I don’t know what happened, but development really isn’t the most important matter facing Martin County today.
It is our taxes. Many of us are dissatisfied with the BOCC for the way they have willy-nilly approved things. There doesn’t seem to be a coherent and cohesive philosophy to their governing principles.
I can’t say that about Sarah Heard. I can almost predict 95% of how she is going to vote. She sticks to a few core beliefs and governs according to those beliefs. To a lesser extent so does Hetherington. Unfortunately, she sometimes allows politics to get in her way of a consistent fiscal policy. The last fire/rescue contract is a prime example.
Harold Jenkins, the most business experienced commissioner wants to do what is right. Unfortunately, he is too narrowly focused on his district over the entire county. He also believes that he should support other commissioners’ desires even when they are a detriment to the rest of us. His pragmatism is great for a businessperson but as a commissioner it lacks a political philosophy.
Commissioner Ciampi is a proponent of the tee shirt philosophy. He can be swayed at any time for any reason if enough people are for or against a project or agenda item. If anything, he believes he is an “empty vessel” that should funnel the wishes of those standing before him. In a representative democracy you are elected to use your judgement and that is the part that makes him neither fish nor fowl.
Doug Smith will vote against those in the room. He believes he knows best, and the more expensive option is the better one. He has Palm Beach tastes but only a Martin County purse to fulfill his desires.
In the coming months Friends & Neighbors is going to explore why we need commissioners that have a point of view and philosophy we can count on. It needs to be consistent and for the betterment of every resident of the county.
Remember each of us votes for all five commissioners. They don’t represent districts except in the broadest sense. The deep parochialism that has infected Campi, Smith, and Jenkins is not in the entire county’s best interest.
A person’s core beliefs are the same whether you are in Palm City or Stuart. If doesn’t matter standing in New York or Florida. They are true to your essence wherever you are and whatever you are facing.
Don’t forget to encourage your friends and neighbors to sign up for the newsletter. It is your window on Martin County.
And if you want to contribute a “letter to Tom” or better yet have an idea for a column let me know by going to that tab.
Have a Good Sunday Morning!
What does it mean to be a member of a political party?
There was a time that everyday people congregated at a local party’s clubhouse…not just once a month but perhaps a couple of times per week. A working person could come around in the evening and meet with a local party official, the local councilman, or even a state representative about a particular problem.
The person would have their problem fixed by the “ward healer,” and in return the family would vote the “right” way on election day. There was a certain quid pro quo. An accepted bargain that was beneficial to all.
Those days are over. Most pols know that local political clubs do very little to get them elected. Everyone does their own thing. A couple of times per year, the elected official shows up to a monthly meeting to give a report and in today’s world, often receives abuse from the audience.
Where once people went to the club to see about a job, have their street paved, or have a few drinks with friends, today no constituent work is done at the club. It is a place for the hardcore to come and complain about government and their not sufficiently believing elected officials. Parties were once the place to go to see how government worked.
Every year fewer and fewer people belong. In Florida, there are 600,000 fewer people registered to vote in 2023 than 2022. Republicans, Democrats, and NPAs have all lost voters. Only with minor parties has there been an increase of 35,000 registrants year over year.
There was a time that belonging to a party meant something. They provided services to the members and the members provided loyalty and worked for the party. Now belonging to a party is another example of being a fan. I root for the Dolphins, Mets, and Republicans to win. Because that is what parties have become…a way to cheer your team on regardless of anything else.
In the last edition, I wrote that Martin County Schools had the distinction of having the most books removed in Florida.
That was wrong. Clay County removed 177 books as compared to Martin County’s 98 books. I have subsequently received another update showing Indian River County had the most removed books at 234. School Board Member Amy Pritchett pointed out my error and provided the updates:
I am attaching an article printed on September 18 referencing counties in Florida that have had books removed from their school libraries. Clay County has removed 177 books, while Martin County has removed 98. In this week's Friends and Neighbors, you have given MC the distinction of having the largest number of books removed.
The info I had was from last year. Clay County has removed more than we have.
I received updated information:
Indian River County - 234 removals with 14 more pending
Clay County - 177 removals
Martin County - 98
Accuracy is needed when we write a story, and I thank Amy for providing that. I believe Amy has become a good and conscientious school board member. But I still believe we have nothing to be proud of in the removal of books from our library shelves.
I don’t think it matters much whether we are in first place. Isn’t it all about a parent’s right to choose what is best for their children? By removing books, we have abrogated that right by the veto power of any one person. It is easy enough for parents to prevent their kids from taking any book out of the library today without preventing another parent’s children from reading the book.
I am happy we are not number one in censorship but that hardly matters. Being number two or three or ten is still appalling. The goal of education is to broaden horizons and not shrink to them. I believe we are failing our kids in this arena.
Ed Weinberg from EW Consultants is working at the Kiplinger Conservancy at Newfield. He was good enough to take me on a tour of the property to see the progress that has been made.
The conservancy will, when finished, be open not only to Newfield residents but to everyone. It just may be one of the only places in the county to see what Martin County looked like before most of us arrived. The 450 acres spanning 50 miles of trails should be open shortly to hikers, bikers, and horseback riders. In fact, a 5K is being run today, October 15th.
Here is a link https://kc-trails.com/
Before ceding control to Mattamy, Kiplinger made sure this was included as part of his vision for the entire property which will have over 1000 acres in a natural state. The expense of having a pristine native habitat is being borne by the owners. This is for the benefit of all of us.
We sometimes portray developers as the bad guys…and sometimes they are. In this case, at least so far, that is not true. Besides the rehabilitation of these acres, they are also creating a sustainable farm and have had several farmers markets. Mattamy is working with the Girls & Boys Club to have them do projects at the farm to teach the kids about agriculture.
I am under no illusions that development can be stopped. Private property is private. Government cannot dictate that an owner cannot develop his land. And contrary to the farce that is going on in another part of Palm City regarding the county buying a development project to prevent it, it is just not feasible as a policy goal. All you need to do is look at the last budget hearing to know that.
Newfield is an attempt to have a wholistic approach. I haven’t seen it yet, but I think the new Storie project in Hobe Sound may also be an improvement over past attempts on that piece. We should want projects to look more like Newfield and applaud developers when they do.
We need term limits for every elected office in America.
To make that happen on the federal level, it would require a constitutional amendment. That is all but impossible since one hasn’t been passed in more than thirty years when the 27th Amendment was ratified. Federal judges serve for life. The average life span in 1787 when the Founders were drafting the Constitution was 34.5 years.
My state, Florida, has set term limits for most state elected offices at 8 years since 1992. Last year, they enacted the same for local school board members. While chartered counties can enact term limits for themselves, non-chartered counties cannot. They need a bill enacted by the legislature and signed by the governor.
I believe that is one of the ways the people can retake the government from the professional politicians. Please make no mistake, that is what they are. In Martin County they receive a salary of more than $70,000 plus medical and retirement benefits. Does that sound like some part time gig?
They are allowed to hold other jobs and own businesses. There are no set hours except to show up for two commission meetings per month. They each have an administrative assistant and other perks of office.
Currently two commissioners, Sarah Heard and Doug Smith, have been in office for more than 20 years. It appears that the three commissioners who are up for reelection next year intend to run again. Doug Smith is a 5-term incumbent, Ed Ciampi has served 2 terms (plus a 3rd term prior to his current post), and Harold Jenkins has served 2 terms.
The longer someone remains in the office, the more addictive it becomes. They receive differential treatment. Attorneys, lobbyists, staff, and even common people elevate them. Being called commissioner can be intoxicating, and so can having a call returned by other officials when a piece of information or help is needed.
The same people in office year after year is not good for the body politic. The adage that the people can vote the person out is true but also naïve. Political contributions flow to the incumbent. Those who fund campaigns stick with the person they know except if that commissioner has opposed their interests in the past.
We also need to cut salaries and benefits. If they can only be there for 8 years, why is medical insurance and especially retirement part of the package? Commissioners should not be tinkering with the minutia of county projects. Their duties are to make policy and be the legislative body for the county. The county administrator is the one that carries out the policy and oversees the government.
There are many reasons why our system is broken. One of them is that we should have citizen legislators. They are now career legislators from the halls of Washington to the county seat. Fresh ideas are stymied. We should equate being a county commissioner like being on a nonprofit board…you represent your fellow citizens and then you step away. Lifetime sinecures should not be part of the American political system.
As Published In Martin County Moments
The wise among us note that we invest our time and money in what we prize most.
By that standard, this community should take a bow for prioritizing its future by pouring into its children—particularly those in need.
At the Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County, we get to witness the incredible outcomes this commitment produces. It will soon result in an exciting milestone—a state-of-the-art facility designed to change lives for the better for generations to come.
We recently gave a presentation to Stuart residents about the flagship club we’re currently constructing on a 3.6-acre site behind the former Martin County School District headquarters (and one-time Stuart High School).
The $17 million project is strategically positioned to offer easy afterschool access for students from neighboring Stuart Middle School as well as from the local East Stuart community. The facility will provide increased convenience for the families of Stuart children who attend J.D. Parker Elementary, which we’ve served at our Palm City club for several years. It’s also readily accessible for the Rio/Jensen community, which we’re eager to avail of our expanding workforce development programs.
The club—which will span 39,000 square feet—will include in addition to a gym that the local community can enjoy a collection of workforce labs encompassing 15,000 square feet.
The labs will be equipped to prepare young people for exciting and profitable careers right out of high school. In addition to building upon our already successful culinary/hospitality program, we’ll offer certifications in such skilled fields as HVAC, home construction, virtual reality, supply-chain management, automation, cloud computing and drone operation.
Partnership empowers everything we do, and we’re excited to team with the chambers, Economic Council, Business Development Board, and private employers to tap into their knowledge, networks, and willingness to donate their time to sharpen the future workforce, innovators and entrepreneurs.
Best of all, the club is projected to open during the 2024 school year!
Still, the needs of the youth we serve persist today. Fortunately, we’re also blessed with an incoming class of AmeriCorps members. We also recently recognized these mentors committing to serving their community in exchange for a modest stipend, college scholarship and the enduring value of making a difference.
Since deploying our AmeriCorps mentors into local middle and elementary schools, we’ve witnessed measurable results as reading comprehension, math and science scores have significantly improved.
After more than 35 years in operation in Martin County, we’ve refined what we do best while remaining nimble and responsive to the needs that emerge. We serve today nearly 5,000 youth ages 6-18, representing nearly a quarter of Martin County’s school-aged children.
The needs of our members are pronounced. Nearly 90 percent come from low- and moderate-income households. That same number of our membership qualifies for free/reduced school lunches.
Such figures, however, only define their current circumstances. Their potential is limitless. Every day, we recognize and remind them of this truth. Thanks to the kindness and generosity of this community, when we finally cut the ribbon on the new club, we’ll also be cutting them loose to fully realize it.
Keitch Fletcher's opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
A Substitution Solution
I attended the annual Legislative Delegation meeting recently.
It must be mandated by the state. Otherwise, considering that our legislators are so approachable, I see little need. There were the usual number of non-profits (17 or so) asking for state tax dollars to continue their good works. Each of the city entities showed up, most with requests regarding water and sewer projects in one way or another.
It is fascinating how important the movement, supply and retention of water is here in Florida. (Read The Swamp by Michael Grunwald). One neighborhood in Hobe Sound doesn’t have potable water! Unimaginable today. Commissioner Jenkins was present to make the ask with them.
The one item that really got my attention was presented by the new superintendent of schools in Martin County, Michael Maine. He announced proudly, as he should have, that Martin County is NOT short of teachers. Martin County has 99% of its teacher compliment! There are only 12 classroom teacher vacancies and 6 non-classroom teacher vacancies in the entire county. According to Jennifer DeShazo, Chief of Staff and Strategic Communications, those non-classroom vacancies are “positions such as school counselors”.
I say we should shout it from the rooftops! We are very fortunate. Hillsboro County, as an example given by Superintendent Maine, needs 100 teachers!
I was so surprised because I have heard over and over that we are constantly losing teachers to other counties. I have always wondered why a teacher would want to deal with unruly kids in gangs and spend lots of time commuting and gas money to do it!
According to Ms. DeShazo, it is the substitute teachers that we are short on.
“On an average school day, our findings show that eight percent of the nation’s 3.2 million public school teachers are absent.” Says The EdWeek Research Center [which] conducts research on education topics to assist journalists at Education Week, and for professional associations and private companies. Kelly Education, an education staffing company, sponsored this project. Read more here: https://journalistsresource.org/education/substitute-teacher-pay-student-achievement-research/
I think it follows that since Martin County has around 1100 teachers there must be an average of 88 absent on any given day. Ms. DeShazo continued to explain that MCSD’s “internal cost during the 2022-2023 school year to achieve an 84% coverage rate for teacher absences was approximately $3.19M. For Kelly Services to employ substitutes to cover the same number of absences, the estimated cost would be approximately $2.9M. An estimate to fill our goal of 95% of absences being covered is $3.4M.
Many other Florida districts have used Kelly Services and found great success – Okeechobee County increased its coverage rate from 53% to 95%. [It is important to note that] The District will only pay Kelly Services for days covered by their substitute teachers.”
Darlene VanRiper’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors nor the Martin County Taxpayers Association's viewpoint.
Civics is more than meeting with your elected representatives to tell them what you need. In fact, meeting with your representative is at the end of the process. Let me dive in a bit more. Maybe you already knew that, but it wasn’t long ago that I did not.
Going to our county administrative building, Tallahassee, and even the U.S. Capitol to share the needs of farmers and ranchers is something I have done for some time and to me that was conducting civics. What I did not realize is everything I did before those meetings was civics too- probably the most important part of civics.
More important than meeting with our representatives is meeting together with fellow community members who share the need or want to make a change. With a group assembled they 1) work together to understand the need, 2) develop a plan to meet the need, 3) find more stakeholders who will support the plan, and 4) take action.
1. Work together to understand the need: It is important to see issues from many points of view. By finding others with a similar viewpoint to your own you can discuss and dig deeper into the issue at hand. This should be a smaller group of ten or fewer people to keep the conversation on point.
2. Develop a plan to meet the need: I was taught not to complain unless I also have a solution. Take the time to figure out what could feasibly be done to help with your problem.
3. Find more stakeholders who will support the plan: Now is the time to find more people so that you can gain a stronger voice. You have identified the problem and the solution; these new stakeholders are here to amplify your cause.
4. Take action: Now meet with your representatives. But don’t just count on them to make the change, also implore members of your community to help. Many times, what is taken to a higher level of government can be solved by an active community.
We often seek out those in higher levels of office because we see them as higher than ourselves. But the truth is our elected representatives are people like us who have taken on that extra responsibility to be our voice. Though they do deserve our respect for stepping up, it is important that we remember they are people like us with a job to do. They do not have all the answers so when you go to them with a plan you will likely have a better outcome than if you just state what your issue is.
If you are still unsure where to start, try visiting local government meetings. There you will see people who are actively working on issues in our community. Talk to those people. Civics is work and time consuming, but it is also fun and rewarding. The more we all engage the less we will need the government to step in to “provide all our needs.” Let’s be self-sufficient.
David Hafner’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
Farms No More? Part 2
Do small farms have a future in south Florida and Great Britain? What are their challenges and roles in our rapidly changing society? Despite the incredibly impressive numbers of small Florida farms (41,407 per 2007 Census of Agriculture) this very diversified bunch of entrepreneurs is much fewer when we consider the tax avoidance schemes available for “gentleman farmers”. An unlikely spokesperson for small farmers has recently emerged in Great Britain: Jermey Clarkson is a well-known British television personality who rose to fame in the Grand Tour series about automobiles.
Clarkson has become an advocate for small farms and the rural lifestyle in his current series Clarkson’s Farm available on Prime. We follow Clarkson on a journey of redeveloping and operating his recently acquired 1,000-acre diversified farmland in the Cotswolds. I hesitate to call it a farm which at purchase lacked the infrastructure to be operational. It was land and some buildings without a plan. The script and delivery are frank, funny, and filled with messages about the impacts on farmers by globalization, government red tape, and NIMBY inertia.
Series 1 takes us through the usual fits and starts associated with learning a new trade. For example, sheep are introduced. When they prove uneconomical the sheep are replaced by cattle which have their own issues. Clarkson spends buckets of money on tractors, labor, supplies and then we get to the interesting part: site development. What is a small farm’s identity in the 21st century?
In Season 2 Clarkson discovers value-added agriculture. He and his partner Lisa open a farm stand. This begins his troubles with the local government who are practitioners of the status quo. The farm stand could only sell products produced within 16 miles. Nix the swag. Then a creative solution was found. Isn’t this the real story of farming: finding solutions to a diverse array of problems? Clarkson attempts to open a restaurant at Diddly Squat Farm https://diddlysquatfarmshop.com/, and he partners with surrounding small farm producers of pork, vegetables, and dairy products. We discover these farmers too are seriously challenged and on the verge of failure. Clarkson needs them and they need him for any hope of prosperity. Then the local government attempts to foil the whole enterprise.
Clarkson repeatedly tells us that the national government wants farms to diversify. His local government has not received the message. A comparable situation exists here in Florida. Close to home Palm Beach County government recently tried to curtail Jupiter Farms agritourism at White Trail Flower Farm https://www.whitetrailjupiter.com/ . The farmers were simply following state statute and the neighbors complained. A quasi-judicial hearing with a special master quashed the attack and White Trail can continue to hold weddings. But the defense was very costly. Check back in two weeks for more on this topic.
Keitch Fletcher's opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
The holiday season is upon us. At House of Hope, we have already started planning for Thanksgiving.
We expect to provide hundreds of our clients with turkeys and all the trimmings to prepare their holiday dinner and have quality time with their loved ones. We will also cook delicious meals to go for our clients that are experiencing homelessness. Our food bank division will provide turkeys and side dishes to many of our soup kitchen partners so that they may prepare Thanksgiving dinner for the individuals and families that they serve. All of these meals will feature fresh veggies and salads as part of our continuing efforts to feed people well.
In addition to our four food pantries, House of Hope provides a wide variety of programs and services to our clients, including case management, career coaching, nutrition education, financial assistance, early learning support, homework help and more. All of our services are always provided at no cost to our clients and partners. Even with our array of services, nearly 70% of our clients start their relationship with us because of food insecurity.
Access to a consistent supply of fresh and healthy food through our pantries has a tremendous ripple effect on the households that we serve. There is a positive impact on the health of our clients because of the quality of the food we provide. Over 98% of our clients surveyed say they eat better because of House of Hope. A typical household receives the retail equivalent of about $450 worth of quality food each month, so there is a huge financial benefit as well. Some of the dollars that clients used to devote to food may now be used to pay rent and utilities, fill prescriptions, address health needs and more.
The great work that we do to empower residents to overcome hunger and hardship would not be possible without the support of our community. Last year over 850 volunteers donated nearly 40,000 hours of service to House of Hope. The generous support of local residents also helped us to distribute nearly 1.5 million pounds of food.
If you would like to support our Holiday Meal program, or to learn more about our mission, please visit us at www.hohmartin.org/holidays#holidaymeals . Whether you can make a monetary donation, donate food, or host a food drive, your support will resonate across our community. Thank you for providing hope in our community.
Rob Ranieri’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
Tremors –Do I Need to Worry?
Have you noticed that your hands are shaking? Your voice is shaky? You are dropping items?
A tremor is a neurologic condition that can cause shaking or trembling movements in different parts of the body. It is most common in a person’s hands but can occur in the arms, legs, head, vocal cords, and torso. The tremor may be constant or intermittent. Tremors can occur on their own or as a result of another problem.
Tremors are not life threatening but can cause many challenges. It can make daily tasks such as writing, eating, shaving and dressing more difficult.
Some tremors can be triggered by stress or strong emotions, being physically tired or being in certain postures for long periods of time
Tremors are categorized based on when and how the tremor is activated. A rest tremor occurs when a person is at rest. People with Parkinson’s disease often have a resting tremor. An action tremor occurs during movement.
Essential Tremor is one of the most common movement disorders. Its key feature is a tremor in both hands and arms during action without any other neurologic signs. It may also affect a person’s head, voice or legs. Although the tremor can start at any age it is most common to appear during adolescence or middle age (40-50yrs of age). Essential tremor is an inherited condition in 50-70% of cases. It usually stays mild but can get worse over time. The exact cause is unknown.
Parkinsonian tremor is common in people with the disease and is seen at rest. It often looks like someone is trying to roll a pill between the thumb and finger. The tremor may initially appear in one limb or on just one side of the body but may spread to both sides as the disease progresses. The tremor is often made worse by stress.
Orthostatic tremor is a rare disorder caused by rapid muscle contractions in the legs when a person stands up. The tremor usually stops when a person sits down or walks. Standing may make a person feel unsteady or unbalanced. Orthostatic tremor can be felt by touching the person’s thighs or calves or when the doctor listens to the muscles with a stethoscope. The cause of orthostatic tremor is unknown
Tremor is most common among middle aged and older adults. It occurs equally in men and women. Tremors are caused by a problem in the parts of the brain that control movement. Most types have no known genetic cause.
Tremor can occur on its own or be associated with other disorders such as Parkinsons Disease, Multiple Sclerosis or Stroke. It can also be caused by different medications including asthma meds and some psychiatric and chemo therapy agents. Exposure to heavy metals or pesticides can lead to tremors. Excessive caffeine may cause a temporary tremor or make an existing tremor worse. An overactive thyroid can cause tremors. Liver and kidney failure can cause damage in certain areas of the brain that lead to tremors or jerky movements. High or low blood sugar can cause tremors as can stress, anxiety and fatigue.
In terms of treatment there is no cure for most forms of tremors but there are treatments to help manage symptoms. There are different medications available including beta blockers, anti-seizure medications, dopaminergic medications to treat Parkinsons and even Botox can be used to treat head tremor and hand tremors. Medications are effective in about 50% of people with tremor.
There are surgical procedures such as deep brain stimulation which implants electrodes to send high frequency electrical signals to the area of the brain that controls involuntary movements. A small device similar to a pacemaker is implanted under the skin in the upper chest. DBS is used to treat Parkinsonian tremor, essential tremor and dystonia.
Radiofrequency ablation uses a radio wave to generate an electric current that disrupts nerve signaling ability for six months or more. It is only used on one side of the body to improve tremor on the opposite side of the body. More recently a new technique known as focused Ultrasound uses MRI to deliver high frequency focused US that creates a lesion in tiny areas of the brain thought to be causing tremors.
Finally certain lifestyle changes can be helpful as well including getting enough sleep, physical and occupational therapy, reducing caffeine, reducing stress, wearing clothes that make it easier to dress ( no buttons, shoes that use Velcro to close) and using assistive tools such as special plates, and utensils which make it easier to eat.
If you or someone you love is suffering from tremors please ask your doctor for help finding a clinical trial so scientists can learn more about tremors and perhaps find better ways to safely detect, treat or prevent disease.
Michele Libman’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
Sometimes … I just want to pull my hair out.
Just trying to do research for this month's article reminded me of how difficult it is to find the truth about so many issues. The real estate industry is no exception. I prefer to write timely articles about my observations on the day-to-day workings in this industry. My goal was to write an article about the current market. Looking at statistics, reviewing peer articles, NAR (National Association of Realtors) and even my own corporate articles tell me one clear and obvious fact … no one knows what is next.
Interest rates will go up, down or remain steady for the next 6 months or more. I can find data supporting each prediction. Over the weekend, Hamas bombed Israel, and my second thought (my first thoughts were for the victims and prayers for peace) was how is this going to affect the already shaky economies around the world and the United States. Even a Martin County Realtor is affected by the conflicts overseas because they influence rates, availability of funds, seller and buyer angst and general sales. Predictions on the future of the real estate market are all over the board. I will stick to what I know - the local market.
The Treasure Coast data shows a weaker market than this time last year. I do not think that comes as a surprise. The leading indicators of market condition are all trending down.
Days on the market are higher, the average home price is lower, the total number of sales is down, and the overall dollar amount of cumulative sales has decreased (single family home sales in Martin County.) The chart shows the numbers. I have been in this business through many cycles and know that it will improve, over time.
Although macroeconomics influences Treasure Coast sales, I am always reminded that we are different. We are a place in Florida (a desirable place to move) that is so unique that people come here to live regardless of the economy.
I have talked to rental agents, and they see a robust season ahead. Very few vacancies are anticipated for our glorious Florida winter. Early cold fronts in the Northeast and Midwest states are always good for our economy.
I cannot predict the winter market but historically it is the time that buyers buy - especially our visitors from colder regions. New industry relocations in St. Lucie County and Palm Beach County will bring buyers to our area.
I remain the bullish Realtor in Martin County and the Treasure Coast.
John Gonzalez’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
Shop Small Businesses!
Small Business Saturday is November 25, 2023 – falling between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Started by American Express in 2010, this holiday helps small businesses gain exposure and encourages buyers to shop in their own local communities during the holiday season.
This should be a focus for Martin County residents all year long not only for a day or the holiday season.
Shopping locally benefits the entire community. Shoppers can buy items throughout the year in-person or online.
Local non-profits and organizations also host their annual fundraising events during this time. Fall festivals, galas, installations, and themed parties help raise necessary funds to keep their doors open to help those in the community year-round.
Local businesses support these organizations. Generally, most nationally owned businesses aren’t donating to local schools or non-profits, but locally owned businesses are.
Attendees and sponsors of these events are members of our local business community. Without their financial support, who cares for those experiencing homelessness, assists families with food insecurity, helps animal rescues, and honors our veterans?
To support your local businesses, check out the back of shirts young athletes are wearing to see local insurance agencies, realtors, restaurants, dealerships, jewelry shops, or clothing or shoe stores.
Look at the banners posted at our Martin County and private schools.
Look at the banners posted at events such as fall festivals, Little League ball games, and the Indiantown Rodeo.
Look for the Palm City Chamber of Commerce, or other local chambers, membership stickers in the window.
Notice and thank these businesses dedicated to the Treasure Coast community. The support of these small, locally owned businesses is what makes Martin County special because they in turn, support our community. We can then help them, too!
Shop small business!
Missi Campbell’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
Well, here it is, October, and if we backed it up to this date last year, I would be telling everyone to get up to the beach because the Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks, snook, tarpon, and pompano were being caught along our local beaches.
What a difference a year makes. On the positive side, up to now, we have missed any direct hits from major storms and that is something to smile about. What we have had to deal with are the big swells that a few of the storms sent our way along with a crazy amount of rain that has left our surf dirty and unfishable.
The highlight of this early fall surf season is the abundance of sand fleas, aka mole crabs, that have been showing almost daily. These critters have been nonexistent for the last few years but this year they have made a comeback. This crab is the number one natural bait for anyone that targets pompano in the surf.
The success rate of Fishbites has allowed us to continue to target these great fish but a combination of a sand flea and a piece of Fishbites is deadly. Sand flea rake sales have skyrocketed this year with the return of this resource. The Snook Nook in Jensen Beach just received a huge order of the rakes and I know Bass Pro Shops in Port St Lucie is well stocked also.
The best time to find the crabs is late in the afternoon on an outgoing tide. You will see the "V"shapes in the sand when the wave recedes as their tiny antennas create that look on the top of the sand as they filter the receding water for nutrients. The old school process of bringing them home, putting 20 or so in a pot of boiling water to blanche them, and then freezing them has been replaced by taking 20 or 25 and putting them in small snack bags and then freezing them.
The blanching process tends to make the shell more brittle and therefore making it harder to stay on the hook when you cast them out. Using them non blanched, just frozen, has proven to be just as effective as the boiled ones. The cooked ones can be taken home if you do not use your entire supply and refreeze them for your next trip.
The unblanched gray ones must be kept in your cooler when you are fishing because if they totally thaw out and get warm and you re-freeze the warm ones, they will turn black when you try to use them a second time. I keep 5 or 10 in my pocket when I am fishing and whatever I have not used during the day I give to the little sea birds that frequent the shoreline.
Some of the Martin County beaches that have been holding big numbers of these crabs are Beachwalk Pasley, Tiger Shores, Stuart Beach, Bryn Mawr, and Bob Graham. There are still some mullets moving along the beach and the last couple of days the first Spanish mackerel and bluefish have been taken by anglers casting spoons in and around the mullet schools.
If the mackerel and bluefish are on the scene then the pompano cannot be far behind. I listened to a local weather person today on the tv and he implied our first cool front with temperatures in the 60s may be on the horizon and that will be just what the doctor ordered. Cooler water temperatures, sandfleas on the beach, and the first schools of fall migratory fish all indicate that good fishing in the surf is just around the corner.
We are definitely due so keep your fingers crossed and hope for the beast. Good luck this month and catch em up.
Paul Sperco’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
In the course of conversation at a local event, a community leader who has been a staunch advocate for public education apologetically shared that he and his wife had made the decision to enroll their child in private school recently.
His concerns centered around the lack of qualified teachers and the quality of the school program. From the conversation, it is evident that this decision was made based on the current state of education in our local school district. As a long-time educator in Martin County, it was both disheartening and concerning to hear this news.
In recent years, as a retired educator and school board member, I have watched the decline in many facets of our school program especially since COVID and most recently with the political climate that is systematically dismantling traditional public education. One of the main reasons for this decline is the loss of educated, trained, and experienced teachers. The catalyst for this loss has been the lack of value and respect our school board and legislators display toward educators.
During the pandemic, teachers did whatever was necessary to help students from pulling resources to ensure students and families had food and internet service to searching for students who were not attending school to dropping off school supplies. For a time, these efforts were appreciated, but somewhere along the way educators became the villains in the story. In our school district, when they expressed the need to wait a couple more weeks to return to school due to family obligations, health concerns and/or that schools were not yet prepared to welcome students safely, they were treated with disrespect by school officials who worked against the teachers’ union instead of with them, allowing power and control to dictate their actions. This resulted in the loss of many talented and experienced teachers.
Soon after this, politics became the name of the game and teachers were and continue to be vilified, undermined, and threatened by politicians who demean their profession to push their own agendas. This continued assault has affected educators’ ability to teach which has resulted in many experienced teachers leaving the profession and a reduction in the number of young adults pursuing teaching degrees.
The August 15, 2023 Martin County school board agenda included a list of approximately 50 out-of-field teachers, and as of October 4th, the district has 30 instructional vacancies. Due to the lack of teaching applicants, districts are forced to hire teachers for positions in which they are not certified. The question is why are our local and state political leaders and community members not supporting teachers and advocating for a quality education for students?
Our time, effort, and resources should be dedicated to improving public education, not to allowing it to be dismantled by powerful money mongers who pretend to be do-gooders but have no right to be preaching about education. The longer we sit idly by, the more damage there will be to public education and the less prepared students will be to compete on a national level. With the 2024 elections fast approaching, it is imperative that our community come together to support candidates who will use their platform to engage with citizens, listening to their views, no matter how divergent, and working collaboratively to focus on improving student outcomes.
Victoria Defenthaler’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
Where to Put Aging-in-Place Dollars
When you weigh what aging-in-place modifications to make, a significant consideration is the
effect your changes will have on the resale value of your home.
Will they help or hurt?
One takeaway: Look to universal design modifications -- hands-free faucets and dimmer
switches, for example -- that benefit multiple generations. Those won’t hurt resale value.
After all, institutional-style designs and permanent features like exterior metal ramps may make
a home less attractive to future buyers.
The other universally appealing modifications that can improve your home’s value include a full
bathroom on the main floor, lever door handles, smart lighting systems, and doorways at least
three feet wide.
Those that detract from resale value include permanent exterior ramps (if you need a ramp, look for a temporary one that can be removed easily), an elevator, and walk-in bathtubs.
Another consideration is money, and aging-in-place features, includes converting a first-floor
living space into a bedroom and bathroom ($100,000-plus), installing grab bars in a bathroom
($600 to $750), and installing a temporary ramp ($1,500 to $1,800) or a permanent one
Bathroom Renovation Trends
The annual Houzz Bathroom research is always a good read, whether you want to make tweaks
to be sure your bathroom is keeping up with trends or if you’re planning a major renovation.
Here are some highlights from the Houzz Bathroom Trends Study.
The biggest trigger for bathroom renovations is an outdated style. This year, 87% of
respondents changed the style of their bathroom, with a transitional look being the top choice
(25%). That was followed by contemporary and modern (16% each).
The transitional style has been steadily gaining ground in recent years. In 2018, just 16% chose
it, but by 2021, 19% opted for it. This year’s least popular styles include Mediterranean, Rustic, Craftsman, and Eclectic (all at 2%).
There’s also a shift in taste around vanities. Though white is still the leading color (32%), 30%
opted for wood.
In addition, the popularity of multicolored countertops slid by four percentage points, with most
choosing solid colors, including white (59%), gray (10%), and beige (9%, up by two percentage
Other motivators for renovating include:
· Finally having the money to make upgrades (28%)
· Improving resale value (28%)
· Personalizing a recently purchased home (22%)
· Safety or health risk, including removing toxic materials and mold (9%).
Homeowners are budgeting more to upgrade their primary bathrooms, with the
median spend rising 13% to $9,000. Spending by homeowners with bigger budgets (the top
10% of project spending) jumped by 17 percent to $35,000 or more.
Forty-one percent of homeowners say they use their newly renovated bathroom as a place to
rest and relax. Features contributing to that vibe include cleanliness, a lack of clutter, soaking in
the bath, long showers, and natural light. Premium features that further enhance the space include a rainfall shower head (52%), dual shower (19%), body sprayer (16%), mood lighting (8%), and a soaking tub (71%).
Arati Hammond is a Seniors Real Estate Specialist at Keller Williams Realty and Luxury
Arati Hammond’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
Florida Is A CLOSED Primary State
Florida’s Presidential Preference Primary (PPP) will be held on March 19, 2024. The (PPP) is part of the presidential nominating process for Florida’s two major political parties. Voters registered with those parties express their preference for the presidential candidate they would like to see representing their party on the General Election ballot in November.
The last day to register to vote or change your party affiliation for the upcoming primary election is February 20, 2024.
Here are some important facts about to know about the upcoming Presidential Preference Primary:
- You must be registered with your political party of choice 29 days before a primary election.
- In primary elections, you are entitled to vote the official primary election ballot of the political party you are registered with, and no other.
- At a general election, you may vote for any candidate or question on the ballot, regardless of party affiliation.
If you need further information or have questions, please contact the Elections Office at 772-288-5637 or visit our website at www.MartinVotes.gov.
Vicki Davis' opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
THE 15TH ANNUAL SWINGING FORE THE ARC GOLF TOURNAMENT A BIG HIT
BENEFITING PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES ON THE TREASURE COAST
Palm City, FL – Par for the course, the ARC of the Treasure Coast’s 15th Annual Swinging Fore the ARC Golf Tournament was a big hit with everybody who attended.
Golfers teed up at the Harbour Ridge Yacht & Country Club in Palm City to raise money for ARC of the Treasure Coast, a local charity assisting and supporting children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.
The team from CTS3 Solutions led by Chris Peddicord earned bragging rights, taking home the top prize.
Eight-time PGA Tour Winner, Fred Funk shared his golf wisdom with attendees demonstrating his best recommendations for overcoming potential challenges on the course. Golfers were thrilled to score some time with Funk who now plays on the PGA Tour Champions where he won the 2009 US Senior OPEN.
This event helps fund the services provided by ARC of the Treasure Coast including summer camps and After-School programs for children, day training programs, community inclusion services, transportation, intensive behavioral services, and Advanced Employment Services for adults.
ARC of the Treasure Coast would like to thank its sponsors Boars Head purveyor - Treasure Coast Provisions, Sailfish Marina of Stuart, CTS3 Solutions, Frito Lay, U.S. Sugar, JJ Taylor Distributing, and Jordan Dynamics for their support.
ARC of the Treasure Coast: is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to assisting and supporting children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to achieve their fullest potential through residential, educational, vocational, behavioral, and other related healthcare services.
STEM for All Ages
Babies, children, and adults at Banner Lake Academy and Early Learning Center are excited to have added STEM lab to our program. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. STEM principles have been a part of our regular classroom curriculum for some time. However, a weekly STEM lab allows children to have specific time dedicated to exploring scientific areas of study, solving engineering and math problems, experimentation, and exploring their world using their senses.
STEM is not so much a subject, but an approach to learning. It is applying the scientific method to everyday life. This is why quality programs have STEM integrated into their regular curriculum. With STEM children develop their critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, teamwork, reasoning, and investigative skills through hands on projects and activities. This not only enriches their education and helps them personally, but paves the way to future success. As technology continues to evolve, STEM related jobs are on the rise
So how does one have a STEM lab for such small children and even babies? The children at Banner Lake Academy and Early Learning Center all will be starting with the same STEM topic simultaneously. Our first topic is Microbiology/Mycology. As the year goes on we will also study plants, birds, space, matter, movement and more. Each of these areas of study will be introduced to each group in their own age appropriate way. And each group will have multiple weeks to fully explore each topic.
This week the older preschool and elementary aged children have done an experiment showing how germs spread around the classroom using glitter. They also began another experiment to grow some of their own fungi and molds on bread, graphing their predictions. Over the next couple of weeks our elementary students will have petri-dishes and microscopic slides to study bacteria colonies with pocket microscopes. They will document their predictions and observations in their own scientific journals. And we will work as a group to come up with ways to help slow the spread of germs in our school.
Each week our babies and toddlers will hear a story about the area of study. Children learn with their senses and our youngest students will usually have a sensory based activity centered around the area of study for that week. This week our toddlers also used glitter to see how germs spread. Both the babies and toddlers played with germ themed sensory bags. The bags are filled with soap that bubbles a little bit when handled. The pom poms and beads simulate germs and the children are using small sponges to “clean” them. In the coming weeks they will practice cleaning hands, try to get glitter germs off of toys with wipes, and make bubbles with water and soap.
STEM lab is a welcome addition here at Banner Lake Academy and Early Learning Center. We are hopeful that we can help children grow in vital life skills and inspire them to pursue career fields in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We also look forward to having a sense of unity while exploring the same areas of study as a large and diverse group of children.
12th Anniversary of Dancing with the Martin Stars Raises Over $200,000
Driving rhythms, fast-paced footwork, and sky-high enthusiasm enthralled the audience at the 2023 Dancing with the Martin Stars, the signature fundraising event of the Martin County Healthy Start Coalition.
Healthy Start, which offers support and education to pregnant women and infants, celebrated its 12th anniversary of the popular event on September 23 at the Lyric Theatre in downtown Stuart.
The sellout event was a resounding success, raising more than $200,000 to support essential programs in Martin County that help ensure every baby is born healthy, every mother is supported, and every father is involved.
The format for the evening included a dynamic, local cast of nine Martin County “celebrities,” each paired with a professional dance instructor. These brave, novice dancers not only put their best foot forward to shine on the dance floor, but were also tasked with raising funds from friends, neighbors and business colleagues through sponsorships, ticket sales and contributions.
Carol Briseno and Jang Don danced their way to a resounding championship at the 2023 Dancing with the Martin Stars competition to benefit Martin County’s Healthy Start Coalition.
The goal was to win enough votes from a judges’ panel to claim bragging rights as the Dancing with the Martin Stars Champion 2023.
Dr. Brian Moriarty, owner and president of Loving Chiropractic of Stuart; Megan Acosta, former ballroom dancer and instructor turned realtor for Brokers Choice Realty; and Dmitriy Kuzmenko, owner and professional ballroom instructor at In Motion Ballroom served as Judges. Mike Gonzalez, a 2018 Star Alumni, emceed the event for the third year in a row.
Carol Briseno of Martin County Parks & Recreation and her dancing partner Jang Don walked away with top honors and the coveted trophy for highest combined scores in both dancing and fundraising.
In addition to Carol and Jang, these dancers also brought the audience to a pitch of enthusiasm: Noel Thomas, CEO of Zero Trafficking, paired with Cheri Shanti Garcia; Joan Goodrich, Executive Director of the Martin County Business Development Board, paired with Craig Galvin; Jacilyn Mikels, Director of Aesthetics at JeuneNu Aesthetic with Women’s Health Specialists, paired with Michael Chaves; Nikki Leserra, Creative Director at Sky is the Limit Events and Marketing, paired with Brian Spector; Tony George, Elder Law attorney, paired with Marianella Tobar; Monique Robbins of Pretty Little Cupcakes, paired with Yusell Garcia; Dr. Kurt Barnhill, Precision Chiropractic & Rehab, paired with Daisy Krakowiak-Wiebe; and Dr. Edward Savage, Cardiothoracic surgeon at Cleveland Clinic, paired with Tanya Chaves.
There were several award winners in a variety of categories: Overall Champions Carol and Jang, who were also the Top Fundraising Team and Top Dancing Team; First Runner-Up Dance Team and First Runner-Up Fundraising Team Jacilyn & Michael; Second Runner-Up Fundraising Team Tony & Marianella.
“We’re so grateful for the entire community who support us each year,” Healthy Start CEO Samantha Suffich said. “From our local celebrities who danced their hearts out on stage and raised funds off stage to the audience that filled the Lyric to capacity, everyone brought their passion for both the event and the cause it supports.”
The evening’s sponsors included: Casco Companies, Inc., HOG Technologies, JeuneNu Aesthetic Beauty & Laser Center, Premier Air & Private Jets, Loving Chiropractic of Stuart, Inc., Ashley Capital, FPL- Florida Power & Light, Zen Den Infusion Lounge, The Gordana Uscumlic Foundation, Women’s Health Specialists, Owen Insurance Group, Madoli Marketing, Coastal Detox, and Sunshine Land Design
Pinot & Picasso: A Decade of Distinction
By Jackie Holfelder
Pinot & Picasso, An Evening of Fine Wine and Art, will be celebrating A Decade of Distinction on Saturday, November 18 to benefit Helping People Succeed.
Graciously hosted once again by Bill Lichtenberger, the soiree kicks off with cocktails from 5:30-7 p.m., followed by dinner and entertainment at the always elegant Harbour Ridge Yacht and Country Club.
Highlights of the evening will include wine pairings, libations, silent and live auctions and the piece de resistance, an opportunity to meet the artists of Helping People Succeed’s 2024 Art for Living Calendar.
This year’s talented dozen includes Kirsty Smith Innis, Marian Vitale, Charlie White, Susan Clifford, Stacy Weller Ranieri, Pat Hoshino, Dan Mackin, Patrice Scott, Don MacIntosh, Sharon Ferina, Pamela Patterson, Sue Ann Mosley-Saleeby, Holly Cannon and Laura DeBerard. Each artist generously contributed a piece of art to Helping People Succeed to be used on the calendar, one of the nonprofit’s major fundraising endeavors.
Darcy Weir will be the emcee for the evening and special entertainment will be provided by Fullhouse Entertainment.
Tickets are only $200 per person and include valet parking. Creative cocktail attire is strongly encouraged.
Sponsorship opportunities ranging from $250-$10,000 are available.
The mission of Helping People Succeed, which has been improving lives on the Treasure Coast for more than half a decade, is to transform lives by realizing potential, creating hope and building futures through education, counseling, training and employment.
Pinot & Picasso committee members and artists Charlie White (artist), Sallie Snyder, Don MacIntosh (artist), Patty Pollak, Heidi Bosley, Pam Patterson (artist), Sue Ann Mosley (artist), Conchita Vallecillo, Sharon Ferina, (artist), Marian Vitale (artist), Patrice Scott (artist) and Dale Forbes
It’s Time to Apply for Live Your Dream Awards
By Jackie Holfelder
Since 1972, Soroptimist International’s Live Your Dream Awards program has been helping women who are working to better their lives through additional schooling and skills training.
The financial support they receive is often the difference in whether or not they can continue with the education that is so precious to them.
This spring, Soroptimist International of Stuart (SIS) was able to present two women with 2023 awards at their Awards Dinner in May.
On August 1, the application portal for the 2024 Live Your Dream Awards opened and the enrollment process – which is completely online – couldn’t be simpler.
The parameters for the Live Your Dream award specify the recipient must be a primary breadwinner for themself and their dependents, be attending an undergraduate degree program or a vocational skills training program and have a financial need.
Recent winners have used their monetary awards at local schools such as IRSC and Keiser University to pursue degrees and careers in nursing, digital media, health care management and social work, among other fields.
Photo by Nidia Bernstiel
Barbara Spyke, Soroptimist Southern Regional Governor-elect, Marie Kennedy and Breanna Buchanan, 2023 Live Your Dream winner
Eligible applicants should submit their applications between August 1 - November 15.
Ultimately, a Live Your Dream Awards finalist has the potential to receive up to $16,000 to help offset tuition costs, purchase books, apply towards transportation or find reliable childcare so she can worry less about how to pay her bills and focus on reaching her dreams.
For more information or to apply for a Live Your Dream Award online, visit www.soroptimistofstuart.org.
NEW EXCITEMENT COMING TO INDIANTOWN RODEO THIS YEAR, AN ADDITIONAL VENUE AND THE TOM JACKSON BAND
An all-new venue was added to the 76th Annual Indiantown PCRA Rodeo on Oct. 20-21, Friday and Saturday nights, the Rodeo Beer Garden. Patrons can enjoy a LIVE performance by the popular Tom Jackson Band from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. each night as they sip the beer they purchased. They may stay to watch the arena's rodeo action that follows at 7 p.m. on the Jumbotron and TVs, much like a sports-bar experience, instead of seated in the arena's bleachers.
Gates open at 5 p.m. each night to showcase dozens of vendors, including jewelry, cowboy hats, and lip-smacking barbecue, plus the award-winning Kids Corral stocked with rodeo-themed activities for young’uns ages 3-12.
The arena action starts at 7 p.m. with the traditional taste of the Wild West, including bull riding, bronc riding, bareback bronc riding, steer wrestling, calf roping, barrel racing, and for the first time, breakaway roping, which may bring more cowgirls onto the sawdust.
And, of course, the ever-popular rodeo clowns will again take center stage, where they'll pull a prank or two to delight kids of all ages.
General admission tickets to the grounds and the arena are $25 each; the Beer Garden and Tom Jackson Band performance tickets are $50 each; and a special VIP ticket entitles patrons to a buffet dinner, top-tier libations for purchase, the most-coveted seating in the arena, and air-conditioned rest rooms for $100 each.
A fundraiser for the Indiantown Chamber of Commerce and its scholarship fund, the presenting sponsors this year are Terra Lago and U.S. Sugar. To purchase tickets, go to ticketbud.com or log onto www.IndiantownChamber.org. For more information, email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 772-597-2184. And dust off those cowboy boots.
From Ronald Schatten
After reading Ms. VanRIpper’s screed in the latest edition of Friends & Neighbors, Martin County, I couldn’t help but wonder how she became Executive Director of the Martin County Taxpayers Association.
Her distorted use of a suicide incident was beyond her ken. It is unfortunate that any human being resorts to suicide to resolve any financial issue. The fact that she used the term “rogue” to describe an IRS agent shows that she has no understanding of the role of the IRS within our government.
She relates a story that she supposedly heard, at least, third hand, which is normally considered hearsay without corroboration. That is completely irresponsible. It would behoove her to verify the story and its source before reporting the incident in another publication.
Relating the incident about her overpayment to the IRS, caused by her inept CPA, and the subsequent action of the IRS only reinforces the fact that the IRS funding cuts by the Republican party have caused immeasurable harm to the proper functioning of that governmental agency.
I had to laugh when Ms. VanRipper made the statement “I said to the woman “Didn’t you guys just hire 87,000 more agents? Can you give one of them a pen?” when, as the “Executive Director” she should know that the monies allocated would not be received immediately and there wasn’t a line of 87,000 qualified individuals standing outside the doors of the IRS waiting to be hired.
The fact that she cites a round table conducted by a partisan politician as the source of her anecdotal evidence only makes her information more suspect.
Since the IRS deals with the tax returns of individuals and businesses, I fail to understand how state revenue impacts the IRS decision on which taxpayers get audited and only provides more confusing and convoluted logic in her submission.
Under the current tax structure 87.3% (2018 tax Year) of taxpayers file their returns using the standard deduction. This means that the only reason the IRS would look at those returns is the omission of income earned by the taxpayer or mathematical error. Therefore, the remaining 12.7% of taxpayers, which includes the wealthy and businesses are the only taxpayers that have the ability to cheat on their returns.
To summarize, I would have thought that the Executive Director of the Martin County Taxpayers Association would strive to provide correct information. If she wishes to continue publishing material similar to the referenced article, she should be doing it without the attribution of the Taxpayer Council.
COMMISSION MEETING OCTOBER 10, 2023
The outcome of this item brought no joy to me as a resident of Martin County.
I never thought the Martin County Board of County Commissioners would spend $4 millionof taxpayers’ money to remove a piece of property for a made-up public purpose. But in Palm City where bad decisions seem always to be a priority, this was the topper. In the past because of NIMBYism, they traded in Costco for Tractor Supply and Wawa’s. And now this.
Because of government by tee shirt, a by-right project was stopped that would have provided 90 units of housing. It would have contributed millions of dollars to the general fund over the life of the development. Money that will no longer be available to pay for things like parks, law enforcement, and fire/rescue. Not just in Palm City but throughout the county. The 6 + acres are located across from Danforth on Martin Highway in the old Palm City CRA.
There is much to dislike about this outcome and very little to benefit the entire county. Michael Syrkus, a Palm City resident, started out his comments by saying he too was sick of all the development. If he had $4 million, he would have bought the property and let the grass grow. But he didn’t have that money and neither did the county. They just passed a budget last week and nowhere was that amount allocated for the purchase. He called the purchase irresponsible.
Chair Ciampi who is championing the cause said that, like Syrkus, everyone is frustrated with development. Once the project is built (90 multi-family units on 6+ acres), it will be there forever. He is appreciative to the developer for allowing his interest to be bought. The only people that will ultimately pay for it are those in Palm City. Martin Highway is not a Main Street therefore CRA rules should not apply.
Commissioner Heard’s point that you can’t buy your way out of more development makes sense. There isn’t the money. If Ciampi’s district funds are going to be used, then he is burdening his successor (unless, like Smith and Heard, he intends to remain a commissioner forever). It is a regulatory problem. She is against the CRA regs and it is the fault of the others for voting for them.
Commissioner Jenkins stated that he was for it before because of borrowing instead of coming from the general fund. Now with the current plan to take money out of reserves, he cannot support it. He could support a couple of months of using the general fund dollars if it is for a bridge loan to permanent financing can be arranged and paid for by CRA funds and district funds. In Hobe Sound’s CRA, the Treasure Coast Planning Council analyzed every parcel to see the various outcomes.
Commissioner Smith rejects the idea that CRAs are not useful. In Jensen Beach, there were two years of community meetings around the plan. He then knocked Stuart for allowing building. His district encompasses part of the city.
Ciampi wants to have community meetings. The property will partially be some sort of STA. The county will have access to Danforth Creek and therefore be able to better monitor and clean its entire length. Perhaps a piece of it could be sold off to be a strip medical plaza. The appraisals bear this out coming up to more than the $4 million price being paid. He is representing his constituents.
Jenkins then said he could support it if it were only a short bridge loan, and the payback would be by the Palm City funds. He also wants to see something go back on the tax rolls.
Then Ciampi piped up and said he would be fine with 50% of the property doing just that.
Smith then made a motion to acquire the property using a bank loan to be paid by district and CRA funds. The district commissioner will work with Palm City residents to come up with a vision. There was no mention of any specific percentage of land to return to the tax rolls. It was seconded by Jenkins.
Commissioner Hetherington said she did not believe the appraisals. She did not hear anything in the motion about having some of the property returned to the tax rolls. Because of the total price being paid, the county will not be made whole.
Administrator Donaldson needed the commission to acknowledge that the purchase was for a public purpose. You cannot use public funds unless a public purpose is stated. Smith assured him it was.
The vote to purchase was 3-2 with Hetherington and Heard dissenting.
While I was disappointed in the vote, I learned a few things. I have not always been supportive of the “district fund” concept but understand that sometimes it could be used to augment other county money to have a needed project done. In the past, there has been some misuse (e.g., the $200,000 spent of Smith’s fund to have a more architecturally pleasing roof on a new fire house), I still thought the good outweighed the bad.
I was wrong. Even though those funds are raised in the geographic district, the legislature did not mean that they could be spent on anything. Residents who live in a municipality do not pay district funds. Conversely, district funds cannot be spent within a municipality. They were meant to augment municipal enhancements such as parks and basic infrastructure in unincorporated parts of the county. Some of our commissioners have stretched that definition as in this case. Those funds should go away because they are being abused.
The developer was praised for being civic minded. Any businessperson would love a profit like that any day. The developer was the beneficiary of poor public policy.
The blame CRAs are receiving by Heard and others is unjustified. CRA’s are to be created to take a blighted or underserved area and give it a jump start for better housing and business development. It is correct that those areas should be in downtown denser areas where walkability and established neighborhoods already exist. They are not meant to be used or established instead of zoning.
When this area was incorporated in the Old Palm City CRA, it was to allow the building of a shopping center. The commission should have just rezoned that one parcel instead of what they did. Again, it is a misuse of a valid redevelopment tool for a political reason.
What Heard is right about is that this parcel could have comfortably held 90 units. Further the design of the building being on the street is required by the codes which are predicated on CRAs being in a more urban setting. CRAs aren’t to blame for this SNAFU, but politicians are.
Lastly, I think Smith, Jenkins, and especially Ciampi believe that they are only responsible for the residents of their geographic district. That is wrong. They run county wide…we all vote for them. Our state legislators truly represent political subdivisions. I am currently in John Snyder’s district for the Florida House. I can only vote for a candidate who runs from that district.
After the Baker v. Carr Supreme Court decision in 1962 and in subsequent cases, every person must be treated equally when it comes to his vote on representation… “the one person one vote standard.” Under Florida law, Martin County is known as an “At Large District Residency System.” There are five geographical districts nearly equally populated, and a commissioner runs from the district where he lives.
Though commissioners are spread out throughout the county, they are elected by all voters irrespective of where the voter lives in the county. It supposedly gives each district someone who understands the area but represents the interests of every resident. Jenkins, Smith, and Ciampi have forgotten the part about representing all 163,000 Martin County residents.
It appears to me, though I live in Hetherington’s district, that she hasn’t forgotten the other roughly 80% of Martin County residents. And I would say neither has Heard. Every voter should vote for five commissioners that consider the greater good of the county not the parochial interest of one geographic district.
We should all remember that when we vote in 2024 when the commissioners of Jensen Beach, Hobe Sound, and Palm City are up for re-election. Those of us in another part of the county have an equal say as to whether they are returned to office.
You can see the appraisals here
PAL MAR BOARD MEETING OCTOBER 6, 2023
District Engineer Bob Higgins asked for clarification on what needs to be surveyed so that he can obtain a few bids. He recommended canals and easements. Board member then led an exhaustive discussion. It was decided to survey just the works of the district.
Deputy Smith gave his report stating that hunting season has started. No citations have been issued since the last meeting. He had placed his camera at a strategic area but after three days it was discovered and “messed with.”
Cutter found ammunition shells at Gate 7. He believes it is a dangerous situation for Mr. Mansell, the maintenance supervisor. Cutter wanted to know whether anything could be done, perhaps posting a sign.
Deputy Smith stated that it was permissible to shoot on SFWMD land. He believes that the lease agreement or LOA between FWC and SFWMD could say that within the area no shooting should be allowed. Then FWC could make a regulation by passing only their board which would prohibit it. FWC has the authority to make their own regulations without approval from Tallahassee. Chair Marino and the board thought staff and legal could get together with the two agencies.
The engineer wanted to propose a raise. Mr. Stokus stated that then it may be time to have a few engineering firms bid on the district. The board concurred. Mansell gave a brief update stating about the danger of gunshots and how people were destroying works of the district. Mansell said he would be finding someone to repair damage to the works. Again, Stokus asked that a couple of bids be obtained.
There will be no November meeting. The next meeting will be on December 7th.
By Kyla Shay
Trailside HOA President
Another tilt at the Martin County Commission is being made to approve the Harmony Development at what residents of this small area of Martin County call the “Four Corners”.
Specifically, the intersection of Bridge Road & Highway 711, otherwise known as Pratt-Whitney Road. 4000 homes are being presented in a clustering pattern for approval. The prior approval requires 1 residential unit for every 20 acres. We have no doubt it will be approved this time. The Board of County Commissioners is approving any new development requested. Our county has certainly changed from the Green County to builders come one come all.
In 2010, the average size of a residential home was 2.19 persons. For us, that would mean a minimum of 8000 more drivers per day on our single lane roads. The traffic has continued to build over the past 5 years.
First, it was Christ Fellowship. Twice a week massive traffic that requires off duty sheriff’s deputies to manage. Now, Highpointe is open with Phase Two commencing shortly. Yes, the request is up for approval. We see the signs. It will be approved.
More traffic seven days a week. Traffic that allegedly will utilize Bulldog Drive as the entrance for their community. Is it a good idea to mix the high school traffic with new residential traffic? Will Phase Two have to contribute to the maintenance of Bulldog Drive? Are they getting a freebie on our tax dollars to significantly increase the vehicular traffic on that road?
Trailside HOA queried the county commission at the planning meetings and approval meetings as to where Highpointe Phase One’s entrance was going to be. We were assured it would not be on the steep curve of Highway 711 to the north of South Fork. This is just not so.
Another misrepresentation by developers and the county officials. The entrance is on the steep curve. The developer added a median separating the traffic and streetlights along a section of Pratt Whitney Road (Highway 711). The streetlights were not disclosed to us on the planning application. The light fixtures are very close to the road. It won’t be long before one of the light poles causes a fatality when someone loses control on that section of road.
The median has not made it safer to traverse the area. It is just the opposite, continual irrigation is flowing to the plants and overflowing on the south side lane. The mulch is floating in all the water making the road debris littered. The bicycle riders will need to exercise extreme caution. It is an accident waiting to happen in more ways than one.
4000 more homes adding to an already overburdened county highway. In the morning Between 6 am and 9 am, 2-6 pm and 10-11:30 pm, it is extremely dangerous to try to exit Trailside Run onto Pratt-Whitney. Frequently, we must wait over 10 minutes for a questionable opening in traffic.
The south bound traffic headed towards Jupiter and the north bound traffic headed to Stuart and Port St Lucie is horrendous. The vehicles do not obey the speed limit of 55 miles per hour. Average speed is well over 70 MPH. Other drivers behave badly when we are trying to make the turn to our neighborhood. Occasionally, the Florida Highway Patrol patrols the highway. We rarely see Martin County Sheriff’s department out checking speeds and ticketing. I personally, have not witnessed MCSO out for traffic stops on Pratt Whitney for over two years. Trailside HOA and its residents are used to not having the general support provided in the rest of Martin County.
In 2010, we petitioned both FDOT and Martin County Board of County Commissioners to put in the turn lanes our developer was not required to put in at the time of our neighborhood development. It was a sleepy off the beaten path neighborhood. At the time, bike lanes were being added, we asked for turning lanes for the safety of our residents and guests. Our request was denied. Why???? The reason was we had not met the criteria. What was the criteria you ask? We had not the REQUIRED 5 fatalities within a mile of our gate. FIVE FATALITIES. The cost of turning lanes is 5 lives. It is sad that road improvements are based on lives lost, not lives saved.
We were “gifted” additional striping on the road designating it a no passing area in addition to a FDOT sign designating a cross street. It is extremely hard to make a 90-degree left or right turn when traffic is riding your bumper or passing in the no passing designated areas. Imagine traveling north and having to turn left across traffic at 70+ MPH. Do you think the cars behind you recognize a turn signal at that speed? I can assure you they do not. They just press the gas harder and pass anyway.
Turning left to head north out of the neighborhood is a joy also. If there is a break in traffic, you better pray that someone isn’t passing the second you initiate your turn. Many residents make the left to find a vehicle at 80+ MPH passing in the no passing zone. Yes, it is a no passing designated area. No, they do not care. Arriving to their destination 8 seconds earlier is all they care about.
The green area across from our development is the only place to go. They are breaking road rules, but we are the ones who are in danger frequently. So, by all means, let’s add 8000 more vehicles to Highway 711 and Bridge Road. Maybe they can contribute to the 5 fatalities we need within a mile of our gate to have FDOT and Martin County fix the problem.
Over the past two years, Trailside HOA has made improvements to our entrance. We removed an outer island to allow more room for our residents and guest to turn off Pratt Whitney (711). We provided the means to allow us to enter at a higher rate of speed as dictated by the speed demons following us on the highway. Turn signals and no passing zone markings do not deter their behavior.
We moved our keypad entrance equipment back 80 feet to allow more vehicles to exit Pratt Whitney (711). We have done what we could. My question is with the added traffic, will the County and FDOT do the right thing? Will they add the turning lanes that should have been added on the development plan? Or are we going to be forced to wait for those five fatalities?
I’m betting bureaucracy will hold the decision and require the five fatalities. Safe travels everyone.
Kyla Shay’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
COMMISSION MEETING OCTOBER 9, 2023
Lee Baggett was sworn in as city attorney with his family in attendance. It seemed to be a long time coming.
During this six-month search, the city found itself without a city attorney at city hall for long intervals as the interim was away on vacation three separate times. The commission did not do the taxpayer justice by placing old loyalties above the best interest of the people.
We all form attachments that may cloud our judgement at times. This is one of the hardest parts of their jobs…putting friendships aside and at times risking those friendships to do what is best for their city and constituents.
That is why I was glad to see that the item to hire the acting city attorney as an emeritus city attorney was removed from the agenda. It should not come back and if it does should be defeated. If it had been voted on, it would not have passed.
The undergrounding of utilities in the downtown corridor has been a project in the works for some time. During that period, the cost has only increased. The delay was predicated on a pay-as-you-go scheme by squirreling money away. All the while there was only a rough idea of how much it would cost. The rough idea only became more out of synch with the actual cost as time went on.
It is now up to, I believe, $7 million. However, the estimate from the only bidder for the project was nowhere in the agenda packet. More and more lately, there is a tendency to not provide everything for the public to be able to review in the agenda packet. The commission voted to have staff negotiate with the contractor to obtain a better price.
It has taken several years. Managers and commissions have changed. The price has ballooned. And some believe that undergrounding is not the best for power lines because of water intrusion.
It is a CRA project. It is not clear why the CRA didn’t bond the money to complete this many years ago. That is what CRAs are meant to do. Now Stuart will either pay much more than anticipated or be stuck with large cement FPL polls in the middle of the sidewalks. In either instance, the backlash from disgruntled business owners and others will be felt.
The city has completed spending its ARPA dollars by providing $500,000 to non-profits.
I don’t know why those funds were not used for infrastructure the city needs or other hard projects. But using it to help non-profits is acceptable and valid under government guidelines. To know more see the agenda item here
COMMISSION MEETING OCTOBER 10, 2023
The commission discussed the town manager’s goals for the coming year.
What was brought up was something referred to as “community goals.” It was explained that it is important for the manager to work toward having events that the entire town can enjoy. There was also discussion about the disposition regarding the property the commission bought to have an STA. It seems that achievement of this particular goal may be impossible since it is outside of his control.
Mayor Tompeck suggested that maybe they could sell the part of the property where the existing home is located so that the interest payment would go away. Manager Daniels reminded them that until the work on the STA is complete, the person who bought the house property would be living within a construction zone. Daniels also said that he is still waiting for all the funding for the STA.
You can see the rest of the item here
The mayor then brought up how the incentive payment for the town manager should be interpreted. This was reviewed at a previous meeting. The contract language states that the payment becomes part of the manager’s base. The contract that was signed was written before Daniels applied for the job. It was part of the package.
Tompeck still believes that it was meant to be an additional one-time payment. Fender agreed but thinks the discussion with the manager should occur off the dais with the mayor. He does not want this issue to de-incentivize the manager.
Kurzman mentioned that he always sees the manager working whether it is in his office or standing in knee high water. Mayfield asked what the duration of the contract is, which is 3 years. The attorney has interpreted the language of the contract to be that the payment would be part of the base.
Campo does not like the fact that the mayor would be the one negotiating on behalf of the commission. “He is one of five.” Any discussion would come back to the commission to approve. In the past, Campo acted on behalf of the town and then it came back to the commission for ratification. He would be in favor of leaving it alone because of the job the manager is doing. It was decided to leave it alone.
Daniels broached the subject of a charter review which hasn’t been done since 2006. According to Fender, the commission decided that no review was necessary in 2016. Daniels mentioned that he and a group of four or five residents should be the charter review committee. He envisions their work to be completed by March of 2024.
He will come back with a timeline for the commission in an agenda item. If there are no changes to the charter, then Daniels would ask that the commission pass a resolution saying so. Any changes by the committee are recommendations to the commission which has the final approval before it goes to the voters.
INDIANTOWN BUDGET & REGULAR MEETING SEPTEMBER 28,2023
There were two short meetings.
The budget meeting was 12 minutes long. They passed the budget with the same millage rate (1.6304) that they have had since the town’s inception. The budget can be found here
The regular meeting was a little more than an hour. There was a presentation by the consultant via Zoom regarding a master parks plan. Unfortunately, it took many minutes to even have the presentation begin due to technical difficulties. When it did begin, no one could hear it except those in the chamber.
This lack of audio is now a problem here as well as at the school board. In 2023, this is unacceptable and needs to be fixed. People want to be involved and informed but cannot be.
The second problem at the meeting was the two male council members did not speak into their microphones. I can hear the three females loud and clear, so it is not an equipment failure. The village manager is quite easy to understand. Unfortunately, the parks director stands away from the mic at the podium and could not be heard at times either.
Using earphones, someone should be listening to what is going out over the air and being recorded. That person could then make sure that immediate corrections are made. The current method is unacceptable.
The park plan calls for nearly $23 million in maintenance, facility expansion, a new facility and staff costs. There is dedicated funding of $1.2 million on an annual basis over the five-year planning period and $2 million for years 6-10. The current budget for all of Indiantown is $9 million.
A great plan to go on the shelf. To see the presentation go here
THE NON-ELECTION AT OCEAN BREEZE
And then there were three…
What looked like at first to be a competitive election with six people running for three seats has now dropped down to three candidates for three seats. Incumbent Kevin Docherty along with newcomers Michael Heller and Matthew Squires will now round out the council. Sandra Kelly, Gina Kent, and Liz Reese are still on the council along with Mayor Karen Ostrand.
Ostrand and Docherty are from the park while the rest are from Sea Walk. It seems the new development will be firmly in control of the town government. Ocean Breeze may at some point decide to unincorporate especially once the PUDs come into compliance.
The town with no streets, parks, or even a sidewalk, has very little purpose. The cost of complying with all the state laws is not astronomical but significant. Only time will tell.
Jupiter Island is still awash in intrigue.
Another “concerned resident” email has been making the rounds. Similar to the first one, this also highlights the actions of Anne Scott. This time it is for her performance castigating her fellow commissioners for choosing Joe Taddeo as a new commissioner. The email is reprinted here:
For those of you who attended the recent Commission meetings, in person or remotely, what I have to say here will come as no surprise. You may still be experiencing PTSD.
Hopefully, those of you who missed it will go to the email giving the meeting notice and view the video recording. If you have difficulty with this, contact the Town Clerk for assistance. You must see to believe what transpired. Don’t take my or anyone else’s word for it.
One of the first agenda items was the appointment of two Commissioners from a slate of three candidates. Patsy Warner was appointed by the unanimous vote of the three sitting Commissioners. Next, Joseph Taddeo was appointed by the majority vote of 2 to 1. So far, so good.
Clearly, the vote came as an unanticipated shock to Commissioner Anne Scott. Initially, she tried to insist on a unanimous vote. She was corrected by the Town Attorney. A simple majority of the quorum was all that was needed.
Apparently, Anne felt betrayed by her fellow Commissioners. She had made it abundantly clear that she has great animosity toward Joe Taddeo. In previous public considerations of his candidacy, she spoke against him.
Still, nothing could have prepared anyone for the shocking tirade which followed. As a person who prides herself as having been an attorney and a judge, her statements were woefully ill-considered.
I had watched sometime back via public access TV when Anne addressed the current County Commissioners during public comment and called the County Commission a “den of vipers.” I knew she had this behavior in her but never guessed she would debase herself this way from her seat on the Commissioners’ dais. It was a disrespectful and alarming performance. She had a right to object to his appointment but not to do so in such an inappropriate manner.
Mayor Townsend tried repeatedly to rein her in, with limited success.
As Anne raged on and proceeded to apparently defame the newly appointed Commissioner Taddeo, the Mayor and Vice Mayor appeared appropriately uncomfortable.
Anne Scott then displayed a copy of her mug shot, about which she claimed to be “inordinately proud.” That was an excellent choice of adjective – inordinate means “disproportionately excessive.” That may have been a Freudian slip?
Apparently, a recent letter from this author had also set her off and she wanted to discuss it. It had seemingly prompted the display of said mug shot.
Mayor Townsend desperately urged her to desist.
Speaking of letters, below I’ve provided the text of Maura Collins’s letter of resignation. It is amazingly prescient:
It is with a deep sense of concern for the fiscal well-being and general community emotional health that I must submit my resignation.
The Town Commission has voted to “study resetting the Waterfront Setback Line for the purpose of writing an ordinance." This I believe will expose the town to a potentially enormous amount of liability. It will lead, once again, to the Town's residents paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and wasting thousands and thousands of hours of staff time that should be devoted to the work of running the Town.
I have been a Commissioner since 2013. What the Town is now experiencing is unprecedented. I believe the majority of the Commission has a vision of government that I do not support, therefore, my service is no longer of benefit to the Town or my fellow Commissioners. The Town government is willing to gamble that no one will find fault in the Commissions judgement and sue the Town over resetting the Waterfront Setback Line. This I believe is faulty thinking.
I want the best for the Town and I want it protected from future litigation and future turmoil.
I can no longer serve this purpose therefore I am resigning my position as a Town Commissioner effective immediately.
I wish you, Anne, and Marshall great wisdom in your decision making.
It has been my honor to serve as a Commissioner of Jupiter Island.
Cc: Vice Mayor Marshall Field
Commissioner Anne Scott
Interim Town Manager Robert Garlo
Town Attorney Thomas Baird
Town Clerk Kim Kogos
Where do we go from here? Is there hope Anne Scott will be able to get a grip and function in the best interests of our Town or will things go from bad to worse? Will the day come when she is removed by the Town or the Governor?
Your guess is as good as mine.
Until we know the answer to that and good number of other questions, I remain your friend and heartbroken neighbor.
In fairness to Scott, she did state she was sorry for her outburst. That doesn’t excuse the outburst. This all comes down to an inability to accept that newer people are not going to forego what they see as their property rights.
The war is ongoing and there will be more such missives ahead. It is almost as if the place is coming apart at the seams. The participants can pretend that it is about the environment but it comes down to money and who is going to pay for the actions of Jupiter Island government.
MARTIN COUNTY CORRUPTION EXPOSED
Stephen G. Leighton has persevered in his quest to find out who was behind the Facebook pages “Martin County Corruption Exposed” and “Martin County Watchdog.” Both pages have been ruthlessly purporting to expose the evilness of our seemingly corrupt county.
What those pages really are is a web of untruths packaged as diligently researched inuendo. Many of us have been subjects of it. Leighton did the heavy lifting and found out who was behind it.
For that he should be commended. He has exposed the main person who has remained anonymous for several years. The pages were full of unbelievable statements that were libelous.
Leighton has done every resident of Martin County a service. Sarah Merker, the person that Leighton will now substitute for John Doe in his lawsuit filed in Martin County, has been found out to have been the author behind the pages. Leighton, as do many others, believes there are other people involved.
I have disagreed with Leighton at times. But any disagreements I wrote about were kept to policy and I never wrote anything that was personal. Stephen Leighton has at times criticized me but has done it in the open at a public meeting. Friends & Neighbors is not the National Enquirer. We don’t deal in the personal life of others.
And that is where Merker went wrong. If she disagreed with Mr. Leighton, me, or anyone else, she could have done so by expressing her opinion or opposition in an open manner where ideas are expressed and not personalities. Trying to weave together some complex web of conspiracy theories to state how horrible and supposedly corrupt everyone is does not belong in our community.
If there is anyone else who is part of those two pages, they too should be exposed. If it is proven in court that Merker is the person who has been responsible, then Stephen Leighton has done Martin County a favor. And I want to personally say thank you.
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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.
Tom Campenni 772-341-7455 (c) Email: email@example.com
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