March 26, 2023

Friends & Neighbors Edition

In This Edition

A few Martin County municipal officials are hosting an open house to inform the public about what “Home Rule” is, why it is important for the public to understand, and how the legislature and governor are attempting to limit it.

The forum will be held at The Flagler, 201 SW Flagler Avenue (a few doors down from Stuart City Hall) on April 19th at 5 pm. Commissioner Campbell Rich of Stuart, Commissioner Kaija Mayfield of Sewall’s Point, and Mayor Karen Ostrand of Ocean Breeze will be the panelists. I will be the moderator.

“Home Rule” is the doctrine that local elected officials should make as many decisions as possible since they are closest to the people. It was so important that Florida had the concept enshrined in the state constitution. Little by little, the governor and legislature have taken away local power by using the pre-emption exception that is also part of the Florida Constitution.

With the string of bills that are likely to pass this legislative session, many zoning and other land use provisions will no longer be the purview of local government. The next time a development project comes up for discussion or a vote, complaining to a commissioner either at the county or a city will not matter. The state is in charge. In many instances, local arguments for or against will become irrelevant.

This forum will be your opportunity to learn about what it means to have locally elected officials deciding whether you can have a factory, a dog park, or a multi-family building next to your home. The alternatives being proposed in Tallahassee would give that authority to the state.

Please attend and learn about why local control matters. And who you vote for matters on the state level. The legislature is moving toward deciding what rights you can exercise in your communities and how much control is being taken away from you.


Did you know that we publish many of our stories on Facebook throughout the week? (

It is our way of giving our readers breaking news as soon as possible but also to give you an opportunity to see what we think about subjects that are usually not in our digital newspaper.

I’m also excited that Friends & Neighbors will be launching its new website soon. It will be more web- and device-friendly. I never knew how complicated this stuff was until now. Our new format will be so much better for you to find what you are looking for and read quickly.

So, follow us on Facebook to see up to the minute articles on Martin County and see what else we are writing about that may not appear in Friends & Neighbors.

We are always looking for columnists on a multitude of subjects. If you think you would like to contribute, contact me HERE  The more and different people we have writing, the better.

Is There Any Wonder Why?

Is there any wonder why Tallahassee is poised to remove home rule authority in deciding development applications from local government?

If there is, all one had to see was the vote last night for Sailfish Cay. In a 3-2 decision, the Stuart Commission did approve the fee simple, zero lot line, single-family homes on Central Parkway. It should have been a unanimous decision not a nail biter.

For years, I have been writing about the state usurping the powers of local government. From not allowing regulation of tree maintenance to sober homes. I still believe it is best for local officials to decide. When it comes to housing, I am having my doubts, however.

Florida Senate Bill 102, which has been passed in that body, will take away most local control over development under the guise of creating more affordable housing. There is still some hope for modification in the House, but it’s not looking good. What this tells me is that our legislators do not trust local government to make decisions regarding housing the influx of nearly 350,000 people a year to Florida.


And the decision by the city commission is played out over and over throughout the state. It is irresponsible of local elected officials to continue to do so. If some in Tallahassee have their way, local elected officials will only be allowed to give proclamations in the future.

Last night’s decision in Stuart by the two no votes wasn’t based on whether the project was a good one or not. Commissioner Collins will never vote for more residential construction even something like this. Vice-Mayor Bruner voted in favor of this project two weeks ago on First Reading. Tonight, she said she was voting no because of the wishes of her constituents. I am one of her constituents and I am a yes. Only one person at the meeting spoke in opposition.

Many people, even those who live somewhere other than Stuart, are disappointed with the Kanner PUD which will result in Costco and 370 apartments on 50 acres being built. If SB 102 is signed into law, the developer could have built 1500 units on the property instead. The project would never have come to the commission for a decision because it would have been as of right. This is what unreasonableness has brought us.

There are several other bills moving toward passage that will strip away home rule. It isn’t a fantasy but a reality. The super majority Republican legislature has decided that officials locally elected can’t be trusted to have common sense. They will take development into their hands to make sure that Florida keeps on growing. We have given them that excuse.

As Published In Martin County Moments

Drag Queen Shows Are Nothing New

I can’t imagine why anyone ever thought that drag queens reading to young kids in schools and libraries was a good idea. I don’t care if you live in California or Florida, it invites a level of controversy that is not needed.

60 years ago, when I was an adolescent, my father owned a bar and cabaret in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Sometimes on weekends, I would go with him to the place. When he first bought it, the name was “Club Caravan”. It catered to a Lebanese Syrian Christian community. Apparently, it was a stop on the belly dancer circuit.

Unfortunately for dad, being Italian-American, he couldn’t hold on to the customer base. So, he reimagined the place as something else. He brought in musical acts and Drag Queen shows.

I was usually consigned to the kitchen helping my grandmother. However, the performers would go through that area to get to the cellar where their dressing rooms were. Seeing these guys transform themselves from ordinary looking men into gorgeous women was amazing.

Occasionally, there would be a Sunday afternoon brunch show, and I would be allowed in the front of the house sitting at a back table. There would be families eating and watching the different acts. Those shows would at most be classified as PG.

Maybe I was too young, but I never really understood the entertainment attraction though, even then, I could see the artistry involved. I am not a ballet fan, but I recognize that it is a performing art.

In Shakespeare’s time, all the female roles were played by men. Romeo and Juliet would probably be banned by Tallahassee from performances in civic auditoriums today if still done that way. Common sense would dictate for the state to stay out of censoring art.

Maybe common sense is what is lacking today in Florida and the rest of America. I wouldn’t be angry if a drag queen read my kids a book. I would just think it was dumb and ask why. That is the same way I feel about banning drag shows from public spaces. Children should not be used as an excuse to show their parent’s biases.

In the 60 years since I was first exposed to drag queens, I have never felt the need or the urge to transform myself into being a woman or dressing like one. Most of these culture wars are political in nature and nothing else. It is a way to rile up people one way or the other. Does anyone even think that exposure to an alternate lifestyle is going to brainwash a kid into adopting it?

Each side in the cultural wars is stoking the fears of their supporters to win political points and contributions. I am all for keeping drag queens out of reading to kids in schools and libraries. At the same time, let parents decide whether their children should be exposed to that art form outside of school.

There is no evidence that it will “make” them gay, lesbian, bi, or even trans. You either are or you’re not. How about a little libertarian freedom and leaving it up to mom and dad to know what is best for their family.

Does Anyone Still Believe in Free Market Capitalism?

I may be one of the last Americans who believes in the sanctity of free markets.

Respecting those markets means that whether someone is an investor in a company such as Exxon or is a money manager like Blackrock, decisions are made based on the probability of getting a return on the investment that meets the desired goal. Political considerations are not relevant to making the investment or not.

That is why this nonsense about E.S.G is just that…nonsense. E.S.G is not material to the quality of the investment. Environmental, social, and governance policies are a tool that may be used by companies as they define the mission, vision, and values of the company. There are all types of tools that companies use to define the company’s operating philosophy. Some say they will never split their stock. Others that stock buy backs are needed. And there are many more.

All I ask of a company I invest in is to follow the law and be ethical in conducting its business. If by using E.S.G. or stock buy backs to increase their stock prices, how is the shareholder worse off? By making investing political instead of economic, Florida Governor DeSantis and other cultural warriors, place rhetorical foolishness over the economic returns of the state and its pension plans. And if I were in a pension fund, I would take investment returns over politics every time.

Taking E.S.G. into account when making an investment is not some radical idea. And it isn’t even some radical new idea. It has been around since the 1970s with investors and companies divesting their assets in South Africa due to apartheid. Today, it might be like investing in sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels for the sake of the future because of global warming.

That doesn’t mean that investments in oil companies aren’t made. Every major sector suffered declines in their stock prices last year except for fossil fuel companies. The only thing that saved my portfolio return from being worse were investments in that sector which rose by 65% in 2022.

Even companies like Exxon use some part of the E.S.G. doctrine when making their decisions. All that matters is if companies that use it as a yard stick when making decisions show adequate returns. If they do not, then ultimately E.S.G. would be shoved aside. Markets are ruthless and should be. And that is why trying to inject politics into the capital markets is foolhardy.

Investors should be self-interested and selfish in their behaviors. For years, it was Democrats that wanted corporations to put other factors over profits. In today’s world, Republicans are more likely to impose restrictions over such social nonsense as “woke behavior.” The best policies result when companies decide how to be successful and not politicians try to decide how the companies should be successful.

Making money in capitalistic markets comes down to one thing…results. So far E.S.G. has proven a reliable indication that a company will be profitable. Therefore, I will not stop investing in those companies or funds that employ it in their decision making.

The minute that those firms stop contributing to my bottom line, regardless of their policies, I will sell. People should not be in the markets to do social good if by doing so they are losing money. Business is not a charity or a political cause, nor should it be run that way.

Don’t let politicians stop you or your retirement funds from making profits. That is not what a free-market economy is all about. DeSantis and his crew are sounding like a bunch of socialists.

As Published In Medium

What Passes For Discourse

How despicable can you go seems to be the question with no bottom. Truth has been sacrificed to expediency. So, the old notions of decency and credulity have given way to nonsensical rhetoric and empty slogans.

The behavior hasn’t escaped Martin County either. In this regard, we are far from unique. Instead of making an argument by using facts and reasoning, some castigate a person or their family. That is far from winning an argument.

The point of this new type of discourse is not to win people to your side but just to have those already there remain with you. No new information needs to be given to alter opinion. Just keep up unremitting irrelevancies and that will be good enough.

What we have today is not discourse. I am sorry to say what I see on Facebook that purports to tell citizens how it is bears little resemblance to how it really is. Most of it is a half-truth that devolves into some wild and wooly narrative that is so detached from reality that it is hard to imagine why would any sane and rational person believe it.

What those who operate this way have succeeded in doing is allowing us to be a meaner society. Some of this ilk professes to be Christian and claim to have a deeply personal relationship with Jesus. Unfortunately, that relationship doesn’t mimic much of Christ’s teachings. They are more like the Pharisees of the Temple than the Apostles of the Last Supper in their outlook. They mimic doctrine but do not live it.

It is best to leave those people spinning their webs without comment. Therefore, I will leave them without comment here. But rest assured they have changed very few minds and contributed even less.


Fletch's Perspective

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

Funny how everyday flies by but everything takes forever to complete.

The latter feels especially true when you’re engaged in a construction project.

Actually, construction has yet to begin on the new flagship Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County facility we’ve worked on for nearly five years.

But the groundbreaking takes place Tuesday and “overjoyed” doesn’t begin to describe the sense of excitement.

The vision for the project reflects the input of my colleagues, our board of directors and multiple community stakeholders who understand how fragile a future our members face when they finally graduate the safety and support of the clubs and return full time to the troubles and temptations of their neighborhoods.

We hope we’ve equipped them fully with healthy habits, improved academics, recently discovered talents and an undeniable realization of their immense and innate worth as individuals. But we know hope is hardly enough.

Hence the increased emphasis across our existing four clubs on job training—soft skills that serve our kids in any situation as well as specified skills for fields of their unique interests. The latter is particularly reflected in our culinary program, where students as young as middle school and elementary learn and earn certificates in kitchen hygiene, knife skills and other essential aspects that give them a decisive advantage in future employment opportunities.

The new Stuart club supercharges our ability to enrich our members potential. Spanning 38,000 square feet on 3.5 acres of property leased to us for a $1 a year by the Martin County School District, the incoming facility will dedicate 15,000 square feet to state-of-the-art workforce labs.

In addition to the academic instructions from our certified teachers, we’ll offer members lessons and the opportunity to earn certifications in HVAC, welding, carpentry, electrical, plumbing, computer coding, drone piloting, spatial reality and much, much more.

Textbook knowledge is vital to the fundamentals of their workforce preparation. But real-world applications—as in all serious disciplines—reveal invaluable insights. To ensure a balance of both, we’ll partner with business leaders to ensure lessons in the lab and in the field that will give the kids the quality of experience typically associated with apprenticeships.

Just as we know the power of the positive and protection atmosphere a young person experiences when he or she steps into our clubs, we’re equally attuned to the risks that compound when they one day leave for the last time. So ideally, we prepare them to go from here to a school (college or vocational), the military or the marketplace. The labs will help them join the latter prepared to make meaningful contributions right away, grow professionally and succeed.

Considering the headwinds so many of our members have already endured, we know they can’t afford any more delays. So, though we can’t wait to celebrate Tuesday’s groundbreaking, we’re even more eager to get to the ribbon-cutting.

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

VanRiper's Views

Darlene VanRiper

Emotional Intelligence

I’ve been thinking about the horrific state of our student population lately.  I have 3-year-old and 6-year-old grandsons.  I am wishing my daughter-in-law could homeschool them.  Our students accept, perhaps unlike students in the 1950s that they may be harmed at any time.  They may be victims of a school shooter.  They may go to school and not come home.  Appalling.

I am a 2nd Amendment advocate. I feel that once we give this right away, we leave ourselves open to succumb to any authority…legitimate or not.   So, we must find another way.  Everything, in my opinion, points to emotional health.

I once read a book called Emotional Intelligence. I read it years ago.  It stuck with me.  I remember being a teenager.  I certainly did NOT have emotional intelligence then and I often struggle with it to this day.

What does it mean?  I like to give an example which goes like this: You are a teenager, doesn’t matter boy or girl.  You stroll into the high school cafeteria.  You notice your two best friends whispering across the room.  They spot you and immediately stop talking.  They look guilty as hell!  WHAT, you ask yourself, are they talking about?  It must be about me!  And they stopped when they saw me!  It must be something bad!  When in fact, they were planning your surprise birthday party.  We jump to conclusions.  That is certainly natural.

So, this human tendency lends itself to training, to education.  Why aren’t we teaching kids how to handle their emotions?   These days we can’t rely on children’s parents (who suffer the same “humanness”) to train their kids to stop before they leap.

It seems to me our Department of Education could institute an Emotional Intelligence course to be taught from elementary right through high school.  Perhaps make it part of Health Class.  (Do they still have Health Class?)  So, two or three times a week, students would basically go to therapy.  In my opinion this would help in many ways.  It would give students an outlet.

You know, sometimes you just need someone to talk to, right?  Sometimes your friends don’t get it and sometimes your family members are the last people in which you want to confide.  I am told that kids today feel very isolated.  Such a class could help with that.  Such a class could also expose issues they are dealing with at home.

You think kids wouldn’t open-up in such a class.  I’m willing to bet they would.  At least they would hear that there are solutions other than drugs, self-mutilation, suicide, and murder.  Maybe they will realize how human we ALL are.  Oh, and no cell phones allowed in class

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

Nicki's Place

Nicki van Vonno
van Vonno Consulting, Owner

Lady Birds

I’ve been thinking about wildflowers, and birds. The cardinals, jays and doves delight in the bird seed I throw out for them. Former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, said: “Though the word beautification makes the concept sound merely cosmetic, it involves much more: clean water, clean air, clean roadsides, safe waste disposal and preservation of valued old landmarks as well as great parks and wilderness areas. To me…beautification means our total concern for the physical and human quality we pass on to our children and the future.”

What’s a body to do? Following the advice of my doctor and my foodie friends I am following the blue zone diet also known as the Mediterranean diet. Trying not to waste food, I find myself encouraging and abetting the creation of additional waste: vegetable waste, packaging waste, and paper waste.

In my last column, I wrote about reading a paper newspaper proudly, but that indulgence fills my recycling bins with seven days of newspaper, and all the ads, along with the catalogs, junk mail and delivery packaging that arrives.  I am cancelling subscriptions and trying to get off mailing lists.

I received a promotion for one of the food meal delivery programs. I subscribed. I was getting four meals by delivery every week.  While the food was acceptable and sometimes excellent, it was too much and most of it rotted before I could use it.

But the real beef?

The packaging is overwhelming.  Each meal comes in a plastic zip lock bag. Everything is packaged separately. Two peeled garlic cloves in a plastic sealed bag. Tablespoon packets for mayonnaise, mustard, chili sauce, sour cream, and mini-pouches for a pinch of salt, cumin, pepper. I understand why, but many people don’t remember.

A friend recently sent her 35-year-old daughter some articles about the 1982 and 1986 tampering of a popular pain reliever that resulted in several deaths to explain to her that these poisonings resulted in our strong packaging requirements, and now contributes to our recycling woes.

I have returned to my roots, shopping at the local farmer’s markets. I canceled the food meal delivery program but today I received another box today. if I could just compost the decaying veggies…

Lady Bird Johnson left us this hope: “I, for one, think we will survive, and I hope that along the way we can keep alive our experience with the flowering earth. For the bounty of nature is also one of the deep needs of man.”

Breathe in our earth’s bounty.

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

Focusing today on the Village of Indiantown, I watched the Planning, Zoning, and Appeals Board (PZAB) meetings from December 1 of last year until present and their corresponding Village of Indiantown Council meetings. December 1st was the first meeting of the Indiantown PZAB since the election. Members Palmer, Miley, Presler, Sehayik, and Williams were all members of the PZAB before the election and they retained their seats. Newcomers to the board are Karen Onsager and Scott Watson.

Let me tell you what a refreshing addition to the PZAB Watson and Onsager are! They have a mind for the reason they are on the PZAB, hold intelligent debate, keep their comments based on the facts that are presented before them, and remove personal feelings from their decision-making.

In a past issue of F&N I spoke a bit on Scott Watson, who is a business owner in Indiantown and is one of the founding members of the movement to incorporate the Village of Indiantown. Under the previous leadership and majority of the Village of Indiantown Council, members of the council could name their own representative to serve on the PZAB, but the representative had to then be approved by the rest of the council.

That rule kept Watson from serving on the PZAB for, then, Councilwoman Susan Gibbs-Thomas. Now, under the new majority, each councilmember can select their own representative without approval from the rest of the council. This is a great change that will allow diverse perspectives and broader conversations. Watson was selected to serve on the PZAB by Councilman Carmine Dipaolo and Onsager was selected by Mayor Gibbs-Thomas.

In contrast to Watson and Onsager on the PZAB is Renita Presler. Renita serves as representative for Councilwoman Janet Hernandez. Even Presler and Hernandez contrast with each other, which is odd to me. As I mentioned earlier, it is important to bring different perspectives when deciding, but it seems Hernandez and Presler are not even reading the same book when it comes to projects being considered for the village. Presler will fight each project that comes before her while Hernandez will sing the praises of those same projects.

I first dipped my toe into the political pool in 2016 when U.S. EcoGen was trying to build a Cogeneration Power Plant in Indiantown. The project would have been a boost to the economy and brought much needed jobs to Indiantown. Unfortunately, the county commission majority, led then by Commissioner Anne Scott, drug their feet and the project moved to another town. In my mind that is the straw that broke the camel’s back and led to the incorporation of the Village of Indiantown.

Now Indiantown holds their own destiny, but it feels like Presler, and possibly others on the PZAB, are going to try to fight off any good project that comes along just like the county commission did back then. If these PZAB members do not put away their feelings and instead come forward with fact-based decision-making, Indiantown may see developers and business owners seeking friendlier locations to bring their projects. Jobs and the much-needed tax base will be lost, and Indiantown will be doing to themselves what led to their incorporation.

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

Hope in Our Community

Rob Ranieri
House of Hope, CEO

House of Hope provides a wide range of programs and services for our economically challenged neighbors, such as case management, financial assistance, nutrition education, career coaching, and more.

Even with our wide array of services, over 70% of our clients arrive at our doorstep due to food insecurity. In Martin County, more than half of our residents may not know where their next meal is coming from. Due to the seasonality of our economy and schools being closed, that number spikes in the summer months. Currently, House of Hope is reaching over 7,000 people each month with our services, which are always at no cost to the individuals and families we assist.

House of Hope operates four food pantries across our community, located in Stuart, Hobe Sound, Jensen Beach, and Indiantown. All four locations use a food distribution method known as Client Choice Shopping. Each pantry is set up like a small market, with like items grouped together on the shelves. Clients go through and select the food items that are best suited to their dietary needs, personal tastes, and ages of the family members.

Because House of Hope grows food at our production farm, and has key partnerships that provide large quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables, our pantries offer a much wider variety and larger quantities of produce than a typical food pantry. For us and for our clients, the most important aspect of Client Choice Shopping is dignity in the process. There is no stigma attached to this service, as clients are empowered to make their own food selections and provided with friendly customer service from our staff and volunteers.

By selecting the food themselves, food waste is minimized since clients never have to take food they cannot use. The model provides excellent results, as over 97% of our clients say they eat better since they started using our pantry services.

House of Hope depends on the support and involvement of hundreds of volunteers, especially in our food pantries. We believe that the Client Choice model also positively impacts our volunteers. Pantry volunteers are hands on, and directly involved in helping House of Hope to build positive relationships with the people we serve. The bright smiles, kind words, and compassionate approach to the work that our volunteers provide goes a long way to helping our clients feel welcome, valued, and respected.

If you know someone that needs our services, or you would like to get involved, please visit our website at

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

Michele is off this edition.

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

Martin County Real Estate

John Gonzalez
Engel & Volkers, Managing Broker

The Florida Legislature is in session.

Realtors throughout Florida will attend an event in Tallahassee to show our support (or opposition) to certain bills that are passing through the Legislature. Our efforts have been extremely successful in the past and we hope to be successful in 2023. We focus our efforts on bipartisan legislation that is intended to keep our property rights intact, aid in affordable/attainable housing, clean our springs and waterways and reduce the cost of having a business in Florida.

I want to point out some of the efforts that Florida Realtors have championed that became law and improved the quality of life and has enhanced home ownership. First, the Sadowski Act provides that a portion of all doc stamp revenue (real estate transfer tax) will be set aside, in perpetuity, to pay for programs that help struggling Floridians buy or improve a home. Sadowski has invested billions of dollars into attainable housing programs including the SHIP, SAIL and the Hometown Heroes programs.

We fought HOAs and attorneys on estoppel fee charges that were unregulated and becoming onerous on homeowners trying to sell in a gated community or condominium. We worked to reduce the sales tax on commercial properties, helped begin the reform of our insurance industry, and finally we assisted in legislation that has helped tenants and landlords. Most importantly, we have been working hard to provide input on fixing our Florida waters and springs through research and grassroots advocacy.

In 2023 the Realtors focus will be homeowners’ insurance reforms, property rights and attainable housing.

We will continue to encourage the Governor and Legislature to monitor the bill that was passed in a special session in December 2022. It is intended to repair our broken homeowner’s insurance system. Most homeowners in Florida will see increasing insurance costs until the new rules and regulations begin to take effect. I live in a low-lying section of Stuart and will be required by my insurance carrier to buy flood insurance. In effect, my premium will go up at least 50% – if you add in the additional cost of flood coverage. I think it will get better, not worse, but it will not be felt until 2024.

Senate Bill 102 gets a lot of press. Florida Realtors support this legislation in the Senate and its companion bill in the House. The bill has been dubbed the “Live Local Act”. The 90-page document provides considerable funding for attainable housing programs ($600 million), opposes rent control measures enacted locally over current state laws, and assists developers if they provide a measured portion of their inventory for workforce/attainable homes.

This bill has had strong support from many business and professional organizations, including Realtors and the AFL/CIO. It has its share of critics, as well. Overall, it is a complicated attempt to fix a serious deficiency in housing inventory for average Florida families.

Each session sees winning legislation and failed efforts. It is our responsibility to monitor our elected officials and let them know what they can do better. Remember, however, this should be a civil society – let’s all treat each other with dignity and respect.

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

 The Palm City Chamber of Commerce held a Fall Fest for many years in Palm City.

We were on hold due to Covid and then we lost our parking so we haven’t been able to have that event at the previous location. Many local churches and other organizations now have Fall festivals. SO, we are introducing SPRING FEST 2023!

Spring Fest will be a FREE family event that is a combination of the previously held Fall Fest and our newest tradition, Cow Plop Bingo. The event is going to be held at the Martin County Fairgrounds so that we have ample parking for everyone and the space we need for all the attractions. Spring Fest 2023 features Cow Plop Bingo and Touch-a-Truck in partnership with the Early Learning Coalition of Indian River, Martin, and Okeechobee Counties.

Cow Plop Bingo is exactly what you think it is! You can purchase a “land parcel” for $50 and if the cow “plops” in your space you win $1000!! It is a ton of fun to watch the crowd as everyone cheers for the cow to poop! The land parcels can be purchased at the Palm City Chamber of Commerce or at the event on Sunday, April 2nd.

Touch-a-Truck is an opportunity for our local children to get up close and personal with the vehicles that they get excited about when they see them on the roads. We will have a dump truck, recycle truck, trash truck, excavator, bulldozer, tractor, grapple truck, bucket truck, tow truck, fire rescue vehicles and sheriff department vehicles. We are also looking forward to an air boat and other interesting vehicles.

In addition to all of this, we will have musical performances by local groups including line dancers and Palm City Elementary School. There will be craft and business vendors for your enjoyment. Food trucks including ice cream and churros.

The Treasure Coast Wildlife Center will be there with some of their residents and a petting zoo from Happy Place Party Ponies. We will also have a special appearance by the Easter Bunny for your photo opportunities!!!

Be sure to come on down to Spring Fest 2023 on Sunday, April 2nd from 11:00-2:00PM at the Martin County Fairgrounds. A perfect FREE event for you and your family and maybe you’ll leave $1000 richer if the cow plops on your space.

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

Fishing Tips

Paul Sperco

It’s the middle of March and Mother Nature has been backing up the phrase that this month will “Come in like a lion and out like a lamb.”

The lion is is here we are just waiting for the lamb to show up. Big winds, dirty water, and big surf have been around all month but on a positive note the big schools of pompano have finally showed just south of us in Palm Beach County. We are all hoping as conditions improve and the fish begin their northern migration the pompano, big jacks, bluefish, ladyfish, whiting, and croaker will start bending the rods for everyone that fishes the surf.

The normal trend is for the best action to be in the late afternoon to early evening and when the tide cycle combines a high tide with late afternoon that’s the time to be on the beach. There have actually been some live sandfleas showing on our local beaches for the first time in recent memory so include a sandflea rake in your gear assortment when you head up to the beach.

The best Fishbites scents and colors that have been producing are Powerlime Crab, Electric Chicken Crab, Blueclaw Crab, and EZ Flea. If you are fishing more than one rod keep at least one setup a bit shorter in the 50-to-60-yard range because this is the time of year when the pompano will move into shallower water in search of the sandfleas, white spotted, crabs, and clams.

The other tip I want to share is the spring migration of spinner and blacktip sharks will occur later this month and continue into April so pay attention to your rods and if you hook up try to get the fish to the beach as quickly as you can. A hooked pompano left on a long rod 60 to 100 yards off of the beach will be become lunch for the sharks in a short amount of time.

The end of March, April, and the beginning of May is normally the time period when we see the biggest schools of pompano so remember the recreational limit is 6 per angler and they must measure 11 inches to the fork of the tail.

Calming winds, clean water, and hopefully the huge mats of sargassum that have been reported well east of us stay away. They will all be the factors that kick off our annual spring surf fishing season. Tiger Shores, Stuart Beach, Beachwalk Pasley are some of the spots where the sandfleas have shown so you might want to target those spots for a starting point for your next trip.


Good luck this month and catch em up.

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

Arati's Advice

Arati Hammond
Keller Williams, Senior Real Estate Specialist


It turns out your millennial children don’t want your formal dining room set, your fine bone china, or the antiques you’ve been collecting.

They’re also not too attached to mementos — yours or their own childhood trophies, scrapbooks, and artwork.

Many millennials are living compact urban lives, they have their own aesthetic sensibility, and they’re cataloging their memories digitally.

Do your kids a favor. Let the purge begin!

To start, prepare three bags or boxes and label them Keep, Toss, and Sell/Donate. Put away what’s in your Keep pile at the end of the day and throw out what’s in your Toss pile.

We live in a world of digital files and virtual paperwork. Having a paper trail is wise under certain circumstances, but we don’t need 30 years of financials. There are some papers you need to hang on to for life, some you can relinquish after a set amount of time and some papers that you can throw out the same day they arrive. Your attorney or accountant can tell you which papers fall into the different categories. Making the effort a few minutes each day to sort and toss incoming paperwork keeps piles from forming.

Some say 80% of what we keep, we’ll never look at again. It’s just taking up space in our homes. Some paperwork can be scanned and saved on your hard drive.

Here is a great tip I learned from one of my customers moving into a retirement home – photographing some of the “keepsakes”. She took a photo and saved it in a folder called Nostalgia. “Once I have the picture, I feel better about giving or throwing away the item. The reason why I wanted to save it was because I didn’t want to forget” she said. Hope this is helpful to you.

There are lots of options locally for sell/donate. For more information, please contact me at

Good planners get their home, will, and health care power-of-attorney in place. But what about your digital life, particularly Facebook?

Often when people pass away, friends and family “gather” on Facebook to memorialize a loved one.

It’s helpful to have someone who can take charge of your Facebook page and share information and update. But if no one knows your password, no one can control your Facebook page. Facebook now allows users to designate a “legacy contact” to manage a user’s Facebook account after death.

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

Celebrating Women Who Tell Out Stories

Stacy Weller Ranieri
The Firefly Group, President & Chief Illuminator

In 1980, celebrating women’s history didn’t seem like a very serious idea.

Sure, there had always been women as part of history. But few knew who they were or what specifically they had done to forward the progress of the nation and the world. President Jimmy Carter took a bold step in declaring a week in March 1980 as Women’s History Week. By 1987, Congress had stretched the week to the entire month.

As Women’s History Month is just concluding, it’s worth noting the crucial role women have played in shaping the world we live in today. They’ve been at the forefront of social, political, and economic change throughout history.  Women have made significant contributions to the fields of science and medicine, literature, and the arts. They have led movements for justice, human rights, and environmental protection.

Some of those names are familiar. Maya Angelou, Jane Austin, Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Katherine Graham, Frida Kahlo, Florence Nightingale, Georgia O’Keefe, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gloria Steinem … and so many more.

In Martin County, women have made their mark as well, sparking the establishment of our local library system and preserving the history of our community – from saving Gilbert’s Bar Refuge to fostering the Historical Society.  They helped enhance health care in our community and founded organizations like Hibiscus Children’s Center.

For generations, local women have been instrumental at promoting education and literacy, advancing the arts, preserving the environment, caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, and revitalizing our community. So much of the good that happens in our community is a credit to the boundless determination of women.

As the chief illuminator of a public relations and marketing firm, I found this year’s theme to be especially fitting: Celebrating Women Who Tell our Stories. As storytellers ourselves, it gives me great pleasure to recognize some of the women who have done so much to preserve the history and tell the story of Martin County. They deserve recognition all year long!

Sandra Thurlow has tracked down countless photos, articles, and stories about Martin County. Her attention to detail has resulted in an amazing archive of material that would otherwise have been lost to the ages. Treat yourself to Sandy’s books—Stuart on the St. Lucie: A Pictorial History, Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River, Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge: Home of History, and Sewall’s Point: The History of a Peninsular Community on Florida’s Treasure Coast.

Janet Hutchinson

Janet Hutchinson was small in stature but a giant in preserving the cultural and historical legacy of Martin County. As the Director of the Martin County Historical Society starting in 1965, she pounded on the doors of legislators to ensure the Elliott and the House of Refuge would be named Historical Memorials of Florida. Her 1997 History of Martin County captures details only Janet could have preserved.

Iris Wall describes herself as a Florida Cracker “with a little extra salt.” As a fifth generation Floridian, Iris has lived a lot of the history she is preserving about life in Indiantown when it was the untamed frontier. In her 90s, she’s still as busy as ever, sharing with groups eager to learn about the history of Old Florida, the Seminole Inn, and its legacy of cattle and citrus.

Alice Luckhardt who died in December 2022 was a walking encyclopedia of Martin County historical information. In hundreds of Historical Vignettes, she documented details about the community and authored four books on Stuart, available at the Stuart Heritage Museum. Her legacy lives on in the history she and others have preserved for us.

Alice Luckhardt

Mary Dawson’s historical fiction novel, The River Way Home: The Adventures of the Cowboy, the Indian, & the Amazon Queen, describes the adventures of a Florida cow hunter, A Seminole, and an African American girl in the 1900s. But Mary has also endeavored to preserve living history with her work to save the Martin Grade, the endangered canopy of trees between Palm City and Okeechobee.

While Women’s History Month just ended, I hope you’ll take a moment to reflect on the many women, global and local, the famous and the unsung heroes, who came before us and are working right now in Martin County to tell our stories and preserve our history for today and future generations.


Sandra Thurlow:

Janet Hutchinson:

Iris Wall:

Alice Luckhardt:

Mary Dawson:



Constitutional Corner & Non Profit Notices

Other Government Notices

And from our Supervisor of Elections:

Are You Primary Election Ready?

We are officially one year away from the Presidential Preference Primary (PPP) which will be held on March 19, 2024. The last day to register to vote or change your party affiliation for the PPP is February 20, 2024.  

The Presidential Preference Primary is part of the presidential nominating process for Florida’s two major political parties.  Registered voters will cast their votes for the nominee of their choice to represent their party for president on the General Election ballot in November 2024.

Remember, Florida is a closed primary state.  This means you must be registered with one of Florida’s major political parties to be eligible to vote in the PPP.

If you need further information or have questions, please contact the Elections Office at 772-288-5637 or visit our website at

Vicki Davis

Martin County Supervisor of Elections

Clerk Of The Court

Martin County Clerk & Comptroller Hosts Passport Day Event

Apply Now for Summer Travel!

Stuart, Fla. – Carolyn Timmann, Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller for Martin County, announced today that the Clerk’s office will be open for a Passport Day Event on Saturday, April 1, 2023, from 9:00 a.m. to noon at the Martin County Courthouse Complex in downtown Stuart.  This special one-day event is reserved to conveniently accept new applications, renew passports for children, take photos and provide passport information to U.S. citizens. 

EVENT:                 Passport Day Event

DATE:                    Saturday, April 1, 2023

TIME:                    9:00 a.m. – Noon

LOCATION:         Martin County Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comptroller

Courthouse Complex

                                100 S.E. Ocean Blvd., First Floor

                                Stuart, FL 34994

“Get a head start on your summer travel plans by attending our special Saturday Passport Event. In today’s busy world, it is often difficult for working individuals and families to apply for passports during the school and work week,” said Clerk Timmann.  “This event provides a great opportunity for U.S. citizens to complete their passport applications. Our office will have trained staff available to assist with passport applications and photos and to answer any questions.”

For information regarding appointments and required documentation, forms, fees, and payment information, please contact the Official Records Division at (772) 288-5553 or visit our website at and click “Passports” under the Divisions tab.





















Stuart, FL – The Martin County School District is gearing up to host its largest hiring event of 2023 as part of its efforts to recruit talented, highly-qualified candidates to serve schools and departments in the upcoming (2023-2024) school year.

The Districtwide Spring Job Fair will be held from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. this Saturday, March 25, 2023, at Dr. David L. Anderson Middle School. Principals, directors and other hiring managers will issue on-the-spot, conditional offers of employment to qualified candidates in a number of key areas, including:

  • Classroom teachers – all levels
  • Paraprofessionals
  • Extended Day (Afterschool) Counselors
  • Food Service Workers
  • Substitute Teachers
  • Custodians
  • Media Assistants
  • Exceptional Student Education (ESE) positions
  • Maintenance/Skilled Trades Workers
  • Bus Operators and Bus Assistants

All positions in the Martin County School District pay a minimum of $15/hour. School bus operators are paid a minimum of $20/hour, while classroom teachers are paid a minimum of $48,700/year. Substitute teachers earn a minimum of $17.50/hour. The District offers robust benefits options that include flexible spending accounts as well as medical, dental, vision, life and disability insurance for eligible employees and their dependents.

While walk-ins are welcome, interested candidates are encouraged to register to attend the event here. Employment opportunities are updated daily on the District’s website.

Dr. David L. Anderson Middle School is located at 7000 SE Atlantic Ridge Drive, Stuart, FL 34997.

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 or fill out the form on the website.


Our letter this week is from Dick Landrum

Martin County School Board Members:

School Board: on Cutting Speaker’s Time (3 min. -> 1 min.)     03/22/2023

I just want you know how thoroughly disgusted I am at your decision to cut public speaking time from three minutes to one minute at the March 21st School Board meeting.

Speakers spend a lot of time preparing their speeches, some of us hours, getting our thoughts condensed to fit into a three-minute period.  Your job is to listen to public speakers, if it weren’t so, Public Speaking wouldn’t be on the meeting agenda.

Your website says something like “limit speech to 3 minutes,” it doesn’t say “have an alternative speech ready for 1 minute in case we get tired and/or don’t want to listen to your thoughts.”

Again, your job is to listen to the public, but you sit up there with your apathetic, stone-faced, holier-than-thou stares and can’t even show a bit of interest.

It’s against all rules of fair play to change the rules once a session or game has begun.

I have included my speech below that was cut short before I made my main point.

School Board on Banning Books & Censorship     03/21/2023

School Board cut speech time to one minute just before I spoke.  Got through 4th paragraph.

In the mid-1900s, Clare Boothe Luce, a conservative public figure made the point that-  

            “Censorship, like charity, should begin at home; but unlike charity, it should end there.”

Once again, we are embroiled in a discussion about censorship, banning of books, being told how to think, and what to learn.  That’s all wrong for a democracy, a republic, and a country with a Bill of Rights that has survived for almost 232 years.

We have governors, state and federal legislatures who want to make the conversations of the day about emotional issues but enact legislations that directly impede development of emotional intelligence; they don’t want to address the real problems we face as a nation and as a planet in survival mode.

Okay, let’s put their conversations in perspective and find a solution.  Not teaching true history does everyone a disservice.  A lesson relearned throughout the ages.  Our governor doesn’t want anyone’s feelings to be hurt if they discover what mistakes have been made in the past.  Having government and groups of citizens deciding what we can read, what we can learn, and what may be taught to our students is so counterproductive to moving forward and solving the real problems we face.

Consider this solution: If parents don’t want their children reading specific books, we can have our school libraries add to their student database a note section wherein parents can list the books they don’t think are appropriate for their children, not all childrenjust their children.  Then, the librarian can decline allowing a student to have those books.  Censorship pretty much remains at home… where it belongs.

Here’s a typical comment I hear from many critical thinking adults, “Our parents let us read books that were controversial to help us with independent and critical thinking skills, and to improve our ethical and moral awareness, to ask questions, and to talk about others’ points of view in an organized, controlled setting.  I feel I am a better person because of it.” 

Yes, critical thinking, that’s what we are missing more and more in modern education.  That’s why so many people buy into all the misinformation, disinformation, and outright lies whose purposes are to cause the divisiveness that is plaguing our country.

Wannabe autocrats in our government are banking on ridding the country of critical thinking skills; it’s their lead-in to creating a state that they control.  They are the ones with the least ability to exercise emotional intelligence of critical thinking skills; if they had the skills to think clearly through issues, they would realize that they are heading in a terrible direction.

Let censorship remain at home and let us move forward with the charity and wisdom we all have within ourselves and want to develop in our children.  The charity to understand and solve the real problems that we have in our society. 


Martin County


Administrative Law Judge Francine Ffolkes has ruled that the Rural Lifestyle use, which was a text amendment to the Martin County Comprehensive Plan, is not in compliance.

This is reminiscent of the same thing that happened with the Kanner PUD (Costco). It is the same judge and apparently the same faulty reasoning behind her decision. I predict it will result in the same outcome…the Governor’s Cabinet will overrule her findings. What is it with this judge and Martin County?

It took much convincing before I bought into this amendment. I did not think there was enough community outreach at first. Then the county did have several informational meetings with the public. Once the outreach happened, then the commission voting to approve the amendment was fine.


What the amendment is attempting to do is preserve as much open space as possible by clustering development. This concept has been considered good planning by experts for many decades…except in Martin County. Here the “environmentalists” have embraced zoning that allows for the development of 20-acre ranchettes from the USB to the most western part of the county. Having ranchettes located over thousands of acres of western land is the very definition of sprawl.

The other reason that Rural Lifestyle would be important is that it mandates hundreds of acres to be in conservation forever. To qualify for the use is difficult because of the large amount of acreage needed. Because of how hard it becomes to qualify for the use, it encourages development that caters to the more affluent non-homestead owner. They will pay huge real estate taxes to the county and have a very low usage of county services. It is a win-win for the full-time tax paying residents of Martin County.

With this challenge, Martin County once again maintains its reputation for unreasonableness and short sightedness throughout the rest of the state. All the reasons why the legislature and governor are looking to take away the ability of local government to craft local land use and zoning.

Tallahassee will succeed in limiting local government’s ability to determine the appropriate parcel for attainable housing projects during this legislative session. This action is the direct result of not allowing appropriate development. Martin County for a very long time has allowed a few citizens to control the narrative concerning development.

The state by their action for removing local government’s ability to hamper multi-family projects for attainable housing has fired a very close warning shot. They are saying to Martin County and other like-minded jurisdictions to unreasonably stop delaying development. Private property rights are important to us, and we need to have places for people to live.

The county commission, in its determination that the amendment complied, did not need to meet any other burden of proof except that compliance met the “fairly debatable” standard. The Florida Supreme Court has already determined that “the fairly debatable standard of review is a highly deferential standard requiring approval of a planning action if reasonable persons could defer as to its propriety.” That definition was contained in the decision.

In this instance, the judge concluded that the most important factor in her decision was the inclusion of a commercial store which was inconsistent with the county’s policies. The store is limited and only accessible to the residents of the gated community. It is an ancillary use just like the golf cottages and a pro shop would be.

As a practical point, since it is limited to 6000 square feet, it will only carry very basic staples like bread and milk. This will alleviate the need for residents to drive on Bridge Road to the shopping centers at US 1. Traffic and the environmental effects of keeping cars off public streets are important. If they were building a Publix within the closed community and opening it to the public, then it would truly be a commercial use.

That is why I am so confident that a year from now this decision will be overturned by the Governor’s Cabinet. As a practical matter, the legislature will use this unreasonableness as one more instance to be against home rule. At some point, the very people protesting this amendment are going to complain about a project. Then the commissioners are going to smile and say, “Tell it to the legislators. I have nothing to say about it any longer.”


Sewall’s Point septic to sewer conversion seeped over into the county commission meeting.

Utilities Director Sam Amerson gave a brief presentation about the county’s perspective regarding installation of a grinder system for Sewall’s Point. The utility’s rationale for allowing no more than 300 such units in any geographical area is because of the cost of maintaining such a system.

Donaldson reiterated that the county’s policy is to treat all residents equally. One of the town’s contentions is that the municipality has several HOAs which would constitute individual subdivisions. Therefore the 300-unit cap should apply to each separately. The point is moot since Sewall’s Point Manager Daniels said the town’s request to increase the number to 706 units is being withdrawn at this time.

Earlier during public comment, a few of Sewall’s Point’s more vocal advocates for keeping septic systems stated that they did not want to move forward with sewers. Mr. Daniels said that he and the commission represent all the residents. He had gone through all the low-lying areas and only one homeowner did not want to connect. That homeowner had just finished building a new house with a new septic system.

Sewall’s Point will go forward with the grinder system at this point. They are in negotiations with staff to increase the allowable amount to 337 ERCs.

The commission also approved a contract between Halpatiokee Regional Park with the Halpatiokee Outdoor Center for 10 years to provide for the rental of canoes and kayaks, pontoon boat tours, and a concession stand for food, drinks, beer, and wine. The launching ramp will remain free for those bringing their own kayaks and canoes.

The rent will be $4000 per month which includes the 1500 sq ft building. For the past 25 years, this operator has run a similar venture in Jupiter at Riverbend Park. The contract can be found here

City of Stuart


Since COVID how and where many people work has changed dramatically.

Some can now work one or two days a week from home. In some positions, employees never have to go into an office at all. The Stuart Commissioners have really embraced the concept for one of the two employees who report to them…the interim city attorney.

Paul Nicoletti, an excellent past city attorney and manager, has been offered the interim position at $200 an hour for up to 10 hours per week ($2000 a week). He also will have the commission’s permission to work remotely. And we know he will be doing so because he will be out of town from April 9th through May 8th and June 22nd through July 8th. For most of that time, I was told, he will be on a cruise somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

Even in today’s world of instantaneous communication, trying to get an internet connection on a ship halfway around the world is challenging. Because of the time difference, how is Nicoletti supposed to be available during the city’s working hours? The only way he would be available at commission meetings would be via zoom if at all. Is this any way for Stuart to be governed? This would be an absurdist play worthy of Beckett or a Moliere farce.

While Nicoletti would be an excellent choice under normal circumstances, the travel schedule the commissioners are agreeing to is anything but normal. It isn’t as if there is a shortage of qualified attorneys and firms that specialize and are performing this exact work for other Martin County governments.

Indiantown and Sewall’s Point are represented by two different firms where the attorneys actually are present and in person at the meetings. I was told that they charge the same amount per hour as this proposed contract with Nicoletti does. For decades, Ocean Breeze has had Rick Crary from Crary Buchanan who goes to their meetings and does their legal work. Both Tony George and Tyson Waters represent the school board and have done so admirably for many years.

So how did Nicoletti become the one and only? Most of it could be pure inertia by the commission. I understand that Nicoletti telephoned all of them to lobby for the position before the last meeting. Politicians being politicians, they just don’t know how to say no even when confronted with a fact like your attorney isn’t going to be in Martin County or even in Florida for most of the interim period.

This demonstrates to me how arrogant elected officials can be. They may claim to be guardians of taxpayer dollars but have no problem spending thousands on a favored friend. Nicoletti is not charging anything less than the others would to be at least in the same county with their client. Is the commission inept and incompetent? They sure are showing signs of that with this decision!

One cannot blame either the incoming or outgoing managers for this debacle. At the meeting, Mortell (interim city manager) said that there was no rush to find an interim attorney. Staff could put together a procedure for finding an attorney and bring it back to the commission.

Mortell has been city attorney for more than a decade. He knows what it takes to do the job from his own experience. But the commission instructed Mortell and Dyess to come back with a contract for Nicoletti in a 5-0 vote. That wink and a nod for an insider “Good Old Boy” is still strong.

As a Stuart taxpayer, I am incensed at this. As someone who cares about good government, I am disappointed by the action. And as a voter, I will remember that they put aside the public good to sign such a ridiculous contract.

The commission is scheduled to vote on this Monday night. You can see the proposed contract here


A presentation was made detailing the next phase of Memorial Park’s makeover.

It is in the budget for this year. The project began in 2009 and has been phased in since approved. This section is known as Phase 4. It has been planned by Lucido & Associates.

Phase 4 consists of building an amphitheater where there is currently a concrete platform. It is in the corner of the park next to the courthouse. Lucido envisions a place to hold concerts and other outdoor events. It will soon go out to RFP.

You can see the presentation here

Nathan Ritchey, a local resident, has approached the city with an unsolicited offer to lease a portion of the dog park on Central Parkway for a Dog Park Café. It will be separate from the rest of the park but will encompass one of the pavilions.

It will serve beer and wine, other beverages, snacks, breakfast items and have a place for a food truck. The place will be members only. The presentation states that it will be a market lease amount. Astroturf will be used, and Ritchey stated there will be a vinegar solution to clean the turf.

There was no professional site plan attached to better see the area only renderings and photos of mostly other Florida establishments. The commission authorized 5-0 for staff to negotiate a lease for the commission’s approval. You can see the presentation here

Sailfish Cay, the 60-unit, fee simple, townhome development was before the commission on 2nd reading.

There were several conditions of approval:

  • They would match dollar for dollar up to $32,000 for improvements to the dog park.
  • The HOA or developer, after turnover, will provide easements for licensed cable services.
  • The HOA, once formed, upon request the City will submit a report to the City, signed and sealed by a professional engineer certifying that the on-site storm water management system is maintained and functioning as designed.
  • The HOA, once formed, will require in its declaration that all homeowners who purchase from the Developer are prohibited for two consecutive years, from the date of purchase, from renting the purchased unit.

A motion was made by Clarke and seconded by Rich. The vote was 3-2 with Bruner and Collins voting no. You can see the presentation here

East Stuart’s Thanksgiving Homicide Solved. Justice For A Community

When people say Stuart is a small town, that is an understatement.

And if it is East Stuart, then it becomes even smaller. Most people who live there belong to families that have resided in the community for generations. After a hundred or more years, it isn’t surprising that many residents are related in some fashion. Being called “auntie” by a child could be because you are related or as a sign of respect for an older person or, in many instances, both.

Most people in East Stuart are religious and law abiding. They keep their heads down and work hard to make a go of it. Mattie Jones was just such a person. She retired from the school system where she worked as a cook. Mattie was a wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She was an active member of “Seven Olives Evangelistic Pentecostal Church” in Fort Pierce. Mattie Jones was murdered by a stray bullet on Thanksgiving Eve while watching TV in her home on East 10th Street.

The African American communities of East Stuart, Port Salerno, Indiantown, and Fort Pierce are also interrelated. Sometimes people from Indiantown will attend church in East Stuart and residents from East Stuart attend a church in Fort Pierce. What also is not unusual is for a member of an Indiantown gang to come to East Stuart to settle a beef about a woman or drugs.

Lonnie B. Smalls III, age 19, of Indiantown was in East Stuart last Thanksgiving Eve. He had a semi-automatic Glock handgun that had been altered to be a fully automatic weapon. This “machine pistol” was used to shoot many, many rounds at three people sitting in a car on 10th Street. Two were wounded. Mattie Jones, eating in her recliner and watching TV, ended up dead.

It is a well-known fact to Stuart PD that fewer than 10 people create most of the crime in East Stuart. Our gangs are different from what citizens know from the news. The arguments that lead to violence still may be about drugs and control of territory, but the ferocity of these crews is not what a city such as Chicago experiences. Smalls wanted to be a big “gangsta” in a tiny place.

Within a few hours, law enforcement knew that Smalls was their man. They locked him up on a parole violation. Stuart PD, in cooperation with the Martin County Sheriff’s office, executed a warrant that found the gun in Smalls’ house in Indiantown. Law enforcement knew the perpetrator of the crime almost instantly.

Unlike cop shows on television, analyzing DNA and obtaining a ballistics report is not accomplished in a few hours. In this case, it took 6–8 weeks and that was much faster than a normal case. There is one crime lab in Fort Pierce for the entire 19th Judicial Circuit which covers the Treasure Coast including Okeechobee County. This can slow things down considerably.

Also, unlike television, putting together a search warrant and having a judge sign it isn’t done without writing a lot of information down on paper. In a matter of importance like a murder case, before a judge even gets the warrant, the State Attorney’s Office must approve. There are roughly 15–20 individual search warrants in a major case. No one wants a case thrown out due to a technicality.

Going back to 1995, there are currently 6 unsolved homicides in Stuart. That doesn’t mean the cops don’t know who did the shooting. They just cannot prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. The police can lock up a suspect if there is probable cause. In a criminal case, the level of certainty before a conviction is increased to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors are not going to charge a defendant unless the evidence meets that standard.

In most cases, the suspects all belong to that small group of bad people who commit most of the crime. Individuals fall in and out of the group depending on death and imprisonment. Unfortunately, there are others available to take their places…including their children.

To gain a conviction, the best evidence is from people who saw the crime coming forward…or better yet were the actual victims of the crime. This seldom ever happens in East Stuart. Most of the victims are not like Ms. Jones who was an innocent bystander. They are usually criminals or their girlfriends hanging out with them.

A victim giving up the shooter to the police is not how scores are settled. The victim’s “honor” demands that they take care of it personally. The only thing that stops more people from dying is that most of the shooters are such bad shots. Unlike law enforcement, these guys don’t spend hours at the range.

Stuart’s Chief of Police, Joseph Tumminelli, expressed his willingness to investigate all of Stuart’s unsolved homicides. Stuart Pd just posted information on their Facebook page (HERE)

regarding the Jerome Hutchinson 2009 murder. Tumminelli is asking for people to come forward if they have information on any unsolved homicide and you can remain anonymous.

Chief Tumminelli’s willingness to discuss the Smalls case and other matters with me demonstrates the transparency of his department’s efforts to make the City of Stuart a safer place. I appreciate his candor and availability.

Sir Robert Peel is credited with being the father of “Modern Policing.” In 1829, he was tasked with setting up the first modern police department in London. There are nine Peelian Policing Principles that can be summed up in two of his most famous quotes: “The police are the public and the public are the police.” And: “Whether the police are effective is not measured on the number of arrests, but on the lack of crime.”

Most people in East Stuart, like those throughout the city and county, are law abiding citizens who think law enforcement is not the enemy. Then there are a distinct few, like Smalls, who have no respect for their neighbors and are willing to shoot even if an innocent great-grandmother becomes a victim. Lonnie B. Smalls III and his ilk need to be removed from society.

As Published In Martin County Moments

Martin County School Board



Most of the meeting was devoted to public comment regarding the removal of books from school libraries.

Martin County has been in the spotlight about this with a Washington Post story and mentions on news outlets such as CNN. Depending on your viewpoint, the district is either a champion of decency or the libraries were full of a trove of filth. The overwhelming majority of today’s public comment was solidly against banning books.

I looked at the list of books that were removed from the libraries. Except for Toni Morrisons’ work, I have never read any of the titles. I believe the person that is behind many of the requests, Julie Marshall, admittedly hasn’t either.

In the world of the internet, trying to ban something is very hard. Trying to protect children from “obscenity” in today’s world is even harder. Have those parents who are trying to censor what is read ever listened to their children when the child didn’t realize it?

Speaker after speaker…there were more than 40…were overwhelmingly upset by the actions taken by the district. Most people could probably agree with removal of explicitly sexual material. Yet many of the banned books dealt with racial and other societal issues. There is so much more here than what is being portrayed in simplistic media soundbites of 30 seconds.

It is political as much as anything else. Laws that curry favor with one group or another always succeed in dividing us. Florida has passed many such laws. I can almost predict that at the next meeting the other side will be mobilized to come out. This is not over.

A list of the books that have been removed can be found here

While public comment took 2 hours, finding a new superintendent was wrapped up in about 15 minutes.

The board barely tinkered with the job description for superintendent. They then moved to accept Dr. Millay’s recommendation that Deputy Superintendent Michael Maine be elevated to the top job. It is amazing how in step everyone was.

His elevation is unlike the year-long search for the district’s first appointed superintendent, John Millay, in 2020. Maine’s appointment was the board’s attempt to discourage polarization in the community. They feared a search could engender even deeper divisions in the current political environment. Maine’s appointment was also seen to foster a seamless transition.

Mr. Maine is a recent arrival to Martin County schools. He was initially hired to be the Executive Director of Principals & Community Standards in 2021. Maine was promoted in 2022 to his current post of Deputy Superintendent.

Member DiTerlizzi stated there were too many openings for superintendents in Florida right now. Roberts echoed that by saying there was a thin pool of ready applicants. DiTerlizzi made the motion to offer the job to Maine with a top range of $254,907.00 for the position. That is a far cry than what they paid the last elected superintendent.

The vote was 5-0 to have Chair Powers negotiate a contract with Maine. You can find the job description and salary ranges here

Town of Sewall's Point



What will the town commission do after septic to sewer conversion is complete? Maybe go to once-a-month meetings. Probably not but talking about conversion is a large amount of their current workload.

The town has received an $8.4 million Florida Department of Environmental Resiliency grant for septic to sewer conversion. That is a remarkable amount of money for this little town.

A formal vote of the commission was needed to accept the grant. It passed 4-1 with Kurzman dissenting.

Kurzman’s position is based on the fact that Martin County Utilities Director, Sam Amerson, has stated that he will only allow the grinder system for 337 homes. Altogether there are 706 homes in South Sewall’s Point. Under the current scenario, the rest would need to go to a low-pressure gravity system which is much more expensive.

David Kurzman

According to Kurzman, he spoke with Commissioner Smith, the district commissioner. Smith stated that he would accept whatever Amerson says. Kurzman also had conversations with Heard and Ciampi. They said the same thing.

Manager Daniels spoke with the county health department which is under DEP control. They said if there is a pipe in front of a home and the septic fails the homeowner must hook up. Daniels further went on that they told him there were no complaints about any of the grinder systems now in place.

The other town commissioners all said that this decision by the county is subject to change over time. The grant is to hook up all the homes, but they are going to start with the most vulnerable properties. They have five years to spend the money.

There is also a match for this grant but that will come from the residents who will hook up. The grinder system hookup will be about $8000 per home.  The commission also authorized the manager to speak at the next county commission meeting regarding this matter. There was another motion for the manager to sign the grant.

When laying out the course to follow, Town Engineer Joe Capra gave the commissioners several scenarios. They are proceeding with 2 A see here

There is no current plan for any assessments on the homes. The town commission will need an MOU with the county before proceeding. The vote was 4-1 with Kurzman dissenting.

Village of Indiantown







Before the meeting, Mayor Susan Gibbs-Thomas gave the “State of the Village” address.

This has been a tradition every year since incorporation. Gibbs-Thomas gave the first one 4 years ago at Indiantown Middle School’s cafeteria. It was a grand event. So much so that $10,000 was set aside to pay for this year’s.

The mayor gave this year’s speech 15 minutes before a regular council meeting. Guess what? It cost the village nothing. It was about 5 minutes long, and there was no formal written speech.

In about 5 minutes it was over. No wasting of taxpayer dollars. It wasn’t about making the mayor feel self-important. Nothing about how great staff is, village accomplishments, or for that matter any razzle dazzle.

The village saved $10,000. And perhaps this is the last one of these a mayor will have to give. I believe no one will miss them.

Grind Hard Ammo, a Stuart manufacturer of ammunition, is expanding to a new facility in Indiantown.  The 26,000 sq feet facility will make the primers for the ammunition made in Stuart. Currently, the priming caps are imported from Turkey.

There is a separate 800 sq foot magazine that will hold the finished product. The magazine is built to Department of Defense standards. In the unlikely occurrence of an explosion, it would be self-contained within the magazine vault.

There will be three shifts with a total of 95 to 100 employees. The starting pay is $17 per hour increasing with experience up to $35 per hour. The council members who toured the Stuart plant were very impressed. A total of $40 million will be invested to bring the facility online.

A motion was made by Dipaolo to approve and seconded by Hernandez in a 5-0 vote. You can find the presentation here

River Oaks, a 176 single family community, will be developed on 55 acres off SW Famel Blvd. and Fernwood Forrest Drive. The developer could put up to 640 units on the site but chose a more rural development in keeping with Indiantown’s character.

A neighboring community met with the developer and put its concerns in writing. The developer’s application met every single requirement of the code. They did agree with the neighbors’ recommendations except for one.

42% of the site will be open space. All drainage will remain on site. There will be three parks for residents.

In his presentations, the attorney for the developer outlined why the council had no choice but to vote yes. He cited the different parts of the code where the development complies. There are no exceptions that they needed.

I like this new way of attorneys spelling out why the board has no alternative but to approve. It isn’t as though the landowner is asking for anything more than what he is entitled to under the existing LDRs and comp plan. In the past, the style has been more about asking for a favor from councils. We saw this citing of statute and codes at the last Stuart meeting also.

Dipaolo made a motion to approve with three conditions from the developer and neighbors’ discussions. It was seconded by Stone and passed 5-0. You can see the presentation here

Connecting to water and sewer became a bargain because of a grant that Indiantown received. The price will be $4290 per ERC. That is probably the cheapest amount around.

Council members in Indiantown believe that all they need to do is shout “motion” and magically it is good enough for everyone to know what they mean. Are they motioning for an approval or a denial or something else? No way to tell.

A properly made motion should say what the maker is putting into it. For instance, “I move Ordinance #0000 for approval” or “I move that we approve this item with staff’s recommendation.” Then it should be seconded. The chair then repeats the motion with the name of the motion maker and the second so that they can agree with what is heard. That way the clerk and the public have a clear idea as to what the intent is.


Congrats to Manager Kryzda and the council for having such a well-run and controlled meeting. This is the way all government meetings should be conducted.

During comments, Carmine Dipaolo mentioned that he would like to see the LDRs updated. He specifically mentioned the prohibition on gated communities which he said needed to be amended.

Gated communities are tricky. Once developments have separations between themselves and the outside, it does not foster a sense of community with the surrounding neighborhoods. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for them in more rural areas of Indiantown.

Cohesiveness within the urban village would demand public access roads for everyone. As Indiantown develops on farmland and ranchland, there is a place for gates. Indiantown needs to think about whether it wants to be an urban town or a series of subdivisions or both and where within its boundaries as soon as possible.

Subdivisions are not neighborhoods. They are places people live without schools, stores, or offices within their boundaries. By their very nature, they have one or two demographic characteristics. Different socio-economic groups do not mix. To paraphrase a song from “West Side Story,” people stick to their own kind.

That is why it is important for the residents to understand what they want Indiantown to be. They should go into their future with eyes wide open.

Kryzda will bring back an agenda item on this.

There was a brief discussion about selling the 4.9-acre site purchased in 2020 by the town for their village hall complex. The site is located on Warfield Blvd. It seems the new council majority is no longer interested in building a complex as was originally contemplated. The money tied up in the land could be used for more pressing needs according to some on the council.

Kryzda asked for permission to update the appraisals that were done when the village bought the property. Dipaolo didn’t think there was a need to spend money. He wanted to just place a high price on the parcel and see what happens. Gibbs-Thomas thought (I believe rightly) before anything, the village should have the knowledge of what the properties are now worth

Perez who had requested the item made the motion to obtain the updates which would cost about $1600 each. Dipaolo seconded. The vote was 3-2 with Stone and Hernandez voting no.

On second reading, the council voted to have the price to hook up to the village’s water utility be $4290.00 for the next 18 months. I believe that would make Indiantown the least expensive hookup in the county.

Town of Ocean Breeze


 The council has officially changed the charter to have evening meetings quarterly at 6 pm with the other remaining monthly meetings at 10:30 am. The vote was 4-2 in favor with DeAngeles and Arnold voting no.

April 10th will be the first regular meeting to be held in the evening. The change is being done to accommodate the Sea Walk residents and store owners in the Plaza. It is an issue that has been brewing for some time.

Former Council Member David Wagner didn’t believe that attendance would be any better. And he went on to state that current Council Member Kevin Docherty had an ulterior motive for pushing the measure. Wagner claimed that it was because Docherty worked during the day. Docherty denied it.

The back and forth between Wagner and some of the council was unprofessional. Public comment is just that…for the public to have their time to speak. It isn’t to debate between an audience member and council. The way meetings are conducted in Ocean Breeze in no way follows Roberts or any other acceptable way of conducting a meeting.

Why would anyone come to Ocean Breeze meetings whether held in the morning or evening? This was the sole item discussed. There was a mention about the extra Sheriff’s Patrols and a Sea Walk HOA meeting to discuss it. Hardly riveting stuff.

There needs to be more to being incorporated than that. Maybe with the change of meeting schedules, more people will want to attend. But I am of Wagner’s opinion that probably not.

Town of Jupiter Island


The primary reason this digital newspaper exists is to write about local Martin County governments.  Jupiter Island is one of those governments.

Another reason we cover Jupiter Island is because their issues, while recognizable, (e.g., struggles over development) are resolved differently than in other Martin County governments. Since the residents are by far wealthier than other Martin County residents, generally one side in a dispute will not throw in the towel until they are at a point where there are no options left. Money to pursue their goals is readily available.

The purpose of this special meeting was because of an exceptional pending piece of legislation.

Jupiter Island Sky View

There have been ongoing court cases involving the town and some residents regarding development on the island. Development on the island doesn’t mean runaway growth or multi-family projects being built. It is about dune lines and setbacks and how and where to build a home on a piece of land costing millions of dollars.

The election being held on March 21st will be, to a large extent, about whether to allow the current building setbacks or not. Except for Commissioner Penny Townsend, the existing commission would keep everything in place. Commissioners Townsend, Collins, Johnson, and McChristian Jr are running again. Townsend and Collins are already re-elected for two-year terms since they had no opposition.

Mayor Pidot is leaving. He has more than ably guided the town, but he has decided not to seek re-election. I believe he will be missed.

Both Johnson and McChristian were appointed to the commission filling the terms of two commissioners who resigned. They are seeking four-year terms as are Marshall Field Jr., Laurie Gaylord, Ann Scott, and Emmet “Tim” Smith. The three candidates with the highest vote totals will be elected.

A recent Florida appellate decision has gone against the town regarding what constitutes adequate notice of a meeting. Until this decision was reached earlier this year, every municipality would adjourn meetings to a date certain without readvertisement of the new meeting date. It was quite a common occurrence. This decision found that re-advertisement of a new meeting date was necessary.

To re-instate this common practice in all counties and municipalities, the Florida Legislature inserted into a Senate Bill (170) and a House Bill (1515) a legislative cure retroactively. Now here is where the intrigue begins. SB 170 had originally read: “This subsection is remedial in nature, is intended to clarify existing law, and should apply retroactively. On March 8th, the following was added “except as to a court challenge under this section that was filed by January 1, 2023.”

Did someone whisper a word in Tallahassee to allow the court decision to stand? At the special meeting, it was stated that only Jupiter Island is affected by the additional language. Any decision regarding whether the decision stands or not will be worth millions of dollars.

It’s not only about the dollars but also whether the owners of the lots in question will be allowed to build their homes. And if so, according to the old setback lines or the ones now in place if building is even an option. One thing is for sure…the litigation is not over.

At this specially called meeting to determine what to do next, the commission voted 4-1 with Townsend dissenting to have their staff engage lobbyists and attorneys to have the carve-out language in the bill removed.

After the election, will the new commission continue with the work of the old or will it be in favor of changing the setbacks? Whatever the decision, the town will need to defend its decision in court. Because this is far from settled no matter what.


The voters of Jupiter Island indicated they wanted to go in a different direction today.

Incumbents Tucker Johnson (194) and Joseph A. McChristian, Jr. (129) came in 4th and 6th respectively in the six-person race for three positions of four-years on the commission. The three winners were Marshall Field, Jr. (301), Emmet C. “Tim” Smith (256), and past town and county commissioner Ann Scott (246). Former school board member and superintendent Laurie Gaylord came in 5th with 155 votes.

The election results will be made official at the April 4th commission meeting. Field, Smith, and Scott will be sworn in then. Current commissioners Maura Collins and Penny Townsend ran unopposed for two-year terms.

Final Thoughts


We hear about the principle of “Home Rule” all the time. How many of us really know what it means and where it comes from?

Florida’s constitution specifically grants local governments home rule authority in everything but taxes. The exception is when the state passes legislation to remove specific authority to act in some capacity from local government. The problem for us in Florida has been Tallahassee’s proclivity for exercising the ability to preempt.

The U.S. Constitution recognizes only states as political entities. Whether Delaware or California, the federal government has no ability to make sure that any other governmental subdivisions exist. All local governments are entities because their states have created them in some form.

Counties are political subdivisions of state government. They exist to bring state services closer to citizens. The courts, registering to vote, appraising properties for tax purposes, the tax collector, and sheriff exist in Florida counties so that people do not need to go traipsing to Tallahassee to register to vote, go to court, or pay their taxes.

Municipalities are different. The state has said that they will allow geographical areas to incorporate as a local government to provide services to the residents within the incorporated boundaries. To do that, cities must present a charter detailing how the municipality will govern and demonstrate it was approved by the voters. If the legislature feels all is correct, then they have the discretion to approve the new municipality or not. The legislation must also be signed into law by the governor.

Over the years but especially in the past decade, absolute home rule authority (except in taxation granted under the Florida Constitution) has eroded precipitously. When political power is devolved from a central authority (state to local government), government becomes more democratic. Citizens see and know their local commissioners and can lobby them easily to make their wishes known.

When localities make decisions, there is not uniformity in the rules. Businesses that are in more than one jurisdiction must have different policies depending on where each store is located. Developers that are frustrated by local rules imposing more stringent ones than what they deem necessary can complain. And while very few public officials would say local control is wrong, state representatives without comment like to concentrate control in their hands.

As power concentrates in the hands of the few over devolution of authority to the many, tyranny also grows. If a local official is too adamant in his criticism, the appropriation for a new water plant may go away. There is a price to pay in our political world. No one will be thrown into the Tallahassee dungeon, but their constituents will have less.

“Home Rule” is a great concept and I do believe most decisions should be made as close to the people as possible. There is a way to make sure that pre-emption is not a common occurrence but rather a rare thing to implement. The voters, if they care, should pass a constitutional amendment that the legislature cannot pass any preemption measures, including for taxation, without amending the Florida Constitution allowing that preemption.

Where are Florida League of Cities, the Florida Association of Counties, and all the other good government groups? Shouldn’t the people decide this issue? Ask your state representatives as well as your local ones where they stand on this matter.



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:

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