January 21, 2024

Friends & Neighbors Edition

In this Edition

Friends & Neighbors is still looking for new columnists, especially in the area of food and land planning. If you are interested in becoming one of our writers, please let me know. As we approach the 30,000-person level, we are becoming more and more a source of information for Martin County residents. Why not let our readers in on your expertise.

If your friends and neighbors have not yet signed up to receive their free edition, make sure you do it for them. We do not ask for names or any other identifying information.

This week you can read about the Creekside hotel in Stuart. The new regulations on Martin County’s mooring fields are available. The commissioners’ priorities for 2024 and some you won’t believe.

There is the latest on open enrollment and school choice and the school board’s discussion on year-round schooling. Jupiter Island once again decides…not to. And Indiantown continues to solve their problems.

I write about the disappearing art of service, Stuart Boat Show, the passing of an innovative educator, the difference between Martin and St. Lucie Counties, and Dr. King.

Don’t forget to check us out on Facebook in between additions.

Happy Sunday Morning!


The Lost Art Of Service

As a kid, I was a busboy in a restaurant. In those days, one of the things we hoped for was a customer to ask us to get them a pack of cigarettes. That was good for at least half a buck tip. If a customer asked me to buy their brand, which wasn’t in the cigarette machine, I would run to the corner newsstand and do it.

When I returned to the table, I apologized for taking so long and explained. I received a fiver as a tip a few times. In the 1960s, that wasn’t too bad when minimum wage was a $1.50.

Most waiters, waitresses and busboys (in my day, they were always boys) considered themselves professionals in the hospitality industry. They were trained professionals who carried themselves with a certain demeanor. They didn’t think of themselves as servants. Their job was to provide an enriched dining experience. You never saw them sweat.

Servers rose through the ranks. From busser to server to captain and then Maître ‘d. Once you were the Maître d, the staff called you “Mr.” and you were in a rarefied position. I was 13 when I had my first experience working for a Maître d. He was from Sweden, and I still remember he smoked English cigarettes.

Waiters had been trained not to clear plates from the table until everyone was finished. They never asked whether to bring out the soup with the appetizer or the salad before the main course. Your drink order was taken promptly as were the filled water glasses and the bread was brought to the table. It was seamless.

Professionals never announced their names and that they would be taking care of you this evening. All parties assumed that was why the waitstaff was there. If the customer was a regular, the staff knew their name and called them by their last name proceeded by their title. A regular customer may know their favorite server’s name and would even ask to sit at one of their tables when calling to make a reservation.

It was a profession that allowed them to buy houses, provide for their families, and have good retirements. Those men and women knew more about proper table etiquette than Emily Post even though many had never graduated from high school or been a customer in places like they worked.

The hospitality profession has devolved today into having people who are far from professionals. Fine dining is now obsolete even though you still pay premium prices with far from premium service. Like the waitress that tells you to keep your fork for the next course.

Table service is another lost art that has succumbed to the informality that so many think is appropriate. By dumbing down this laudable profession, many will never have the opportunity to have a career instead of a job. It was a career that was built on learning the craft of service and hospitality. It was a place where kids that would never excel in school or immigrants trying to make it here could build lives and be part of the American dream.

Stuart Boat Show

The Stuart Boat Show was last weekend. It seemed to go off without a hitch.

Before last year, I was not someone who wanted to see the boat show in town. The traffic on Federal Highway was backed up because Dixie Highway and the old draw bridge were closed. I couldn’t leave my street to turn onto Federal. To the average person in Stuart, it was a mess.

Then beginning last year and continuing this year, the show’s organizers hired Stuart PD to direct traffic on both the north and south side of the Roosevelt Bridge. Cops being there really make a difference and the congestion, while more than normal on Federal, is acceptable.

I am not going to get into whether having a boat show on a roadway is a good thing or not. The city government has a large say in that. It is also up to the distributors to decide. That is strictly a business decision and not in my purview. Parking at the fairgrounds and being shuttled over to the show would hold little appeal to me, but it doesn’t seem to be a detriment to Downtown parking or the show’s participants.

                                            Photo Courtesy of Stuart Boat Show

The show closes the roadway for a week. Does the closure need to be that long. At rush hour, there are backups at the traffic circles and streets off Federal in the Potsdam and Downtown areas. Does it affect business? I will let the merchants decide. But it seems like a long time to leave a road closed for a three-day event.

Until recently, North Stuart had open space. With the build-out of Avonlea, that is no longer the case. There are also a boat works and marina being built where the boat show currently is. Once they are completed, will they close for the week because no traffic is allowed?

As a citizen who lives close to the area, these last two years have been fine for me. But I do see problems ahead. Something as simple as the fairgrounds finally being sold could abruptly cancel parking. Now is the time for the parties to plan for the show not only next year but into the future. Ignoring that future is not the smart thing to do.

Anthony Alvarado R.I.P.

I read in the paper that Anthony Alvarado passed away. He was a person that I and many others admired very much.

He first came to prominence as the school district superintendent in East Harlem, New York. That is where I worked with him on several projects in the late 1970s and early 1980s. East Harlem which had once been an Italian neighborhood had by then become mostly Hispanic and Black. It had some of the poorest reading and math scores in the city. There were entire blocks of abandoned buildings, and most of the kids lived in vertical run-down housing projects.

I was a member of the N.Y. Borinquen Lions Club back then and our service area was East Harlem. Our membership was made up of mostly Puerto Rican men who were small business owners and government employees. I was the token gringo who got there by marriage.

Tony Alvarado and our then club president, Frank Miranda, who was an official in city government, embarked on the idea to test every kid’s eyesight in the public and Catholic schools in the district. A study by Mount Sinai Hospital had concluded that Hispanic kids suffered from myopia more than others. This

Disease, left undiagnosed, would lead to doing poorly in school.

Tony asked our club to lead the effort to fundraise for a portable machine to go to every school, test the kids, and provide eyeglasses for those needing them. We successfully accomplished what he asked of us.

This wasn’t the only time Tony asked. He was an innovative educator who believed in rigorous teacher training. Alvarado knew that scores would not improve without teachers knowing how to teach. He arranged for more extensive teacher training and neighborhood involvement in the schools. The Lions ended up instituting awards and scholarships in East Harlem schools.

Given the chaos, crime, and drug use in the neighborhood at the time, many children had few role models. Alvarado, a native of the South Bronx, believed that the Lions could offer that. Many of us had come from East Harlem or other neighborhoods just like it. We could show that you didn’t need to be a dope pusher to have a future.

In his ten years at the district, Alvarado went on to forge a great relationship with Albert Shanker head of the teacher’s union. Tony recognized that teachers were professionals and should be treated that way. The only way to accomplish cooperation was to make an ally of their union which he did.

                                                  PS 11 In East Harlam

He raised the reading scores in the district of kids reading at grade level from 25% to 48%. Many of these kids were from homes where English was not spoken. Tony also established the concept of mini schools within schools focusing on one subject. Students from other districts throughout the city began asking to be accepted to those District 4 schools.

Tony became the first Hispanic New York City Chancellor in 1983. Unfortunately, after a year and a half, he became embroiled in a scandal when it became known that he had borrowed money from subordinates, though he had repaid those debts. He resigned when it came out.

A few years later he became superintendent of another New York City district where he once again forged relationships with parents and teachers. The improvements were seen in improving test scores of the children. The district was very large encompassing every neighborhood from Chinatown to the Upper West Side. Many parents of means who had sent their children to private school enrolled them in their local public school under his leadership.

I was glad to be a small part of the success of a school administrator who really knew how to inspire children, parents, teachers, and community leaders to work together for the common good. Rest In peace, Tony.

Store In Martin And A Distribution Center In St. Lucie

Martin County is on track to have their Costco store opened by the end of the year. St Lucie County will be the home of the new Costco distribution center for Costco stores. Which is better?

That is a loaded question because there will be 265 full-time employees at the distribution center with an average yearly wage of more than $55,000 plus benefits. Martin County’s store won’t match that for jobs. But that point highlights the difference between our two counties.

St. Lucie County and the City of Port St. Lucie are all about growth. Their emphasis is to create as many jobs as possible for their constituents. Martin County and the City of Stuart are not creators but consumers. A store, while something many want to see here, is not going to have the same economic impact.

Martin caters to those who come here ready to embrace their golden years. Pensions, retirement income, and proceeds of selling a business are what we live on. Sure, we have opportunities for professionals like doctors, lawyers, and accountants to practice but to borrow a tax term, Martin County doesn’t have much earned income. Our income is passive.

St Lucie is a place on the move. They are trying to create their wealth by having companies invest in their people as well as their plants. It is a place that is looking toward the future over the past. It is the new Florida of commerce and industry over Martin County’s idea of a Florida of retirement and the wealthy being tended to by service providers in restaurants, hospitals, and golf courses.

One way isn’t better than the other. It is different. It is easy to see the difference between dynamism and stagnation. The big question is whether St. Lucie County will once again be on the brink of bankruptcy because of an economic downturn. But will Martin County have the tax revenue to continue to provide the services that we have grown to want?

Check back here in 50 years and we will have an answer.


Fletch's Perspective

Keith Fletcher
Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County, President & CEO

Experts estimate that by this time in January, nearly 70 percent of the people who made New Year’s resolutions have abandoned them.

By April, just 13 percent of the resolvers will remain. By July, only two percent. So, if you’ve already talked yourself out of that gym visit or into that extra serving of dessert, you’re far from alone. But if you want an extra dose of inspiration to push forward, defy the statics, and succeed, keep reading.

It’s Youth of the Year time at Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County (BGCMC) and at our sister facilities around the nation. This is when we recognize our top members—young people who could’ve easily succumbed to the discouraging and difficult circumstances all around them but instead dug deep, worked hard, acknowledged their worth, and strived daily toward greatness.

It's my privilege to introduce our nominees. The winner—who will be crowned at a free dinner event open to the public at 6 p.m. Feb. 29 at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Stuart—will represent Martin County at the state competition, and possibly even the national level.

Jomar Zelaya, 18, attends our Port Salerno club and is a nine-year member of BGCMC. A dual-enrolled honor student, he plans to become an orthopedic surgeon. He’s performed 500 hours of community service, serves as captain of the Peer Forward Team, and participates in our Students Working Against Tobacco program.

“I love making others feel welcomed,” writes Jomar, “and being a part of the Boys & Girls Clubs gives me the opportunity to do so.”

Jesshia Sanchez, 14, has attended our Indiantown club for the last seven years. She’s a dedicated volunteer at various local organizations and community events as well as at the club, where she’s always eager to help organize things as well as distribute meals to members. She plans to become an infusion nurse.

“I have witnessed the transformative power of mentorship, education and character development,” she writes. “I am committed to advocating for the needs and aspirations of my fellow club members and I am eager to amplify their voices.”

Mildred Castillo, 14, is a five-year member of our Hobe Sound Club. She’s performed 150 hours of community service and won the Copper Key Scholarship for her leadership skills. An honor student planning to dual enroll when eligible, Mildred is a sous chef in our culinary program and wants to become a trauma nurse.

“No matter how bad things can look,” she writes, “it’s important to remember tomorrow is a new day and I feel that being able to see the good in a bad situation can really help me make an impact.”

Whichever one wins, it’s wise words like that—and examples such as these—that remind each of us to hold our heads up, try harder, and at least win the day. As adults, we realize young people regularly look up to us. Youth of the Year attests to the fact that we’re often also looking up to them.

Keitch Fletcher's opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

VanRiper's Views

Darlene VanRiper

State of the State

Many of you did not listen to the Governor DeSantis’ address opening this legislative session.  I thought some of the points he made should be common knowledge.   I offer the caveat that I am a shameless fan of the Governor’s.  At the same time, I bring you only the facts.  I am not advocating, simply informing. 

DeSantis began with a comparison to California and New York.  New York’s budget is twice the size of ours.  New York’s population is 19.6 M, while Florida’s is 22.6 M.  New York has a $4.3 billion budget deficit.  California’s population is 39 M with a $68 billion deficit.  Florida has an $11.3 billion surplus.  Nearly 25% of our state’s debt has been paid down in the last 5 years.  And the Governor is reducing the state budget by $4 billion from last year.  An impressive feat considering his plan is to reduce state debt by another $455 million.  Yes, we have an AAA credit rating. 

“Florida has the fewest state employees per capita, and the lowest state government cost per capita.” According to the Governor.

The comparison between the federal government and Florida’s was interesting:  Each American’s share of national debt is $100,000, while Floridian’s share of state debt is $661. 

Education and the Environment are two of the most concerning topics to us Floridians.   The Governor is proposing another $1.25 billion for teacher pay increases.  That is in addition to the $3 billion he gave over the last 4 years.   Parents’ Bill of Rights and “curriculum transparency”, “largest expansion of school choice in American history”, protecting women’s sports and “eliminating DEI (discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination) in our public universities” are accomplishments of which he is proud.   Our universities are more affordable after freezing tuition.  Realizing the need for vocational and technical workers in the state, “229,000” students have been incentivized to enrolled in workforce educational programs.

Since 2019, $5 billion has been invested in supporting Everglades restoration and water quality with another $1.1 billion to be budgeted.  DeSantis is proposing $125 million to “protect Florida’s conservation lands and waterways.”

Security is an increasing concern.  DeSantis has banned China from buying certain properties in the state.  “Florida’s crime rate is at a 50-year low.” He said.   Even so, the Governor is asking for $20 million more to entice police officers to relocate here.   The Hometown Heros program will help them secure housing upon arrival. 

DeSantis has won the fight to allow Florida to bargain for less expensive drugs imported from Canada saving us millions annually. 

The ability to empty half of the state with only a few days’ notice has become critical.   Over the years, Florida has been remiss in its duty to provide adequate infrastructure for this purpose.  Now with so many new to our state, our last legislative session passed the Moving Florida Forward “initiative to accelerate road projects. 

The above is not comprehensive but now you can be the smartest person at your next cocktail party!

You can read the speech in its entirety here

Darlene VanRiper’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors nor the Martin County Taxpayers Association's viewpoint.

Nicki's Place

Nicki van Vonno
van Vonno Consulting, Owner

Setting Intentions: A list




Do good.


Be kind.


Thank people.


Say No.

Avoid large crowds, flashing lights and noise.

Mind myself, not others.

See movies.

Choose people.

Love them.

Sing more.

Dance in the grocery store.

Shop local.

Wear snarky T-shirts.

Sit in the sunshine.

Enjoy eternity.

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

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg is raising beef!?

On January 9, Mr. Zuckerberg shared on his Facebook and Instagram accounts that he is raising wagyu and angus cattle at his Ko’olau Ranch on Kauai Island, Hawaii. His announcement includes the diet he feeds his cattle: macadamia meal and beer, both sourced from his ranch. Mark’s goal is “to create some of the highest quality beef in the world.” He closes his post with, “Of all my projects, this is the most delicious.”

I witnessed a wide range of responses to this announcement. Some are disappointed that he’s raising beef citing ethical reasons, others say he is betraying the climate, some say we cannot trust him (maybe, but I find this humorous as they share their lives on his platform), and many commentors opine that he is only raising beef for high-class elites. Conversely, there are many commentors who happily embrace “Zuch’s” new venture and praise his move toward agriculture- one of which is me.

As an advocate for agriculture, I am always looking for ways to connect people with farming, so they better understand the work and dedication it takes to grow and raise the food and fiber they eat and wear every day. I want to help people understand different farms serve different purposes. We need farms that raise a lot of food in the least expensive way so there are affordable options in the store. We need farms that specialize in different ways of growing because there are consumers who demand different products. We need farms that grow high end products to serve wealthier clientele.

When I saw Mark Zuckerberg’s post my first thought was opportunity. Opportunity to connect one of the most influential people in the world to a better understanding of agriculture.

In his post Mark shares, “Each cow eats 5,000-10,000 pounds of food each year, so that's a lot of acres of macadamia trees.” That sent respondents calculating the cost of feeding each cow 10 thousand pounds of macadamia nuts and exclaiming the price tag on the beef would be astronomical. What is likely missing from the commentors’ tabulations is the fact that cattle are up-cyclers. This means cows eat things that would otherwise go to waste because they aren’t perfect, and people will not eat them. I am sure it is the imperfect nuts that end up as cattle feed. It’s actually very common to find nuts like peanuts, almonds, and the shells in cattle feed as a source of protein. I am also sure the cattle will be fed a balanced diet consisting of many ingredients, not solely macadamia nuts.

I hope his endeavor will help Mark better understand the difficulties we face in agriculture. I understand he has lots of money to throw at his problems, but I also know no businessman likes to lose money. When Zuckerberg sees the ups and downs in raising cattle, I hope he takes them to heart and grows a deeper appreciation for farming.

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

Carl's Conclusions

Carl Frost
Kai Kai Farms, Owner

Climate, Weather, and Growing Vegetables

My earlier article introduced the subject of climate change and its impact upon our Martin County vegetable farm ‘Kai-Kai’. We are experiencing an El Niño weather pattern which has yielded significantly wetter and warmer growing conditions. So how does this impact vegetable growth? Let’s explore this a bit further.

The USDA 2023 Plant Hardiness Zone Map https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/ places non-coastal areas of Martin County in zone ‘10a’ with a minimum winter temperature of 30 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit. The 1990 edition places the entire county into zone ‘9b’ with a minimum temperature range of 25 to 30 degrees. Side by side this confirms what we as vegetable growers have experienced. Minimum temperatures are rising, freezes and frosts are rare. To date January has been much wetter and warmer. What happened to the blasts of arctic air we used to enjoy under layers of blankets?

This has consequences as I outlined last time. I inquired with my packing house team today about how the yields of some popular vegetables have been impacted by the El Niño. Some good news: tomato yields are impressive. A January harvest of tomatoes twenty years ago would have been unthinkable. The plants would have been frozen at worst or stunted by the cold at best. Growing tomatoes during the start of winter twenty years ago in western Martin County would have been a losing proposition. Today it’s a reasonable bet that yields will be productive and the fruit sweet. And it has.

Other produce has grown more productive this (warm) season such as green and yellow beans, kohlrabi, and peppers. Mini broccoli has not been as productive. In today’s harvest I noted telltale flowers and open florets when we should see tightly packed florets without any flowers.

Lettuce we discussed last time but so far so good because Diane selected warm season adapted cultivars which mitigates bolting and bitterness.

In conclusion to date the warm winter has in the balance yielded different results. Instead of cold hardy vegetables like lettuces and broccoli we have shifted to warmer adapted choices like peppers, beans and tomatoes. But the reckoning will be in April and May. If a real summer arrives early there are few popular vegetables which can take the heat, rain, insects, and diseases without a regular spray program. Kai-Kai uses spot spraying of pest and disease outbreaks in lieu of a routine spray program. This significantly reduces pesticide use but spot spraying is no match for the intensity of summer insects, bacteria, and fungi.

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

Hope in Our Community

Rob Ranieri
House of Hope, CEO

Many people use the start of the New Year as a launching pad for personal improvement.

Perhaps they want to improve their physical or mental health, reduce stress or build confidence. Maybe they want to make new friends, learn new skills or feel more connected to their community. Or maybe they just want to have more fun. There is a wonderful way to accomplish all of those things and more. VOLUNTEER!

At House of Hope we have a wide range of volunteer opportunities for individuals and groups. Last year, 876 volunteers donated 37,822 hours of service to our organization. Some came on a weekly basis to help our food pantries, thrift stores, gardens, farm, nutrition center enrichment centers and more. Others supported us through service projects such as sorting and packing food, planting and harvesting in our gardens or farm, or gleaning local commercial farms.

Gleaning is harvesting the produce remaining after a field has been professionally picked. We glean every Saturday (weather permitting) during the winter and spring seasons in partnership with CROS Ministries. Once harvested, the produce is distributed through our four food pantries and shared with our food partners instead of being plowed back into the soil. Without volunteers, we would be unable to participate in this activity. Last year, thanks to amazing volunteer support, we gleaned approximately 100,000 pounds of fresh produce, or nearly 20% of the 500,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables that we distributed. This is a great activity for groups and families, as children 5 and up are welcome to participate.

House of Hope excels at finding the right fit in our organization for individual volunteers, or developing meaningful projects for group participation. So much of our success is driven by the tremendous support of our volunteer base. Last year, we distributed nearly 1.3 million pounds of food, provided over 131,000 items to our clients such as clothing, housewares and furniture through our thrift stores, produced and packaged over 41,000 meals in our nutrition center, maintained and harvested five gardens and our farm and more. Our amazing team of dedicated volunteers had their hands in all of that.

So are you are ready to be a part of something bigger than yourself? The gifts of your time and talent will help House of Hope continue to empower residents to overcome hunger and hardship in our community. To get your volunteer journey started, please visit our website at www.hohmartin.org/volunteers or call us at (772) 286-4673 ext. 1013. Thank you for considering, and happy and healthy new year to all.

Rob Ranieri’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Michele's Medical Moment

Michelle Libman, M.D.
Treasure Coast Urgent Care, Physician

Biological Age vs Chronological Age

With the anti-aging movement really starting to gain traction you may have heard some doctors talking about Biological Age vs Chronological Age.  What is the difference and why is this significant?

Chronological age is how long you have been alive.  Biological age is how old your cells are. Believe it or not these values are not necessarily the same. Just like Healthspan and Lifespan are not the same.  Lifespan is how long you live but Healthspan is how long you live free of chronic disease.    We all know people who live long lives but don’t have a good quality of life.  Our goal is to try and turn back the biological clock and keep our cells healthy and ward off diseases, especially those that rob us of physical and mental abilities for as long as we can.

Some signs of aging you can see with the naked eye such as wrinkles, gray hair, and limited mobility but aging really happens on a cellular level.  As your cells age, they enter a phase called senescence which is when they lose their ability to regenerate and repair themselves.  Environmental factors like stress as well as genetic factors can trigger senescence in your cells.

Within our cells we have structures called chromosomes that contain our DNA.  At the end of our chromosomes are structures called telomeres that protect our chromosomes from deterioration.  As we age, our telomeres get shorter.  Every time our cells divide for normal repair and regeneration our telomeres get shorter.   Research suggests that if you have shorter telomeres, you are more likely to die early or develop a neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease

There is a genetic disease called Short Telomere Syndrome in which people have genetic mutations leading to rapid aging because of short telomere lengths. 

We humans have about 30,000 genes which carry instructions for making proteins that make up your body and carry out all its functions.  Genes can be turned on and off like light switches.  When your cells replicate and repair a process called DNA methylation can occur.  DNA methylation doesn’t change your genes but can affect how you express your genes. DNA methylation can turn your genes on or off.

DNA methylation is part of epigenetics which is the study of how your lifestyle and environment affect your genes.  External factors such as diet, exercise, smoking, stress and even access to health care can contribute to how you age.  DNA methylation can be reversed by lifestyle changes.  Someone who smokes will have a different methylation pattern than someone who doesn’t.

Stay tuned because in the not-so-distant future we will be able to measure DNA methylation and be able to measure biological age much more accurately.   

Michele Libman’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Martin County Real Estate

John Gonzalez
Engel & Volkers, Managing Broker

I recently went to Tallahassee to represent Realtors and homeowners at the Great American Realtors Day.

Over a thousand Realtors attend this event to encourage their legislators to support homeownership and property rights issues. Local Realtors met with our Martin County delegation - Senator Harrell, Representative Overdorf and Representative Snyder.

The Realtors go yearly to Tallahassee to encourage our legislators to support our annual legislative priorities. Our efforts are important to you because we are advocating for property rights, housing affordability, and insurance reform. This year was a successful event and will help to improve our quality of life.

All our local representatives were accessible and supportive of our property rights and homeowner advocacy.

One of the important programs we initiated and supported is our Hometown Heroes program. This program provides down payment assistance to our first responders, teachers, and other hardworking Floridians. The program was so successful last year that it ran out of money. Our legislators went to work and found additional funding. This year there will be significant funding for this program. If you or a family member needs to know more, they should contact their local Realtor.

One of the highest priorities of the Realtors is property insurance relief. I commend our legislators and governor for the legislation they passed last year. They are implementing some tweaks to that legislation in this year's session. Legislators are asking our homeowners facing large increases to their policy or being “depopulated” from Citizens to be patient. Relief is coming (so they say) and the legislation is beginning to work and will ultimately help Floridians.

I go to Tallahassee because I truly believe the Realtors efforts bring positive change to our state and local communities. Your local Realtor works to make your home better, safer, and insurable. We have advocated for many of the laws and programs that make your home and hometown a better place to live. Condominium owners have benefitted through safety regulations. All Floridians who live in an HOA or Condominium Association have better controls on disclosures, fees, and safety thanks to our efforts.

I look forward to my trip to our Capitol. This year was filled with advocacy, important learning opportunities and an opportunity to help my hometown and fellow Floridians in some small way.

Finally, a brief market update - there are upticks that I am seeing in our local community. Homes are coming onto the market and buyers are beginning to pull the trigger. Lower interest rates and pent-up demand are energizing the market that was sluggish in the last quarter of 2023. I am looking forward to a healthy market in 2024.

John Gonzalez’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Palm City Highlights

Missi Campbell
Palm City Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director

Wow! 2023 was quite a year for the Palm City Chamber of Commerce but 2024 looks to be even bigger and better! 

We introduced an exciting new ongoing monthly event this year, Dish with the Commish. This is an opportunity to join Martin County District 5 Commissioner Ed Ciampi and his special guests as they discuss local issues and concerns. The event is FREE and is scheduled for the 3rd Thursday of each month, unless otherwise noted.

Let’s go through the year 2024….

February 24th is our Installation Gala at Piper’s Landing Yacht and Country Club. This is a chance to get all dressed up and enjoy music, laughter, and great food as we swear in our new Board of Directors and Officers.

March 8th is International Women’s Day, and we will be holding our Women in Business Summit at New Hope Fellowship featuring keynote speaker Hollani Davis from WPTV.

March 22nd is a night of laughter with special guest comedian Gary DeLena. The event will be at the Palm City Community Center.

March 24th we are bringing our Spring Festival back to Palm City at the Rockin H Ranch. This family event will include Touch-a -Truck and the infamous Cow Plop Bingo.

May 3rd will be our 29th Annual Golf Tournament at Piper’s Landing Yacht and Country Club. Join us for a Cinco de Mayo themed golf outing.

September 22nd is American Business Women’s Day on a Sunday. We will celebrate with another Women in Business Summit on a date to be determined.

November 9th will be our Veterans Memorial Bridge 5K to honor our local Veterans.

December 4th is the Holiday Village at the Patio on Mapp Road.

The best way to stay up on these fun events is to follow the Palm City Chamber Facebook page or go to our website at www.palmcitychamber.com

These events are open to the public and are always available for your sponsorships. We do our best to have free community events for our local families and businesses to enjoy. Let’s all continue to make Palm City the best place to be in Martin County!

Missi Campbell’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Fishing Tips

Paul Sperco

It is January 16th already and yes, the days are getting longer.

January and February are not typically the best months for putting a big catch together for anyone who is fishing the surf for pompano. I am happy to say that there are enough fish around to put a couple of dinners in your cooler. Pompano, whiting, croaker, blue runners, Spanish mackerel, permit, and some of the biggest bluefish I have ever seen in Florida have all made my catch list this month.

The permit bite has been outstanding so far and anglers are taking them daily along all of our St Lucie and Martin County beaches. Years ago, when I started surf fishing down here it was a big deal to catch a permit. Obviously, that stock of fish has grown the past few years and catching two in one day is a normal occurrence. This past Sunday my son Randy and I caught and released a 10 and 12 pounder along with four nice pompano and several 10-to-15-pound bluefish.

Yes, you read that correctly, 10 to 15 pounds! I am originally from New Jersey and those big blues always seem to show in the early fall along with the striped bass. These monsters stormed the beach on us this past Sunday as they chased the croakers literally up onto the sand. The normal size for our area is 2 to 4 pounds and where these fish came from is anyone’s guess.

Randy was casting a 6-inch top water YoZuri plug and hooking up as soon as the lure hit the water. He was using a 7-foot light action rod with a small 2500 Penn Spinfisher reel and just had a ball. The big whiting have been a consistent catch also and all of the beaches down our way, like Tiger Shores, Bob Graham, Stuart, and Santa Lucea have been holding these whiting.

I am not sure if there is a better tasting fish in Florida than these. The difference between fishing for them at this time of year instead of in the spring and summer is that most of the big ones are being taken on the long rods that are targeting pompano, 70 to 100 yards from the beach. The spring and summer area to fish is right in the first trough 10 to 20 yards from the edge of the surf.

I am sure you can still catch some in close during the winter and I recommend fishing the high tide mark to 2 hours of the outgoing to put a catch together. As far as baits that are producing a few of the Fishbites scents and colors are red hot. I mentioned in an article a few months ago that matching your pompano floats on your rigs to the color of the Fishbites you are using is a tactic that has been producing for me for the last year and a half. My Captain Paul pompano rig combinations that are producing are the Green Machine rig with the Powerlime Crab Fishbites, Orange Crush Rig with EZ Flea Fishbites, Electric Chicken rig with the Electric Chicken Crab Fishbites, and the new one, Pink Peppermint rig with the Pink/Flesh Crab Fishbites.

These rigs are available at the Snook Nook in Jensen Beach along with the entire assortment of Fishbites. I also wanted to remind all anglers that George Poveromos Saltwater Sportsman Magazine National Seminar Series is back on the road this year and will be in Port St Lucie at the Civic Center on Rt 1 on Saturday February 10 starting at 9 am. I am honored to being one of the faculty members and a presenter.

There are local captains and experts like George Gozdz, Scott Fawcett, and fellow Fishbites Pro Staffer Allison Stattner, aka Reel Love , also on the staff. It is going to be a great event and you can log on to George Poveromo's National Seminar Series to purchase your tickets.

These seminars sell out so do not wait until the last minute to get your tickets. If anyone has any questions feel free to contact me at 609 903 8243 or email me

at dsperco@yahoo.com . Lots of fish in the surf so far this month and I do not see any reason for this action to tail off. It should only get better as we get into the end of January and early February. Get the long rods out and put your casting skills to the test to zero in on the pompano and permit.

Good luck this month and catch em up.

Paul Sperco’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

On Education

Victoria Defenthaler
Retired Martin County Principal & School Board Member

The new year brought with it the opening of Florida’s 2024 Legislative Session which began on January 9th and is scheduled to end on March 8th.  Last year saw a record number of education bills so it will be interesting to see how legislation will impact education this year. Several bills that have been presented are listed below.

Education Deregulation - As of this writing, three bills that would deregulate Florida’s public schools were sent from the Senate to the House. Senate President Kathleen Passidomo stated, “With universal school choice now a reality for Florida families, reducing bureaucratic red tape will give neighborhood public schools that have served our communities and families for generations a meaningful chance to compete right alongside other school choice options.” The Senate deregulation bills (SB 7000, 7002, and 7004) would make significant changes to high school graduation test requirements as well as to teacher evaluations.

**It is important to note that nothing in these bills reduces the number of tests students take or the amount of time spent testing. Also, it’s worth noting that publicly-funded private schools still do not have to share their test scores with the public and they are not labeled with an A-F grade.

Rollback of Child Labor Laws (Protections) - House Bill 49 would remove restrictions on work hours for 16- and 17-year-olds. It would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to work more than 30 hours a week during the school year and allow for fewer mandatory work breaks.

School Chaplains – Senate Bill 1044/House Bill 931 would allow public school districts and public charter schools to allow volunteer school chaplains, with the chaplains' duties to be determined by the district's school board or the charter school's governing board by January 1, 2025.

Converting Public Schools to Charter Schools - Senate Bill 246/House Bill 109 would allow local municipalities to convert any or all of the public schools within their jurisdictional boundaries to charter schools if 50% of the parents voting agree. Teachers (and taxpayers without students enrolled in the schools) would have no say in the decision and the school district would be required to serve as the charter’s sponsor.

Chronic Absenteeism - A bill may emerge to address chronic absenteeism. According to a Florida Department of Education estimate, nearly a million students in the state are chronically absent from school. A student is considered chronically absent when they miss at least 18 days of the 180-day school year.

According to the Florida Freedom to Read Project, Senate Bill 1414/House Bill 1355 seeks to repeal the vague, discriminatory, and punitive education legislation that has limited access to information in Florida’s public schools. For example:

  • Removes classroom instruction limits to sexual orientation, identity, racism, discrimination, and segregation, while expanding civil rights history.
  • Removes classroom libraries from statute 1006.28, giving power back to teachers and parents to decide which books to offer in the classroom for self-selected reading.
  • Empowers parents to direct the education of their own children without outside influences setting limits on information available.
  • Repeals the HB1069 revision to objection criteria that has caused hundreds of literary classics to be  removed from shelves.
  • Protects against viewpoint discrimination by adding the statement that materials may not be prescribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval during the library curation process.

The aforementioned bills are by no means the only education legislation being considered during the current legislative session but, hopefully, this whets your appetite and piques your interest in tracking these bills and learning of additional bills being presented during Florida’s 2024 Legislative Session. To track proposed legislation, use these links:

 https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bills/2024 and/or https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Bills/bills.aspx


Victoria Defenthaler’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Humane Society Of The Treasure Coast

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

Keeping Families Together

Life doesn’t always go as planned, and sometimes people are faced with hard decisions regarding their beloved pets. Nobody ever expects things to happen like sudden financial difficulties or new unwanted behaviors of their pet. Sometimes things just come as a surprise, and the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast (HSTC) is here to help when unforeseen circumstances arise. 

The HSTC operates the largest public low-cost spay and neuter program in Martin County. This program helps prevent unwanted litters and also provides many health benefits for pets in our community. The low cost fees for people and rescue groups make it affordable to get animals safely vaccinated, microchipped and sterilized by the most active spay neuter clinic in the area.

HSTC also offers low-cost canine basic obedience classes through our Pawsitive Manners Club.  Many pet owners cite behavioral issues as a reason for surrendering a pet.  This low cost program can help them address behavioral issues that could lead to surrender. These classes provide valuable training techniques and guidance for pet owners, enabling them to better understand their pets' needs and work though new or existing challenges.

For those that may not want to attend classes and to further educate the public on common behavioral problems and solutions, we have comprehensive resources available on our website and social media channels for dogs, cats and even critters. These resources cover topics such as house training, separation anxiety, aggression, and more.  Additionally, our YouTube channel videos provide visuals and techniques to make problem solving as accessible as possible for pet owners.

The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast partners with organizations in our community to reach people and their pets.  House of Hope, the Council on Aging, Safe Space and other groups that have wonderful outreach programs to support people in the community have identified clients that have pets.  We will help provide pet food and other assistance when possible through these partnerships.

If it comes to the point where any Martin County resident is faced with the difficult decision of surrendering their pet, we will always be here to receive and care for that animal until it finds a new home. We provide services to over 7,800 animals a year and will never turn a pet away from Martin County. We also partner with an organization called Home to Home, where animals can be listed online for adoption as a last resort prior to bringing them to our shelter.

By providing resources and support to the public, we are hoping to keep pets in their homes and families together.  The HSTC is not only an adoption center, but a shelter that can provide educational resources, therapeutic services, and low cost spay and neuter veterinary care to the people and pets who need it the most. If you or someone you know are in need of help with a pet, please visit our HSTC Resource website at https://hstc1.org/Resources

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

Arati's Advice

Arati Hammond
Keller Williams, Senior Real Estate Specialist

Where Are Seniors Moving

The senior population plays a large role in the housing market. Last year, one-third of home buyers were 55+, and 80% of those 60+ in the U.S. own a home. This means your generation has a strong presence in the yearly housing market, and professionals pay attention to what you are looking for in a property. As boomers and GenX individuals approach retirement, the needs and preferences of the senior real estate market are changing. Let’s look at where people in your age bracket chose to live last year.

1. Embracing New Builds

When compared to younger buyers, those in the 55 and older community showed a higher preference for purchasing new builds. While building a new home comes with benefits, there are notable drawbacks, such as the wait time for moving in and the perception that previously owned homes offer better value. Why did seniors opt for new builds at higher rates? According to survey results, the top three reasons experienced buyers chose to “go new” included the ability to customize their home design, the allure of amenities in a new community, and the desire to avoid potential renovations or issues with plumbing and electricity. For buyers in this stage of life, prioritizing customization and avoiding hassles takes precedence over the convenience of quick move-ins and potential savings on a resale property.

2. Choosing Non-Traditional Homes

Across all generations and age ranges, stand-alone single-family homes remained the overwhelming favorite across all generations. However, boomers and seniors were more inclined toward alternative dwelling types than other buyers.  As movers aged, the likelihood of choosing townhomes, apartments, condos, and other non-traditional homes increased. The motivation behind these choices varies—some seek to manage less space, others desire a community of fellow seniors, and many aim to reduce the concerns of outdoor maintenance.  Still, within the 55 and older community, there is some diversity. Those opting for senior-focused communities showed distinctions based on age. Younger retirees were more drawn to resort or recreation areas, while older tended toward urban settings.

3. Family is at the Forefront

In 2022, the top reason retirees chose to move was to be closer to family, and this desire increased with age. When asked about their main reason for buying a new home, 17% of those aged 57-66 wanted to be near family. This number rose to 24% for 67-75-year-olds and 30% for those 76 and older. Around 12-14% of home buyers ended up in multi-generational households, meaning they now live with their parents, adult children, or extended family members. Whether driven by a wish to avoid loneliness, facilitate caregiving, or simply enjoy added companionship and support, buyers were often willing to compromise in other aspects of their living arrangements to be close to family members.

Arati Hammond’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Legal Corner

Gene Zweben
Founding & Managing Partner at Zweben Law Group

What Happens After a Hit & Run?

In Florida, hit-and-run accidents present a significant legal issue. These accidents occur when the offending driver flees the scene without adhering to legal obligations such as reporting the incident to the police or assisting injured persons. Under Florida statutes, hit-and-run is considered a criminal offense, carrying potentially severe penalties.

A concerning statistic is that almost 25% of all car accidents in Florida are classified as hit-and-runs. In the year 2021 alone, over 300 of these accidents in Florida resulted in fatalities, highlighting the severity of this issue.

Legal Requirements for Drivers in Florida After a Car Crash

Florida law mandates specific actions from drivers involved in a car crash. It's illegal to leave the scene, and doing so can lead to criminal charges. After an accident, a motorist is required to:

  1. Call the police and emergency services (911) if necessary.
  2. Provide reasonable assistance to any victims.
  3. Exchange pertinent information such as name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration details with other involved parties, especially those who have sustained injuries or property damage.
  4. Remain at the accident scene until law enforcement arrives, particularly if the accident involves substantial property damage or injuries.

Guidance for Victims of Hit & Run Accidents in Florida

Victims of hit-and-run accidents often find themselves in a state of confusion and distress. It’s crucial to take the following steps:

  1. Seek medical attention immediately, even if the injuries seem minor.
  2. Report the accident to the police and provide any details that could assist in identifying the offending driver.
  3. Document the accident scene through photographs.
  4. Collect contact information from any witnesses.
  5. Consult with a personal injury lawyer for legal advice and representation.

The Role of Personal Injury Attorneys in Hit-and-Run Cases

Personal injury lawyers play a vital role in navigating the aftermath of a hit-and-run accident. Their expertise includes:

  1. Assisting in establishing fault, and attempting to track down the offending party.
  2. Evaluating all parties and insurance policies available to determine what claim can be made for your injuries, including any Uninsured Motorist Coverage available.
  3. Compiling and presenting evidence such as medical records and eyewitness testimonies.
  4. Dealing with any involved insurance companies to streamline the claim process.
  5. Pursuing punitive damages for the offender's illegal actions, if they are located.
  6. Negotiating settlements or representing clients in court proceedings.

Understanding and navigating Florida's hit-and-run laws is crucial for both drivers and victims. The legal ramifications of such incidents are significant, emphasizing the importance of adhering to legal duties post-accident.

Gene Zweben’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Article 6: Why Buy More Land

Jim Snedeker & Merritt Matheson
Martin County Forever

Preserving Paradise: A Half Cent At  A Time









Why should we acquire more land?

If you’ve read our past columns in Friends & Neighbors, you understand why acquiring and preserving environmentally significant natural lands in Martin County is critical to protecting our quality of life and a key part of what makes our town so special. You can get caught up on our past columns here.  

Now we’re getting close to game time! Our goal of having a half-cent sales tax placed on the November 2024 ballot is gaining traction in the community.  We’ve been listening to residents and working to address concerns about how the funds would be used. We’ve created strong “guardrails” in our proposal to ensure taxpayer funds will be used solely to obtain, conserve, and maintain lands within four key regions in perpetuity.

Martin County residents have done this before. We’ve voted to tax ourselves to protect what matters most to us.  We hope you share our vision of a Martin County that continues to be low density, with a wealth of natural lands, flourishing ecosystems, healthy rivers and wetlands, abundant wildlife, and many recreational opportunities for all.   

We’ve drafted referendum and ordinance language that will be reviewed by the Martin County Board of County Commissioners at a public meeting sometime within the next two months.  If County Commissioners approve of putting the referendum on the ballot in November that means voters get to decide if they want to tax themselves.

And why would voters want to do that? Simply put, if a temporary sales tax is approved, the funds generated can be used to leverage additional matching funds from state and federal grants – stretching our local dollars even further.  Partnering with state and federal agencies also adds another layer of oversight and further ensures the lands will be preserved and managed in perpetuity.

Why should Martin County acquire more land?

Like the rest of Florida, Martin County is growing.  And while our growth may be slower than other counties, it’s still happening. We see it all around us.  We see the impacts. Population growth, more traffic on the roads, increased flooding issues, water quality problems in the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, loss of wildlife habitat and more.  

The natural lands targeted for acquisition through the Martin County Forever initiative will help clean and restore our rivers and waterways, safeguard sources of drinking water, create wildlife corridors, provide more access to beaches and shorelines, and increase hiking, biking, kayaking, boating, fishing and other recreational activities.

In addition to those many benefits, preserving natural lands reaps economic returns as well. Conservation lands increase property values, promote more efficient development and enhances ecotourism efforts.  

Martin County has already acquired about 71,000-acres of conservation land through this type of temporary sales tax funding.  There are another 46,000 undeveloped acres within the four target areas that could potentially be acquired. Some of those lands are at high risk of development over the next decade if we don’t act now.  

Please reach out to us at martincoutnyforever@gmail.com and we’d be happy to answer any questions you have or make a presentation to your group.

For more info visit www.martincountyforever.com, follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/martincountyforever or on Instagram at instagram.com/martincountyforever

Thank you!

Snedeker & Matheson's opinions are their own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors’ viewpoint.

Our Air Quality

By Randall Miller

Miller Environmental Solutions



Most of us rang in the New Year either viewing or hearing fireworks fill the sky around midnight. It’s a fun tradition that most people experience without ever considering air quality consequences. 

However, in more populated areas, the smoke and residue New Year’s fireworks generate can be considerable.  According to reports released from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, fireworks had a severe impact on the air quality across the country, our state and at home in Palm Beach County on New Year’s Eve. 

Air quality monitors routinely measure air quality every hour of every day in various areas around our state. Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection uses the information to monitor fine particulates in the air (PM2.5) and adherence to state and federal Clean Air Act standards.  This hourly and daily air quality data is available online by zip code as an Air Quality Index (AQI). Nearly all the time, South Florida’s air quality index remains in the “good” health region, which is anywhere from 0-50 for Particulate Matter or PM2.5.

However, on New’s Year’s Eve, Orlando recorded the highest reading in the state at 162 PM2.5, in the rarely reached “Unhealthy” category. Locally, Royal Palm Beach had a reading of 113, also in the “unhealthy” range. Days before, readings were in the “good” range, which is normal for our area.

With no other changes to the environment and no Saharan Dust affecting Florida at this time, it is easy to see how the smoke from the fireworks created a spike in the air quality numbers, particularly as the rise in numbers coincided with the hours that fireworks were being set off to celebrate the incoming New Year (late evening to early morning).

The reason for this impromptu science lesson relates to the false information that is routinely published or on social media suggesting state-approved and controlled sugarcane burns in the Glades region cause unhealthy air quality conditions. These short-term burns are professionally set and controlled to take advantage of atmospheric conditions, wind direction, speed and other conditions specific to each field at the day and time of the request. 

Based on information from the fireworks example as well as the occasional area wildfire that prove just how sensitive air quality monitors are at capturing smoke and ash in the surrounding environment, one would expect air quality numbers to spike in and around the burn locations much like the numbers spiked around New Year’s Eve celebrations in the sky.

Fortunately, data from multiple air quality monitors (public and private) in the Glades region consistently show results in the “good” range, all day, every day, even during the sugarcane burn season.

So, let’s start 2024 off with a real bang – letting science, and not conjecture, drive the discussion. That’s a resolution, hopefully that we can all agree to follow.

Randall Miller’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Constitutional Corner & Non Profit Notices


Supervisor of Elections

Property Appraiser

Moving? Take More Than Just Furniture! 

If you have a homestead exemption, you may have accrued a Save Our Homes benefit. While your homestead exemption is not transferable, you can “move” the accumulated Save Our Homes tax saving benefit from one homestead to another homestead, anywhere in Florida. Watch this short educational video to learn more.  https://youtu.be/hLRk_pw5BZ8?si=Vo8DO3aGQQeRU6Oe

Martin County Clerk & Comptroller

Other Government Notices



Non Profit Notices


Bike Giveaway

We have many opportunities throughout the year to work with the community to serve and support our students and families. We would like to thank our most recent supporters. Thanks to Jupiter Light Lodge, our students from age 3 through third grade were able to receive a brand-new bicycle and helmet.

Every year Jupiter Light Lodge purchases new bikes and helmets for children in the community. They have been a huge blessing to their community in Jupiter and decided to spread some joy to Hobe Sound as well.


Members from Jupiter Light Lodge worked with Banner Lake staff to make sure that each child had a bicycle and helmet that suited their gender, age, and size. They also coordinated all the bikes to be put together and delivered to the school. On top of all of that, many individual members from the lodge made the trip to Hobe Sound to hand out the bikes personally to each student.

We recognize that this was a huge investment of time and resources. We appreciate Jupiter Light Lodge for providing our students with joy, and a way to play and exercise with one another.

No matter what is going on in the world we can always remember that the members of our community are there to make the world a little bit of a better place. Banner Lake staff look forward to a continuing relationship with the members of Jupiter Light Lodge.


Available for Adoption from Caring Fields Felines

Marble was a CFF mom this year.  Her kittens were all adopted because they were as beautiful as she is.  If you give her a minute to give you an introductory quick sniff, she will be a loving pal.  She can be seen during quiet times at the Sanctuary playing alone with her toys and happily living life but LOVES it when people visit her and provide interactive playtime with a string toy.  Her foster mother describes her as the sweetest thing ever. 

Marble has a slightly wonky eye, but she has sight in it and no medical attention is necessary.  We think it adds something endearing to her 


Education Foundation of Martin County’s Book Bonanza aims to improve literacy

STUART, Fla. — Literacy is at the core of a student’s education and that’s why the Education Foundation of Martin County (EFMC) is hosting several family literacy events at elementary schools around the Martin County School District. The EFMC Book Bonanza 2024 is a series of free events that will provide a dinner for families and a variety of literacy-themed, fun-filled activities to support the district's efforts to increase family engagement and instill a love of reading. 

In addition to a barbecue dinner and literacy activities, there also will be book giveaways, celebrity guests, and prizes.  


The remaining 2024 schedule is as follows:

J.D. Parker School of Science, Math & Technology – January 18

Port Salerno Elementary School – January 24

SeaWind Elementary School – February 8


McKenna Lucas shows off her new book

Crystal Lake Elementary School – March 2

Warfield Elementary School – March 26

Felix A. Williams Elementary School – May 1








The event is free to the first 200 registered guests at each location. Event attendees must pre-register online at www.EducationFoundationMC.org. If the online event registration is full, they can join the waiting list by calling the foundation office at 772-600-8062.


The Education Foundation also is looking for adult and high school volunteers to work the events. Those who are interested should contact Leigh Anne Pike at LPike@EducationFoundationMC.org.

 Jesnen Paul and Declan Stevenson each earned a book from the EFMC Book Vending Machine                                                                                                    

The Education Foundation of Martin County is the Martin County School District’s strategic non-profit partner with the mission of enriching and enhancing educational opportunities and support for students and teachers in Martin County’s public schools. As an independent group, the Foundation promotes this effort by raising and distributing private and corporate funds through several established programs, including classroom enrichment grants, Adopt-a-Class, the EFMC “For the Love of Reading” Book Vending Machines, the EFMC PLAYS program for kindergarteners, the EFMC Career Exploration Labs in Martin’s middle schools, special initiatives, professional development for teachers, and programs to recognize outstanding teaching. For more information, please visit www.EducationFoundationMC.org.

Event attendees are having fun playing Book Bingo at the Book Bonanza. (rear L-R, standing) Emily Li, Li Ting Lin, (sitting) Angelina Ni (standing) Megan Devoto, (sitting) Lorelai Devoto

Photos by Lisa Rhodes


Molly’s House Polo Classic is 2024’s charity event not-to-be-missed! Taking place on Saturday March 2nd at the beautiful Port Mayaca Polo Club, the Polo Classic is unlike most other fundraisers with field-side tables overlooking the Polo Match featuring international players, a dressage performance, best lady’s hat and dapper man competitions, a car show, private cabanas, open bar and paella lunch.

Thanks to the generosity of our presenting sponsor The Herold-Cadorette Family, we are privileged to be hosting this event for the 14th year in a row! With a variety of seating choices and unique sponsorship opportunities, tickets are limited so visit www.MollysHouse.org now to reserve yours before they sell out.

For more information about the event or for an emailed copy of the sponsorship opportunities, contact Sarah Siebritz 772.223.6659 ssiebritz@mollyshouse.org.


MartinArts Brings Outstanding Florida Artists to the Court House Cultural Center in Stuart

Stuart, FL - Exciting new art works by fifty-eight artists from Tallahassee to Key West are on display now through February 29 at the Martin County Court House Cultural Center in MartinArts’ 33rd All Florida Juried Art Show. Pieces span the mediums of watercolor, ceramics, acrylic, oil, photography, bronze, encaustic, wood, metal, glass and fiber.

“This is always one of our most exciting shows of the season,” MartinArts Executive Director Nancy Turrell said. “We had more than 180 artists from across the state of Florida apply to be part of the exhibit, and the best of the best of their works are now on display.”

Gregory Jones, a member of the Florida Arts Group and a painter who has judged more than 40 exhibits and festivals, curated the exhibit from the entries and awarded the following: 1st Place: “Mona in the Boneyard” by Thomas Prestopnik; 2nd Place: “Righteousness” by Todd Fox; 3rd Place: “The Photographer” by Raymond Olivero; Honorable Mention: “Night Vision” by Barbara Fugazzotto; “Rattan Chair’ by Heather Ivins; “2BSQ1” by Jim Wang; “Unrequited” by Terry White.

Laura Kay Whiticar Darvill, Denise Jackson, Mallo Bissett, Eric Pomales, Tepa Charles, Danuta Rothschild, Caryl Pomales were among the guests at the opening of the 2024 All Florida Juried Art Show sponsored by MartinArts.

“The colors, the textures, and the profound expression of big ideas by Florida artists make this exhibit a must-see event,” Turrell said.

Most of the pieces are for sale. “We encourage people to buy local and Florida art,” Turrell added, “because it supports the artists who bring us such engaging work and because every piece sold from the gallery generates a small donation to support the work of our local Arts organization.”

Featured artists it the show include: Glen Allen, Robert Bernstein, Enid Blechman, Barbara Bose, Jerilyn Brown, Holly Cannon, Linda Chipperfield, Becky Coleman, Maggie Dillon, Gabriele DiTota, Kimberly Engel, Brendan Fisk, Todd K Fox, Barbara Fugazzotto, Susan Giblin, Ryan Michael Gleason, Rene Guerin, Erika Heffernan, Latonya Hicks, Judy Horowitz, Heather Ivins, Denise

Jackson, Carson Kapp, Martin Karadzhov, Chloe Kelley, Claudia Jane Klein, Michael Knapp, Tina Kraft, Joe Krawczyk, Anita Lamb, Alice Laputka, Julia Longwell, Robin Marshall, Erin McCullough, Gary Menzel, Dawn Inglis Montgomery, Lynn Morgan, Katya Neptune, Daniel Newcomb, Janis Clary Oehlschlager, Raymond Olivero, Kathy Omeara, Caryl Pomales, Molly Potter, Thomas

Prestopnik, Galal Ramadan, Patricia Reagan, D. S. Reif, JL Schwartz, Norman Silva, Harriet

Silverstein, Richard P Stevens, David Valiente, Jim Wang, Elaine Weber, Terry White, Laura Kay Whiticar-Darvill, and Harris Wiltsher.

The Court House Cultural Center Galleries are open to the public from 10 am to 6 pm on Tuesdays and from 10 am to 4 pm on Wednesdays through Saturdays at 80 SE Ocean Boulevard in Stuart. A suggested donation of $5 is requested in support of the programs and events of MartinArts.

The exhibit will be open during ArtsFest, the area’s largest arts event, held this year on Saturday, February 10 and Sunday, February 11 at Memorial Park and along E. Ocean Boulevard in downtown Stuart. To learn more about the All Florida Juried Art Show, ArtsFest, and the Martin County Arts Council, go to www.martinarts.org.

About MartinArts

MartinArts serves as the local arts agency within the Martin County community, supporting the arts through advocacy, promotion, research, community planning and programming. Founded in 1980, it has as its mission to inspire participation and passion for the arts in throughout the community so that arts and culture are woven into every aspect of life. MartinArts is based the Court House Cultural Center, formerly the County’s first courthouse, in historic downtown Stuart, where it presents art exhibits, concerts, and cultural events. Each year it presents the Marties, awards for artist excellence in the community; holds ArtsFest, the largest arts event in the area; presents the All-Florida Juried Art Show; and supports the arts and artists who add richness and beauty to the community. For more information, go to www.martinarts.org.


Junior League of Martin County’s Reindeer Dash a success

STUART, Fla. — The Junior League of Martin County’s 15th Annual Rudolph's Reindeer Dash 5K and 10K was a huge success, according to organizers. The December 2 event at Memorial Park was record-breaking for both race participation and fundraising. Nearly 550 runners and walkers participated, and the League raised more than $40,000 to support its charitable mission.

“Our Junior League members feel incredibly proud to offer such a beloved annual tradition for our community,” said Taylor Gilmour, president of the Junior League of Martin County. “We are so grateful for all of our participants, sponsors, vendors and volunteers for making the 15th                                                                                 Annual Dash such a success.”

Gilmour also gave special thanks and recognition to the event co-chairs, Alyssa Regan-Alexander and Heather Frady.

(back row) Della Richards, Hannah Nassar, Danielle Johnson, Hallie Burns, Lisa Worley (front row) Gracie Worley, Indira Safaddid

“Their dedication and leadership made this year's event so spectacular,” added Gilmour.

Spectators and race participants also enjoyed a free post-race party, complete with food vendors, music, lawn games and pictures with Santa. The League also included a Toys for Tots donation drive that garnered a host of new, unwrapped toys for boys and girls of all ages.

The top event sponsors were 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.

(Back row, from left) Junior League of Martin County's Junior League Members Joanna Mangan, Mindi Paruta, Susan Shirley, Samantha Conway, Jenny McIntosh, Laura Baird, Taylor Gilmour, Lara Bailey, Artemis Talvat, Jacqueline Kenna, Jackie Prussing, Meghan Conway, Brooke Martson, Beth Conway. (Front row, from left) Katherine DeLucca, Lesley Fidler, Heather Frady, Alyssa Regan-Alexander, Cathy Vandercook, Chiquita Cooper, Karlee Knebles, Rosi Schroeder.

The tradition will continue in 2024 with the 16th Annual Rudolph's Reindeer Dash on Saturday, Dec. 7, at Memorial Park in Stuart.

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 www.jlmcflorida.org.

Photos by Doreen Poreb


Impact100 Martin To Hold Grant Recipient Showcase on February 3

STUART, FL - What difference does a donation to a local nonprofit actually make in the community?

Impact100 Martin members and guests will have an opportunity to answer this question for themselves at Impact100’s first Grant Recipients Showcase at Indian Riverside Part on February 3, 2024, from noon to 3pm.

The Martin County PAL (Police Athletic League) mobile unit will be one of the vans available for tours at the Impact100 Martin Grant RecipientsShowcaseonFebruary3.

Since its founding six years ago, Impact100 Martin has distributed $1.4 million in grants to nonprofits in Martin County, including seven grants worth $100,000 each. The grant funds come from the philanthropy of Impact100 Martin members, each of whom contributes $1,000 a year.

“We thrilled that for the first time we are bringing together nearly two dozen nonprofits to

show the difference our grants are making,” said Impact100 Martin Chair Maureen Cotter. “Our members will be able to ‘kick the tires’ and see for themselves the short and long term effects of their philanthropy.”

Several organizations used their grant funding for mobile units to take their services to

neighborhoods throughout Martin County where transportation is difficult. Project LIFT’s

“Welding on Wheels,” the Martin County Police Athletic League’s “Mobile PAL,” the House of Hope’s “Traveling Nutrition Education Garden,” and the Martin County Healthy Start “Diaper Van” will all be available for tours at Indian Riverside Park that day.

The viewing tanks at the Environmental Studies Center are being renovated thanks to a grant from Impact100 during last year’s grant cycle.

Impact100 is the brainchild of nationally renowned philanthropist and author Wendy Steele, who joined the Martin chapter of Impact100 for their kickoff in November. The mission of the organization is to leverage women’s philanthropy and make its impact felt in a community by

awarding $100,000 grants. “Our membership has grown to more than 300,” Cotter said, “so we are already able to award several grants each year.” The Impact100 Martin goal is 500 members and 5 Impact grants in 2024, with grants to Arts & Culture, Education, Family, Health & Wellness, and Environment, Preservation & Recreation.

The Grant Recipient Showcase is free and open to the community. “It’s a celebration and a learning experience,” Cotter said. “We ask for registration for tours of the mobile units at our website to be sure we can accommodate everyone who is interested.”

Registration and more information are available at www.impact100martin.org.


Impact100 Martin is a nonprofit organization with a mission of creating positive, lasting change in the community through collective giving. Founded in 2017, it is a chapter of the national Impact100 Movement founded by philanthropist Wendy Steele to transform communities through the power of women’s philanthropy. It is a member-driven organization that awards

grants in $100,000 increments each year to local nonprofits in the areas of arts & culture, education, family, health & wellness, and environment, preservation & recreation. Detailed information about membership, grants, and community impact is available at the website www.impact100martin.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Impact100MartinFL.

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 William Smithson

Hi Tom: 

Hope you had a wonderful, happy, and healthy holiday season.  Over the holidays I received a text from Julie Marshall and considered it her feeble attempt to try and harass and intimidate me.  I don't know how she got a hold of my cell phone number since no one in my circle of friends has much or any association with Moms for Liberty.  It doesn't surprise me she went out of her way to find my number in order to vent her extreme dislike of progressives and liberals.  I know she targeted me since I've been very vocal at the school board meetings voicing my objections to MFL's hidden agenda of promoting white Christian nationalism.  I would have preferred she confronted me at the school board meetings to express her concerns and I would have gladly defended my position.  I instead she chose the coward's way out.  I'm requesting to make her text and my response a matter of public discourse through your publication of Friends & Neighbors.  I feel it necessary to offer my  opinion which is shared by a good many of Martin County residents.  Following is a copy of the text from Julie Marshall followed by my response.  Please note:  I did not respond to her text, hoping to do it through your newsletter.


Text from Julie Marshall:

Mr. Smithson:

I have heard your many public comments during school board meetings in regard to the book removals in the MCSD.  Since you are so openly against removing any books in public school libraries, no matter what the content, I challenge you to read the following excerpts from ‘Living Dead Girl' by Elizabeth Scott which contains pedophilia, child kidnapping and child sex slaves at today's school board meeting:


Once you have read these excerpts, I would request that you please defend your reasoning why students need to have this book available to them and what literary merit it offers to them.

  Please do not use the argument that these excerpts are taken out of context because that is absurd.  Pornography and sexually explicit content do not disappear if you read the entire book.  For example, if you take a G-rated movie and add one sex scene to it, it will not remain a G-rated movie.  It is exactly the same for books.

  It would also benefit you to study Florida legislation that was passed in 2022 and 2023.  The library book and curriculum reviews being done across the State of Florida come from the following:

HB 1467:  https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2022/1467/BillText/er/PDF (https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2022/1467/BillText/er/PDF)

HB 1557:  https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2022/1557/BillText/er/PDF (https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2022/1557/BillText/er/PDF)

HB 7:  https://m.flsenate.gov/session/bill/2023/7/billtext/c1/pdf (https://m.flsenate.gov/session/bill/2023/7/billtext/c1/pdf)

HB 1069:  https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2023/1069/BillText/er/PDF (https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2023/1069/BillText/er/PDF)

From HB 1467, the Department of Education Training was developed for media center specialists across the state and teachers with classroom libraries (implemented 1/1/2023):

https://floridadoe.sharepoint.com/:v:/s/LibraryMediaTraining/EbrA84yjoD1Oh15ruBBqCFgBJemDjd-Xa-XNTAgtTfbnFQ?e=oUI6B3 (https://floridadoe.sharepoint.com/:v:/s/LibraryMediaTraining/EbrA84yjoD1Oh15ruBBqCFgBJemDjd-Xa-XNTAgtTfbnFQ?e=oUI6B3)

 As for what other districts are doing or are not doing, is of no consequence or concern whatsoever to Martin County residents.   The MCSD is following Florida laws and we, as law abiding citizens, are making sure that the MCSD remains in line with all current legislation.   I suggest if you prefer how other districts are ‘interpreting’ the laws, then possibly move to that county where your misguided desires will be appreciated.

The fact that you come to meeting after meeting droning on with the same nonsense reminds me of the saying:  ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.’  The only way to get the changes you desire is to lobby for different legislation in Tallahassee.  So I request that you please quit wasting the MCSB’s time along with all Martin County residents and just stop.  


Julie Marshall 


My Response I'd like to Make Public:  

Dear Ms. Marshall:

I guess I should be flattered at the time and effort you afforded me to vent your objections to my presence at the MCSB meetings.  Let me be frank Ms. Marshall; you and the rest of the MFL crusaders are by no means literary experts, nor qualified critics, capable of critiquing the worth of any such books.  Yes, I do believe that 'Living Dead Girl' by Elizabeth Scott belongs on the shelves in our high schools along with all the other books your group has been responsible for their removal.  You tell me not to use the argument that the excerpts you quoted are taken out of context, however, that's exactly the truth.  To you and your followers, that argument is absurd.  That's because of your inability to think beyond what you deem distasteful and comprehend the intent or message of the author.  You challenged me to read those excerpts you identified from the book and justify my defending what literary merit it offers students.   Part of my justification comes from the awards/honors bestowed on Living Dead Girl:

  • American Library Association ‘Best Books for Young Adults.’
  • American Library Association ‘Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers.’
  • American Library Association ‘Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults – Top Ten.’
  • International Literary Association ‘Young Adult Choices.’
  • New York Public Library ‘Best Books for Teens.’
  • Garden State Teen Book Award Nominee
  • Iowa High School Book Award Nominee
  • BCCB Blue Ribbon Award
  • Cynsations Cynsational Book of 2008

Members that make up the above committees and boards are literary experts that come from a broad field of library and information sciences.  I also rely on my own expertise as a trained Corporate DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) manager, consultant, and facilitator.  I’m also a qualified K-12 sex education teacher and facilitator trained and endorsed by the Unitarian Universalist Association.  Now, I challenge you to define your qualifications and defend your position why ‘Living Dead Girl’ offers no literary merit for young teens.  Please don’t use the argument that the book contains sexually explicit scenes you consider pornographic and obscene.  Provide an intellectual critique why our young adults in high school should be shielded from topics of sexual abuse and pedophilia written in the language of the abused or protagonist of said stories.  As you are thinking of a response, keep in mind the smut and filth our high school students have access to, and share with each other, through their smart phones and iPads; makes ‘Living Dead Girl’ seem like a fairy tale.  Perhaps your efforts should be directed elsewhere instead of hampering the teacher’s ability to teach and the student’s ability to learn.     

Now let’s talk about your true motives as a member and spokesperson of the local MFL.  The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) quite accurately classified MFL as an anti-government extremist organization.  I would further state MFL is nothing more than a hate group promoting a white nationalist Christian agenda. I am well-aware and versed in the Florida laws you felt a need to reference in your text.  The laws are nothing more than DeSantis’ and the state legislator’s attack on people of color and the LGBTQ community for the sole purpose of catering to far-right extremists.  The proof is in the books you have targeted under the pretense of pornographic and sexually explicit content.  The vast majority of the books you target for removal are: LGBTQ themes, protagonists, or prominent secondary characters; protagonists or prominent secondary characters of color; sexual content; titles with issues of race and racism.  Any intelligent person can see through MFL’s smokescreen.

You state in your text that I remind you of the definition of insanity and ask that I stop wasting the time of Martin County residents because I speak my opinions, sometimes repetitive, at the school board meetings.   You are not, by any means, the spokesperson for all Martin County residents.  In fact, you only speak on behalf of a small contingent of hateful bigots hiding behind laws enacted by a far-right extremist administration.  I, and the other residents who stand against your hateful rhetoric reflective of your homophobic and racist ideology, are not going away.  We will continue to speak out at school board meetings, bombard Tallahassee with emails, write to the local press, and post on social media for the sole purpose of exposing your hypocrisy.  We'll continue to vote, vote, vote until we cut out the MFL cancer that has infected our county, state, and country at large.  Speaking of hypocrisy, one of your MFL co-founders, friend, mentor, and Sarasota School Board member, Bridget Zeigler, was exposed in a 'menage a trois.'  I'm not condemning the act because, quite frankly, no one cares what goes on sexually behind closed doors.  I do condemn the hypocrisy of Ms. Zeigler's vile and hateful rhetoric against the LGBTQ community, yet she is perfectly comfortable having a sexual relationship with another woman.  That is the epitome of hypocrisy. 

The only people your organization harms are our students and educators under the pretense of parental rights.  Our students have a right to access a diverse range of stories and perspectives, especially those from historically marginalized backgrounds who are watching the media center shelves being emptied of books that reflect and speak to them.  Our teachers are operating, particularly in the state of Florida, under an increasingly punitive and surveillance-orientated environment with a detrimental effect on teaching and learning. 

A little more than a year ago, MFL were celebrating a wave of school board victories, but in last November's elections, the majority of more than 130 candidates endorsed by MFL, lost.  Every single candidate in Minnesota, Kansas, North Carolina, and Washington lost their race.  MFL backed 14 candidates in Iowa, but only one was successful.  Similarly, in Virginia, just one of the six candidates endorsed by the group won her race.  MFL supported 25 candidates across Ohio and only 5 won.  Of the 19 candidates endorsed by the group for N.J. school boards, only four won.  This should send a strong message to each and every school board that the majority of parents are against book bans.  I fully expect the same results for this school board in subsequent elections.  We want school board members who won’t hide behind the law for the benefit of the few.  We want school board members who are willing to work within and around the law to satisfy the majority of constituents who are against book bans.  We want school board members who are against white-washing history and marginalizing our LGBTQ and non-white students.

Finally, I do wish you a happy, healthy, and safe New Year.  I truly hope the new year affords you the opportunity and time to reflect on the comments made by the majority of Martin County residents opposing the book bans. Maybe, you and the rest of MFL will develop a sense of empathy and stop your attack on our marginalized students.  You just might find your connection with the true teachings of your Lord and Savior.  


Bill Smithson

Humanist Celebrant and Lay Leader


William Brown


Martin County


There are mooring fields in Jensen Beach and Port Salerno. Both are experiencing boats dropping anchor without tethering to a mooring ball and signing an agreement.

With the ordinance being proposed after 24 hours’ notice, any vessel or other floating structure within the field can be towed by the Harbormaster, his designee, or any law enforcement officer if the vessel or floating structure is not adhering to the rules or a menace to navigation.

The commission is preempted by the state from towing vessels that anchor outside the field more than 100 feet from the field’s boundary.

Marinas are an expensive alternative to government owned mooring fields. The fields allow visitors a less expensive alternative. Unfortunately, too often while most boaters obey the rules, a few do not. This ordinance gives the county more tools to keep the fields clear of derelict vessels.

The ordinance passed 4-0 with Hetherington absent. You can see the ordinance here 

This was the meeting at which the commissioners were to give their priorities for the upcoming year. Both Hetherington and Smith did not submit their priorities in time to become part of the agenda packet.

Commissioner Smith’s first priority was to change the county’s fiscal policy so that for every dollar in new revenue collected, 50% goes to the sheriff and 50% goes to the county. He stated that the sheriff now consumes about 50% of the county’s budget. The county’ current budget has a gross income of $637.1 million, and the sheriff has a budget of $107.425 million including for the courts and jail.

The ad valorem budget for the county is $278 million even if all the county’s income including law enforcement grants is stripped. It must be election time.

Another of his budget priorities is to take the tax proceeds from any rural lifestyle project and use it 50% to buy land and 50% for capital improvements. This is another example of “stop me because I can’t adequately budget Martin County income without being in a straight jacket.” It is nothing but trying to pander without doing any of the hard work of allocating funds where they should go.

To me, the beauty of having the rural lifestyle use is to preserve green space and the enormous increase in the tax base it provides. It makes sure that most residents’ taxes can remain constant. By all means, do budget for capital improvements and stop cutting them each year. And depending on the land being acquired, we should buy more sensitive land, but not adopt what is a campaign pledge more than a fiscal policy. In February, there will be a citizen’s initiative before the commission to place on the ballot a dedicated sales tax to buy just these lands. That is where this money should come from.  

You can see the other commissioner’s priorities here 

The commission did agree to buy 245 lots in Palm Beach Heights in Pal Mar amounting to 252 acres of sensitive lands for $2,520,000. It is partially being funded by the last sales tax for buying environmental lands over a decade ago.

City of Stuart


During general public comment, Ginny Sherlock made a spot-on comment regarding the old single story commercial building next to Wells Fargo that the city now owns. She stated that it is falling apart. A more correct statement couldn’t be said.

I understand the staff realizes that also. There will be an RFP going out for a company to be selected to demolish a dangerous eyesore. At the same time, isn’t it about time that the city brings property management in-house?


They currently pay an outside vendor to “manage” this property. As a retired commercial property manager, I can tell you that this current scheme is not management. Currently, the rents are collected by the city’s finance department and if something needs to be fixed for a tenant, the property manager calls the city’s public works department. And for that, they get a fee. 

The commission approved the Hilton on the corner of Colorado and A Street. It is the last parcel in the Royal Palm development. The vote was 4-0 with Collins voting no.

The Creek District Code was approved by every one of the current commissioners, including Collins, last February. The four-story hotel is within a district that allows that height and use. There was no request to make the building taller. A developer request was made to extend the 24” parapet wall from 40% of the building’s roof line to 48% to allow complete shielding of equipment. If the commission had said no, then the hotel would have been built with compressors and other building infrastructure partially visible to the neighbors.

The developer, a long time Palm City resident, also requested that it not be required to build a sidewalk on one side of A Street which leads into the financial center. The reason for the request was to save several mature oak trees that would have to be removed. If the commission had said no to that condition, then they would have removed the trees and created a sidewalk. Though Collins said at one point during the discussion that nobody cares about trees.

The code calls for 12 EV charging stations. The developer asked to move ten off site to a lot adjacent to the garage. Four commissioners believed that having that many stations was too much, so they cut it to 6…4 off-site and 2 on site. That is how important that condition was.

Finally, use of the parking garage at the financial center was discussed. It was always the intention of whoever developed this last parcel of the financial center to use the parking garage. Off-site parking is allowed if it is within 500 feet of the premises. That is why there was a commission-approved agreement for this shared parking when the PUD was built. The commission’s approval of this condition was needed by the code, but it was a formality more than a necessity.

Many of the people in the audience had come because of information on social media that was false. Some thought the height limit was being breached when it wasn’t. Perhaps if this false narrative had not gone out on social media, the hysteria would not have been so great. The project was endorsed by the Downtown interest group, Stuart Main Street.

Mr. Vitali, the owner of the Colorado Inn, was very vocal about having a new competitor. He reminded me of the owners of the Pelican Café who brought several hundred people to the chambers demanding that the Pelican Cafe be given a longer lease, and the commission folded to the pressure. Two weeks later they sold their sweetheart lease and disappeared leaving Stuart taxpayers holding a less valuable asset.

Some said that the Tru brand of Hilton was not a boutique hotel. I never heard that it was. It is their budget hotel brand. So what? In fact, because there is such a difference between the Colorado Inn and what will be built here, the two aren’t in competition. It makes Vitali’s self-serving outburst even more absurd. And let’s remember that the Colorado Inn needed a parking waiver and a shared parking agreement themselves to open their restaurant.

To read a more in-depth article see the next story.

The Commission also approved a free-standing emergency room on Kanner just off Monterey with a vote of 5-0.


Where Did Reason & Reality Go

At the January 8th commission meeting, there were many misconceptions being spouted in the chamber by commissioners, anti-hotel folks, and just plain everyday people who were very confused.

First, here are the facts about the 4-story hotel which is being developed on the corner of Colorado and opposite Kindred Street on what is known as A Street. This parcel is the last one in the Royal Palms Financial Center. It is being built without a change to land use. The height is within the current code as is the number of rooms (102).

The entire Creek District Code is form-based. For almost two years until its adoption in February of 2023, there were extensive meetings with the various boards, workshops, and many one-on-one meetings with the consultants, the Treasure Coast Planning Council, and citizens about form-based code. Every member of the current commission adopted that code in two formal votes.

The applicant was seeking relief from three sections of the code:

  1. The 24” parapet wall for this building can be no more than 40% of the facade. They are asking for it to be 48% to shield the equipment from view of the neighboring buildings and homes.
  2. There is a sidewalk required on both sides of A Street. The applicant is requesting that it be waived on the far side so as not to remove any oak trees in the right of way.
  3. The parking garage at the Royal Palms Financial Center, which is within the allowed 500 feet of the structure, will be available for hotel parking. There is a shared parking agreement for that garage between all the owners of the buildings making up the Center. It runs with the property and not with the individual owners. In other words, it can’t be cancelled with a sale. This shared garage, though permitted, must come before the commission because of the way the code is written. The purpose is to make sure that there is an agreement between the lot owners that cannot be cancelled. The city attorney and consulting attorneys have issued opinions to that effect. Further the language states the commission shall approve it not may.
  4. In conjunction with Item 3, there needs to be 12 EV charging stations by code. They are requesting that 10 be located at the surface lot adjacent to the garage and two on site.

The problem with all of Stuart’s codes is that the commission becomes too intimately involved for unimportant reasons. For example, in almost any other jurisdiction, the first item would be an administrative matter. It makes common sense to shield ugly but necessary building infrastructure from neighboring buildings and street views.

The same goes for whether to place the second sidewalk. If a goal in the comp plan is to have trees, then it makes perfect sense not to place a second sidewalk on a street that even with the hotel will have light traffic and few pedestrians. It preserves mature trees.

As to the parking situation, that also seems to be a lot of fuss over nothing. The comp plan calls for shared parking wherever feasible. The code states that parking must be within 500 feet of the property. Both criteria are met. The reason for commission action is to make sure the parking exists and cannot be taken away later.

The master parking agreement was approved by the commission as a condition of the Royal Palm Financial PUD. At the time, it was anticipated that the garage would be shared with this parcel’s eventual building. The agreement runs with the land and cannot be cancelled by a subsequent change of ownership. What is the commission’s role? To make sure the letters are in the file.

The city’s own attorney and other attorneys have issued an opinion to that effect. The developer of the hotel is receiving a franchise from Hilton Corporation and a bank is giving him a mortgage. Is there anyone who believes that either would go ahead with a deal where the parking could disappear and jeopardize the financial wellbeing of the hotel?

Lastly, we come to the moving of the charging stations. A few years ago, the commission decided to be “green” and require charging stations with new construction. It may have seemed like a great idea at the time, but just like the mandating of no plastic straws, it was a feel-good measure with no tangible effect.

As we saw, the commission, instead of just allowing the ten stations to be placed in the parking lot, now has said there is only a need for four plus the original two on site. The commission from the very beginning should have let the market decide whether charging stations were needed.

The hotel will have a swimming pool because the market calls for it. The city needs to stay in its own lane and leave business to decide what is needed to make the project successful. In situations when developments are investing millions and years in getting the project going, the developer (in this case, a hotelier) is the expert, not a panel of politicians.

When does the government start educating the public as to what is allowed to be done and what isn’t? For over two hours, we heard from a very uninformed public not understanding the code and quite frankly the duty and responsibilities of the commission.

The biggest example of misleading the public was the rhetoric from Commissioner Collins. He doesn’t like the project (I have yet to see one project that he does like) and that is fine.

However, the parapet and sidewalk could be done without a problem according to current code. The rooftop would be visible not to guests arriving but to the homes of the people complaining about extending the wall. The guy could build the sidewalk and lose the oak trees. That would alleviate two reasons to come before the commission.

As to the parking, the commission could have said no, but there would be a lawsuit and no judge would believe that the commission acted appropriately. It isn’t as if the owner isn’t complying with the comp plan and code. The shared parking agreement was already approved by the commission earlier.  It would take a judge no time to strike down the commission’s no vote and consider it a taking.

As a CRB member, I had concerns with adequate drainage. However, the engineer for the applicant came up with a plan that meets code. The city’s staff said it meets the code. The city’s consulting engineer said the same thing. I am not allowed to substitute my judgement for those of the experts. Neither should the commission.

From complaining about the building being too tall (four stories) or the hotel brand being subpar, the public has opinions. But that is all they have…opinions. The commission including Collins is obligated to vote yes. Remember the commission including Collins approved the code that the developer is using.

The naysayers are the same people complaining about every project…some of whom live within the city and others who live elsewhere. A few younger people like Collins have a vision of a city that never was. Older ones just don’t want any change. And some will jump on the “No” bandwagon when they believe their economic interests are at risk such as the owners of the Colorado Inn did at the meeting.

The government needs to do a better job educating the public about the code. The development department does good technical presentations. But either the manager or attorney needs to explain in plain language why the commission is voting on this and what the issues are. I would also suggest that the commission stops trying to make themselves relevant by keeping their finger on things that unnecessarily create controversy.

Stuart makes mountains out of molehills. A hotel has been part of the wish list for two decades. Commissioners and citizens have been trying to get one built for 2 decades. They are finally getting their wish, but this being Stuart some people will still complain.

As It Appeared In Martin County Moments

Martin County School Board


The board received a presentation on School Choice and Open Enrollment.

Each year, the board looks at where schools have the capacity to take other students not zoned for those schools either from Martin or other counties. Capacity is made up of students who live in the school zone and students in Pre-K for elementary schools.  In middle and high schools, Career Technical Training or Academic degree programs such as the Baccalaureate Program are also included.

At all schools, students can be assigned if parents work there, or they participate in a special education program. Then if there is additional capacity, the school can admit students from any district in the state. As per board policy, Martin County has set that percentage at 75% of capacity for each school.  The board can also allow enrollment even above 75% upon review of projected growth each year.

For the 2024/25 school year, all the high schools will not participate. All the middle schools will.  Permanent student stations are only those located in a permanent building not in portables. Staff have some of the elementary schools open and ready to accept students not zoned there.

Board Member Powers believes that they will need capacity where homes and apartments are being built. So far, the district’s projections for student capacity in the new developments have been overestimated. Newfield is slated to begin building later this year and places like Storie won’t be online for at least five years.

I don’t believe that the need for school seats will explode in the coming years. As more and more couples decide not to have children and homes become more and more expensive, the traditional definition of “family” has changed.

The explosive growth in St, Lucie County will have their students needing many new student stations. Many schools are being built in the new housing developments there. That will probably mean that they will not need to come over to Martin County.

This will come back to decide at the next meeting. You can see the presentation here 

The district also placed an application with the Florida DOE to participate in a pilot program for year-round schools. There are no additional funds for participating in the pilot.

That doesn’t mean that the education year is any longer. Students will still be in class for only 180 days. The summer off will be substituted for longer breaks throughout the year. There are additional questions that must be answered. Teachers will not be in the classroom more but will be precluded from having another job in the summer.

What about parents with more than one child? The schedules of all the children in the family will have to be coordinated. Childcare arrangements will be harder to implement. You may find staff not willing to stay in a district with a non-traditional schedule. Sports and club activities will be harder to manage.

The district did ask for community feedback and received 600 comments. It was determined that the entire district would have to adopt the schedule instead of only certain schools. Sample calendars should be presented before making any decisions. There were concerns by some about burn out if it is adopted and concerns by others that it would result in burn out being reduced.

There were other themes explored. In the end, the board decided not to be part of the pilot program. The board wants to have further study. You can see the presentation here 

Village of Indiantown


During member comments, Mayor Gibbs-Thomas spoke to provide clarification about calling of a special meeting last month and then cancelling it.

When discussion was held in December about appointing a council representative to the Sedron Technology village negotiating team, it appeared that Mr. Dipaolo wanted to be that person. Upon further back and forth by the council, it was decided that staff should be the ones solely negotiating and reporting to the entire council.

                                                  Indiantown Plant

According to the mayor, going to see the plant in operation in Seattle was completely different. Even though Gibbs-Thomas promised to pay her own way, she decided against making the trip. She thought that it would be misunderstood, and she didn’t want to break faith with her colleagues. Thus, she cancelled the meeting.

In the meantime, Dipaolo, without consulting council, decided to make a tour of the plant in Seattle. He did not consult his council members and did pay his own way. Dipaolo was there at the plant a day before Manager Kryzda and Public Works Director Nolan. That seemed to be a complete surprise to the other council members.

In no way was what Dipaolo did illegal or against any policy. But how does it look to his fellow council members? How does it affect staff? And what signal does it send to the company itself?

Council Member Dipaolo is in a better position financially to be able to go on fact-finding tours than the rest of the council. And touring the plant does give him more information when it becomes time to vote. Yet is it an unfair advantage and does Sedron now see him as first among equals?

Kryzda will write up a report of their visit and send to the council. I have asked her for a copy and will publish here when I receive.

Beaver Ecoworks LLC has set up a water filtration system in a trailer outside the water plant. The system uses no chemicals and works through an oxidation process. Indiantown water, though safe to drink, has for years looked like it wasn’t. It was far from odorless and colorless.

The water coming from the plant is now odorless and colorless, and there are less chemicals being used for water treatment at the works. The cost to the village for the portable plant will be $672,750. By shifting SRF (State Revolving Funds) monies already given to the plant, there is no further expense. Until Tallahassee approves, the village will pay Beaver $18,169 per month which will go toward the purchase price. Kryzda expects the state to bless the deal by March.

You can see the presentation here

Town of Ocean Breeze

I was unable to attend the meeting. I did obtain a unofficial copy of the minutes but it was too late to make this edition.

Town of Jupiter Island


Apparently, there is another lawsuit that has been filed. This time over abandonments of roadways.

Town Attorney Baird did not want to get into particulars. That fact pretty much ended presently passing an ordinance doing just that. The reason to do so would be to stop public access to the beach at certain unpaved pathways that were platted to be roads.

The public has a broad right to walk along the shoreline up to mean high water mark. Getting to that shoreline is another matter since beach goers do not have the right to trespass through other people’s property to get there. That includes other residents of Jupiter Island without direct beach access. And that is what is being contemplated. Access isn’t for the guy from Hobe Sound.

Since these “streets” were platted when there was no town yet and Martin County was still part of Palm Beach County, Commissioner Scott wanted to know who has these rights of way? A right cannot be closed and abandoned if it is not owned.

Baird is trying to trace the ownership. Until that is done, there is no way to know if Jupiter Island has the authority to do so.


In the meantime, apparently someone is clearing one of these rights of way. Though it was hard for me to understand the discussion, the clearing does not appear to be the town’s doing. However, the town manager and Vice-Mayor Field visited one of these paths and spoke to a resident about a tree. This sparked a rebuke from Commissioner Scott stating that commissioners were overstepping their authority.


Resolution will wait for another day.

The commission unanimously approved a ZIP until January of 2025 for any construction that may be in the coastal protection zone. I wonder when the next lawsuit will happen.

And there was one more discussion on the IRC, BOA, and now the LPA. Should they be advisory or be left alone as independent. Scott’s argument is that the commission should be the final authority. And in almost every municipality that is true.

Yet there are some unique features about the way this town operates. This meeting lasted more than 6 hours. If you were to add hearing the items before the boards, it would take additional hours. The commission already sits as the board of the utility company and beach protection.

The commission also meets once a month on a different day which is determined a few months at a time. This is done because every member has apparently multiple responsibilities far from the town. After an item now going to what are now advisory boards if Scott’s arguments win the day, the applicants and their consultants and attorneys will have to give their presentations one more time to a new final authority, the commission.

It isn’t that it can’t be done, but the commission itself would have to start meeting more often and set their schedules so that staff can do advertising of the meeting. 

Decisions will await further ideas and thoughts of the commissioners.   

Final Thoughts

The week began with us celebrating Martin Luther King’s life.

Most Americans were not even alive when he was assassinated. Many know him as an historical figure not as a real person who was seen and heard in person. He led by his example and his words. King was a modern-day Moses who could excite us with his vision of a promised land… a land that he would not live to see.

History is anything but a straight line. We think we have eradicated an ill like prejudice, but it comes back with a terrific vengeance to infect subsequent generations. The devil waits and pounces if we don’t keep him down in the hole.

It is the hole that is in our heart and brain where prejudice and hate can be resurrected and placed on display. It can be brought on by a politician or a movement. The devil’s evil can be disguised in grievance or be part of a supposed religious revival.

King knew all of that. He died when America was on the precipice of racial freedom. A freedom that has easily been placed back in the hole by those telling us that brotherhood is not for all brothers and sisters. Instead of one people, we should be separated by race or religion.

As we remember King, we should also remember to keep the devil at bay. From the bible to popular literature, we know that Lucifer is still in the shadows of our society ready to pounce. “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be God, but those that be of men.” (Matthew 16:23)

Martin Luther King was not just a protagonist but a prophet. He saw the struggle in biblical terms…one that history will often introduce us to over and over.

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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: thomasfcampenni@gmail.com


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