December 3, 2023

Friends & Neighbors Edition

In this Edition

2023 is drawing to a close and we at Friends & Neighbors want to thank you for your continued support.

As we move into the new year, we will continue to bring you the latest on the news in Martin County. If you enjoy reading our publication, we need you to tell your friends and neighbors about us and make sure they sign up to receive our publication. It is easy to do from our website and if you want just send me their email addresses and I will make sure they are added to the list.

One of our new columnists this week is Dr. Rishi Singh, Cleveland Clinic’s president. I hope you will enjoy his monthly columns keeping us informed about what is happening at our hospital.

We would love to have your feedback so drop us a line and let us know. Again, it is very easy to do from our website. And don’t forget if you or someone you know wants to be a regular contributor contact us to discuss. All points of view are welcomed here.

There is one more edition for 2023 coming out December 17th. Then we settle down for the holidays until after the New Year of 2024 arrives.

Have A Happy Sunday Morning!

The Liturgical Season Of Waiting

Now that Thanksgiving is over, Christians of almost every denomination will be entering the four weeks of Advent on December 3rd.

It is the beginning for Catholics of the new liturgical year. Advent is only four Sundays long. It is a time of vigilant waiting for Jesus to come and save us by his birth. The most well-known hymn of the season “O Come, O Come Emanuel” is sung.

As a young choir boy, I remember singing it in Latin. “Veni, Veni Emanuel, Captivum solve Israel. I can no longer remember the rest of the hymn in Latin. Even though it was incorporated into the Mass for the four weeks of the advent season.

And though we were taught that we were waiting for Baby Jesus, we were also waiting for the toys that came on Christmas Day. It’s funny how many times while celebrating the birth of Jesus we received toy soldiers and make believe six-shooters as our presents.  It was a disconnect from the birth of the Prince of Peace.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were busy for our choir. There was the Christmas Eve service and then two masses on Christmas Day. The children’s mass was at 9 and lasted about an hour, but the high mass at noon was longer. We sang with the adult choir for the later one.

And that was the end of the waiting. Christmas Eve was the beginning of Christmas. It lasted until the Feast of the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. As kids going forward, we spent more time inside. It was cold outside and dark by about 4:30. We settled in for our long winter nap with the occasional snow ball fight.

In a few months, Lenten time would come. The days would progressively lengthen. Outside became warmer and more suitable for playing. And ultimately, the choir would begin rehearsing for Easter and the Resurrection.

Florida Has Grown Expensive

Florida is in a full-blown crisis of affordability.

Just a few short years ago, the cost of housing, taxes and insurance was less than in most other parts of the country. The expensive Northeast was allowing the opportunity of a lifetime for those wanting to move to sunnier climates. They could trade in their expensive homes there for much cheaper ones here.

Insurance costs were less than in their former homes. That fueled a boom of people moving here. Yet we have all heard or been subject to the horror stories of condo and HOA fees going through the roof because of the rising cost of insurance. And this added expense is on top of everything being a bit more expensive since covid.

Because of ever more stringent building codes and increases in material and labor costs, the prices of homes have been rising rapidly. Considering the lack of inventory in Martin County, the cost of the basic home is out of the reach of many. We are right at the tipping point where places like Martin County will be home to the well-to-do but no one else.

Some may be happy that the gate is slamming shut. They have their piece of paradise, and it is too bad for the rest. What they do not seem to understand is that unless they become ever more well-to-do, they too will be priced out of the market because of rising living costs.

Retiring folks once came to Florida because of all the housing options available, but that won’t be possible in the future. As we age, how many of us will cash out of our now high-priced Florida homes and go somewhere else to live out our golden years?

Too Close To Fail

When the public sector makes a deal with the private sector, which one usually comes out on top?

It is no secret that if I put executives and their attorneys into a room with bureaucrats and their attorneys, the winners will be the guys running companies and their legal experts against anything the government can send in. This is not to disparage the government people; it is only to point out that their focus isn’t on increasing the bottom line. Their bosses, the elected officials, are equally out of their element.

The two sectors have different goals. Government doesn’t run like a business and never will. Its mission is to provide services from police to parks that the private sector will not or cannot do. Just look at how Martin County provides trash services for their ratepayers. Whether you live on a farm in the middle of nowhere or in a populated CRA area, you will receive the same number of pickups.

What private business would charge the same rate for the same service but because of where the customer is located one costs more than the other to provide? This example is multiplied many times over with the difference in how the two sectors view the world.

Several years ago, Martin County made a settlement with Brightline to end the county’s lawsuit and stop fighting after suffering many legal defeats. As far as the parties were concerned, it was a good outcome for both, and it was. Times, business philosophies, and perceptions change.

As part of the settlement, Brightline is obligated to build a station on the Treasure Coast, and if it is in Martin County, the county government is obligated to pay half the cost. Skip ahead to today and the scenario regarding Brightline paying anything to build a station on the Tresure Coast is more and more an unlikely outcome. What happened can be summed up in two words…market forces.

Fort Pierce wants a station and is willing to pay big time for it. Martin County also sees the benefits to having a stop. With two competing entities, Brightline has taken the position that they will pay nothing to bring rail service here. So, they issued an RFP that anyone, private or public, can respond to if they meet the criteria. It looks to me that there are two entities going to bid…Fort Pierce and a joint response from Martin County and City of Stuart.

All things being equal, Brightline would rather have a Stuart stop at present. Martin County’s demographics will more likely be the customer Brightline is seeking. There are more people who will go to Miami or Orlando from here than Fort Pierce. At the same time, our visitor base is from both those places plus the New York area. The New York visitors would be coming in by plane and would also take advantage of the airports…especially being able to go or come right to the Orlando airport without a change to a cab or bus.

What then is the problem? Do you remember that deal with Brightline the county was so happy to achieve? The portion about splitting the cost of the station is no longer relevant. Unfortunately, some at the county building don’t understand that. And they keep reiterating that dead-as-a-nail point to the elected officials. They need to stop talking about something that is completely irrelevant.

If Brightline can’t have their station in Martin County without costing them they will choose Fort Pierce. It doesn’t matter what an irrelevant piece of paper states. They see no reason to spend a dime.

As to where the money will come from. In both Aventura and Boca much of it was from federal and state grants. Instead of Martin County worrying about an antiquated agreement they need to embrace the “now” as Stuart is doing.   


From what I have heard, the county’s insistence on holding onto this dead point is beginning to influence the city’s ability to craft a workable solution with Martin County. The other thing some at county government can’t get through their head is that the city is part of the county. Every Stuart taxpayer pays the same rate to the general fund as every county resident.  Stuart residents vote for the county commission. The residents are not in competition because of where they live.

Again, the public sector is no match for the private sector. Five years ago, was the past. Those at the county building still living in that past need to get out of the way. Otherwise, a great opportunity will be lost.

DeSantis Is An Unpopular Lame Duck

What do Governor Ron DeSantis (R) of Florida and Governor Kathy Hochul (D) of New York have in common? They are tied for having the 10th lowest approval ratings as governors in a recent Morning Consult poll.

Both won re-election last year, DeSantis by wide margins and Hochul by lesser margins. Unlike Hochul, DeSantis is running for the Republican presidential nomination as he continues to descend in the polls in that race as well. The question is why is Ron so unable to gain any traction in the primary race or with his constituents in Florida?

Let’s face it, to know Ron…is to dislike Ron. He won his first election for governor by being a Trump mini me. Once he tried to be more than mini in that category, he has not faired well as a direct antagonist of the former president.

He began to lose me when he took an anti-business stance during Covid. If he had let individual businesses decide how they wanted to run their operations, I would have stuck by him. Instead, he became dictatorial toward them especially when it came to masks. It is not the government’s purview to be the arbiter of what should happen once a customer or employee enters a business. It is up to the individual to decide.

DeSantis went to war with the Disney Company for their speaking out in support of gay and transgender rights, it was picking a fight over free speech that I could not tolerate. If he had just let the company articulate its position, it would have been consigned to page 57 in most newspapers and have been gone in a day. He elevated it into a fight because he wanted to sound like Trump but ended up being more like Mickey Mouse.

From there Republican presidential silly season had begun, and he plummeted in the polls. He took Floridians’ tax dollars to fly Mexican migrants from Texas to Massachusetts to prove that he was defending the border. The DeSantis Airline, an entirely owned Florida taxpayer entity, grew by his evacuations of Americans from Israel after October 7th. An entirely unnecessary stunt since the Feds had it under control. It quickly faded to page 57 of most newspapers.

Now a bill has been filed in the legislature giving DeSantis the power to remove elected officials from office and attach fines and damages for removing Confederate statues. Since when is a county, university, or city unable to decide what should be displayed in their parks or property. No punishment for removal of Lincoln but remove Jefferson Davis and the perp can end up with a fine.

This is lunacy to nth degree. Protect the guy who wanted to tear apart the country but do nothing for the savior of the nation. Is that now how the “Party of Lincoln” wants to be known?

Ron DeSantis will continue to fall in the polls. After Super Tuesday when he suspends his campaign, he will also be acknowledging that he is a lame duck in Tallahassee too. The Pols and electorate will be looking for the next governor and begin to ignore this one. By the time he leaves office in 2026, he will be just one more has-been. And, he shouldn’t expect to be hired by Disney as corporate counsel even with his Ivy League degrees.   

As Published In Martin County Moments

VanRiper's Views

Darlene VanRiper

An Inconvenient Truth

“Stop Messin’ With Jensen” and “Save Our Salerno” are two rallying cries which have organized residents against proposed development in their neighborhoods.  While the organizers will claim not to be NIMBYs (not in my back yard) I have heard them say things like “I’m not against development…just not here”.   Isn’t that the definition of a NIMBY?  Each of these groups at least partially if not fully blames the Martin County Board of County Commissioners for the “massive” developments they are targeting. 

While I have issues with each and every commissioner currently in office (after all who can agree with someone 100% of the time?)  this development surge in our county IS NOT THEIR FAULT.   According to a report by the Economic Council of Tampa Bay “According to latest data from the U.S. Census, Florida ranks #1 in total net migration, which measures the difference between the number of people moving in and the number of people moving out of a state. From July 2021-July 2022, nearly 444,500 people moved to Florida, which compared to the previous year was a gain of 185,000, the largest year-over-year impact of residents moving. Florida also ranked #1 in domestic migration, #2 in international migration, and #1 with the most people moving in per day at 1,218. Texas followed Florida in both total net migration (349,575) and most people moving in per day (958).  Florida’s total population has reached more than 22.2 million and sits third in the nation behind California and Texas, previously surpassing New York.”  This report is as of March 2023.  And they’re still coming.

And “they” like what they see in Martin County.  Just like many of us moved here because we like Martin County.   We are also a country that does not restrict the movement of our citizens.  Thus, the governor cannot, as a former commissioner once said to me “disallow any more people to come”.   (I’m still scratching my head from that one!) 

Yes, it’s true that the state legislature with the recently passed “Live Local” bill took away some of the local control that the commissioners did have.  But truth be told they had very little choice as far as development goes anyway.  If the proposed development meets the land use and COMP criteria and staff recommends it, they must allow it.  95% of developments meet these criteria.  The 5% that do not are all the Commissioners have from which to request accommodations.  Our current commission does take good advantage of those opportunities. 

So, while I am not defending any individual Commissioner, I hate these misleading arguments which are based on partial or misleading information. 

Darlene VanRiper’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Nicki's Place

Nicki van Vonno
van Vonno Consulting, Owner

Love Languages

The world needs a lot of love these days. But humans are diverse and have various ways to give and receive love.  Can we give our love in a way our beloved(s) can accept? The media is full of love language tips, just in time for Holiday gift giving. So here goes.

The language of love is verbal affirmations, quality time, physical touch, acts of service and giving gifts.

One friend loves verbal affirmations and posts many to give light and hope to the world.

One friend loves hosting wonderful parties for family and friends.

Many people need touch. I think I don’t,  but recently I received a long hug that seemed to breathe life into me.

Acts of service are community building. Here the issues are clear: water quality, environmental protection, homelessness, and children living in poverty.  Family Promise hosting the bed races was a great community event that showcased the many compassionate groups in our community.

I like to give presents.  I like to receive presents.

My husband could give presents but he tended to be a last-minute grab and go kind of gift giver. I gave up giving him suggestions.  I would buy him practical gifts. Ties, shirts, tools.  But he wished for romantic gifts, not a leaf blower or a fancy car jack, which seemed like a great gift for a car and boat obsessed hobbyist. 

What he wanted was time. Once I understood that, he got to putter around the house all weekend working on his projects and doing  yard work. While he puttered, I did volunteer work, attended community events, and visited bookstores. I love perusing the used books in thrift stores. I love searching for a hidden gem in the stacks of our wonderful libraries. I love giving books to people, especially children.

Stories. Each of us has a least one. Be sure and share a story this Christmas!

Nicki van Vonno’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Hafner's Corner

David Hafner
UF/IFAS, 4-H Youth Development Agent

The song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” was released in 1963 and for me it stands the test of time. Every year, as we enter the final month, I am flooded with feelings of cheer and good will. I get excited for gatherings and parties and time with my family. But there is also a lot of pressure and stress that comes with the December holiday season.

Even though it is meant to be a season of joy and celebration, 38% of people surveyed by the American Psychological Association say their stress increases during the holiday season. The stress is onset by a lack of time, financial pressure, gift-giving, and family gatherings. This stress can lead to physical illness, depression, anxiety, and substance misuse. Certainly not joyful activities.

As I write this I am in Atlanta, GA at National 4-H Congress, which is attended by over 700 4-H youth members from across the country. In today’s session we heard from Amberley Snyder, a professional rodeo athlete who lost her ability to walk and ride horses in a vehicle accident. As she shared her story, she told us something very important… Before Amberley took the stage, we had another presentation. This one was from American Farm Bureau Federation’s Bailey Corwine, Media Relations Specialist. She also told us something very important…

In their presentations, both Amberley and Bailey encouraged us to share our troubles with someone. Talk to a friend. Talk to a teacher or family member. Just get it out in the open by sharing your troubles with someone who cares about you. When you hold in your stress it builds and starts to take control. Before you know it, the stress has taken over and you have gone from living to just surviving. You don’t need to live that way.

There is a stigma around mental health. Many feel if they share their feelings others will think differently of them or others may look down on them. But the truth is we all are struggling with something. The more we breakdown the stigma around mental health and sharing our troubles the easier it will become for all of us.

This holiday season commit to a healthier, happier you. Commit to releasing the stress you are holding so that you can enjoy the season. If you don’t have someone with whom you feel comfortable sharing your troubles call 211. They have people standing by to help.

I wish you a happy holiday season.

David Hafner’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Carl's Conclusions

Carl Frost
Kai Kai Farms, Owner

Circular Food Systems And Their Impact On Farmers, Consumers, And The Environment

As a farmer I balance the impact on the environment while maximizing yield and meeting payroll. Farming isn’t rocket science; it’s harder.

Circular food systems offer stakeholders a greener future by mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and food waste. Circular food systems promise to improve food production efficiency, employ carbon capture on farms, and improve farming as a career choice. This will require investment, big data, and new equipment on the farm which could lead to unpredictability and higher food prices. In the beginning this system can have a chaotic effect.

Farmers contend with chaos or the science of surprises. Farmers learn to expect the unexpected. Chaos is impossible to predict but farmers do their best and learn on the job. Local knowledge is key and data in its various forms becomes an important ally.

What do advocates of circular food systems hope to achieve? According to Jim Jones, emeritus professor at the University of Florida, where he specializes in agricultural systems modeling, the tasks include designing out waste and pollution in farm practices by use of circular nutrients (food recycling) and carbon sequestration (biochar). The goal is to regenerate natural systems namely the soil food web for reduction of fertilizer pollution.

The challenge for circular food systems engineering is removing as much chaos as possible while collecting a pile of data complemented by artificial intelligence for analysis and prediction. Farmers want answers like what crops, what inputs, and what practices will generate a profit and not pollute. The farm will have sensors collecting data about the soil and hopefully about diseases present.

The farmer wants to know how much carbon is adequate for soil building. Recently I spent about $1600, equivalent to $6,400 per acre, amending a quarter acre with compost, a popular and readily available product made from yard waste. How is this sustainable? We must redesign our food system to recirculate waste back into food production and lower the cost of incorporating carbon and crop friendly biology into the soil.

Development often occurs on farmland owned by investors. The site is level, cleared and ready for construction. Land banking does not include the long-term investment in soil building which will be a requisite requirement for the circular food economy.

A land bank will see no return on investment with carbon sequestration unless some carbon credit policies are adopted. Furthermore, there is the need for local knowledge which is getting harder to procure as farmers retire and few young people seem interested in this career. Who will manage the chaos and the data collection required for a positive outcome?

If farmland is simply a temporary use until a subdivision is built there will be little generational incentive because no farmer wants to begin from nothing on new ground. There are so many variables in a startup farm. Florida politicians will have to address the need for farmland preservation. Creating reliable non-polluting circular food and farm systems throughout the state will require reconsideration of urban density/height limits and take the development pressure off our valuable farmlands. 

Carl Frost’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Non-Profit Perspective

Carol Houwaart-Diez
United Way of Martin County, President & CEO

It’s hard to believe that it’s December already. I keep asking myself, “Where did 2023 go?”

This year specifically was a huge one for my family.  My youngest graduated high school and started college at the University of Central Florida and my oldest graduated college and has now entered the workforce employeed by Cleveland Clinic Martin Health.

Although the end of year snuck up on us, the month of December is one of my favorite times of the year. The hustle and bustle of the holidays are in the air. At United Way, we are getting ready for our Holiday Project to make the holidays bright for thousands of children and hundreds of families who could not afford it otherwise.  But for me, December brings me back the magical times of my childhood.

The anticipation of Santa coming, the smell of a fresh pine tree and my sisters and I all on our best behavior to make sure there were gifts under the tree Christmas morning. Being the youngest of four girls, I was grateful to have older siblings that made the magic of Christmas last longer than for most children. My letters to Santa getting written responses that knew way too much about my family for it not to be from the REAL Santa. The presents under the tree that were everything a little girl could ask for and then some. 

As I reflect on my childhood, I can't help but feel blessed. Despite my parents not having much, they always found a way to make Christmas magical. Into my adulthood, the love has followed me and made the memories of Christmas even more special. So if you know me, you will begin to understand my love of Santa and Christmas.


Going to my parents house on Christmas Eve was non-negotiable. All of us, siblings, kids and spouses, crammed into their tiny but cozy 1,100-square-foot home, which had only 1 bathroom. The ambiance was uniquely festive, thanks to my dad's wood-burning stove that heated the whole house and made everything smell like smoke. Not to mention you can’t even set a temperature on those things. Let’s just say short sleeves and light clothes were our attire in order to enter that sauna each year. We ate Indonesian food (cooked by my mom), traditional American food and my contribution was always a plate of homemade cookies (another thing that I love to do is bake). 

When I look back, I realize it is not about the presents received but about the time I spent with my family. The stress, the worry isn’t really worth the effort. Now, with both my parents gone, our family Christmases look different. I spend it here in Florida with just my two girls and my husband. There is no worry over which family do we go to first or who do we spend Christmas day with. Nope, those days are gone. So if you have a large family that lives close, spend the time with them. Don’t stress over the gifts… just enjoy the moment. 

This year, on Christmas morning, I am going to sit outside and hopefully it will be cool enough that someone has a fire going. I am going to close my eyes and remember that little house in Lewiston New York and be grateful for the memories.

I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Kwanzaa and New Year. May 2024 be a year of health, joy and love for each of you.

As always, if you have questions or need more information about United Way of Martin County please feel free to reach out to me at work, 772-283-4800, via email, or our website,

Carol Houwaart-Diez’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Contemplative Christian

Chad Fair
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Pastor

My mind seems to process things by relating them to sports or food. 

I love sports and I love to cook and eat.  Which clearly makes this the best time of the year; Thanksgiving, holiday parties, Christmas cookies, the start of the NHL season, the NFL playoffs around the corner, and the final stretch of college football.        

This time of year, begs us to wrestle with some serious questions.  What’s the best Christmas cookie?  In my book, snickerdoodles edge our peanut butter cookies, but let’s be honest it’s all splitting hairs…we’re talking about cookies.  Serious question number two; what’s your favorite thanksgiving dish?  I’m definitely a carnivore but Thanksgiving is about carbs and starches; mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing (dressing whatever you want to call it), corn soufflé, sweet potatoes and of course GRAVY!!!! Gravy is the unifier.  Gravy ties it all together.  And dessert, we can’t forget about dessert.  In my family growing up pumpkin pie was THEE dessert of Thanksgiving.  While I like pumpkin pie, I’ve grown to love a good sweet potato pie even more. 


Now that your mouth is watering, allow me to make a confession, neither food nor sports is my favorite part of this season.  It’s gathering around tables, connecting with family and friends, and making new ones along the way.  It’s sharing what we’re thankful for and making Christmas wishes.  So here are a few thanksgivings and Christmas wishes.       

I’m so thankful for the love and support of an amazing wife and kids and all my family.  I’m thankful for the congregation I’m privileged to serve.  I’m thankful for the generosity of this community.  I’m thankful I live in this place where the weather is warm, and baptisms can happen on the beach…in NOVEMBER.  I pray during this season we take a moment to pause and give thanks for all that God has provided.          

While I have much to be thankful for, I do still have a few Christmas wishes.  Of course, health and happiness are at the top of that list.  I wish our community would take seriously the challenges of affordable housing and all that comes with it.  While I’m grateful our community has soup kitchens to serve the hungry, I wish less people needed it.  Most of all I wish the kingdom of God that we read about in scripture, would become a reality; mouths would be fed, homeless would be housed and peace and justice would prevail. 

Imagine that for a second, I know it's hard, but imagine a world where the problems we face today are a thing of the past.  No poverty, no war, no hate, no division, just a community being a community, peaceful, merciful, loving, and gracious.  I know this is a lofty wish.  A wish I won’t waste on the big guy in a red suit or politician in a fancy suit.  Instead, I’ll continue to pray that the church takes seriously the one born in a manger.

Chad Fair's opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Walter's Corner

Walter Deemer
Martin County League of Women Voters, Co-Chair

The November 16 Rivers Coalition meeting focused on a presentation by Merritt Matheson about the “Martin County Forever Conservation Initiative”. The Martin County Forever Committee is trying to get a referendum for a half-cent sales tax increase on the November 2024 ballot with the proceeds to be used to acquire and preserve environmentally-important land. (For perspective, there are 116,000 acres on the Martin County Land Acquisition map; 71,000 have been acquired – but that leaves 46,000 to go.)

Martin County Forever wants to limit the acquisitions from this initiative to four specific areas to keep the funds from being used for other purposes – some of which, in the past, have been beyond the spirit and intent of the initiative, albeit technically permissible (think Sailfish Splash Water Park). Those four areas: 1) Blue Water (small parcels of land adjacent to water bodies), 2) The Indian River Lagoon Watershed (mainly land in the area of the St. Lucie Canal), 3) Loxa-Lucie (the headwaters of the Loxahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers) and 4) Pal-Mar.

The half-cent sales tax is expected to generate $18 million/year during its ten-year lifespan. This means that $140 million in bonds could be issued immediately upon voter approval and land acquisitions could begin in early 2025. Mr. Matheson emphasized that land would be acquired only from willing sellers. Significantly, most acquisitions of this type are made using matching funds from entities like Florida Forever and the South Florida Water Management District, so the amount of money raised from the sales-tax increase would effectively be doubled.

Several Rivers Coalition members expressed concerns over the potential misuse of the funds (again, think Sailfish Splash). Mr. Matheson made it clear that Martin County Forever would not tolerate any loopholes the Board of County Commissioners might insert in the referendum language – and if any end up being included “we will withdraw our support”.  In addition, a number of safeguards will be built into the referendum language, including the creation of a Citizen Advisory Committee

The next step: the BOCC will vote in January or February whether to put the Martin County Forever referendum on the ballot. Martin County Forever will need as much support as they can get at that meeting, and the Environmental Issues Committee intends at that time to ask the LWVMC Board to write a letter of support to the BOCC. In the meantime, Rivers Coalition members voted to support the spirit of the Martin County Forever initiative while retaining the right to withdraw that support if there are issues with the final language of the referendum (i. e., if the commissioners put unacceptable loopholes in it. Sailfish Splash still irks an awful lot of people…)

More information about the Martin County Forever Conservation Initiative is available on Martin County Forever’s website:

Meanwhile, concerns were voiced over the too-high Lake O level (about 16 feet) at this, the beginning of the dry season. Any significant rain events, it is feared, could lead to dry-season discharges.  

Finally, Jim Moir, the Indian Riverkeeper, asked me to add this amplification to my summary of his excellent presentation at our November meeting: “The nutrients in the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie Estuary were quite limited until about 120 years ago when inlet openings and landscaping for drainage and flood control dramatically changed the nutrient balance and biological makeup of the Estuary and Lagoon. People have concentrated ‘nutrients’ from around the world in the form of food and fertilizer.  Groundwater is polluted with wastewater. The watershed of the St Lucie River is now many times greater than it ever was and much of the agricultural and urban runoff now enters it virtually unchecked.” (Yes, Houston; we have a problem…)


Walter Deemer's opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Humane Society of the Treasure Coast

Frank Valente
Humane Society of the Treasure Coast, President & CEO

Pet Safety During the Holiday Season

During the holiday season, it is important to prioritize the safety of our beloved pets. With the excitement and festivities, it's crucial to be mindful of potential hazards that can pose a risk to their well-being. By taking certain precautions, we can ensure a joyful and safe holiday season for our furry friends.

One important aspect of pet safety during holidays is being cautious with decorations. While they add charm to our homes, certain decorations can be dangerous for pets. Ensure that Christmas trees are securely anchored, as pets may be tempted to climb or knock them over. Avoid using tinsel or other small ornaments that can be easily swallowed by curious pets.

Loud noises and open doors during holiday gatherings can also pose a risk to pets. To prevent them from getting lost in the commotion, it's advisable to microchip your pets and keep their identification up to date. This way, if they accidentally escape through an open door or become frightened by loud noises such as fireworks, they can be easily reunited with you. The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast offers low-cost microchipping every day of the week. To make an appointment to microchip your pet, you can call 772-223-8822.

Another important consideration is keeping harmful substances away from your pets. Chocolate is particularly toxic for dogs and cats, so it's essential to keep all chocolate treats out of their reach. Additionally, some holiday plants like poinsettias and mistletoe can be poisonous if ingested by pets.

When using candles as part of your holiday decor, make sure they are placed in safe spots where your pets cannot accidentally knock them over or get burned by the flames. Consider using flameless candles as a safer alternative.

Lastly, remember that holidays are meant to be enjoyed with our beloved furry companions who are part of our family. Make sure they have a quiet retreat space where they can relax if the festivities become overwhelming for them.

Consider bringing one of our shelter pets home for the holidays as well! We have a Home for the Holiday program starting on December 19, which allows anyone from the public to foster a homeless animal for the holidays. Adoption fees for dogs and cats over a year old are also waived during this time thanks to our generous donors at Wilmington Trust. To learn more, visit our website at

The holidays are a wonderful time to spend with family and furry friends. By following these precautions and being mindful of potential hazards during the holidays, you can ensure that both you and your beloved pets have a wonderful time celebrating together while keeping their safety a top priority.

Frank Valente's opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Helping Hand

Suzy Hutcheson
Helping People Succeed, CEO

As we enter the holiday season, we are usually asking for your gifts and support; however, we want YOU to know how much your support means to all of the people we serve. Throughout the year, we witness miracles that would never have happened without YOU. Take a minute to read about these accomplishments.

One of the most exciting times of our lives is when we bring our baby home from the hospital—the excitement and hope we feel as our world changes forever. We also remember the long nights with no sleep, the ongoing hope that everything is okay and the comfort we feel as we hold that beautiful bundle of joy close in our arms. Helping People Succeed’s new Baby Connections system provides early assistance that every parent needs to know that they are their baby’s first teacher and they will be there for the entire journey. Because of YOU, parents have confidence and babies grow up to have a healthy, happy future.

Being a part of not apart from our community is vital for us to feel successful and worthwhile. Finding the right job, a place to live, and friends to have fun with, is critical to us. Employment Connections makes that happen for adults who live with disabilities. We recognize the abilities, wants and dreams of adults who have a disability and help them realize an everyday life—working, living, and playing just like the rest of us.

When you open your eyes to what a person can do instead of what they can’t, employment is a reality. YOU have been the catalyst for many opportunities for adults living with disabilities through hiring practices, advancement within the business and inclusion in all areas.

Mental Health needs have been the focus of our country since the pandemic. How can the children who spent a year in isolation find their way; how can families who lost their jobs, their homes and so much more become complete again. Behavioral Health Services has made a strong impact by helping children, adults and families realize that, with help, their world will change for the better. Through therapy/counseling, case management and other support systems, a light at the end of the tunnel appears. YOU have provided the spark for the light that ensures a new beginning for so many.

As 2023 comes to an end, we recognize each of YOU who have given so much to so many people. We wish you and your families’ peace and happiness as YOU celebrate in your own manner.

We salute YOU and look forward to a happy, healthy, and successful 2024.

Suzy Hutcheson's opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Keep Martin Beautiful

Tiffany Kincaid
Keep Martin Beautiful, Executive Director

Eco-Friendly Gifting: Your Guide to a Greener Holiday Season!

Ah, the quest for peace on earth during the holiday season! Yet, amidst the twinkling lights and festive cheer, holiday shopping often becomes the battleground for crowded malls, frantic searches for parking spaces, and the never-ending quest for that "perfect" gift. But fear not, weary shoppers!

There's a brighter path that leads to thoughtful, unique gift ideas. Ones that not only sparkle with originality but also align with our efforts to protect the environment. Let's trade chaos for creativity and dive into a world of delightful, eco-friendly gift options that'll make this season merry and green!

  • Explore Local: Embrace our community's uniqueness by shopping locally. Not only do you minimize shipping costs and environmental impacts, but you also add to the growth of our local businesses, supporting our friends and neighbors. Check out Martin County’s awesome Discover Martin website for a list of local shops here!
  • Gift Experiences: Opt for local services such as massages, facials, painting classes, or tickets to events. These memorable experiences hold more value than material possessions.
  • Choose Recycled Goods: Prioritize recycled items or durable, reusable alternatives, like high-quality water bottles, eliminating the need for single-use plastics.
  • Embrace Thrifting: Discover treasures at top-quality thrift stores run by our many non-profits, reducing landfill waste while contributing to meaningful causes. Consider places like House of Hope’s HOPE Shop, the Humane Society, Treasure Coast Hospice, Hibiscus Treasure House, and many other consignment stores for a sustainable shopping experience.
  • Gift Greenery: Consider gifting plants or herb gardens. Not only do they enhance any space and create a cozy atmosphere, but they also promote better air quality and stress reduction. Low-maintenance plants like succulents, peace lilies, orchids, ferns, and herbs are perfect for nurturing and boosting confidence.
  • Support Charities: Honor someone by donating to a local or global nonprofit in their name. It's a thoughtful gesture that contributes to meaningful causes while skipping material gifts.

After the holiday buzz mellows out and its cleanup time, here's a simple checklist to ease the task: What can be recycled? Any gems ready for a new purpose or storage till next year? With new gifts taking up space, are there old things to donate? Also, how green are our cleaning supplies? Is there a safe bonfire that you can bring your Christmas tree to? By ticking off these steps, we're not just tidying up but making the end of the holidays eco-friendlier and breezier.

'Tis the season to embrace creativity and introduce small changes in our celebrations. That's the secret to going - and staying - Green!

Wishing you a joyous and eco-friendly holiday from all of us at Keep Martin Beautiful!

For more information, volunteer opportunities and ways to get involved with Keep Martin Beautiful, visit

Tiffany Kincaid's opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Cleveland Clinic Reports

Dr. Rishi P. Singh
Cleveland Clinic Martin Health, President

Revolutionizing Healthcare: Cleveland Clinic Hospital Care at Home

In a groundbreaking move towards patient-centric healthcare, Cleveland Clinic Martin Health is set to launch its Hospital Care at Home program at St. Lucie West Emergency and Tradition Hospital in December, followed by Martin North and South Hospitals in January. This innovative program provides acute hospital-level care within the comfort of patients' homes, leveraging virtual visits by paramedics and the expertise of Virtual Hospitalists (VH). 


Cleveland Clinic Hospital Care at Home is a comprehensive, in-home care delivery model, designed to transform the traditional hospital experience. By embracing easy to use technology and a patient-centered approach, the program allows individuals to receive complex hospital care in the familiar environment of their homes, minimizing the need for prolonged hospital stays. 

At the core of the Hospital Care at Home program are Virtual Hospitalists — Cleveland Clinic employed physicians and advanced practice providers dedicated to delivering high-quality hospital care. These Virtual Hospitalists operate from a state-of-the-art command center, working in tandem with paramedics who conduct in-person visits to patients' homes. This collaborative effort ensures that patients receive timely and effective care, all while remaining in the comfort and security of their own space.  

The Hospital Care at Home program marks a significant departure from the conventional hospital care model. Patients hospitalized at home benefit from virtual consultations, real-time monitoring, and rapid responses to medical concerns, thanks to the on-the-ground support provided by our community of health care providers. Hospital Care at Home enhances the patient experience and recent studies demonstrate improved patient outcomes. 


This innovative initiative is particularly timely given the evolving landscape of healthcare, where the demand for personalized, accessible, and cost-effective solutions is more significant than ever. Cleveland Clinic Martin Health's commitment to pioneering such transformative programs reflects a dedication to meeting the evolving needs of patients in the 21st century.

The go-live date in December for Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital, followed by Cleveland Clinic Martin North and South Hospitals in January, signifies a pivotal moment in healthcare delivery. Patients and their families can expect a seamless transition from traditional in-hospital care to a cutting-edge Hospital Care at Home model. 

The implementation of Hospital Care at Home within Cleveland Clinic Martin Health represents a leap forward in healthcare delivery. By embracing virtual visits, leveraging the expertise of Virtual Hospitalists, and empowering paramedics for in-person care, the program not only enhances patient outcomes but also sets a precedent for a more patient-centric and sustainable healthcare future. As the go-live dates approach, anticipation builds for the positive impact this revolutionary program is poised to have on the lives of patients and the broader healthcare community. Please visit for more information.   

Art of Business

Chriss David
Founder, Chriss David and Associates

Holiday Spirit That Makes a Difference

In the heart of Martin County, as the winter sun sets, the streets twinkle with festive lights, a timeless tale unfolds. It's a story not of grandeur or spectacle, but of the simple, profound joys of the holiday season. Here, amidst the bustling small-town charm and close-knit communities, the essence of the holidays reveals itself in the warmth of human connections and the spirit of giving, transcending material gifts.

I have witnessed some residents of Martin County, embody the spirit of the season in their unique ways. There's a retired social worker, who, despite her advancing years, knits scarves and mittens for the homeless every December. There’s a young ranch hand, who uses his weekends to organize food drives, understanding that giving time can be as valuable as giving money. And still yet another person who gives every free moment to rescue and save local animals, because every sentient being matters and deserves to know love.

I challenge you to see the holiday season as a time of reflection and gratitude. A time to pause in your busy lives to appreciate the beauty around you - the laughter of children playing, the comfort of friends sharing a cup of cheer, the quiet peace of a winter's night. This reflection breeds a deeper sense of gratitude, not just for our material possessions, but for the people and experiences that enrich our lives.

As individuals, the residents of Martin County show us that we can use this time to give more in ways that count. It's not about the price tag but the intention behind the gesture. A homemade meal for a neighbor, a heartfelt letter to a long-lost friend, or a simple act of kindness to a stranger - these are the gifts that truly embody the holiday spirit.

This culture of giving and gratitude ignites a movement of change. It starts small, with one person helping another, but soon ripples through the community. The local schools start gratitude projects, encouraging children to express thanks for what they have and to understand the joy of giving. Businesses join in, sponsoring community events and supporting local charities, not for publicity, but out of a genuine desire to make a difference.

At the heart of it all is unconditional love. This love is evident in every twinkling light, every shared meal, every volunteer hour. It's a love that doesn't ask for anything in return, that gives freely and joyously. It binds the community together, creating a network of support and compassion that extends beyond the holiday season. By feeling gratitude for what we have and what others do for us, and by extending our help to others, we can start a wave of positive change… Will you join me?

Chriss David’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

President of the Martin County Teachers Association

Matt Theobold
President of the Martin County Teachers Association

The Martin County Education Association has a lot to be thankful for this holiday season: We’ve recruited nearly 100 new members since July. I’ve visited 20 out of 23 school sites, as a full-time release president, and we’re seeing increased member engagement throughout the district.

The MCEA had 13 union members nominated by their schools as candidates for MCSD Teacher of the Year, and we are so proud that one of our own, Mr. Joshua Perry, was named the 2023-24 district-wide Teacher of the Year! This is a truly well-deserved honor, and we are so proud of Josh for all the wonderful things he does for his students at Crystal Lake Elementary. We also want to thank our community partner, Kilwin’s Chocolates, for the delicious gift bags provided to each of our 13 nominees.

Many of our members also found time to give back by participating in a Thanksgiving Food and Toy Drive benefitting Elevate Hope and Communities Connected 4 Kids, two amazing organizations that we are proud to partner with. Clearly, our teachers have a tremendous impact both inside the classroom and out.

Our members have also had an impact in our very own office space; we’ve installed two murals and added other decorations to help create a fun and inviting atmosphere. These additions, and others, will be on display when we host our first-ever Open House in the new year, so stay tuned for more on that.

Speaking of firsts, our communications committee was also busy this past month producing our first newsletter to members in nearly ten years. Featured in that first edition was an invitation to our first-ever “Teacher Takeover,” a social event hosted by another one of our community partners, along with important information about our current contract negotiations with the district. So many teachers were interested in the proceedings that we had approximately 40 people in attendance in each of our last two sessions, and we anticipate even more at our next session on December 5th.

If you would like to find out more about what’s happening with negotiations, please feel free to email me at I can tell you with certainty that a fair contract with fair compensation is at the top of most teachers’ wish lists, and Santa isn’t the only one who knows that our teachers definitely deserve it.

I am grateful to all who helped make this year such a huge success, especially since everything mentioned here was done after a busy workday, but I am most thankful for our teachers who continue to do amazing things for our students and our community every day.

Matt Theobald's opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Julia's Healthy Gems

Julia Chiappetta
Julia Chiappetta Consulting

Gratitude’s Healing Powers

Have you ever written a Gratitude List?

As I ponder my own, I would start with being grateful for my health, home, car, clothes, family, friends & food and so much more.

Did you know that there are actual health benefits for being grateful, with studies showing that people who regularly practice feeling grateful are in a positive zone to promote healing?

Robert Emmons, psychology professor, University of California at Davis, has been a leading researcher in the growing field, termed “positive psychology.” His research uncovered that those who adopt an “attitude of gratitude” as a state of mind, are more likely to:  

  • love their bodies.
  • exercise regularly.
  • opt for healthy diets.
  • enjoy optimistic outlooks.
  • cope better with stress.
  • strengthen immune systems.

Several articles I have read join gratitude & forgiveness, as powerful elixirs, used in care plans for critical illnesses. Some studies associate gratitude with benefits from fewer aches & pains to improved sleep. According to Summer Allen’s report, March 5, 2018, “After 15 years of research we know that gratitude is a key to psychological well-being. Gratitude can make people happier, improve their relationships, and potentially even counteract depression. But the benefits of gratitude go beyond that.” “Gratitude can be an incredibly powerful and invigorating experience,” says researcher Jeff Huffman. “There is growing evidence that being grateful may not only bring good feelings. It could lead to better health.”

Results from the Thnx4 Project, created by the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC), University of California, Berkeley, an online gratitude journal, makes it easier to say thanks, enjoy the benefits of thankfulness, and see what happens when you strengthen your habit of feeling & expressing gratitude. It draws on two decades of research suggesting that people who regularly feel grateful:

  • report better health, reduce their risk of heart disease, and get better sleep.
  • strengthen feelings of connection and satisfaction in their relationships
  • feel more satisfied with their lives, more joy and optimism, and less anxiety. 

It also found that participants who kept an online gratitude journal for 2 weeks reported better physical well-being. These results are consistent with a 2003 paper published by Emmons & ns & Michael McCullough, citing, “college students who wrote about things they were grateful for just once a week for ten weeks reported fewer physical symptoms (such as headaches, shortness of breath, sore muscles, and nausea) than students who wrote about daily events or hassles”.

I started my Gratitude List…I am grateful for my new community in Stuart, the roof over my head, food on the table, the car I drive, my family and friends and the precious gifts of the season. Happy Birthday Jesus & Merry Christmas to all!

Julia Chiappetta’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Other Opinions


Keith W. Muniz/President and CEO/ARC of the Treasure Coast 


Giving this Season? Consider Supporting Local Non-Profit ARC of the Treasure Coast

It’s been a busy year for ARC of the Treasure Coast. In January 2023, we announced the merger between ARC of Martin County and ARC of St. Lucie County.

In July, we received WAIBLE Funding from our state legislature which will help build two homes for women with intellectual and developmental disabilities who need long term care.

Our Employment Programs have expanded throughout four counties to include internship programs with Cleveland Clinic/Martin Health, internship/work programs throughout the St. Lucie County, management of the I-95 Rest Stops in Martin and St. Lucie Counties where we employ over 30 individuals with disabilities. And our latest venture in the food service industry where we have opened the Caring Café in partnership with the Boar’s Head Corporation and a grant through the Martin County Board of County Commissioners to develop work programs for people with disabilities.

We are so grateful for the support we received this year. The boundless needs of this unique community of children and adults can be daunting. But the ARC team is steadfast and focused on providing the best care and services. Yet, all that we do is not possible without the charity of others.

If you plan to donate during this season of giving, we humbly ask you to consider giving to ARC of the Treasure Coast.

The Advocates for the Rights of the Challenged is dedicated to assisting, supporting, and empowering children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to achieve their fullest potential.

The Treasure Coast division provides vital services from Vero Beach to Palm Beach Gardens and Okeechobee.

Some of ARC’s exceptional programs include summer camps and After-School programs for children. Residential and supported living services, day training programs, community inclusion services, transportation, intensive behavioral services, and Advanced Employment Services for adults.

Please visit our website to locate our Dream List of items requested by each department of our organization. These will be used to train, educate, entertain, and generally enhance the exceptional programs for the very special people in our care.

Thank you to the community for your generosity during this season and all year long.

Keith Muniz’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Constitutional Corner & Non Profit Notices


Supervisor of Elections

Tax Collector

Property Appraiser

It’s not nosey to be informed! Did you know the best indicator for a single-family home or condo property value are the sales that took place in the immediate local area? Review the property sales in your neighborhood using the resources on our website.

Martin County Clerk & Comptroller

Non Profit Notices

Merry Christmas from Banner Lake 

Now that we have all had a very Happy Thanksgiving, Christmas will be in full swing here at Banner Lake Academy and Early Learning Center Our students will have so much fun with different festive activities, such as ugly sweater contests, special games, crafts, and pajama parties. People in our community usually like to come visit to join the fun Last year some of those visitors included members of the Martin County Sheriff's Office, who came and read Holiday stories to all age groups.  

Even with all of the fun and games, the learning never stops at Banner Lake Academy and Early Learning Center. We take every opportunity to enrich our students’ education and the holiday season is no exception. The children will learn about changes in season and cultural customs from all over the world. Last year we learned about holiday customs from Germany, Jerusalem, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Spain, and Italy  

We are looking forward to another fun filled holiday season with our students and families. And we wish every resident of Martin County a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 


Our Mission

The mission of Horses and Heroes of Southeast Florida is to gently empower personal development in the lives of veterans and first responders, helping them to connect to community through the benefits of equine assisted learning.

Who Are We?

Horses & Heroes of Southeast Florida provides Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) to Veterans and First Responders. EAL is an experiential learning approach that promotes the development of life skills for educational, professional, and personal goals through equine assisted activities. Or as we like to describe it: Changing lives through incredible connections.

Although we’ve only been in existence for a few years, we have already impacted hundreds of lives and helped bring more awareness to the benefits of Equine Assisted Learning.

Heart & Soul - 2nd Annual Fundraising Event

When? February 24, 2024

Time? 5:30 PM - 9:30 PM (VIP Tickets get exclusive early entry!)

Location: Hobe Sound Farmers Market - 1425 SE Bridge Rd, Hobe Sound, FL 33455  

Join us for our 2nd Annual Fundraising Event supporting our effort here at Horses & Heroes of Southeast Florida! This event promises to be a night to remember, with a special display of horsemanship and connection from our very own Veterans and our Founder, Karen Woodbury.

Enjoy an evening like no other with a wonderful farm to table dinner, fantastic entertainment, a live auction, a fun raffle, and so much more. Horses & Heroes is unique in the fact that we are able to keep our administrative costs very low, and a majority of your donation will go straight to the horses and heroes that we serve. We’ve already made a big impact in our community over the last 2 years since our founding, and have plans to expand the scope of our offered programs.

The VIP Experience!

Wait, there's more? Yes! This year we're offering a delightful VIP experience. VIP Ticket Holders will enjoy early entry and a personal experience. Meet the horses up close, get to know HHSEF staff, and experience the beautiful live music from a special guest. Hors d’oeuvres and bubbly will be served and you'll have the opportunity to take home unique HHSEFL swag! 

Take advantage and make it a date-night experience! When you purchase your duo date-night tickets, your names will also receive special recognition just like the rest of the evening's sponsors.

Interested in Becoming a Sponsor?

We still need sponsors! Put your business front and center at our event and help show your support for local Veterans and First Responders.

Sponsorship of this program provides recognition at the event, logo on event signage and website, and extra tickets. Higher sponsorship levels include more perks such as a branded banner on the road-facing gates of the farmers market!

For the sponsorship packet with more information, please reach out to:

Need More Information? Contact Us!

Karen Woodbury | Founder/Equine Specialist -

Frank Lubutti | Board Chair -




House of Hope Serves Some Hope at Tennis and

Pickleball Tournament

STUART, Fla. – Tennis and pickleball players brought their best game to the 2023 Serve Some Hope Charity Tournament in November to benefit the programs and services of the House of Hope.

In fast-paced play, 190 participants battled for bragging rights on the Harbour Ridge Lakeside Center courts while raising more than $29,000 in donations.

“The competition was friendly but fierce,” said House of Hope CEO Rob Ranieri. “We’re grateful to the players and to Harbour Ridge for their efforts to raise funds that will go directly into helping our friends and neighbors in need.”

House of Hope reaches more than 21,000 people each month, empowering them to overcome hunger and hardship. Last year alone, House of Hope distributed nearly 1.3 million pounds of food, including more than 500,000 pounds of fresh produce; allocated more than $104,000 in financial assistance; supported 30 area nonprofits with food and clothes closet items; and helped 8,000 individuals through its basic needs, enrichment, workforce development, financial assistance and nutrition education programs.

Tournament sponsors include Lichtenberger Family Charitable Fund at The Community Foundation Martin - St. Lucie, Harbour Ridge Yacht & Country Club, Treasure Coast Legal, HBKS Wealth Advisors, Alan B. Miller Medical Center, Espinal, Stern & Whittington at Morgan Stanley, Ashley Capital, FPL, John & Brigite Babine, Deborah Lovequist, Pink Ladies Charity, Maureen Holley DMD, and C.O.R.E (Comprehensive Offender Rehabilitation and Education).

“A successful tournament depends on the work of a lot of people. We want to give a special shout-out to everyone at Harbour Ridge for giving us access to their beautiful location,” Ranieri said, “and especially to Fabio Vasconcellos and his dedicated team for managing the tournament details and keeping the courts clean and ready for our players, as well as Jessica Agee-Bradshaw at IRMSL Tournaments, who helped recruit and register our players and manage the pickleball segment of the tournament.”


Finalists Brigite Babine and Sue Whittington along with the winners of the 3.5 Women’s Doubles Kathy Galla and Maureen Holley flank Fabio Vasconcellos of Harbour Ridge Yacht & Country Club after another successful Serve Some Hope Charity Tournament. Sue Whittington with Espinal, Stern & Whittington at Morgan Stanely, Brigite Babine along with her husband John, Harbour Ridge Yacht & Country Club, and Maureen Holley DMD were also sponsors of the event.

The Tournament’s Pickleball winners were: Men’s 2.5: Cesar Solorzano & Paul Watson; Men’s 3.0:  Tom Miller & Gil Zanchi; Men’s 3.5: Taylor Marsh & Pavel Rokhin; Mens 4.0: Brian McEnnis & Rich Scripture; Women’s 2.5: Sophie Chatonet & Audrey Hand; Women’s 3.0: Teena Lee & Laurie Rinker; Women’s 3.5: Nicole Erickson & Mia Fredericks; Women’s  4.01: Stacey Cleary & Marcia Jacobs; Mixed 2.5: Audrey Hand & Jack Walsh; Mixed 3.0: Sonita Herath & Shane Bowell; Mixed 3.5: Sookie Shields & Steve Ackerman; Mixed 4.0: Kali Denty & Edgar Tovar.

The Tennis Winners were: 3.0 Doubles (Co-Ed): Kari Lange & Lindsay Morales; Men's 3.5 Doubles: Adam Horvit & Steve P Froggatt; Women's 3.5 Doubles: Maureen Holley & Kathy Galla; Men's 4.0 Doubles: Kevin DiLallo & Mike Owen; Mixed 4.0 Doubles: Tanya Mikel & Christopher Burkhardt; Women's 4.0 Doubles – Gauff: Tanya Mikel & Regan Chatel; Women's 4.0 Doubles – Sabalenka: Christina S Trammell & Dominique Le.

“We congratulate all the participants,” Ranieri said, “not only for their skill and determination on the courts but also for giving their tremendous energy to helping the people we serve.”

About House of Hope

Founded in 1984, House of Hope is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers Martin County residents to overcome hunger and hardship. House of Hope touches the lives of more than 8,000 people directly each month, helping with basic needs such as food, clothing, furniture, and financial assistance, as well as longer-term case management services that help build life skills for a more self-sufficient future. Over 13,000 additional residents are assisted each month through House of Hope’s food bank partners, bringing the total to more than 21,000 people served. The organization has service centers in Stuart, Hobe Sound, Indiantown, and Jensen Beach, and Thrift Shops in South Stuart, Hobe Sound and Indiantown. House of Hope’s Enrichment Centers in Stuart, Jensen Beach and Indiantown offer free programs, technology, and workshops designed to enhance life skills, earning potential, health, and overall well-being. House of Hope also operates the Growing Hope Farm in Palm City and several nutrition gardens that provide sustainable sources of fresh produce for clients as well as nutrition education and vocational opportunities to the community. For more information, visit or call 772-286-4673. Updates and announcements can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter


Helping People Succeed’s

2024 Art for Living Calendars now on Sale

By Jackie Holfelder

Share the beauty of the Treasure Coast for an entire year when you purchase Helping People Succeed’s 2024 Art for Living Calendar. This magnificent showcase for the talent of 13 local artists, one of whom graces the page for each month, has become a beloved holiday tradition.

Barnes & Noble Book Store in Jensen Beach is just one of 17 convenient locations in Martin County, Fort Pierce and Okeechobee where the calendar can be purchased. It is also available at Helping People Succeed’s offices at 1601 NE Braille Place, off Savanna Road in Jensen Beach and online. Visit for exact locations and details.

Calendars sell for $25 each.

Helping People Succeed’s 2024 Art for Living Calendar

Featured artists this year include 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.

Helping People Succeed is thankful for underwriters Leonardo and Company, Hoskins Turco, Lloyd & Lloyd, EW Consultants, Sandhill Cove Retirement Living, Aycock Funeral Home, NisAir Conditioning & Heating, Water Pointe Realty, Oral-Facial Surgical Associates, Ross Mixing, Mary Kay Buckridge, Dale Forbes, All Creatures Animal Hospital and Stuart Business Systems. 

Serving the Treasure Coast for over 59 years, Helping People Succeed helps develop healthy families in Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Indian River counties by providing numerous parenting, mental health and behavioral support programs. Helping People Succeed also provides support services designed to enable adults with special needs to fully participate in volunteer and employment roles in our community.

For more information, visit or call Glenna Parris at 772-320-0778.


Donations to the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast on “Giving Tuesday” will be doubled

PALM CITY, Fla. — The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast is hoping that the annual worldwide “Giving Tuesday” event on November 28, 2023 will inspire animal lovers to make a donation to its cause. “Giving Tuesday” is a global generosity movement intended to unleash the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world.

On “Giving Tuesday,” the humane society will be asking all animal lovers and philanthropic-minded people to join together to help raise funds to support affordable obedience classes for families and their pets in the community who need them most.

“Despite loving their animals, many families who struggle to care for their pet with behavior issues believe that surrendering them to the shelter is the only option,” said Communications Manager Sarah Fisher. “Our humane society’s surrender prevention programs are available to provide the necessary resources and support to prevent that from happening.”

The humane society’s newest surrender prevention program, “The Pawsitive Manners Club,” will be available at a discounted rate beginning in January to provide the necessary resources and support to prevent surrenders from happening. All classes will be available on a first-come, first-served basis and class type will be determined based on the animal’s need.

The humane society’s goal is to raise $20,000 for the aforementioned classes. To help with that goal, a generous donor has offered to match up to $20,000 of gifts on “Giving Tuesday.”

“This means that your contribution has double the reach and double the impact,” added Fisher. “Any amount will help!”

Donations may be made online or in person at the Palm City shelter, 4100 SW Leighton Farm Ave. or by calling 772-600-3216. Supporters also may mail a check with “Giving Tuesday” noted on the memo line to 4100 SW Leighton Farm Ave., Palm City, FL 34990. Other ways to participate include creating a Facebook Fundraiser for the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast using the hashtag #GivingTuesday. For more information, contact Development Manager Ashton Standish at 772-600-3216 or via email,, or visit the website,

For questions regarding classes or the registration process, call Tracy Steffen at 772-600-3236 or by email,

About the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast – The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast (HSTC) is a no-kill animal welfare organization located at 4100 SW Leighton Farm Ave. in Palm City, FL. Since 1955, it has been the leading advocate for animal protection and well-being in the Martin County area. A 501(c)3 private, nonprofit organization, the HSTC is independent and locally operated and relies on donations to support its programs and services. Follow the HSTC on Facebook at and Twitter at For more information, visit or call (772) 223-8822.



Junior League of Martin County plans 15th Annual Reindeer Dash

STUART, Fla. — More than 500 people are expected to participate in the Junior League of Martin County’s 15th Annual Rudolph’s Reindeer Dash. Both a 5K and 10K race will be held from 7-10 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2, at Memorial Park, 300 SE Ocean Blvd. The road race will take participants through the scenic neighborhoods surrounding downtown Stuart.

The pre-registration fee to compete in the 5K race is $35 and $40 on race day. For the $10K race, the pre-registration fee is $45 and on race day, $50. Kids ages 10 and younger can compete in a 100 yard dash for $25. The race is a USATF certified race course race with a chipped timed finish. Medals will be awarded for top finishers in various age groups.

Junior League President Taylor Gilmour and her event co-chairs, Alyssa Regan-Alexander and Heather Frady, are inviting the public to either participate in one of the races or attend to support the competitors. They also can come to a free post-race party, which is stroller-friendly and dog-friendly. There will be food vendors, music, pictures with Santa and lawn games starting at 7 a.m.

Also at the event — a Toys for Tots donation drive for new, unwrapped toys for boys and girls of all ages. Donations may be dropped off at the race packet pickup locations on Wednesday, Nov. 29, from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. at Fleet Feet Stuart, 2440 NW Federal Hwy., Stuart; or Thursday, Nov. 30, from 4 - 8 p.m. at Ocean Republic Brewing, 1630 SE Federal Hwy., Stuart; or at the race on December 2.

The Junior League of Martin County's annual Reindeer Dash depends on its volunteers to make the event happen. Top row: (L) Lauren Aloia, Suzy Kar, Jaclyn Kenna, Melody Creese, Lara Bailey, Ashley Mann. Middle row: (L) Alyssa Regan-Alexander (green antlers), Mindi Paruta (blonde with hat), Karlee Knebles, Beth Conway, Santa Clause, Meghan Conway. Bottom row: (L) Rosi Schroeder, Taylor Gilmour, Caroline Karr (child), Emily Karr, Jackie Prussing. Photo credit: Junior League of Martin County

“Whether you’re a serious runner, casual walker or want to run or walk while pushing a stroller, we are inviting all to participate,” said Regan-Alexander. “Or come on out to cheer on the participants and then party with them afterwards.”

The top event sponsors are Echo Fine Properties, Sunburn Cannabis, Martha Brown, Palm Beach Mortgage, Gehring Group/Risk Strategies, Napoli Orthodontics, Ally Whalen Design, Kirchman Construction Co., The Shannon Andersen Group, Trusted Choice Home Inspections, Nicole Armstrong, Team Parks, Inc. and Coldwell Banker Realty: Julia C. Sansevere.

Online race registration at is now active and sponsorship opportunities are still available. For more information, send an email to or visit the website,

The Junior League of Martin County is a part of the Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI) – a women’s organization whose mission is to advance women’s leadership for meaningful community impact through volunteer action, collaboration, and training. For those interested in learning more about the Junior League of Martin County, visit



Preserving Paradise: A Half Cent at a Time

New Martin County Forever initiative underway to purchase natural lands

Martin County, Fla – A group of concerned citizens, passionate about preserving vast areas of environmentally sensitive lands, has created a new conservation initiative called Martin County Forever.  The group has spent most of this year on outreach and education to determine whether citizens would be supportive of a sales-tax referendum to acquire these lands.   Acquiring undeveloped land would help to protect the unique character of Martin County, clean and restore rivers and waterways, safeguard sources of drinking water, preserve valuable wildlife habitat and wetlands, create wildlife corridors and expand recreational opportunities.

“There are environmentally sensitive lands throughout Martin County that need to be preserved now or they are at risk of being lost forever. Our community will never be the same if we don’t act now,” said Merritt Matheson, Martin County Forever committee member and former City of Stuart Mayor.

About 46,000 acres of natural lands within four target areas have been identified by Martin County’s Ecosystem Division for potential acquisition:

  • Indian River Lagoon Watershed, 27,000 acres essential to the health of the Lagoon
  • Loxa-Lucie, 9,800 acres essential to the health of the St. Lucie and Loxahatchee Rivers
  • Pal-Mar, 8,500 acres of some of the highest quality wetlands in Martin County
  • Blue-ways, about 400 acres of smaller parcels inside our urban areas and near waterways

The group is proposing that a referendum for a half-cent sales tax be placed on the November 2024 ballot for citizens to vote on.  “Martin County residents have a history of taking matters into their own hands to protect our environment and quality of life,” added Matheson. “We’re simply asking the Martin County Commission to allow the citizens to decide if they want to support an initiative to buy these lands.”

If approved, the sales tax could generate about $18.3 million a year for ten years, and much of the land would be eligible for matching state or federal funds, stretching those dollars even further. More than a third of the monies raised would be from visitors who live elsewhere but spend their money in Martin County.  The sales tax would only apply to the first $5,000 of any purchase. Importantly, groceries, prescription medication and school supplies would all be exempt.

Martin County has a long, proud history of supporting the preservation of environmentally sensitive lands.  Several referendums have been passed where citizens voted to tax themselves to generate funding for land acquisition. A voter approved half-cent sales tax in 2006, for example, generated about $30 million and was used to leverage an additional $30 million from state and federal sources. In fact, many popular local parks and preserves were acquired with funds generated from past referendums.  These acquisitions include important preserve areas such as Halpatiokee and Atlantic Ridge state parks, beaches throughout Hutchinson Island, and regionally significant park facilities like Indian Riverside Park.  These places are part of the recreational fabric of the community while also improving water quality in the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.

“We know there may be skeptics, and the devil is in the details, but we’ve structured the referendum language to ensure it does what it is supposed to do and nothing else,” according to committee member Jim Snedeker.  A Citizens Advisory Committee would be created to screen land acquisition opportunities. An annual audit would be required. Properties would only be purchased from willing sellers.  “Even though discussions about taxes can be controversial, we’ve been surprised and encouraged by the widespread support we’ve received for the initiative,” added Snedeker. 

“Martin County is a special place, and we want to keep it that way. It’s our small-town charm, slower pace, low density, beautiful waterways and beaches and abundance of undeveloped, natural lands that sets Martin County apart from so many other places in Florida,” said Matheson.  “The time is right to create a funding mechanism to purchase these natural lands and ensure they remain that way during our lifetime and for future generations.”

Martin County Forever has launched a website,, with more information. To schedule a presentation to your group or association, please contact them at and follow them on Facebook at or Instagram at @martincountyforever


Local Farms Recognized for Environmental Stewardship

Martin County, Fla. – On November 16, 2023, Wes Carlton, owner of Bull Hammock Ranch, Nicole Kirchhoff, owner of Live Advantage Bait LLC, and Tom McCrudden, owner of Great Florida Shellfish were recognized by Martin County Farm Bureau for exceptional environmental stewardship efforts on their farm. The Florida Farm Bureau’s County Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship (CARES) program has been recognizing Florida’s farmers and ranchers for their natural resource conservation since 2001.

Carlton, Kirchhoff, and McCrudden and their families have been focusing on preserving water quality and environmental conservation for decades. They have implemented soil and water testing, proper pasture and/or tank management and water resource protection, including maintaining vegetated buffers on the farm to protect sensitive environmental features like wetlands or estuaries.

Wes Carlton of Bull Hammock Ranch is continuously looking at ways to help improve water quality on the ranch and in the region. He says that “you have to be a water manger first, grass manager second and a cattle manager third.”  

Bull Hammock Ranch has been in operation for 75 years and is a leader in its environmental stewardship practices, water quality programs and management of exotic and invasive plants. The ranch uses rotational grazing, nutrient management and a surface water management system that stores more than 1,800 acres of water and reduces nitrogen and phosphorus released back into soil.  Mr. Carlton has been recognized with many conservation awards and is a true community leader and land steward. Wyatt Carlton, son of Wes Carlton, accepted the award on his behalf.  

Live Advantage Bait LLC, established in 2013, is a whole hatchery producer of warm water marine fish, fingerlings, and eggs for baitfish and foodfish grow-out, research, and restoration.  Their new state-of-the-art facility not far exceeds nutrient and water conservation BMPs, but their energy usage is 5-10x lower than similar sized farms.  In addition to fish, Live Advantage Bait LLC also is developing several technologies and products to further improve sustainability of aquaculture worldwide, such as a novel spawning aid, early disease detection tools, and husbandry techniques utilizing items such as spirulina to naturally enhance production and fish nutrition.  Live Advantage Bait LLC has spearheaded and participated in numerous restoration efforts including with pinfish, a marine baitfish species vital to seagrass ecosystems and redfish, an extremely important commercial sport fish.  Kirchhoff is highly active in her community, sitting on several boards such as Palm Beach Historical Society Young Friends Board and American Water Security Project Executive Directors, as well as serving as an advisor to several graduate students statewide. 

Great Florida Shellfish, established in 1995, is a wholesale producer of several shellfish species such as hard clams, sunray Venus clams, oysters, and numerous new species of native clams.  He has produced hundreds of millions of clams and oysters for restoration efforts statewide, often utilizing his extensive experience and efforts into producing unique batches of locally endemic species or genetics to ensure restoration success.  McCrudden is highly active in his community, acting as Secretary of the Florida Shellfish Aquaculture Association. 

In addition, Live Advantage Bait LLC and Great Florida Shellfish are the first commercial aquaculture farms to receive such recognition.  In addition to adhering to the strict best management practices enforced by Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Aquaculture, both farms participate heavily in environmental restoration projects, research, and development in the commercial development of aquatic native species, energy and resource conservation and collaboration with numerous local, state, and federal research initiatives.  One such collaborative project is testing non-target impacts of mosquito larvicides on the aquatic food chain with local mosquito control districts, to date testing over 8 different organic larvicides commonly used in our estuaries to ensure their safety.

To learn more about Bull Hammock Ranch, Live Advantage Bait LLC, or Great Florida Shellfish, or for more information on the CARES program, visit



Created to Create a Record-Breaking Smash!

By Jackie Holfelder

Every time Visionary School of Arts (VSOA) thinks it has had a record-breaking art show, the nonprofit proceeds to break its own record!

 “Created to Create,” which was held November 3 at Infiniti of Stuart, welcomed more guests than then any prior show had done. More than 90 works of art from VSOA students ages 5-18, as well of that of Visionary Instructors, was on display. The unique event featured a celebration of creativity in innovation and design in the sciences, technology, architecture, music in addition to fine arts.

Lynne Barletta and Ava Ledon, 17

A highlight of the evening was the showcasing of the art of long-time VSOA student Ava Ledon, who will be attending SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design). Several of her paintings were auctioned off, with proceeds going to her tuition. If you’d like to contribute to Ava’s journey, contact VSOA at 772-283-4888.

Mario Murgado, President/CEO of Murgado Automotive Group Inc. which owns Infiniti of Stuart, a long-time partner of VSOA, generously opened the dealership’s showroom once again. In the past, he has stated that he is “honored to host this event for Visionary and for the remarkable and talented artists!”

Leon Ciambriello, age 14

VSOA is a 501(c)3 established in Stuart in 2010.  Children ages 5-18 are introduced to and supported in fine art training, leadership, and public presentation through shows, competitions, and community give-back. The after-school and weekend program, summer camps and workshops instill confidence in students as they are taught marketing and business.


Since its founding, VSOA students have won over 700 local, national, and international awards for fine art and leadership.

If you would like information on Visionary School of Arts’ building fund – Visionary Futures - its summer camps, classes, or show or scholarship sponsorship,

Olivia Chafin, age 8 and Lynne Barletta

Visit to read the entire compelling story of VSOA.

Photos provided by Visionary School of Arts




Preserving Paradise: A Half Cent at a Time

New Martin County Forever initiative underway to purchase natural lands

A group of concerned citizens, passionate about preserving vast areas of environmentally sensitive lands, has created a new conservation initiative called Martin County Forever.  The group has spent most of this year on outreach and education to determine whether citizens would be supportive of a sales-tax referendum to acquire these lands.   Acquiring undeveloped land would help to protect the unique character of Martin County, clean and restore rivers and waterways, safeguard sources of drinking water, preserve valuable wildlife habitat and wetlands, create wildlife corridors and expand recreational opportunities.

“There are environmentally sensitive lands throughout Martin County that need to be preserved now or they are at risk of being lost forever. Our community will never be the same if we don’t act now,” said Merritt Matheson, Martin County Forever committee member and former City of Stuart Mayor.

About 46,000 acres of natural lands within four target areas have been identified by Martin County’s Ecosystem Division for potential acquisition:

  • Indian River Lagoon Watershed, 27,000 acres essential to the health of the Lagoon
  • Loxa-Lucie, 9,800 acres essential to the health of the St. Lucie and Loxahatchee Rivers
  • Pal-Mar, 8,500 acres of some of the highest quality wetlands in Martin County
  • Blue-ways, about 400 acres of smaller parcels inside our urban areas and near waterways

The group is proposing that a referendum for a half-cent sales tax be placed on the November 2024 ballot for citizens to vote on.  “Martin County residents have a history of taking matters into their own hands to protect our environment and quality of life,” added Matheson. “We’re simply asking the Martin County Commission to allow the citizens to decide if they want to support an initiative to buy these lands.”

If approved, the sales tax could generate about $18.3 million a year for ten years, and much of the land would be eligible for matching state or federal funds, stretching those dollars even further. More than a third of the monies raised would be from visitors who live elsewhere but spend their money in Martin County.  The sales tax would only apply to the first $5,000 of any purchase. Importantly, groceries, prescription medication and school supplies would all be exempt.

Martin County has a long, proud history of supporting the preservation of environmentally sensitive lands.  Several referendums have been passed where citizens voted to tax themselves to generate funding for land acquisition. A voter approved half-cent sales tax in 2006, for example, generated about $30 million and was used to leverage an additional $30 million from state and federal sources. In fact, many popular local parks and preserves were acquired with funds generated from past referendums.  These acquisitions include important preserve areas such as Halpatiokee and Atlantic Ridge state parks, beaches throughout Hutchinson Island, and regionally significant park facilities like Indian Riverside Park.  These places are part of the recreational fabric of the community while also improving water quality in the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.

“We know there may be skeptics, and the devil is in the details, but we’ve structured the referendum language to ensure it does what it is supposed to do and nothing else,” according to committee member Jim Snedeker.  A Citizens Advisory Committee would be created to screen land acquisition opportunities. An annual audit would be required. Properties would only be purchased from willing sellers.  “Even though discussions about taxes can be controversial, we’ve been surprised and encouraged by the widespread support we’ve received for the initiative,” added Snedeker. 

“Martin County is a special place, and we want to keep it that way. It’s our small-town charm, slower pace, low density, beautiful waterways and beaches and abundance of undeveloped, natural lands that sets Martin County apart from so many other places in Florida,” said Matheson.  “The time is right to create a funding mechanism to purchase these natural lands and ensure they remain that way during our lifetime and for future generations.”

Martin County Forever has launched a website,, with more information. To schedule a presentation to your group or association, please contact them at and follow them on Facebook at or Instagram at @martincountyforever

Letters From Readers

I urge those who are reading this newsletter to send an email expressing their opinions on subjects. When a reader sends one, it will be included if I find it relevant and I have adequate space. I may edit the letter because of length and clarity. You don’t have to agree with me to have your letter in Friends & Neighbors. All you must do is send it to TOM CAMPENNI or fill out the form on the website.

From Christina Kaiser

Martin County – Not everyone looks forward to going home for the holidays – or is even welcome there. For many in the LGBTQ+ community, home isn’t a salvo or a sanctuary.

But PFLAG Stuart is.

The Youth Advisory Council of the Stuart chapter of PFLAG – the nation’s oldest support organization for the LGBTQ+ community and their families – invite those who need a place to go this Christmas Day to a festive party, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Dec. 25, at the Immanual Lutheran Church, in Palm City.

There will be games, a stocking exchange, food and good company. The event is the brainchild of an Indian River State College student and PFLAG member who is unable to go home for the holidays and wants to make sure no one is alone during the holidays, regardless of faith, gender or sexual identity.

He suggested the idea of a Christmas Day party to the PFLAG Stuart Board of Directors, who immediately supported the idea. The board reached out to ally church Immanuel Lutheran, whose leadership offered a safe space to host the party.

If you are interested in attending, please email your RSVP to We will follow up with a link to register.


Rob Ranieri

Hey there. Just want to point out that a photo of House of Hope's early learning program in Golden Gate was included in a story about Banner Lake. Not sure why, but assuming just an error. Thanks.

My Answer:


Martin County


There are many comments made by the public at meetings. Some are insightful and add to the discussion, but others are people opining without a fact. Take those who believed that FPL was getting away with something by being given a rebate on the TPP (Tangible Personal Property Tax).

Through some hard work, Martin County and the Village of Indiantown have convinced FPL to maintain a vast inventory of spare parts like expensive turbines here. On that inventory, the company pays a tax to both the county and village on the value. A few years ago, several other counties were trying to entice FPL to move the inventory to their counties.

Martin County succeeded in keeping them here. While it would have an impact on Martin County if FPL were to leave, more than 80% of Indiantown’s tax base would no longer be there. In effect, Indiantown would cease to exist.

By having a warehouse full of very expensive equipment in the county and village, it is found money. It requires no schools, no more roads, or other services. So, before some may think that something “crooked” is happening, how about understanding what FPL means to this community.

Seven J’s Industrial Park needed to have a 62.3-foot exhaust stack which is 2.3 feet over what could be administratively approved for their new asphalt plant. According to staff, it will not be seen from off site. The vote was 3-1 with Heard dissenting and Hetherington absent.

There was an affordable housing update. There is a land trust up and running. Accessible Dwelling Units are allowed. They had 18 seniors who would have subsidized rents for two years. And all in all, it shows how little Martin County can actually do in this area.

Without massive federal dollars, the question of affordability in housing will never be solved.

City of Stuart


What happens when development projects are removed from a commission’s portfolio?

In the recent past, there hasn’t been very much for the commission to approve in that regard. Word went out with the election of Collins and to a lesser extent Rich that new stuff wasn’t going to be approved. Except for things already in the pipeline, during this past year the message that the City of Stuart is closed for development has been received.

That is not all because of the commission. Interest rates have soared making construction and then end financing harder to obtain. A pause needs to be taken while the new units approved in the past few years are built and come online. Those naysayers who claim the rent or prices are too high have so far been proven wrong as project after project is filled to capacity.

The agenda for this meeting shows how right my assertion is. There were 7 items on the consent agenda. According to the city’s explanation of the agenda or calendar: “Those matters included under the Consent Calendar are self-explanatory, non­controversial, and are not expected to require review or discussion. All items will be enacted by one motion. If discussion on an item is desired by any City Commissioner that item may be removed by a City Commissioner from the Consent Calendar and considered separately. If an item is quasi-judicial it may be removed by a Commissioner or any member of the public from the Consent Calendar and considered separately.” And believe me, there were less than important things on the consent agenda to be considered.

Commissioner Clarke, who has never been part of a meeting that she believed couldn’t be longer, pulled 6 of the 7 items for discussion. The only one she left was the approval of the minutes of the last meeting. Police and Fire predominated. The reason they were before the commission on consent was because there were grant applications, budget allocations such as creating police storage behind the public safety complex, or agreements to cooperate with the sheriff.

The one item on the regular agenda was a continuance to a date certain for a project on Seminole Street which would turn a single-family house into a restaurant. The continuance would allow the applicant not to have to readvertise. This was a development project, albeit requiring no new housing.

During commissioner comments, Collins wanted not to move too hastily to place a car wash that may be interested on the two acres that were carved out of Haney Creek on Federal Highway. The income from the land rental was to supposedly be used to support the preserve. The carve out has never worked for nothing was ever built on it. Collins is hoping that the ½ cent sales tax for conservation that is the city’s portion can be used to create a trailhead there.

If the sales tax passes by county referendum, then there would be funds and it would be a good project. But passing is a big if, and the 2 acres may be more encumbered than what is thought because of the way it was created. Moving to end the idea of development there for all time is a good idea.

Martin County School Board


This was the school board reorganization meeting.

Board Member DiTerlizzi nominated Jennifer Russell as chair. It was seconded by Amy Pritchett. The vote was 5-0.


DiTerlizzi then nominated Pritchett as vice-chair. It was seconded by Marsha Powers. It passed 5-0. Congratulations to both.

Once again, the book bans were part of public comment. Nothing new to report there.

The public also spoke in support of Timothy Aitkin, who had been reassigned as principal at South Fork High School. In September three male students were accused of vaping. They were told to remove their pants to find the vapes. Aitkin was there for at least one of the searches. Two vaping instruments were found.

The sheriff investigated and found that no crime had been committed. None of the students were physically touched. It was then referred to the district where Aitkin has been sitting out his days at the district office.

Superintendent Michael Maine is recommending that Aitkin receive a letter of reprimand and remain at the district office for the rest of the year. At this meeting, the board was supposed to act according to earlier reports. The matter did not come up. Perhaps there is an attempt to come to some sort of agreement between the district and Aitkin.

Village of Indiantown


The village is one step closer to owning their current city hall.

With the change of council members and administration earlier this year, the idea to build a new complex for the village government and a community center has been abandoned. While the current plan is not quite government “lite,” it is a vast change from what some called the Taj Mahal that the old council members were looking to build.

Instead, the current location, which is in the center of the village, will suffice. The village obtained two appraisals of the property located at 15516 S.W. Osceola Street. One valued the building at $1,300,000 and the other $820,000. The owner offered the building to the town at $1,060,000 which was the average of the two appraisals.

Staff asked the council for permission to proceed with the option contract to buy and to hire a firm to assist in the RFP to finance the purchase. All the resolutions passed 4-0 with Stone absent and Dipaolo participating remotely.

Doug Caldwell, a resident who speaks often at the meetings, told the council that last year the property had changed hands for a recorded price of $75,000. In both appraisals this was mentioned and stated that it was a non-arms-length transfer.

There is no reason to assume this is not true, but the explanation given by Attorney Vose did not shed much light on that transaction. To alleviate any suspicion that the village is being taken advantage of a written memo should be furnished to the council and be part of the next agenda outlining the details of that transaction. Without that, the current council members and staff might be looked upon as trying to do something nefarious at some future date.

You can the appraisals and bond council agreements here 

Town of Jupiter Island


The discussion about what to do with the Impact Review Committee and the Board of Adjustment was on the agenda for the umpteenth time.

Commissioner Scott once again reiterated her opinion that the BOA should be advisory only. She stated that they have been lax in enforcing the town’s rules and that is why the town has had problems. Scott went on to say that the commission was elected to make these decisions. If the BOA members resign because of their advisory status, then so be it, according to Scott.


Commissioner Taddeo agrees with Scott since the decision will eventually come to the board anyway. Commissioner Warner asked how to make the members feel relevant. Scott said their decisions are relevant, but the commission is the body that should make the final decision. Mayor Townsend echoed the belief that they are still relevant.

A motion was made to bring back an ordinance to do that. It passed 3-1 with Warner voting no. Vice-Mayor Field was absent.

Scott then said the Impact Review Committee should also be advisory, but it should be discussed on another day. Taddeo believes the IRC has 7 or 8 cases to decide at each meeting. He then explained the amount of work that the members do including looking at blueprints and delving into the code. The commission could not handle that volume of work plus their current load.

Scott said the IRC would still do everything, but their decision would be advisory. She believes it is wrong to delegate the ultimate decision to them instead of the commission. Although taking their advice seriously Scott went on, but the buck stopped at the commission.

Warner is comfortable the way it is. Scott again said the onus is on the commission. Townsend stated that the final decision is never final. You could always go to the courts. Townsend believes that the commission should focus on western development instead of taking on the IRC responsibility. Taddeo wants to hear more on switching to a de novo review by the commission.

I can’t think of any other municipalities in Martin County where the boards are not advisory. Scott has a point about that. However, if the IRC has as many as 7 or 8 decisions to make each time they meet, then this commission would be hard pressed to step in and hear all those items. It is a difficult balancing act.

The commission now hears appeals from the IRC but can only make their decision based on the evidence introduced during the IRC hearing. No new evidence can be brought to light. If the proceeding became one in which new evidence can be introduced, then the commission could exercise more control over outcomes than what they do now. The memorandum and chart can be found here 

Should Mayor Townsend be re-imbursed for her legal fees because of the ongoing lawsuit for Public Records and Sunshine violations?

If she has been found to be in violation, the answer is no…she cannot be reimbursed. And that is the question. According to Loeb’s office, representing the plaintiff, the answer was that she has been found guilty by an interim order signed by the presiding judge. Tom Baird, the town’s attorney, disagrees since the order was partially quashed by the appellate court.

Florida Statute and the town’s ordinance do allow for legal fee payments during the litigation. If she is found not guilty her costs would be borne by the town but if not, then she is not entitled to the fees. Will this case have a clear-cut win or loss for the mayor? Right now, according to Baird it is still undecided while Loeb is arguing the opposite.

A motion was made to reimburse $108,703.46. It passed 3-0 with Field absent and Townsend recusing.

Scott wanted to cross examine Giesler from Loeb’s office, and he gave their rationale regarding why Townsend should not be reimbursed. Giesler rose to take the bait, which was not smart, but he did. I am sure going forward with this vote, it will be part of another action. Unless Townsend needed the money, she shouldn’t have requested reimbursement until the matter had been settled.  This is only going to cause some other court filing and with it more legal fees for the town.

Bob Garlo was voted an annual salary of $250,000 retroactive to his commencement as the manager by the commission. That is nice work if you can get it.

He also read a statement regarding Loeb’s October 30th letter claiming antisemitism in town. He wanted Loeb to apologize to him and the town’s employees in regard to Loeb’s claim that some were antisemitic. Garlo went on to say that his son had lived on a kibbutz in Israel for five years.

If there is antisemitism in the town, I have not encountered it when dealing with Garlo or town employees. Unless there is something more that hasn’t been revealed yet, I think that allegation should be left alone as far as town employees are concerned. You can see Loeb’s letter here

Final Thoughts


The Last Conservative

Milton Friedman was a revered figure of Republican economic policy and classical conservatism from the Reagan era up to the George W. Bush administration. Unfortunately, Republicans have abandoned what he championed.

A new book by Jennifer Burns, “Milton Friedman, The Last Conservative” reminds us why what he preached throughout his career gave America and any other nation that adhered to his teaching’s economic opportunity. Friedman was a child of two immigrant parents and grew up in New Jersey. For his graduate studies, he attended both Columbia and the University of Chicago.

He was a believer in free markets with little regulation and interference in the markets. Friedman did not understand how governments could do a better job than millions of people making millions of decisions about their economic wellbeing. How could a bureaucrat by stopping trade or using tax policy be better at influencing positive outcomes.

While he warned against subsidies and favored treatment of corporations, he was hardly in favor of letting those in need fend for themselves. Going back to the 1930s, he looked at guaranteed individual incomes. Though his first job was in the Treasury Department during the Depression, he was never enamored with the benevolent, all knowing, bureaucrat who became standard across party lines.

Friedman strongly believed that inflation was caused by a contraction in the money supply. Allowing the Fed to operate using monetary supply instead of government wage and price controls was one of the reasons that Fed Chair Paul Volcker was able to tamp down rampant inflation beginning with his stint in 1979. Friedman’s belief that inflation is transitory and does not ultimately affect employment is still true today.

His hypothesis was that democracy and liberty are protected by the free market. Not by protectionism or tariffs but rather by the ability for capital, labor, and goods being allowed to flow across borders. When the government begins trying to dictate economic outcomes, individual freedom is sacrificed for a never-realized greater good.

Democrats have always tended to believe in the government’s ability to steer the markets. Republicans were the ones who believed in little regulation of the markets except to level the playing field for all contestants. Sad to say, that went away under the Trump years as his administration went all the way back to the 16th century for their economic beliefs.

They rallied around Mercantilism. It seemed that Trump believed that a balance of trade deficit meant that the U.S. would send gold or jewels for instance to China at the end of the year. The world’s modern economies just don’t work that way. Protectionism and tariffs make goods more expensive. It doesn’t accomplish anything except making the nation poorer. In the Trump years, our overall deficit grew by $167 billion.

It is too bad that Republicans as well as Democrats have not adhered more to the philosophy of Friedman. We are less free with needless regulation, government actions, and the subsidization of failing businesses. It isn’t all about tax cuts which have starved the Treasury without in the least reducing the government footprint. Friedman never thought otherwise.



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:


Tom’s Articles

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The New York Times: “What Today’s Migrant Crisis Looks Like to a Holocaust Refugee”


TC Palm: “Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades: 2 Treasure Coast hospitals gest D’s for patient safety”


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