also passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.
Remember they are not voting to approve 284 new homes, only the ability for that to be able to come before them later. They need to change the playing field before allowing the increased density.
Will this create a precedent? Maybe not legally, but just like the developer, County staff and the Commission majority are using Foxwood and Florida Club as examples of neighboring communities, the owner of that farmland next door to this development will do so in the future. Is it an urban enclave? I am more apt to call it an extension of suburbia.
It appears to me that development is inevitable. The Commission has a responsibility to preserve open land within any project. If Pulte is only going to have a curvilinear design and ram as many homes as possible on their small lots of even less than a half-acre with its site plan, then it will indeed be the worst possible footprint. A sea of roof tops whether in a grid pattern or curvilinear design leaves the same carbon footprint.
The County should be looking at solar panels on each house, a charging station located in every garage and native plantings only instead of grass and other types of ornamentals. There should be as much open land as developed acreage. Otherwise the County Commission and its staff will demonstrate how myopic its thinking is.
Staff & Developer’s Presentations can be found here
There is not much to say about it. This was not a workshop but a presentation. Why was it done? Mostly, it appeared that it was a step that was required to obtain grants. While interesting, there is nothing new in the 48-item recommendation list.
Hetherington asked for a workshop and Smith wanted a comp plan amendment to memorialize the need. It was an abbreviated version of the power point below and it did not seem anyone really cared.
I do recommend that you read the attached. It can be found here
MASKS AND GOVERNOR’S ORDER
When it comes to COVID, Ron DeSantis is a passive/aggressive leader. It appears he doesn’t want to have any rules or regulations. Yet he feels he needs to do something. Throughout the pandemic, he has left the hard decisions to local governments. I usually think that is a good thing, but not this time.
With his latest order, he has said that everything is open. But, if local government wants to put restrictions on business, it needs to get his permission. If local government wants to mandate masks, he will not allow an enforcement mechanism. In most other states, whether there are more stringent regulations or less or none, it is the governor’s call not hundreds of local authorities.
Which brings us to the latest on the bi-weekly mask situation. I am not going to reiterate all the pro and con arguments of either our Commissioners or the public. A motion was made by Hetherington and seconded by Smith to draft a new ordinance to strongly suggest the use of masks. It passed 3-2 with Ciampi and Heard dissenting.
The October 13th meeting will probably be another one where both sides will speak for hours. If the ordinance they had now been left in place, there is virtually no practical difference. People who didn’t wear a mask were not penalized in any way. Stores such as Home Depot can still require you to wear a mask as can smaller stores, but they will have a harder time with customers who oppose them.
COMMISSION MEETINGS SEPTEMBER 28, 2020
Last week, there was a workshop on Main Street. I am going to leave others to comment on that organization for the time being since I have just stepped down from being involved. The other part of that same workshop was on the future resiliency in the City. I would imagine much of what is doable is conditioned on the County, Florida, and Washington.
Stuart’s public comment is turning into an “ask the Commissioners” forum. The point is for the Commission to listen to the public commenting which should aid them in their decision making. It is not to answer anyone’s questions nor intended as an information session. If anybody has a question or expects resolution of a problem, they should make a phone call, send an email, or make a visit to City Hall to get an answer.
When anything but public comment occurs, the Mayor should direct the City Manager or a staff person to take the citizen aside to find the answer for the citizen after the meeting or make an appointment to discuss. Commissioners need to be silent. The School Board reads a statement before public comment stating that Board Members will not talk back to the public during their public comment. This is a good rule.
Other business at the meeting included the announcement that the Visiting Nurse Association will not have the Christmas Parade this year due to COVID.
The Commission also wants staff to begin issuing event permits when they think it is appropriate.
With the expiration of the Governor’s order regarding government meetings being allowed to take place electronically, the old rules are now in effect. Boards and the Commission, which never did meet electronically, will be back in the chamber. As a member of a board, I believe it is much more beneficial to see my fellow members and to listen to presentations in person.
Zoom will be continued for those at home and the public may still comment that way.
During his comments, Mayor Meier touched on an issue that was important…what is the role of government regarding historic properties? That entire subject is a conundrum for Stuart. It should be discussed. Yet, I am afraid there are so many well-meaning people who do not understand the meaning of what an historical structure is.
Is the Walton Building, that is supposedly moving from a City lot to a parking lot, truly historical? Stuart residents seem to believe that being old is a qualifier. That is not necessarily true. Over the years, the Walton Building has been so significantly changed that it no longer even possesses the characteristics that would warrant historical preservation. Having a walk-in refrigerator on the back of the 450 sq. foot building, a cooking ventilator system, and modern air conditioning units in plain visible site is a structure that has been changed significantly since built.
The proposed use as a fast-food take-out restaurant will preclude the public from being allowed inside. Just as the outside structure has been brought up to modern standards, the inside bears no resemblance to Walton’s office of the 1920s. There isn’t even a re-creation of that office for the public to look at. For both the interior and exterior of the building, there is nothing architecturally deserving to be preserved.
Lastly, what happened inside the building historically that would warrant preservation? Mr. Walton built several buildings in Stuart in the first half of the 20th century most notably the Lyric Theater. If someone bought the Lyric and wanted to tear it down, I would be the first to condemn the action. Walton’s office in essence was a construction trailer. He probably had a desk, tools, and a telephone. There was nothing of historic significance that transpired there.
I am using that building as an example of what is wrong with confusing historical with old. The owner of that building has every right to move it, put a fast-food restaurant in it or tear it down. While historical preservation should be considered, government should not be the deciding factor in what is and is not historical. Nor should it determine whether a property owner can make alterations to his property or even tear it down.
LDR AMENITY GUIDELINES
After thorough discussion on 2nd Reading, the Commission changed the awarding of points for including certain characteristics when developers want to present a PUD. While several things are still listed as aspirational considerations, there is nothing that will now be mandatory. In my opinion, giving points was a bad idea.
Meier seems to want to have projects done under straight zoning as much as possible. In an entity larger than Stuart, that may be desirable. But within the City’s small geographical area, it would prove problematic. For years, I have wrestled with the two concepts for Stuart and, more broadly, Martin County. I have concluded that the PUD process is the way to go.
The PUD process guarantees the public’s ability to become involved when projects are proposed. As an example, Meier was concerned about the storage facility that was going up on Federal Highway. He thought it may be an inappropriate use. Yet though it is comprised of tall structures that will eventually be more pleasing to the eye once finished, it was the best possible use given that it has small single-family residences on two sides.
Would the proposed gas station and convenience store have been a better solution for the neighborhood? What about a Walgreens? Meier mentioned that the gas station was caboshed because of a traffic study and that is true. The real impetus was that the neighborhood came out to oppose the use when it came before the Commission. The traffic study done by the applicant showed no problem. It was the study done by the City, which was ordered after the neighbors complained, that the Commission relied upon. If there was no PUD process, then perhaps that gas station would be there now.
It was also mentioned that certain uses could be prohibited. That is true and, in some cases, would be justified. However, while you and I may not like self-storage units, the market tells us otherwise. In the need for straight zoning, do we ignore the property rights of owners? These are tricky questions that the PUD process addresses.
McDonald moved to approve the ordinance without a point system. It was seconded by Matheson. It passed 4-1 with Meier dissenting.
The presentation can be found here
The Commission discussed the merits of a company coming to Stuart and being given the right to rent electric scooters to the public. This would be done through a phone app using geo-fencing so that the scooters would stay within the designated area allowed.
It appeared the only one that was a full-fledged supporter was Meier. The other Commissioners had reservations about liability, whether they should be allowed downtown, who was the market going to be, and other concerns. The proposal had Stuart receiving no compensation for allowing the use.
In the last newsletter, I wrote how silly this venture seemed to me. Based on our demographic, which skews older both for our residents and visitors, who would rent the scooters? If any residents thought using one was a good idea, they would already own one. From not being allowed downtown to having them parked on Martin Luther King Drive, where you would pick them up, it seems impractical.
Sometimes Stuart forgets how small we are. How all the cool things may be great in Miami but just do not work here. We have tried valet parking. We have a golf cart ordinance that allows for golf carts on City streets after going through an inspection and having insurance. I don’t remember the last time I saw one downtown.
The City Commission needs to stop trying to be cool and instead concentrate on more important things.
SPECIAL BOARD MEETING SEPTEMBER 23, 2020
The big day had arrived. The Board was picking Martin County’s first appointed superintendent.
In the preceding months, the Board had put into place with the guidance of the Florida School Board Association (FSBA) parameters for choosing that person. There were 45 applicants that were narrowed down to the final 4.
During the meeting, each Board Member explained his/her rationale for their choices. Board Member DiTerlizzi stated that Martin County had fallen in the rankings in his opinion. He thought there needed to be an agent of change hired. Two candidates stood out to him… John Millay and Peter Licata.
Tony Anderson felt that there was a tremendous weight on his shoulders. He mentioned that Licata said the plan should be to front load education in the early years to save the system on the back end. Licata cared about the wide-angle approach that even in “A” schools, there were students who were underperforming and should not be left out. Anderson loved Millay’s energy and enthusiasm and then mentioned his young age (a serious no no). He also had Millay and Licata as his 2 top picks.
Victoria Defenthaler was looking for a transformational leader. She also narrowed it down to Licata and Millay. Licata is a regional superintendent in Palm Beach County with 59 schools and 65,000 students. Millay retired as superintendent from a district in Kentucky with far fewer students and schools than Martin County has. Defenthaler said that Licata was a data person. He had started middle school academies and was a managerial leader. Millay, she believed, understood all departments. He had a fresh perspective and was forward-thinking and inclusive.
Li Roberts was looking at the academic and financial side. Millay had a plan and had done his research.
It was clear that three board members favored Millay (DiTerlizzi, Defenthaler and Roberts), and two preferred Licata (Anderson and Powers). Roberts asked if it made sense to throw it open again. None of the others wanted to go there.
Defenthaler made a motion to begin the process of negotiating a contract with Millay. It was seconded by DiTerlizzi. It passed 3-2 with Powers and Anderson dissenting.
I wished that both Powers and Anderson had voted in the affirmative when they saw no minds were going to change. It sends a clearer picture. Many candidates would never take a job where the Board is so split. Though I was more partial to Licata because of his Florida experience and the size of his subdistrict, I would have voted in the affirmative to give the decision unity.
One of the things that Millay did was assemble an “Entry Plan.” It was cited by several Board Members as a reason that they voted for him. I am enclosing it here
Good luck, Dr. Millay!
SCHOOL BOARD MEETING OCTOBER 1, 2020
The School Board met to finalize Dr. John Millay’s contract to be the first appointed Superintendent in Martin County history.
The contract provides for a yearly salary of $170,000 plus other benefits. The term is from November 17, 2020 to June 30, 2024. As of July 1, 2021, and every fiscal year thereafter if Millay receives a satisfactory evaluation, then his base pay will increase by the same percentage as other administrators in the district. He will receive an additional 7.5% of compensation to be paid into a deferred compensation annuity along with being in the Florida Retirement System.
Millay can receive $2000 additional by maintaining his certifications. There is a $10,000 moving and temporary living allowance. He must live within the County. There are other provisions for reimbursement laid out in the contract which can be accessed here
Is this more than what the elected superintendent was receiving? The answer is yes. In Gaylord’s case the state sets the salary as an elected official. Dr. Millay is a contract employee, so it is negotiated. Will the students, taxpayers, and business owners get increased value? That is yet to be seen.
Dr. Millay begins on a per diem basis based on his contracted salary on October 26th. That should give him time to work with Gaylord and the rest of the administration to understand the District. One thing is for sure is that the Board now has total responsibility for what happens. The ultimate outcome will be in their hands.
COMMISSION MEETING SEPTEMBER 22, 2020
Sewall’s Point’s Commission has been focused on infrastructure and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Grants, waiting for grants, matching the grants, planning for grants is how any sewer or roads or sustainability improvements will be accomplished. I think, finally, some Commissioners are thinking outside of the box.
Dave Kurtzman is beginning to see the futility of this approach for accomplishing the many projects that are still undone. At this rate, it will be years before the projects are done. By then, some homeowners will find their homes may be flooding with regularity and some roads will be underwater most of the time.
Kurtzman brought up (not for the first time) that because of the availability of cheap money, borrowing may be the way to go. He said that interest rates are less than 1% and a revolving line of credit of $5 million would allow progress to continue regardless of how grants came in. Currently, there is a constant start/stop approach to these very necessary projects.
Going into next fiscal year, the Florida state budget is as much as $5 billion short. Grants are going to dry up. Does that mean that the Town stops work on Its infrastructure? Kaija Mayfield also suggested that looking into a line of credit should be considered.
No matter how good Town Engineer Joe Capra is at juggling grant money, this is not a sound fiscal plan. Along with Capra, the Town Manager needs to look at how construction costs are rising every year and the opportunity cost to the Town for proceeding on this same path or following Kurzman’s idea. If the cost of doing a project is going up more than the cost of the funds, then you should borrow.
The work on South Sewall’s Point Road is being done in phases and parts like all such work in the Town. The Town Engineer is looking for a property to buy to create mainly a path for an outfall but would not mind having an additional stormwater treatment area (STA). There is not an abundance of vacant properties in the area.
One vacant lot is 80 South Sewall’s Point Road. The developer who wants to build a spec house has said he would be willing to sell the Town a path for the outflow and part of the lot as a STA. The Commission was not ready to commit. This has happened before, and the Town has lost the opportunity by waiting.
Will it happen again? Maybe, but they need appraisals before pulling the trigger and must also worry about where the funds are coming from. Again, this demonstrates the need for that line of credit to be able to take advantage of any opportunity.
Let us hope that once the Manager lays out a plan, the Commission will adopt something more than the hoping for getting grants.
COUNCIL MEETING SEPTEMBER 24, 2020
I want to compliment Mayor Hernandez for the very professional job she is doing when presiding over the meeting. The last few meetings, though virtual, have moved forward expeditiously.
By the time you read this, the Village would have closed on the water utility. At $8.5 million plus the deferred maintenance, it is being done at a price that only a public entity could afford. There are questions as to whether a better deal could have been struck. The answer is certainly.
Yet no sane private businessperson would want to own the Indiantown plant. It will never be enough of a money maker to justify the investments. This is a poor community, and it was obvious that the Council wanted to keep the rates as low as possible. Anthony Dowling wanted to lower some charges and fees to less than what the consultant recommended in the schedule. Fortunately, the other Council Members thought better of tinkering at this point.
The only reason for Indiantown to get involved in owning is to control what happens within the current boundaries as well as the future boundaries as the Village grows. Without the ability to provide water and sewer, the Village would be severely limited. Owning the water plant is a better strategy and use of funds than providing fire service by far.
The final budget and taxes were approved. Anyone who believed the fantasy that the tax rate would ever drop is a bit delusional. Of course, people were promised that taxes would be less if the Village incorporated. Yet those at the forefront of spearheading the move to incorporate as a Village were cut out of the process the moment the Village came into existence.
They did not reside within the Village. They could not run for office and had no influence on the Council that was elected and now re-elected. In the years ahead, it is not whether increased taxes will be levied but rather how much more. It won’t be whether the Village increases the size and scope of government, it will be by how much.
Lastly, I am disappointed that the Council decided against going back to in person meetings. At this point, everything is open but government. How about it? The vote was 4-1 with Gibbs-Thomas voting in the affirmative.
The Governor’s order has made this moot by restoring in person meetings.
The next meeting will occur on October 12, 2020
The next meeting will occur on October 15, 2020
I often write about free markets and how governments must recognize that they need to allow them to operate with little interference.
It is not about either being a Democrat or a Republican. Neither party is a proponent of letting the marketplace decide winners and losers. Politicians believe that they are responsible for good or bad economies. No president creates a job…only the market does. Policies are more apt to be written in favor of a politician’s friend and campaign contributor than out of a philosophical tenet.
Currently, both President Trump and New York’s Governor Cuomo, two political opposites, have instituted eviction moratoriums. Instead of encouraging landlords and tenants to negotiate settlements, that policy has allowed tenants to not pay their rents whether they can afford to or not. What happened to obligations under their leases that are enforceable by the courts?
Does that mean that government should not help those who cannot meet their obligations due to COVID? The answer, of course, is no. After evaluation and qualifying valid expenses, government should pay things like rent to keep the economy going. Afterall, rental property owners who are not collecting rent may not be able to pay their mortgages and property taxes creating dire financial consequences across the economy.
This is one example of the government intruding into a free market making matters much worse. To read more of my article in the online publication, An Idea, go here
GET THE WORD OUT
Friends and Neighbors of Martin County is your eyes and ears so that you know what is going on in Martin County’s municipal and county governments. I attempt to be informative and timely so that you may understand how your tax money is being spent. Though I go to the meetings and report back, I am no substitute for your attending meetings. Your elected officials should know what is on your mind.
The Washington Post writes that our first president almost died of the flu:
NPR tells us that school enrollment is dropping nationwide:
Again from the Washington Post an article on Amy Coney Barrett that tells the story of her connection to Martin County:
From Florida Phoenix an article on how both political parties agree that Proposition 3 should be defeated:
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