May 19, 2024

Friends & Neighbors Edition

In this Edition

In this edition we report on government meetings where there was real animosity in the room. From books to real estate projects, to where government expenses are headed, people are taking a side and digging in. Many are telling us what the problems are yet not giving us any solutions.

Every once in a while, we may offer one. Solutions are never perfect and that is why the art of government is in compromise and not total victory. Public policy is not a zero-sum game.

This week we have our usual columnists. I also want to point to two letters that we published. I thought they were very informative.

You may have noticed that Darlene VanRiper is now contributing not only columns but news articles. She has two this edition one on MARTY and the second on the condo crisis and a meeting with Senator Harrell and others in Tallahassee and what they are doing.

As usual we would love to hear from you. Send us your thoughts. And if you think you want to become one of our columnists contact me. If you have a nonprofit, make sure you are on our list for submittals.

Don’t forget to share and make sure all your friends & neighbors are subscribers.

Have a happy Sunday morning.

Thoughts On Mother's Day

As I write this it is Mother’s Day for the 119th time since the first one in 1905.

John Wanamaker, the Philadelphia founder of Wanamaker’s Department Store, was instrumental in making a success of the day. There had been earlier attempts to establish a celebratory day for mothers, but this one took. While roses are for Valentine’s Day, it seems carnations, especially white ones became the flower to give moms.

Like so many holidays, I don’t remember Mother’s Day as such a large presence when I was younger. I guess I was more attuned to the days we were off from school and religious feast days. May 12th is the feast day of St Pancras, not a big saint on the roster of saints. When Mother’s Day lands on the 13th it is the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima, a much bigger deal.

This is the first Mother’s Day since my own mother passed. I am not really sad since she had a long healthy life. I realize though I am now an orphan. I guess a guy in his seventies should expect that to happen.

There are only a handful of people alive that remember me as a child. The old stories, the old neighborhoods, and the old customs are being forgotten. I am sure my parents and grandparents felt the same as they became older.

My maternal grandfather worked on the original Okeechobee dike as a laborer. My paternal grandfather grew up as a fisherman in Italy before coming here to be a coal miner. I will never know what happened when he left the mines in Pittston, PA and went to Chicago for several years before returning and marrying my grandmother. The stories from that time in his life died with him.

Large Sunday dinners are gone. The last ones I knew were not my own but that of my Puerto Rican wife. Rice, beans, roast pork, and flan were standard fare. Even after we divorced, I always felt welcomed. Her parents and aunts are all gone now. Her mother was born on May 12th in Mayaguez P.R. and was buried there 44 years ago. I helped lower her into the family crypt.

When we are up in Connecticut, I try to have a family dinner. Last week my granddaughter and I made pork schnitzel and spaetzle. No, it isn’t Italian, Puerto Rican or any of my heritage. It is rather uncomplicated, but for a 6-year-old, it is something she can help prepare and cook.

She can pound the pork tenderloin until it is very thin, break the eggs and whip them, bread the cutlets, make the batter for the spaetzle, and drop them into the boiling water. It is also a “comfort” meal. Just like meatballs, lasagna, homemade pasta, and from-scratch chicken fingers. We have also made those meals together for the family.  And, we have a blast doing it!

Perhaps that is the secret to any family whether it is Mother’s Day or not. Laughter from the kitchen, followed by platters of good food, a glass of wine, and not too overheated conversations at the table. It isn’t like the Sundays of my youth, but the world isn’t the same as it was then. I am just lucky that we can gather and make memories for my granddaughter for her to have to share with her children and remember her life when she is in the 22nd century.  


I see on social media that people who purport to be environmentalists and those who don’t want to see more development are starting to come out against the half cent sales tax.  The mandated use of that tax money is to buy environmentally sensitive lands and conservation easements.

I don’t get it. Here we are with the opportunity to have funds readily available to buy designated lands such as the land in Pal Mar and the very people who should be championing passage are finding reasons to be against it. Martin County Forever, the organization formed to spearhead the effort, has been working for some time to have this placed on the ballot. What will the additional cost be to people who shop in Martin County? Five cents on a $10 taxable purchase.

At the end of 2025, the ½ cent sales tax that the school board has been collecting goes away since they accomplished their task of building two new schools. Therefore, the addition of this new sales tax is a wash on our pocketbooks as one is simply replacing the other. The other good thing about a sales tax is that 40% of it is collected from non-residents.

Some of us have what I would agree is a justified fear of giving politicians access to money without a check on how it is spent. If you read the ballot language and accompanying ordinance, you see that the Martin County Forever leadership, working with the county attorney and administrator, came up with an oversight committee. The different members of the committee must be from a watchdog organization, agriculture, and environmental groups. The commission just can’t willy nilly decide on which pieces of property to buy.

It is not possible to oppose development and want agriculture to remain a viable option in these sensitive areas without giving the landowner an option to be able to sell his fallow property or his farmland that no longer makes economic sense to farm. The farmer will sell to someone…isn’t it better to acquire those lands to ensure that they will remain undeveloped?

Is this a solution that will stop all development…of course not. But this gives the residents of Martin County a tool to preserve the headwaters of the Loxa-Lucie, Pal Mar, CERP, or the St. Lucie basin. The alternative can’t be for the same old people to tell commissioners to say no to projects and complain about the environment. The sales tax is a no-brainer and should be embraced by all the residents.

The ordinance and ballot language can be found here 

Sales Tax And School Board

As a taxpayer and resident, I want to say thank you to the school board for keeping their word.

When they initiated the ½ cent sales tax several years ago, they promised to use the funds to build two new elementary schools to replace the aging Palm City and Jensen Beach schools and to do some needed capital replacement across other schools and buildings. They succeeded in their objectives and now the tax is sunsetting at the end of 2025.

The school board also set up an oversight committee to ensure that the expenditures fit the criteria. The committee did not have a veto, but they did have the ability to look at how the money was spent and alert the public if it wasn’t spent according to the referendum.

When looking at the workings of government, this is an example of how to do it and do it as much in the sunshine as possible. Too often we are cynical of a government board’s motives. In this case, it should buy some goodwill in actions moving forward.

When it originally passed, the school board could be more proactive in “lobbying” for the passage of the referendum. The legislature changed the law and now the governing board must be completely neutral. That is a mistake that the citizens will regret because who better explains the reasons for a tax or action than those that are trying to enact it.


It is now up to the voters to gather information and then decide. We are worse off for this legislative intrusion which limits the info available. The school board heavily educated the voters on why this was needed, and the voters responded. That could not happen today. Our children could be sitting in classrooms that were falling apart and inadequate for learning if the sales tax referendum had failed.

In this case we had a successful referendum, a successful use of the funds, and now the retirement of the funding source that is no longer needed. Good job, school board.

Public Records

I don’t usually write about St. Lucie County, but the sheriff’s office doesn’t seem to be as forthcoming as it was before Keith Pearson took over. That is what TCPalm implies.

Ken Mascara abruptly resigned last year after holding the post since 2001. He blamed it on health issues. Governor DeSantis immediately named Lieutenant Pearson as acting sheriff giving him a big boost as he runs for a full term. Mascara was a Democrat and Pearson is a Republican.

TCPalm has found it necessary to threaten to sue the office over their failure to provide public records, apparently for several requests. This they made clear in a recent editorial. Why would that be necessary? The news organization has been shut out of press conferences, interviews, and informational fact gathering.

There is no excuse for a government office to not release documents requested even if those documents have to be redacted. TCPalm is acting as watchdog for the citizens of St. Lucie County and should be treated with respect.

The only time I wanted something from the Martin County’s Sheriff’s Office was a request I made for the deputy’s contract. They wanted to charge $189 even though I asked for a PDF. There would be no copying fees associated with my request, just an attachment in an email. There was nothing to redact. Rather than pay that fee, I went on the PBA website where they had the contract.

I don’t know if the refusal of MCSO to provide a copy without an exorbitant fee was an obstruction or not. Once I had the contract, I didn’t care how it came into my possession. I could write my story.

Law enforcement deals with misery. The legislature has written exceptions to public records laws. Some are to protect the deputies and officers involved and some the victims of crimes. Though we should be careful that the agencies are not hiding information to cover up abuses and indiscretions.

There is a natural tension between the government and news organizations. The best both sides can do is keep it to a minimum because all of us are trying to just do our jobs. I’ve always tried to be friendly with local governments.

I never play gotcha. I keep everything off the record when speaking in private. If a public official is on the dais or their actions are in the public realm, it becomes reportable and quotable. Then the elected official or staff member must own their comment or action. I use private conversations for context. I don’t want to shape a story to arrive at a pre-conceived notion. Some reporters and publications have been known to do that.

Whatever is going on to the north, it should stay there. Martin County has enough drama. 

Condo Owners Get Ready

Darlene VanRiper

This article isn’t for everyone…but if you own a condo in a building over 3 stories, you may find it interesting. 

The Harborage, a condo association just north of the old drawbridge in Stuart, hired an engineering company to perform a now mandated milestone structural survey.  The engineers came up with outlandish cost estimates for POTENTIAL future repairs.  The ADDITIONAL reserves necessary to comply with the recommendations would cost each condo unit owner $3,000 PER MONTH! 

After condo board members presented reasonable arguments against the costs (including unnecessary repair recommendations) to the unyielding engineering company, the members attempted in vain to locate some appeal agency at the state level.

In desperation they made a call to Sen. Gayle Harrell.   The legislators she assembled included Sen. Jason Pizzo of Miami/Dade County who has 565,000 condo owning constituents in his district and drafted the original bill and Sen. Bradley who was the sponsor of the legislation and Chair of the Community Affairs Committee.  A well-informed lobbyist who includes among his clients the Community Association Institute was also asked to participate.  A question-and-answer session regarding new condo laws (SB 4D, SB 154 & HB 1021) was then held here in Stuart on May 9th.

Senator Pizzo, a former homicide prosecutor, pledged to get to the bottom of The Harborage’s engineering report even making it a case study. 

There is a lot of confusion regarding the new laws which could inflict much damage on the condo industry in Florida not to mention condo owners on fixed incomes.  And while the “tough love”, as Sen. Pizzo stated, law was created as a reaction to the Champlain Tower’s collapse in 2021, it is clear that not all of the unintended consequences were considered.

There are 1,529,764 condo units in Florida.  There are certainly problems with the associations which govern them.  Owners often don’t step up to serve on the board.  Those who do are often unqualified or don’t take their responsibilities seriously.  The board’s recommendations such as assessments or raising monthly fees to meet maintenance demands can be overridden by a vote of owners pushing critical repairs off into some undefined future which never comes.  That’s what happened in the Champlain Tower case. 

The senators claim that they are attempting to “fix” issues with the laws and have instructed the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to hire 65 new employees who will consider appeals from condo associations.   They have also mandated continual educational courses be taken by board members. A separate reserve must be created dedicated only to the recommendations from the structural surveys.  It must be fully funded.

All of this comes with its own set of issues.  Will condo board members (many of them retirees who just want to relax) be reluctant to take mandatory continuing education in order to serve?  There is a fear that board members may be held personally responsible for collecting the fees.  The separate reserve doesn’t allow for borrowing money or investing the unspent funds.  Who is going to want to set aside money to FULLY FUND it without the ability to earn interest? 

The Senators revealed that there is no enforcement mechanism in place.  But banks won’t give out loans and insurance will be impossible to obtain without granting those entities a peak at what they know to be a mandated survey. 

These new laws have created much pain for condo owners and much profit for engineering companies and other entities which can take advantage of condo board members who are often ill equipped to deal with them.  The new laws are certainly “tough”, but I don’t see the “love”.

Fletch's Perspective

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

During this time of pomp and circumstance, caps and gowns and commencement speeches, I’d like to honor a very special graduate who’s quite literally in a class by himself.

Reagan Poletti, 18, is the first person to graduate from an exciting new Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County program—our Home Builder Institute Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training (PACT).

Available at our new 3,200-square-foot workforce center at our Hobe Sound club, PACT instills vital lessons on the building trades by incorporating performance-based learning opportunities. The course combines instructions in vocational and academic skills, career-development techniques, and on-the-job training.

PACT participants earn a recognized pre-apprenticeship certification. Upon completion, they can pick from select trades such as carpentry, electrical, plumbing or HVAC, gaining advanced training and earning additional certifications along the way.

Reagan deservedly holds the claim of inaugural graduate, but soon more will follow his example. During our summer enrichment session, we’re availing key elements of the program to younger members.

This fall, we’ve secured arrangements at local high schools for interested students to participate in PACT through a hybrid program that takes place at our club facilities as well as on school properties.  We’re also in conversation with a partner to formalize job placement opportunities through the apprenticeship model.

Before things really take off, it’s worth a moment’s pause to recognize what Reagan has accomplished—and we know this is just the beginning for him and so many others. When our flagship Stuart club opens in the fall—complete with 15,000 square feet of advanced workforce development labs featuring certified instructors and guest experts in a variety of industries—it will provide the perfect pipeline for future PACT participants.

BGC is serious about dramatically expanding the access Martin County high school students enjoy to gainful, purposeful, and meaningful preparation on their paths to employment that will be fulfilling—financially and much more so.

Reagan Poletti, first ever graduate from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County Home Builder Institute Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training (PACT). He's pictured in the center with Greg Burnell, the program's skilled trades instructor. 

Thanks to the creativity of the BGC team and our network of business leaders, we’re nimble and connected enough to adapt to ensure the lessons reflect the evolving dynamics of the industry and the marketplace.

When speaking to prospective employers, the short supply of qualified, motivated prospects is a frequently stated concern. So while their journey to qualified status is just beginning, program graduates such as Reagan are demonstrating the grit and willingness to gather and sharpen the skills needed to compete.

When you invest in your education and improvement and show initiative, employers notice and are included to give you a shot. That’s one PACT you can count on.

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

VanRiper's Views

Darlene VanRiper

Amendment 2 – The Right to Hunt and Fish

Enshrining the right to hunt and fish is the goal of one of 5 state constitutional amendments to be placed on the ballot this November.  Not as controversial as Recreational Marijuana and Abortion, I wondered why it is needed at all?

First, let me clarify my usual stance on constitutional amendments.  I categorically reject the notion.  To me the “Constitution” whether it is national or state is to be an overarching, immutable document meant to govern our society on its most basic and fundamental issues.  Everything else should be handled with a law, ordinance or other rule.  I reason that those instruments can be more easily changed with the times or other circumstances that may render them inoperative.   The Florida legislature did a good thing recently by making it more difficult to pass a constitutional amendment.  They are now requiring a larger majority.

Additionally, it is actually more difficult to repeal a constitutional amendment once it has become archaic or otherwise deemed unreasonable.  Psychologically a petition signer (the way most of these get to the ballot in the first place) is more apt to sign for doing something than for “Un” doing a thing.  Take it from me.  I’ve gotten thousands of petitions signed.

To digress for a moment, the whole petition process is, in my opinion, broken.  Many people hardly read the petition they are signing. Virtually no one takes it home and researches the pros and cons of the issue they are about to support with their signature.  Who makes an effort to find out who or what is really behind the cause they are about to endorse?  Many of the attractive young people you find it hard to say no to are paid employees.   Many paid by companies or organizations with a nexus outside of Florida.  But their goal is to accomplish something inside of Florida. 

Back to the case in point to which Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson just donated $100,000.  In my research I was appalled to learn that in 2022 twelve states considered banning hunting and fishing!  I didn’t find that any were successful.  Conservationist organizations are against the amendment stating that “the planet has lost 69% of its wildlife over the past 50 years”.  I couldn’t find that anywhere.  I did find from Reuters that “Scientists count 881 animal species as having gone extinct since around 1500”.  I’m no scientist, but if it took 500 years, I’d call that evolution.

So, what’s the point?  Exactly, what’s the point.  Although hauntingly I do recall a Martin County Commissioner recently stating regarding our local referendum to conserve land which will also be on the November ballot, that ‘soon no one would be able to set foot on that land again’.   Chills.

The constitution shouldn’t be a whimsical document.

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

Nicki's Place

Nicki van Vonno
van Vonno Consulting, Owner

Movie Jones

At the Academy Awards Oscar winner Christopher Nolan suggested that film was a young art form,  only one hundred years old. He marveled at how the making of film might evolve and thanked the audience for including him in its journey.

Who remembers when visual art was only one hundred years old? Don’t be silly,  Humans have been making visual art since they sheltered in caves to escape the weather and predators. That collaborative art work remains, still casting its magic on humans.

As a youngster who loved  Greek and Roman mythology,  the plays of Aristophanes, Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides were my introduction to theater. Film may be new, but collaboration is not. Film, like theater, is a collaborative art form with its  roots stretching from ancient Greek and Roman days. Dysfunctional families have been around since Cain and Abel.

Last night I watched  TCM show its “Tribute to Robert Osbourne.” I never knew Osbourne started as an actor. His relocation to New York to do movie reviews at CBS  created the opportunity for him to begin his hosting role at TCM and turned it into a showcase of film programming.

As an avid movie watcher I watched all the nominated films, except “Poor Things.” I need a designated time to watch that feast. But its development and production,  and performance  is an example of where film can go.

 I also saw the future of film, in Barbie, in Oppenheimer and in the amazing “Anatomy of a Fall,” starring Sandra Huber. Watching Sandra morph into the wife of the Nazi Commander running the next-door concentration camp in “The Zone of Interest” was shocking and thrilling.

The sequences where the film goes to other locations, both past and future leave us breathless. Watching the Concentration Commander throwing up on the stairs is oddly sympathetic and horrific. His wife in her fancy estate deserves no sympathy. Even her mother abandons her once she understands the enormity of the ash that coats the home and the clothes and the children.

What is next for this Movie addict? “Civil War” and “Dirty Little Letters” in a movie theater enjoying the communal amazing experience.

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

Farming takes planning, timing, and grace from nature.

In 2016, Michael Bloomberg infamously stated, “I could teach anybody, even people in this room, no offense intended, to be a farmer. It’s a process. You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, you add water, up comes the corn. You could learn that.” Is it really just that simple? I say no.

I do not watch much television. What I do watch is typically based on agriculture in some way. One of the few shows I watch is Clarkson’s Farm staring Jeremy Clarkson. The show exhibits Clarkson as he endeavors to I make an earnest attempt to farm and make a profit, not just throw money at a hobby. At least that's the perception I get.

In a recent episode, Clarkson decides he is going to raise pigs. He builds the pens, he purchases the pigs, and he begins breeding them. He put a lot of work to make sure the pigs had everything they needed and everything was looking good- until he realized he made a mistake. After a week of the male pig- the boar- breeding the sows (female pigs which had given birth) he moved it to breed the gilts (female pigs which had not yet given birth). The problem is he did not space it out enough. Pigs have litters of around 12 piglets. Multiply that by how many pigs he owns, and Clarkson will be inundated with little piglets in 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days- the gestation period of a pig.

Jeremy Clarkson made a rookie mistake. Even with all his best intentions and preparations he made a miscalculation in his planning. The better plan would have been to space the breeding out a bit more, and for a few reasons. 1) So that he is not flooded with piglets and their care all at once. 2) So that he has product for an extended period. Pigs raised for pork need to be processed at a certain age and weight to meet consumer demands. If he had spaced out the breeding, he would have a longer window where he can offer fresh meats.

The same is true for crops. Not all the seeds can go into the ground at the same time. They need to be planted in a way that when the crop becomes harvestable the farmer can get them collected before they start to go bad. Imagine putting this forward thought into hundreds or thousands of acres of crops. This takes planning, timing, and grace from nature that the crops grow, the rain stops long enough to harvest, and the market is profitable when the farmer goes to sell.

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

Hope in Our Community

Rob Ranieri
House of Hope, CEO

I am writing this column still feeling the euphoria of the annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, the largest one day food drive event in the nation. Our incredible local Letter Carriers and postal employees do an amazing job planning and executing this event, which this year brought in over 64,000 pounds of food from across Martin County. We are so grateful for every pound of food from every household that donated.

There is lots to love about Stamp Out Hunger, but one really important part is the timing of this event. In the summer months, the need for food support across the region spikes. We still have a fair amount of seasonal employment, especially in hospitality, with less hours for employees in the summer. Once the school year ends, children that were getting free and reduced breakfast and lunch are in need of additional resources. So this is a great way to kick off summer.

In addition to the summer spike, the high cost of food, rent, interest rates, and health insurance as well as so many other necessities has caused the number of households needing our support to rise. Currently House of Hope is reaching nearly 8,000 people every month with our direct services, and another 13,000 people every month through our food bank partners, for a total of over 21,000 people. Last year we distributed nearly 1.3 million pounds of food across the area.

So with such a large need, we are always looking for more food resources. In addition, we also launch a hurricane supply drive and a school supply drive over the summer to assist our most vulnerable neighbors. If you have lived in Florida even through one hurricane season, then you understand the importance of disaster preparedness. Having the necessary supplies post disaster is important to the physical and emotional well-being of your loved ones, and lightens the burden on our first responders and non-profit support system. Unfortunately, the cost of being prepared is a serious obstacle for thousands of our neighbors. The same is true of school supplies and preparation. The cost of being school ready is an obstacle, and we know that so much of a child’s future success depends on their being on level by third grade. If you would like to learn more about how you may support any of these community needs, please contact us at

House of Hope is always determined to help our neighbors overcome barriers and empower residents to overcome hunger and hardship. Our dedicated staff and compassionate volunteers help us to have a positive impact on those we serve. The generosity of the community is also a key part of our success. We cannot do this without you! To learn more about our efforts, please visit our website at If you are in a position to help as a volunteer or a donor, or if you or someone you know needs our support, please reach out. Best wishes to everyone for a healthy and safe summer.


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

Micronutrient deficiencies

Over the next few weeks, I will focus on different micro nutrients that we often see deficiencies in.  This week we will focus on Magnesium.  Magnesium is a mineral that is at the center of a chlorophyll molecule.  Chlorophyll is what gives plants their green color.  People are not eating enough green leafy vegetables.  45% of the population in the US has inadequate magnesium intake!

Magnesium is a co factor for over 300 enzymes in our body.  It is involved in making enzymes that produce energy. It is involved in protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood sugar control and blood pressure regulation.  Low magnesium can affect your energy levels especially during exercise. Magnesium contributes to the structural development of bone and is required for your body to make glutathione which is the bodies master anti-oxidant enzyme

Magnesium also plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes. This is important in nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction and normal heart rhythm. 

Magnesium is also involved in reactions that help repair DNA damage.  DNA damage over decades can lead to increased cancer risk.  There are a lot of studies that are currently ongoing looking at magnesium intake and decreasing the risk of cancer.  For example…for every 100mg of Magnesium intake there is a 24% decreased risk of pancreatic cancer

Obviously, the best way to increase your magnesium intake is by adding more dark leafy greens to your diet.  Magnesium is also present in legumes, nuts and whole grains as well as dark chocolate. However, there are many bio available supplements out there. The Recommended Daily Allowance for magnesium is 320mg a day for women and 420mg a day for men.

If you are physically active with exercise or do other activities that make you sweat such as a sauna or steam room, you are losing magnesium in your sweat. People who exercise may require 10-20% more than the RDA requirement. 

Magnesium citrate supplements will help with digestive health. It is often used for its laxative effects. It is very well absorbed through the GI tract.   Magnesium glycinate is often used at bedtime to help people unwind and prepare for sleep. It is also quite bioavailable.  Magnesium oxide is NOT well absorbed so is not indicated for those people with magnesium deficiencies but can be used to treat heartburn and constipation.

Magnesium chloride is also easily absorbed and is used like Magoxide to treat heartburn, constipation and low magnesium levels.  Magnesium malate includes malic acid which occurs naturally in foods like fruit and wine.  It is well absorbed by the GI tract. It appears to have a less laxative effect than other types of magnesium. It is occasionally recommended to treat fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue although more studies are needed. 

Magnesium taurate contains the amino acid taurine. Taruine is involved in regulating blood sugar and blood pressure. A study done on rats showed it significantly lowered blood pressure so it may boost heart health but more human studies are needed. 

Magnesium L-threonate is often used for its potential brain benefits and may help with depression, Alzheimer’s and age related memory loss but more research is needed.

Magnesium sulfate is what we commonly know as Epsom salts. This is often dissolved in bath water to help relieve achy muscles and stress.

Finally, magnesium orotate includes orotic acid which is involved in your bodies construction of DNA. It may promote heart health due to orotic acid’s role in the energy production pathways in your heart and blood vessel tissue.  It is popular among competitive athletes and fitness enthusiasts but is much more expensive than other magnesium supplements so may not be available for everyone. 

If you are getting enough magnesium from your diet there is no need for supplementation, however if you don’t have a well-balanced diet, are elderly, diabetic, have digestive disorders or alcohol dependence you should check with your health care provider to see if a magnesium supplement is a good fit for you. 

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

Martin County Real Estate

John Gonzalez
Engel & Volkers, Managing Broker

I just returned from the National Association of Realtor (NAR) meeting in Washington DC. We go to Washington to advocate for homeowners and our profession. The trip was good and our meeting with Congressman Mast was well received. Our primary focus was to encourage Congress to work with the VA to make it easier for our veterans to work with Realtors to secure their home.

One of the topics that I have been reluctant to discuss is the “lawsuit” that we, as Realtors, refer to as the “settlement”. To be frank, this lawsuit was brought by attorneys who argued that a system that has worked well for consumers, for nearly 100 years, was confusing and bad for the consumer. The argument revolved around the MLS and the seller’s agreement to compensate the Realtors.

On many occasions a buyer (or seller) would ask me who pays the Realtor? My standard answer was that the Realtor commission is paid from the seller's proceeds under the terms outlined in their listing agreement and published on MLS. However, the buyer brings the money to the table (purchase price) … so who really pays? The buyer brings the money that the seller uses to compensate the Realtors. The system worked and in my opinion was a transparent and a functional system. Apparently, a group of jurors in Missouri disagree with me.

The Realtors settled with the plaintiffs (attorneys) because fighting it would have been extremely difficult and expensive. The predominant reason, as I understand it, is that in order to appeal NAR would have to put a huge bond. If we lost the appeal, it would be quadruple damages which would bankrupt the organization.


What will happen now? I do not see significant changes that will affect most consumers. Sellers can still offer to compensate all Realtors in the transaction. Buyers can agree to compensate their Realtor for the services and professional knowledge they bring to the transaction. In the end there will be additional paperwork for everyone.


My profession brings a lot to the table. We negotiate the deal, advise on pricing, and evaluate market conditions. We work with other professionals - lawyers, title companies, appraisers, lenders, inspectors - to bring all parties to the closing table. Former Congressman Trey Gowdy (SC) spoke to our group and said, “I am a lawyer, former prosecutor, and Congressman. I closed 3 real estate deals last year and I could not have done it without my Realtor.”

Please use your local Realtor and real estate professionals.

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

Humane Society of the Treasure Coast

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

Avoiding Heat Exhaustion in Pets

Summer is creeping up and as the temperatures quickly rise, it's crucial to be mindful of the risks heat exhaustion poses to our pets. Dogs and cats can quickly succumb to the dangers of heat stroke if proper precautions are not taken.

One of the first steps in protecting your pets is to check the temperature of the pavement before taking them for a walk. Surfaces that are too hot can burn their delicate paws and lead to infection. Additionally, dogs with short snouts, such as pugs and bulldogs, are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses due to their shortened airways, so they should be monitored extra closely.

According to Best Friends Animal Society, signs that your pet may be overheating are excessive panting, lethargy, purple tongue, vomiting, and drooling. If your pet is experiencing these signs, make sure to move them to a cool area immediately. Chill the animal’s ears, belly, and paw pads with cool (but not freezing or icy) water. Take them immediately to your vet once they are stabilized.

To continue to keep your pets safe, always provide ample water and shaded areas for them to rest. Limit outdoor exercise on particularly hot days and explore ways to keep them occupied within the home, such as using Kongs or puzzle toys. We have an extensive list of enrichment activities and recipe cards on our website at if you are interested in learning more about enrichment activities for your pets at home.

We highly recommend that your domesticated pets live indoors. However, for community cats, ensure they have easy access to shaded places, like under a deck or porch, to rest and eat. If you have a domesticated rabbit or guinea pig, it's best to always keep them indoors, as they are particularly vulnerable to heat-related issues according to the House Rabbit Society. Avoid housing pets in an unconditioned garage, as the lack of air circulation can quickly lead to heat exhaustion.

Remember to also keep your pets up to date on heartworm and flea preventatives, as these conditions can further compromise their health during the summer months. Most importantly, establish a relationship with a trusted veterinarian who can provide guidance and care in the event of an emergency. If you don’t already have an established vet, you can visit our website for our local recommendations at

If you found a lost pet within Martin County, please call us at 772-223-8822 so we can provide assistance and medical care if necessary. There’s never a “good” time for a lost animal, but the warmer seasons are definitely the most dangerous time for those pets. Please help us keep your pets and our community’s pets safe by following these proactive measures in order to enjoy a comfortable summer for everyone.  

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

Palm City Highlights

Missi Campbell
Palm City Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director

Mapp Road is the happening space in Palm City.

The improvements to the roadway, landscaping, and on-street parking have added to the small, downtown feel. There have been many new shops and restaurants that have opened or are planning to open in the near future.

This space has become the focus area for the Palm City Chamber to hold our annual Holiday Village. The backdrop has been the lake and surrounding greenspace.

The Patio at Palm City Place will be launched with a Ribbon Cutting and festivities on June 1st. This facility will be available to the public for leisurely strolls around the lake, fishing off the pier, and picnic areas.

The Patio has a pavilion that may be used for performances and concrete game tables to be enjoyed by all. There is chess, checkers, and ping pong tables and corn hole boards so bring the necessary components and its “Game On!”

On June 1st, there will be the Ribbon Cutting ceremony at 11:00AM. This will be followed by opportunities to explore the area and the Nouveaux Honkies will take the stage at 12:00PM and play until 2:00PM. The event will feature The Boys & Girls Fork in the Road food truck, Little Moir’s food truck, and Shark Shack ice cream truck, and additional vendors will be there to add to the fun!

This location promises to be a place for the community to enjoy musical concerts, green markets, and of course, the Holiday Village in December. It is wonderful to drive by and see young people fishing and families walking with their children on the path around the lake. There will be a Little Library sponsored by Martin Reads, Early Learning Coalition of Indian River, Martin and Okeechobee Counties, and the Palm City Chamber of Commerce. You may take a book and then replace it once you have loved it. Bring a blanket or chair to lounge on the turf with a good book.

We hope to see you at the Grand Opening of The Patio at Palm City Place on Saturday, June 1st from 11:00AM- 2:00PM. It promises to be an exciting day of fun, fabulous food, and great music!

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

Fishing Tips

Paul Sperco

The surf run of pompano is in the rearview mirror now but the summer fun fishing along our local beaches is right around the corner.

The summertime catch list will include whiting, croaker, sand perch, palometta, threadfins, jacks, catch-and-release snook and tarpon. Now that's some list!! However, the tackle, bait, rods, reels, locations, time to fish, and techniques will all change.  A light 7-foot rod with a 2,000 or 3,000 sized spinning reel, 12-pound monofilament, and a 1 or 2 ounce pyramid weight will be all the gear you need.

If you ever wanted to get a son, daughter, grandson, or granddaughter hooked on fishing at the beach, the summer is the time to do it.  A mere pitch of your surf rig, 5 -10 yards from the edge of the surf will be the area to target. I've had more fun showing kids how to put a bend in a rod by catching whiting and croaker than targeting any other species swimming along our coast. The other factor that will make everyone happy is the table quality of these fish. Whiting and croaker are my two favorite fish to eat down here in Florida and they make the best fish fry imaginable. 

The bait set up should be a small piece of fresh or frozen shrimp that you will tip with a small piece of Bloodworm of Pink Shrimp Fishbites. Pitch your whiting and croaker rig in the near shore trough and wait for the taps to start.

Be sure to have a cooler with ice along with you, though as the temperatures will be definitely warm. The time to target your trips to the beach should be tied into the high tide mark, as that will be the time when the water will be deepest where the fish can be found - very close to the shoreline.

Just pitch the bait into the trough - a 20- or 25-yard cast will be too far out of the strike zone. Water temperatures are rising and I did manage to find a few this past weekend at Stuart Beach at the high tide cycle. As the water warms, more and more baitfish will move down into our area and the fishing will only get better.

June and July are typically the two best months for catching great numbers, but the rise in temperatures has already attracted these fish. I will spend a good bit of time in upcoming columns, addressing fishing for tarpon and snook in our surf. Summertime Surf Fishing is Fun Time Fishing, believe me. Get the kids involved, they will not only have a blast, but they will also have the best memories of fishing with you.

Good luck and catch 'em up. 

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

On Education

Victoria Defenthaler
Retired Martin County Principal & School Board Member

House Bill 931 also known as the “chaplains in schools” bill will take effect July 1st.  This new law establishes a statewide school chaplain program and gives school districts and charter schools the power to allow uncredentialed chaplains on school campuses to provide counseling to children.

I reached out to Dr. Blanche Wells, a respected educator, to seek her perspective.  Dr. Wells has a B.A. in American History and a Masters in Guidance and Counseling from Montclair State University.  She has served as a teacher and guidance counselor for students in kindergarten through 12th grade and is a licensed mental health counselor.  Dr. Wells earned her doctorate in National Educational Leadership with an emphasis on crisis management in public schools.  She shared that as a young teen, she went with her mother to hear an unknown preacher named Billy Graham.  With her walk to the altar, Dr. Wells began her journey of faith.  These are her responses to the two questions I posed.

  1. As a person of faith how do you view the new law scheduled to take effect July 1st that allows religious chaplains to volunteer on public school campuses?

Faith is a deeply personal choice.  When dealing with the developing minds of children and teens from vastly diverse backgrounds, such spiritual matters are best pursued (or not) within the family structure.  Public schools, which are supported by tax dollars, thrive when ALL children feel safe and can connect with ALL of the other children/teens and adults around them.  Guidance counselors are Masters level partners to teachers and parents and trained to recognize when they can help a young person out and he/she can return to the classroom, or when parents need to be alerted to seek further help.  At that point parents can choose one of the mental health referrals or a chaplain they select.

Linking mental health in public schools to religiously affiliated chaplains, without licensed mental health credentials, is not only unnecessary, it is dangerous.  Note the interest of the Satanic Temple’s expressed willingness to volunteer.

  1. Have you seen an evolution in the mental health needs of children through the years?  What have you observed? What do you attribute this to?

The mental health needs are the same and can be explained by Maslow’s hierarchy:  life substance (food, water, sleep, etc.), safety and security, to love and be loved, self-esteem.  Finally, self-actualization, a person with purpose, creativity, motivation, and inner potential.

What has changed dramatically are the challenges to all of us helping young people through these stages of development.  In the mid-sixties when I began working as a high school teacher and then a counselor, teens were working on their self-esteem and sometimes needing help to avoid the addictions of alcohol or marijuana.

Now children and teens alike are concerned with safety.  I have observed sadness and despair over whether there would be a world for them.  Violence and climate change are not lost on anyone.  The delivery of educational and information technology, i.e. cell phones, the internet, and media have changed the very meaning of socialization and where young people search for self-esteem and self-realization.  Busy parents and frustrated teachers need strong mental health support, well-trained in these challenges to guide our children through.

As a person of faith who has worked as a teacher, counselor and therapist throughout the public-school K-12 system for over 40 years, my church community is essential to me; but, private out of respect for those who think differently.  Let’s leave it that way.

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

Legal Corner

Gene Zweben
Founding & Managing Partner at Zweben Law Group

Understanding Your Legal Obligations While Navigating the Roadways with Cyclists and E-Bikers in Florida

Going through the streets of Florida alongside cyclists and e-bikers requires attention, patience, and a solid understanding of the legal expectations set forth by Florida law. At Zweben Law Group, we recognize that the rules of the road can sometimes seem complicated, especially when sharing those roads with smaller, more vulnerable vehicle operators like cyclists and e-bikers. This is why we're here to break down the essentials of Florida Statute §316.083 and explain what it means for motorists.

The Essence of Florida Statute §316.083

At its core, Florida Statute §316.083 mandates that drivers must give cyclists and e-bikers a minimum of three feet of clearance when passing. This law aims to protect cyclists and e-bikers, acknowledging their right to share the road safely with motor vehicles. It's a crucial piece of legislation, as it directly addresses the safety and well-being of all road users, promoting a more harmonious coexistence.

  • Understanding the Three-Foot Rule: This regulation is designed to provide a buffer of safety for cyclists and e-bikers, reducing the risk of collisions.
  • The Legal Implications for Motorists: Failure to adhere to this law can result in fines and penalties, not to mention the potential for causing serious accidents.

Why This Law Matters

The significance of this statute cannot be overstated. With the rise in popularity of cycling and e-biking for both recreation and commuting, roads are more shared than ever before. Ensuring that all road users understand and respect each other's space is vital for preventing accidents and fostering a culture of safety.

  • Accident Prevention: Adhering to this law significantly reduces the risk of side-swiping or clipping a cyclist, which can lead to severe injuries or fatalities.
  • Legal Protection: Understanding and following this statute also serves as a protective measure for drivers, minimizing the likelihood of legal consequences stemming from non-compliance.

How Motorists Can Comply

Compliance with Florida Statute §316.083 is straightforward but requires a conscious effort from drivers to remain vigilant and patient on the roads. Here are some practical tips for sharing the road safely with cyclists and e-bikers:

  • Maintain Awareness: Always check for cyclists and e-bikers, especially when turning or changing lanes.
  • Give Space: Ensure you're providing at least three feet of space when passing, even if you have to cross a double yellow line to do so.
  • Exercise Patience: Wait for a safe opportunity to pass if the road layout does not immediately allow for the three-foot clearance.

Going Through Challenges

Despite best efforts, there may be times when sharing the road with cyclists and e-bikers presents challenges. Narrow roads, high traffic volumes, and other factors can complicate compliance. It's in these moments that extra caution and patience are paramount. When in doubt, err on the side of safety for all parties involved.

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

Constitutional Corner & Non Profit Notices


Supervisor of Elections

Tax Collector


Property Appraiser


Martin County Clerk & Comptroller

Other Government Notices

Martin County Master Gardeners to host

 “Taste of the Tropics”

The Martin County Master Gardeners are getting ready to celebrate their 40th anniversary with one of their most popular signature events, “Taste of the Tropics”, on Saturday, June 15, 2024, 9am – 12pm, at the Martin County Fairgrounds, 2616 SE Dixie Hwy in Stuart.


“Taste of the Tropics” is a FREE family friendly event with free parking. Information about growing tropical fruit in Martin County will be provided along with tropical fruit tastings, and recipes. Fruit trees will be available for purchase, and a 10am panel of experts will be available to answer questions.

This highly anticipated event showcases the tropical fruit that can be grown in Martin County. The public is encouraged to attend and sample a variety of unique fruits and view various fruit trees on extensive display tables, with Master Gardener Volunteers available to answer questions.

Prior to the Saturday, June 15th, “Taste of the Tropics” event, the public is invited to a FREE Library Lecture on “Growing Tropical Fruit in Martin County”, on Tuesday, June 4th at 6pm, at Blake Library, 2351 SE Monterey Rd in Stuart.

Learning about tropical fruit is not limited to the “Taste of the Tropics” for Martin County Master Gardeners. Their training includes a morning of instruction learning about tropical fruit trees, and an afternoon visiting a local, Martin County fruit orchard featuring over 140 different tropical fruit trees, led by “Taste of the Tropics” Chair, Ruth Ann Levy.

Martin County Master Gardeners also continue to host monthly plant sales at their shade house. To get all the latest updates from the Martin County Master Gardeners, follow them on Facebook at:  

Martin County Extension is under the Land Grant University system and the University of Florida in partnership with local government. Our mission: To provide research-based knowledge and educational programs enabling people to make practical decisions to improve their quality of life.


US-1 Congestion Management/Public Outreach Study

Open House Thursday, May 23, 2024 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Stuart, FL The Martin Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is hosting an Open House on Thursday, May 23, 2023, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., at the Flagler Center, 201 SW Flagler Avenue, in downtown Stuart. The purpose of this Open House is to discuss known deficiencies and concerns about US-1. The project is comprised of 4.8 miles of US-1 from SW Joan Jefferson Way (south side of the new Roosevelt Bridge) north to the St. Lucie County line. Attendees will share their personal experiences with the project area and assist the project team in developing a consensus on the issues and concerns for the corridor study area.  

“This Open House will provide the project team with valuable firsthand experiences from people who drive US-1 every day,” said Beth Beltran, MPO Administrator. “Information we collect will be combined with the data collected by the consultants. We will have a second workshop in September to present potential strategies that will ultimately improve both the mobility and safety for this stretch of US-1.”

The Open House will include an introduction of the project team, project overview, and an opportunity for the public to share their experiences. For more information, please contact the Project Manager, Lucine Martens at (772) 288-5412.

For more information on US-1 Congestion Management Project/Public Outreach Study:  


Non Profit Notices




Stuart, FL. – If you love fishing and helping others, the ARC’S 10th Annual KDW Offshore Fishing Tournament is for you. Anglers of all ages are invited to participate on Saturday, June 15th at Pirate’s Cove Resort and Marina in Stuart. Sponsorships from $250 to $5,000 are available and the money from the event goes to the ARC of the Treasure Coast in support of more than 1000 children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

Anglers cast a line for Kingfish, Dolphin, Wahoo, Grouper, and Snapper. Cash prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place go to the teams with the heaviest of each species. The top Junior Angler and top Lady Angler will also reel in some cash. Hook a silent auction item and a raffle ticket for more chances to snag a big catch.

Individual registrations cost $250. After May 31st, the price goes up to $300, so sign up early. Each team gets a bucket full of goodies and four tickets to a gourmet BBQ dinner Saturday evening at the awards ceremony.

No boat? No problem! Limited fishing spots will be available on Safari 1 Deep Sea Fishing for only $125 per angler including rod, reel, bait, tackle, and 1 dinner ticket for the Awards Ceremony.

Our generous partners make events like this possible. To learn more about sponsorship opportunities, contact Julie at 772-283-2525 or email her at


About ARC of the Treasure Coast: The ARC, (Advocates for the Rights of the Challenged) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to empowering children and adults with I/DD through residential, vocational, educational, behavioral, and other healthcare services.  ARC provides support, assistance, and training that enhances the abilities of children and adults with disabilities to thrive each day and achieve their fullest potential.


BLAST Summer Program and Beyond Summer Slide

Our passionate staff will dedicate their time and effort to educating our students through the summer. Banner Lake Inc. summer programs begin on June 3rd, 2024. BLAST (Banner Lake After School Time) will be hosting an all-day summer camp that includes lunch and snacks, weekly themes, arts/crafts, and field trips, all at NO COST to families! The hours of operation will be 7:30 - 5:30 Mon – Fri. This program is open to elementary aged students and separate teen programs are also available. To participate, parents must attend parent orientations via zoom. Banner Lake Early Learning Center will also provide summer care for children aged 6 weeks through age 4.

Children that will be attending Banner Lake Academy this fall will also be able to attend a fun and interactive summer school program called Beyond Summer Slide in addition to the BLAST summer programs. The hours are from 8:30 - 11:30 Mon - Fri and students will be able to get an academic head start and begin building relationships with their new teachers and classmates. We also have academic intervention programs for students that need additional support.

All programs will be closed from May 24th through May 31st for staff training. Please call the office at 772-545-0953 for more information about our summer programs.


Campaign to Recruit Foster Homes Kicks Off with a Story Stroll

Stuart – Communities Connected for Kids launched a community-wide foster-home recruitment campaign Saturday at its Third Annual 1K for Kids and Story Stroll.

Called #25by2025, the campaign's goal is to recruit and license a minimum of 25 foster homes by January 1, 2025 - homes that will help reverse a downward trend in the number of foster homes being licensed since the COVID pandemic.

Since 2020, the community has experienced a 58 percent decrease in homes in Okeechobee and the Treasure Coast, said Christina Kaiser, CCKids community relations director.


"We have many wonderful homes and nurturing caregivers, but it's not enough to keep up with the number of children coming into care or the number of homes closing," said Kaiser, adding that many caregivers close their homes after adopting or for related family reasons.

"We have too many children and teens in group care or placed in other parts of the state,” she said. "Twenty five new homes will be enough to start bringing them home.”


A more robust network of foster homes also makes it possible to keep siblings together and to keep children closer to their homes and schools while in foster care.

The #25by2025 campaign offers the community many opportunities to get involved in advocating for and recruiting homes, Kaiser said.

“We created a list of 25 ways to help – from sharing campaign information on social media to selecting foster-care themes for Book Club,” she said “Some of it might seem small, but one small act can make a huge difference—one connection can change the life of a child.”  


That was the message Saturday morning at Port St. Lucie’s Hillmoor Lake Park, where CCKids launched the campaign as part of its 1K for Kids & Story Stroll.

Nearly 200 people registered for the event, which included a 1K interactive trail where walkers could use QR codes to learn more about the foster-care community.

Also at the event were several foster-parent licensing agencies and a series of celebration stations where participants could join the #ManicureMovement to raise awareness for the prevention of child abuse or record a 3-second video to celebrate families being reunified this summer.

Walkers also had the opportunity to join the Starfish Society, a special tier of giving for those who elevate their commitment to the #25by2025 campaign.

For a complete list of ways to help, or to join the campaign’s Starfish Society. visit our campaign site at and then click the #25by2025 banner.


Treasure Coast Hospice to Host Community Luncheons for Faith Leaders

Presentation: Riding the Waves – An Overview of Grief, Loss and Spirituality

(STUART, Fla.  May 8, 2024) – Treasure Coast Hospice will present Riding the Waves: An Overview of Grief, Loss and Spirituality at community luncheons for local clergy, rabbis and lay ministers. Conducted by Treasure Coast Hospice spiritual care coordinators, the presentation will explore the stages of grief and how spirituality serves as a beacon of hope.

Clergy and lay leaders of all faiths are invited to attend one of the scheduled luncheons:

Tuesday, June 4 - Lakeside Grill, 1111 S. Parrott Avenue, Okeechobee; noon to 1:30 p.m.

Thursday, June 6 - Mayes Center, 1201 SE Indian Street, Stuart; noon to 1:30 p.m.

Tuesday, June 11 - Thomas Counseling Center, 5000 Dunn Road, Ft. Pierce; noon to 1:30 p.m.

Riding the Waves: An Overview of Grief, Loss and Spirituality is the third topic offered in Treasure Coast Hospice’s luncheon series for faith leaders. During the interactive presentation, spiritual care coordinators will share their experiences supporting patients and families through the grief journey and offer insight about how spiritual practices provide solace and bring peace to those facing loss.

Spiritual care coordinators are trained to provide emotional and spiritual support to seriously ill patients of all faiths. Spiritual care can help patients find meaning in their lives, cope with difficult emotions, and ease physical symptoms associated with serious illness.

To RSVP, visit or call Treasure Coast Hospice at 772-462-6252.

About Treasure Coast Hospice

Treasure Coast Hospice is a non-profit community organization of skilled professionals and dedicated volunteers whose mission is to provide access to compassionate, caring, expert and professional hospice and grief support services to patients and families at the end of life. Founded in 1982, Treasure Coast Hospice has grown to serve more than 4,000 patients annually in Martin, St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties. Thanks to the generous support of our community, the Treasure Coast Hospice Foundation is able to fund comprehensive hospice and grief support programs for Treasure Coast Hospice, including three Inpatient Units for those who need a higher level of care, the specialized pediatric program Little Treasures, music therapy, massage therapy, virtual reality experiences, individual and group bereavement services, and Camp Good Grief for children who have experienced the loss of a loved one.




Keep Martin Beautiful Puts Fun in Award Events at 2024 Environmental Stewardship Awards

Palm City, Fla. – The Golden Globes, Oscars and Emmys have nothing on the 2024 Environmental Stewardship Awards event. Hosted by Keep Martin Beautiful on May 1, the event proved that award presentations don’t have to be snoozers.

Martin County Commissioner Ed Ciampi, Keep Martin Beautiful Board President Jennifer Stull and Executive Director Tiffany Kincaid, and Firefly Group President Stacy Ranieri.

Fast-paced banter and off-script remarks between emcees Commissioner Ed Ciampi and the Firefly Group’s President and Chief Illuminator Stacy Ranieri kept the audience laughing and eager to hear which eight individuals and organizations out of the forty-four nominees would take home an award for their work on behalf of the environment.

Jeff Sabin, Alexandra Martinello, Avadawn Bailey, (back) Jay, Mike and Cybill Gonzalez

When Jeff Sabin, a founder of Keep Martin Beautiful and Government Affairs Director with Waste Management, took the podium to introduce one of the winners, he gave a bit of a history lesson. “Keep Martin Beautiful was hatched in a dentist office in Jensen Beach thirty years ago. Look at us now!” Sabin said, gesturing to a full house at Piper’s Landing Country Club.

Marshall Critchfield, External Affairs Manager for FPL, presented the Innovation award in the spirit of FPL’s investments in building a cleaner energy grid. “All of our nominees exemplify the very best in thinking about environmental solutions not just for today but for the future,” Critchfield said.

This year’s winners include Youth Engagement: Jensen Beach Elementary School for their Eco-Action Team; Innovation: the Martin County Public Works Department and its Savannas Weir project; Environmental Restoration: Audubon of Martin  County and its Pine Flatwoods Restoration; Community Enrichment: the Martin County Office of Tourism for its Explore Natural Martin Program; Outstanding Adopt-a-Road: Mike Gonzalez and family for his engaging outreach to get others involved in the program; Environmental Education: the City of Stuart for its backyard composting program; and Community Impact: House of Hope for their comprehensive approach to reducing waste and conserving resources.

Jensen Beach Elementary School Assistant Principal Jamie Law and STEM Coordinator Lauren Liberty and students from the Eco-Action Team won the Youth Engagement Award.

A new award for 2024 honors Wendy Lee Parker, who served as the Martin County Solid Waste Manager for over twenty years and passed away in March 2024. Wendy was beloved among her family, friends, and colleagues and truly exemplified what it means to be an environmental steward. The Wendy Lee Parker Award was created in honor of her dedication to community improvement. It is presented to a government employee who goes above and beyond the call of duty and shows exceptional commitment to the community. This year’s honoree was Anne Hawkins, City of Stuart Utilities and Engineering Program Manager, for her exceptional and longstanding commitment to environmental work, and notably, the creation of the popular Waterfest event.

Jennifer Stull, President of the Keep Martin Beautiful Board of Directors, wrapped up the evening by pointing out how diverse the winners and nominees were. “The Environmental Stewardship Awards proves that our community’s love for the environment brings together people from all walks of life to work hard and celebrate the many ways in which we protect and conserve the beautiful place where we live,” Stull said.

 For a complete list of all 44 nominees, descriptions of their projects, and more information about how to become involved with Keep Martin Beautiful, visit Keep Martin Beautiful at or call 772-781-1222.

Keep Martin Beautiful appreciates the generous support from sponsors and in-kind donors including: Champion Sponsors, Florida Power & Light and Three Lakes; Steward Sponsors, Waste Management; Ashley Capital; Coastal Waste & Recycling; Sustainer Sponsors, Family Lands Remembered; Martin County Forever; One Martin; Ram Realty; Supporter Sponsors, Camo Farms, City of Stuart; Continental Shelf Associates; Ecological Associates Inc.; Kolter Land Partners; Lucido & Associates; Sailfish Point POA and Golf Club; Shearwater Marine; van Vonno Consulting; Program Partners, The Art Department, Coastal Bohemian, Crown Trophy, Fetterman Law, The Firefly Group, Jenkins Landscape, and Steven Martin Photography,

About Keep Martin Beautiful

Keep Martin Beautiful (KMB) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit community organization founded in 1994 as an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful. Its mission is to preserve and enhance the quality of life in Martin County through litter prevention, the promotion of recycling, improvement of solid waste management practices, and beautification and community revitalization activities. KMB signature events and programs include the Environmental Stewardship Awards, the International Coastal Cleanup, the Great American Cleanup, the Martin Grade Scenic Byway, the Adopt-A-Road and Adopt-A-Street programs, and other educational and outreach activities. Find KMB on Facebook at, follow KMB on Instagram at, visit or call 772-781-1222.


Martin County Community Land Trust Gets Green Light as New Nonprofit Focused on Local Affordable Housing Solutions

Hobe Sound, Fla. – The Martin County Community Land Trust, a newly formed nonprofit dedicated to improving lives through strategic investments in affordable housing solutions, is pleased to announce its official recognition as a 501(c)(3) organization from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. 

“Achieving this designation as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit is a significant milestone for our organization,” explained Harold Jenkins, Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Martin County Community Land Trust. “It not only provides tangible benefits like tax exempt status and the ability to apply for grants, but it also symbolizes official recognition of our commitment to serving the public good.”

“We all know how much the cost of buying a home has increased,” Jenkins said. “Demand is far greater than supply right now, and rental units are hard to find. Working families are struggling, and we need to take a new approach. The housing crisis in Martin County is the key reason we created this local Land Trust,” added Jenkins.

With its official nonprofit designation, the Martin County Community Land Trust can now accept donations of public and private lands and, using donated funds from the private sector, purchase land and houses in Martin County. 

Why Create a Land Trust?

The Martin County Community Land Trust was created in 2023 as a collaborative effort between community leaders and local government.  The Community Land Trust (CLT) Model is designed to preserve affordable housing in perpetuity, one generation after the next.

The local land trust acquires land and serves as the permanent repository and steward for the residences that are built upon it. Community Land Trusts ensure long-term affordability for renters and homeowners by separating ownership of the land from the structure on top of it.

“Because the Martin County Community Land Trust will continue to own the land, the community can be assured that the housing built on it will remain affordable,” Jenkins added.

How the Land Trust Works.

The new housing units on properties owned by the Martin County Community Land Trust are sold or leased at affordable prices.

Prospective buyers and renters are screened to ensure these affordable housing options are offered to people who need them most: families at 50% to 80% of the area’s median income that might otherwise not be able to afford a home in a safe neighborhood with amenities such as good schools.

“Having a stable home, whether you own or rent, is crucially important to a family’s well-being and to the health of the greater community,” said Martin County Community Land Trust Executive Director Wendy Reynoso. “With this innovative solution to our housing crisis, our entire community will benefit.”

With a volunteer Board of Directors and a compelling mission, the Martin County Community Land Trust is now ready to create long-term benefits for the community. For more information about how a Land Trust works and how Martin County is addressing housing solutions, visit

About The Martin County Community Land Trust

The Martin County Community Land Trust is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to improving the lives of Martin County’s current and future residents through investment in affordable housing solutions. It is guided by a volunteer Board of Directors and partners with local governments, community leaders, builders, funders, and community nonprofit organizations to create an alternative way to provide long-term affordable housing for residents who aren’t being served well by the traditional model of buying and selling homes. For more information, visit the website


House of Hope Takes Honors for Innovative Ways to Care for the Environment

STUART, Fla. – House of Hope, known throughout the community as an organization that cares deeply for people in need, has also been honored for the care it shows to the environment.

Keep Martin Beautiful awarded House of Hope the 2024 Community Impact Award at its Environmental Stewardship Awards ceremony in May. Jill Marasa of Ashley Capital, a sponsor of the event and a nominee for its own environmental restoration efforts, called House of Hope “a model for environmental stewardship through its comprehensive approach to reducing waste and conserving resources.”

Each year House of Hope distributes about 1.3 million pounds of food. Its efforts to use resources wisely ultimately rescues 614,000 pounds of food annually from going into the landfill because it’s considered “not shelf-worthy” at local grocery stores. House of Hope Thrift Shops recycle unusable clothing, linens, cardboard and household items while assisting families with the basics of living.

The House of Hope team works together to make environmental stewardship an integral part of all they do. These efforts resulted in House of Hope winning the 2024 Environmental Stewardship Award for Community Impact from Keep Martin Beautiful.

At its Growing Hope Farm, House of Hope uses environmentally friendly hydroponic farming techniques and employs closed-loop water systems. The fact that House of Hope has a farm for growing fresh produce for its clients is in itself environmentally sound. Composting is an integral part of its operations, generating farm feed for local farmers and ranchers. Rainwater is captured for irrigation, and the water used to clean produce in the new packing house is in turn used to irrigate the farm’s grove of fruit trees.

In addition, its Traveling Nutrition Education Garden and Nutrition Gardens in key areas of the community help teach people about growing food locally and the importance of using fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables in their meal planning.

“We made a commitment to ourselves that we would incorporate good environmental stewardship in all aspects of our business,” House of Hope CEO Rob Ranieri said. “We challenge ourselves to find opportunities to minimize our impact on local landfills, to be imaginative in how we recycle and repurpose, and to conserve valuable resources.”

Every month House of Hope provides food, basic needs, life skills, case management, financial assistance, workforce development, housing assistance, nutrition education and enrichment to more than 21,000 area residents across Martin, St. Lucie and Okeechobee Counties, with a mission to empower people in need to overcome hunger and hardship.

The House of Hope Thrift team created a pop-up boutique filled with used items for purchase by attendees at the Environmental Stewardship Awards event. Lauren Povio, Donna Vestal, Pat Ferrara, and Michele Trout curated the items that became treasures instead of trash for the landfill.

“Our environmental efforts, like everything we do, are directed at empowering people in need and improving the overall health and financial stability of the greater community,” Ranieri said. “We’re proud and grateful for the staff, volunteers and donors who take our mission to heart and create new and different ways to make a difference.”

About House of Hope

Founded in 1984, House of Hope is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers Martin County residents to overcome hunger and hardship. House of Hope touches the lives of more than 8,000 people each month helping with basic needs such as food, clothing, furniture, financial assistance, as well as longer-term case management services that help build life skills for a more self-sufficient future. 

The organization has service centers in Stuart, Hobe Sound, Indiantown, and Jensen Beach, with thrift stores in Stuart, Hobe Sound, and Indiantown. House of Hope’s Centers for Enrichment at Golden Gate in Stuart, in Jensen Beach, and now at KinDoo Family Center in Indiantown offer free programs, technology, and workshops designed to enhance life skills, earning potential, health, and overall well-being.

House of Hope also operates the Growing Hope Farm in Palm City and several nutrition gardens that provide sustainable sources of fresh produce for clients as well as nutrition education and vocational opportunities to the community. For more information, visit or call 772-286-4673. Updates and announcements can also be found on FacebookInstagram, and X.


Humane Society to open new thrift store location to benefit shelter animals

STUART, Fla. — The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast’s popular thrift store is moving to a new location in the Wedgewood Commons Plaza, 3302 SE Federal Highway, just two blocks south of its old home. The public is invited to attend the grand opening Saturday, May 18, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Well behaved pets are welcome. The event will include raffles, adoptable pets, food and swag bags.

Known as Thrift Store Central, it’s one of two thrift stores that the humane society operates. Thrift Store North at 1099 NW 21st Street in Stuart will remain open. The new store will be almost twice the size of the old location, which will result in even more merchandise for shoppers.

“We’ll still feature all the same types of merchandise, just a lot more of it,” said Thrift Store Manager Kelly Ellis. “We’re most excited about our new and improved cat area. The updated space will feature more room for our furry friends, natural light and plenty of room for socializing.”

Since their inception, the humane society’s thrift stores have provided a substantial portion of revenue and support for the shelter's lifesaving and life-enhancing programs and services. With new merchandise arriving daily and specials on already discounted items, customers have a reason to visit often and find that bargain or treasure.

“One of the best ways to help our shelter animals and yourself is by shopping at our thrift stores,” said Sarah Fisher, communications manager for the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast. “It’s like a treasure hunt for our shoppers with great finds at discounted prices with all proceeds benefiting our dogs, cats and other critters.”

Donations are gratefully accepted at the back of each store from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., seven days a week. Donations must be stain free, in excellent condition and in good working order. For large items, including furniture in very good condition, the humane society will pick up those donations from a resident’s first floor or a climate controlled storage facility. Arrangements are best made one to two weeks before the desired pickup date. Call the store at 772-286-6909 to schedule a pickup.

Volunteer help is always needed. To volunteer, visit For more information about the grand opening, visit

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


Foundation honoring final wish of inspiring young girl hosts inaugural 5k fundraiser June 1 in Jensen Beach

JENSEN BEACH—Whether befriending the classroom outcast, encouraging her teammates on the soccer field, or comforting fellow children fighting cancer alongside her in the hospital, Victoria Rose Matta touched countless lives through her compassionate words and selfless actions.

The Port St. Lucie resident—known as “Tori” to friends—tragically lost her battle with brain cancer last fall. She was 11 years old. Her inspiring spirit—which shined brightest amid adversity—will now move even more hearts thanks to the Tori Rose Foundation that her parents created in her honor.

The foundation’s inaugural fundraiser—aptly named the Warrior Race 5k—takes place the morning of June 1 at the Jensen Beach Campus, more specifically its landmark restaurant Circa69 Gastropub, proud sponsors.

The Warrior Race 5k will begin at 9 a.m., hosting runners and walkers alike over the Jensen Beach Causeway before finishing at The Campus, where nonrunners are also able to enjoy various fun-filled activities during the race.

“Words cannot begin to describe the loss of a child, but her family’s desire to honor the life and heart of their daughter, Tori, by helping other families with children battling cancer really inspired us,” says Chris Hamilton, senior vice president of operations for Sharfi Holdings—which owns the Campus and Circa69.

When in treatment at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando and Boston Children’s Hospital, Tori sought to comfort young patients whenever their parents were unable to be by their side. Unsurprisingly, it was Tori’s “final wish” that her parents, Valinda and Elliot, vow to help ease the financial burdens on other families with children fighting cancer.

“Tori always wanted to help other people,” says her father, Elliot. “During treatment we were always by her side, but she reminded us that not every other child had it as good and she always tried to encourage them. She had a passion for others.”

Thanks to lessons from her big sister, Mariah—a semipro soccer player—Tori developed a love of the sport and excelled as a striker playing in a Palm City league. Hair often dyed a glowing pink, Tori stood out for her exceptional play and celebratory dances after scoring. Little wonder her soccer club—whose coaches and teammates railed to support her and shower Tori with love during her fight against the illness—later renamed the team facility “Tori’s Football Farm.”

“Tori has already positively impacted so many lives in her community,” says Hamilton. “We cannot wait to see the remarkable work the foundation undertakes in her honor.”

About the Victoria Rose Matta Foundation

The mission of the Tori Rose Foundation is to provide financial assistance for the families of children fighting against pediatric cancer. Thanks to the help of the community and corporate leaders, the foundation conducts an internal application process and provides approved families with funding to help alleviate the cost of medical treatments—including travel, housing and other related expenses. For more, visit



Letters From Readers

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

Dick Landrum

Public: Be aware, the community pool at MCHS has come under fire for being too expensive.

I asked a local taxpayer’s association to correct a newsletter error stating, “This pool, nearly 50 years old, is going to need $1.2 million in repairs?”

In fact, the School Board and District know and admit that the $1.2 million figure is bogus.  It was developed in-house without the customary three bid process: just an estimate.  The School Board immediately, at the meeting releasing the bogus work order, voted unanimously to find out what it would cost to destroy the pool.

The original installer of the pool liner gave us a current bid to remove and replace the liner for $150,315.  The bogus work order had the cost embedded with other plumbing repairs at $800,000 to $1,000,000, the new liner would be $463,000, not including removal.

A local college pool manager said the total cost of the work order should be closer to $250,000.   Unfortunately, the Board and District won’t admit this publicly.


  • The MCHS pool does NOT belong to the District, it belongs to the community that built it in 1975 with the agreement the District could USE the pool if they maintained it.
  • Sailfish Splash funding is supplemented by the County at about $150,000 a year, just as the community pool is supplemented by the District.
  • Sailfish Splash is not a community pool.  The cost is too prohibitive for low-income families to be regular users of the pools.
  • There are already three teams (JBHS, SFHS, Pine School) sharing Sailfish Splash and there isn’t room for another team.
  • There are nearly 100 swimmers on the club team that practices at the pool plus 40 swimmers on the MCHS team who practice for the Fall season.
  • Most communities have 4 to 8 pools per 100,000 population; we have 1.3.
  • We need community pools easily accessible (walk/bike) for each community… WE DON’T NEED FEWER POOLS.
  • The pool liner doesn’t need to be replaced right away.
  • I have suggested to the Board that they treat the pool using fund accounting to prepare for the 20-to-30-year costs that can be expected and stop trying to re-budget every five years, acting surprised at the cost of major repair.
  • We are meeting with the District to resume some programs that would more than justify its cost. 
    • Teach Third Graders to Swim (stopped in 2007)
    • Lifeguard/WSI Certification
    • Open Swims on weekends and summer days
    • Best Buddy program to teach swimming.
    • Adult Learn to Swim


Dwight Snedeker

Mr Campenni

  I’m replying to one of your articles that I saw on F&N about four quadrant gates for Brightline/FEC. Why are not all crossings in Martin county equipped with four gates? Most notably to me is the Rio crossing. Just two gates. It’s the most ‘blind’ crossing I’ve seen with Alice St. a close second. I cross it often. With signs at every crossing warning of train speeds of 80mph or more I think it is a very serious problem waiting for a tragedy to happen. With Brightline having the worst death rate for a commuter train in the country I would think that you and the other powers that be in MC that this issue would be on the top of the list for R/R safety.

 Another thing. Is there a rendering of what the new St Lucie bridge will look like? When the train was first proposed the Stuart News had a picture of what a bridge might look like. It was a vertical lift bridge. With the Okeechobee Waterway mandated to have 65’ clearance when open that would mean the towers would have to be a bit higher than the new Roosevelt Bridge. Not a good look for the gateway to Stuart. If the new design of the bridge allows for 80% of boat traffic to pass when closed how much higher than the existing bridge closed will the new one be? It seems to me that the track approaches to the new bridge will have to be graded higher for some distance from the span to accommodate the height of the new span. How is that going to affect the tracks most notably between Sailfish Circle and the span? 
  Next, with the increase of freight traffic what kind of safeguards are in place to avoid a derailment like the one in East Palestine Ohio from happening? Does FEC/Brightline employ PTC/Positive Train Control or something similar? What kind of response system is in place should an accident happen? What kind of chemicals are being transported in all of the tanker cars of the now longer trains using the tracks? Can you imagine having to evacuate residents? National news for sure!

  Last April Chanel 5 had reporters at Flagler Park focused on the river situation. I sat down with either Ashley Glass or Kate Hussy and asked them the above questions. “Those are really great questions!!” They said. Had my name and email. NEVER HEARD BACK FROM THEM! I hope that you will be able to find answers to these questions for me and the rest of Martin Co. taxpayers. Never heard back from an email to Ed Killer either. I have not seen these issues addressed in the Stuart News but I could have missed it. 

My Reply

What we need to remember is that any road that intersects with FECR is doing so with their approval. Unlike other places where the railroad is on government property, roads are allowed by FECR to use their land to cross. It sets up a unique dynamic.

Martin County and Stuart are in effect relying on FECR to continue in the current configurations. The railroad is under no obligation to keep any crossing open. While according to the settlement agreement, FECR would make some crossing improvements, at some point maintaining the gates at the crossings will be a government responsibility. What occurred in the past was that the company would do the necessary maintenance and then bill the government.

Crossing the tracks looks a bit different than you would imagine. You are setting foot on their property and do so at your own risk. In the past our governments thought that they would close crossings if there were too many complaints re safety concerns. Is that better than having as many crossings as possible?

Why you would need four gates at a crossing is because that is one of the necessary items to have a no horn (silent) crossing. To put them in would probably be at the government’s cost and at their expense to maintain.

The new bridge is scheduled to be closed most of the time just like the Dixie auto bridge. What will occur is there will be much more room between the pillars allowing easier navigation. The last I heard was that the bridge would be the same height as the current auto bridge. Both bridges will open on a schedule to accommodate larger vessels.

I have been told that anywhere from 80 to 90% of the boat traffic will be able to traverse the waterway with the bridge down. Even if the 80% number is the correct one, it is much improved over the current situation.

I understand that the tracks will veer a little left of their present course but no significant change in elevation of the tracks will be needed so from Downtown we won’t be looking up at the tracks.

As you wrote, chemicals being transported via train are a problem all over the country. I doubt there will be any prohibition going forward. However, Positive Train Controls were supposed to be completed by the end of 2020. The Federal Railroad Administration has continued giving time extensions.

Brightline and the FECR tracks are a work in progress. Nothing I have written should be set in stone. Thanks for the questions and I hope I answered some of what you wanted to know.

Your letter and this reply will be reprinted in the next edition.

Martin County


The county is once more applying for a SAFER grant from the federal government to hire 18 new fire/rescue employees. The amount of the grant is $5,897,538 for three years. They applied for a grant a few years ago for 20 new employees which was not received.

Martin County Fire Chief Chad Cianciulli told the commission the increased need is not because of growth. He said in 1999 there were 5 assisted living facilities and there are now 26 with multiple calls per day. The department must answer calls on I-95, the turnpike, and U.S. 1 which have all increased as has tourism including numerous Airbnb’s.


Some residents use 911 as their doctors since they know the EMTs will always respond. As an example, Cianciulli said the Port Salerno station’s call volume has gone up 65% from 2009 to 2024. The vote was 4-1 with Heard dissenting for permission to seek the grant.

If the county obtains the grant, the expense for the first year minus gear is picked up by the federal government. There is a sliding scale for the next 2 years, and beginning in Year 4, the county must pay all the costs of employment. The almost $6 million in grant funding is welcomed, but the hundreds of millions over the careers of these employees will be completely paid for by the Martin County taxpayer.

The grant can be found here 

Parks Director Kevin Abate was asked to explain why the reversable 9-hole course was not reversing. This item was brought by Commissioner Hetherington. At the last meeting, Commissioner Heard stated that the reason for not making the switch was because of the drought. That notion was dispelled by Abate.

He explained the reasoning was that they were still learning what was best for customers. The attached presentation explains why the Black Course will be played November 1 to May 31 and the Gold Course June 1-Oct 31. You can see the presentation here

Hetherington just wanted transparency to be used in dealing with the public. Abate also stated that the consumptive water permit from SFWMD needs to be renewed by next year. The county is working with a consultant recommended by the district to have it renewed. He is also speaking to Stuart about using gray water to irrigate.

Hetherington also wanted to know when the restaurant and hitting bays would go back to the private sector to operate. Abate stated that until there is a full year of data, there would be no way to evaluate any offers. As of April, they are in the black at $189,000. However, during the summer months, there will be much less usage. 

Both Smith and Heard think that it is running just perfectly now. Hetherington seems to want the private sector to operate the restaurant and hitting bays. Somehow, I don’t think that the county will ever let go.

They also went through the CIP for next year. The total CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) for the next ten years is $1,223,918,591. It is to be looked on as a wish list.


When looking at this plan, just pay attention to FY2025. That is the amount that will go into the budget. The $119,013,055 for 2025 won’t all be spent either. This is just the first pass at a final budget that will be voted on later this year.

Commissioner Smith asked how many public meetings there are on the budget. The OMB Director told him there are 4 with this being the first one.

Now is the time for citizens to be involved. If they are going to wait and complain when the final vote is being taken on what taxes will be, then citizens are not fulfilling their duties.

And for those that say there is no transparency in this process, they are dead wrong. Yesterday when this vote was taken, no one was in the audience. This time next year when an expenditure is in the consent agenda, someone will say why are you trying to sneak it past us? But the commission will have had votes on spending the money, and there were likely no residents in the chamber making public comments. The consent agenda is how they pay the bill that was approved in the annual budget at a public meeting…not allocate the expense.

This is the time to have your opinions known not the day that next year’s millage rate must be decided.

The entire CIP Budget Book can be found here 

Marty Just Won't Go Away Or WIll It

Darlene VanRiper

Two very important motions made by Commissioner Smith were approved unanimously after a mandated Transit Development Plan was presented at the Board meeting on May 14th. 

It seems residents of Martin County may have finally been heard regarding the MARTY boondoggle.  When asked their thoughts regarding the very visibly empty MARTY buses, residents most often say “Why don’t we just give them [riders] Uber rides.  It would cost less.”  Indeed, at $32.60 a ride, MARTY costs the taxpayers about twice what an Uber ride from one end of the county to the other would cost.  

The Transit Development Plan presented included numerous additional costs to garner more riders in order to get more funding from the State and Feds.  A vicious circle entailing more bus stops, more scheduled stops, more service hours, lessened fares or free rides, more marketing and on and on.

Commissioner Jenkins confessed his “epic failure” to service more riders when he had a bus route from Indiantown to Hobe Sound added.  Seemed rational.  No one rode it. 

The epiphany came when micro transit was brought up.  It was initially discussed that Ubers and Lyfts would be used to supplement the buses.  Then the baby went out with the bathwater.  Commissioners Smith and Jenkins agreed with Commissioner Hetherington’s assessment that they should be discussing micro transit replacing the bus system altogether.  Commissioner Smith stated in essence, that the public has moved beyond the mass transit system.  

And while one of the motions passed was that they approve the Transit Plan (to continue to receive grants, not necessarily to implement it), the 2nd motion made by Commissioner Smith was that they immediately ask for bids from micro transit entities to see how this could work. 

The Martin County Taxpayers Association which has never been on board with MARTY agrees that the micro transit application could help solve the problem.  But it should be merit based in some way.  Not that most of our more affluent residents would grab a ride for free, but hey, you never know.  

City of Stuart


What happens when you have hearings on items but never take a vote?

The Stuart Commission found out at their last commission meeting. It wasn’t very fulfilling for the audience who want resolutions to issues. The city attorney explained that there was no need to take a vote for anything under state statute on first reading. I am not going to buck the advice of the attorney, but with no vote how do we know where the commissioners stand?

The chamber was packed with both residents and non-residents who came now for the second time to voice their opinions about the detox/drug rehab/mental health facility that was formerly an assisted living and memory care facility. The first instance was the meeting two weeks ago when the applicant pulled the item from the agenda. Tonight, the people had their chance to speak, yet to me it seemed unfulfilling.

The first reading of an ordinance is the time when horse trading can occur. Commissioners can offer conditions which may lead to a compromise. Perhaps opposition would be less intense if there was more possibility of getting to yes through compromise.

Maybe Manager Mortell and Attorney Baggett felt that if the commissioners stayed silent and did nothing on first reading except listen to presentations and hear comment, then there would be less chance of the city being sued because of loose commission lips. That idea went nowhere because Commissioners Collins and Rich insisted on grilling the applicant.


That all would make sense if a vote was imminent, even a straw vote to take the pulse of the commission. Even though there was no vote, the law was fulfilled by having the first of two public hearings.

This is a departure from how it has been done by Stuart in the past. Though only a second vote counts, if the commissioners had voted no on the Future Land Use Map Amendment for example, then the next item for a zoning change would never need to occur. From what the commissioners signaled regarding that item; they did not want to change the use because at present there are no vacant parcels zoned residential in the entire city. In fact, Rich said as much.


Then why the 3rd degree by Rich and Collins on something that is unlikely to happen? Both Rich and Collins can’t help themselves. On Monday night, they needed to show how smart they are. Collins insisted on besting the applicant because of what the commissioner believes is a faulty traffic study and incongruent medical and police call statistics.


On the other hand, Rich, went out of his way to say that the applicant was being given a black eye for disinformation being distributed by the opponents to the project. For a guy who says he is not voting for the change, he sure is sympathetic to the applicant’s project. In fairness, he can see the need for the project yet feels that having some vacant residential space is appropriate.

We have all heard the adage that only a fool is his own lawyer. These proceedings are quasi-judicial which means the commission is acting as a court. When in court, having professional representation is a good policy. And even though he was not a land use attorney, not even any type of attorney, the land planner was doing a good job. Then the applicant himself took what seemed like hours to give his own presentation, even contradicting his planner at times.


He kept saying how philanthropic he was and how many “scholarships” he gave to clients in his facilities. Some of what he said was important, but I remember none of it because he came across as arrogant and self-important. He was singing that old song by Mac Davis with the title and lyric “It’s Hard to Be Humble, when I am perfect in so many ways.”

The keynote speaker was retiring Sheriff Will Snyder who spoke against the facility. His greatest fear was that clients would leave the facility and end up in the woods or worse. Since most would be from outside the area and the state, they would have no local support system.  Snyder has been a vocal advocate for the mentally ill.

Stuart has a police force that handles law enforcement within the city. It does a great job in keeping Stuart safe. The chief and his upper ranks are very knowledgeable and capable. What they are not are independent. The sheriff is a constitutionally elected office holder that everyone, including Stuart residents, votes for. He has jurisdiction everywhere in the county including the city.

Commissioner Collins stood and applauded after Snyder spoke. So much for being there with an open mind. If there is a court case, that will be in the pleadings.

What no one has bothered to do is inform the public about whether there are benefits for Stuart and Martin County. The applicant claims there will be 110 jobs, but how many will go to Martin County residents? One of Collins’ points is true…there will be rescue calls but probably less than what the assisted living that it is replacing had. And many fewer than the Cleveland Clinic’s facility around the corner.

        Two commissioners should be applauded for what they didn’t say or do. Mayor Bruner and Commissioner McDonald expressed no opinions. Wasn’t that the point of this exercise without a vote? They took everything in, the presentations, the public comment, and their fellow commissioners’ ramblings. They can honestly say that they were there with an open mind. I don’t think the others were.

If nothing changes, everyone gets to come back on May 28th for a 2nd reading when a vote will be taken.



Commissioner Rich urged that the city endorse the Right to Clean and Healthy Water Constitutional Amendment. It did not meet the criteria to go on the ballot this year, and they are trying to qualify for the 2026 November ballot. It gives people the right to sue the state. I am not so sure that this is the best way to accomplish a goal. But it is two and a half years away. The full text of the amendment can be found here 

Mortell stated that Brightline would be applying for a CRISI Grant from the federal government to partially pay for the new railroad bridge. He asked that the commission authorize a letter of support on their behalf.

He also mentioned that the new parking system Downtown will be operational next week. The system will be better able to give in real time how long someone has parked in a space and whether there are other outstanding tickets. It will better allow for enforcement of the three-hour rule. Mortell wanted everyone to know. Now you do.

There was a total of 10 proclamations besides an Arts Moment and Service Awards. Perhaps the first meeting of the month should start at 3 pm to have the time for all the hoopla.

Martin County School Board


There was only one public comment. Moms For Liberty president, Julie Marshall, said she has instituted more book challenges in the district. She claims that many school principals and librarians are not following Florida law. I imagine that at some point soon we will be hearing more about this.

Deputy Superintendent Tracy Miller gave a report on school staffing. She said that the number of staff required can change daily. The lower the grade, the fewer students in the class. For example, in 3rd grade there are supposed to be 18 students in the class. Various factors can increase or decrease the number depending on what individual students’ needs are.

If the district went strictly by the required numbers, if a first-grade class had 18 students and one more student moved to that school, then an entirely new class would have to be set up. That would be unaffordable. But because there could be other educators in the room, such as a paraprofessional to work with students that need extra services, then the ratio may change. I believe what Dr. Miller was trying to impress on the board is that the classroom teacher may not be the only educational professional in a classroom.

You can read the report here 

There was an attempt to work on school policies regarding cell phones. The board wants no cell phone use by students at all during the day. Students are using their phones to bully other students. They record teachers. Having those devices always available creates problems.

After much discussion by the board and staff, Mr. Maine asked for a recess. When the board reconvened, it was decided to have a workshop on  policy with nothing else on the agenda in the future




Town of Sewalls Point


At the last meeting, the commission made some noise about the length of time that someone needs to be a resident to serve as a commissioner.

Currently, there is no time mentioned in the charter about how long a person must be a resident to run for office. The charter review committee came up with one year which is in line with most other municipalities. Some commissioners mentioned that perhaps at least two years be considered. The town attorney did some research and a court decision specifically stated that two years was not acceptable. The requirement will remain for one year. 

Next year’s CIP 5-year capital plan was released and voted on. Like last year and every year, I can remember, the plan was about South Sewall’s Point Road and storm water retention. The commissioners and the town engineer spoke about how storm water should be retained on everyone’s property. He also went over the grant funding for getting the plans done.

You can see the CIP here 

A while back Florida Gas, which was then a subsidiary of FPL, stated they were interested in bringing a natural gas line into the town. FPL has subsequently sold the gas company, and now it doesn’t seem that it will happen.

The town and their lobbyist/grant writer have parted ways. The town has put out a new RFP for a grant writer. What they do about the lobbyist part wasn’t discussed. The question is whether they need one. Perhaps the commission can be their own lobbyist with the legislature and allow the grant writer to assist the administrative agencies through the grant process.

Village of Indiantown


The only speaker at general public comment was Linda Nycum who took exception to what I wrote in the last publication. She claimed in her remarks I called the council casual in how they conducted their meetings. I re-read what I wrote, and nowhere did those words appear.

What I wrote about was the way the council made motions. That isn’t to say the council members are not caring or thoughtful in how they conduct themselves. I worry about the unintended consequences when they vote on an action without clearly defining that action in the motion itself.

Attorney Vose said that clarity was important, and the council follows Roberts Rules guidelines for small meetings which are not very formal. Mayor Gibbs-Thomas asked the clerk if she lets the council know when she does not understand something and of course she answered in the affirmative. Would you go against your boss in a public meeting?


Here is my point in all of this. How will an action taken by the council be seen a year or 10 years from now. At some point, everyone sitting there will be gone, yet what was voted upon remains. It is important that whatever their decision is everyone presently and, in the future, can understand their meaning.

It isn’t about being picky or impugning the council. They have decided to give unselfishly of their time and be subjects of criticism by the public, including me. I highly regard all our elected officials even those with whom I may disagree on policy. I noticed that the art of motion making improved significantly in this meeting. Thank you.

Ms. Nycum said I was an outsider.  I don’t live in Indiantown, but I did not realize I had to reside in the village to report on the council’s activity. That would prohibit anyone from reporting about the village except Ms. Clowdus according to that train of thought.

Water well #8 was offline because it had failed. Staff had arranged to have a well digging rig come to dig a new well. The money to do so was in the budget and the council approved the expenditure. Going forward, Public Works Director Noland will be looking at the other 7 wells the village has.

Swampfest has all their permit requests in, and they have secured everything needed. The one problem remaining is that they want the event to last until 10 pm, and the sheriff wants it closed at 7 pm. The council members all agreed that it should go until 10. A motion (in an understandable and proper form) was made by Dipaolo and seconded by Hernandez to allow Swampfest to run until 10 pm. It was approved 4-0.

Town of Ocean Breeze


A proclamation was given to retired Town Attorney Ric Crary. He was the town’s attorney for 42 years and attended more than 500 meetings. Congratulations, Ric, on your well-deserved retirement.

In his memo to the council on April 23rd, Paul Nicoletti outlined the responsibilities various parties have regarding the Sea Walk development. There are five distinct parties involved, each with their own duties in seeing a final close-out. Some are overlapping.

The parties are the developer, the builder, the HOA, the individual homeowners, and the town. In the memo, Nicoletti goes into detail trying to make clear that it is up to each to do their part. He lays it out in enough detail for the council to see that it will not be simple to have the problems resolved.

A subsequent brief memo Nicoletti sent states that the Sea Walk deadline is July 1st. He believes if they work diligently, they will have enough time because most of the problems are not fieldwork but paperwork. The biggest obstacle is that Lot #1 needs site work to be completed. The home itself has a C/O so it is fine to be occupied.

The company has a $4 million bond to guarantee completion. The bond premium comes up for renewal in August, and they have asked for a reduction which he is not recommending.

Sun Communities has unfinished work. Most of it is infrastructure in the northern part of the park. Although the work still outstanding is because of Sun’s predecessor, Sun is still responsible. Nicoletti believes that it will still take a year to complete.

You can see the memo here 

One of the residents complained that she can’t get her mail, or deliveries addressed to Ocean Breeze. The default address is Jensen Beach. It is peculiar that Jensen Beach is not an incorporated area but, of course, Ocean Breeze is.

The mayor stated that you need to use the last 4 digits of the zip code not just the 5-digit zip code alone. That is the same problem that Stuart has only in reverse. Several thousand people have Stuart addresses but do not live within the city limits. It is just one of those quirks between postal addresses and where the home is located.

Final Thoughts

The governor and legislature keep trying to tame the “woke” liberals that they believe run our public schools.

DeSantis signed HB 931 which will allow chaplains in public schools and charters. In most other states that tried to pass the legislation, it has failed. Yet in good old Florida where “woke” goes to die, it passed overwhelmingly even with some Democrat support.

I have nothing against the notion of a volunteer chaplain being in a school. According to the law that has been signed and will take effect in July, parents must sign off for their child to participate. And it doesn’t even have any parameters yet on whether the chaplain must belong to a denomination or be ordained.

I was educated by the Franciscans Brothers in high school, and any charitable qualities I have are because of them. Every student and parent knew the education was more rigorous than the public equivalent, but Catholic teachings were woven into our day with time always made for prayer.

Public School, or at least the way it has been since the middle of the 20th century, has tried to be all things to all people. English, History, Math, Shop, Welding, Cooking, or Auto Mechanics are all subjects that are available along with many more. Schools can even teach about the Bible but not have religious instructions according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Probably this chaplain thing will be a big dud. We may see the same anger from the crowd as we did with books. Yet if students want to have someone to talk to that is not a guidance counselor, is it such a bad idea?

Last year, the City of Stuart began having a clergyman give an invocation before the commission meetings. The idea of an invocation was passionately fought by members of the commission. The chamber was packed with mostly out of city pro prayer speakers. The vote was 3-2 to allow it.

A prayer now begins their meeting. It doesn’t appear to me that the commissioners and staff are any changed by the experience. At least one commissioner feels that he won. But won what? While not comparable to the forced conversion of Jews to Catholicism in 1492 Spain, I don’t believe anyone present feels any closer to God than they did before the prayer.

I imagine that this bill is another example of “woke” going to die. It isn’t about God but the politics of man. And kings, presidents, and governors have been using the excuse of spreading the Word since Jesus was taken from the cross. In many instances, the Word was spread by using the sword, torture, and death. At least so far, it has been only angry words and nothing else.



Friends and Neighbors of Martin County is your eyes and ears so that you know what is going on in Martin County’s municipal and county governments. I attempt to be informative and timely so that you may understand how your tax money is being spent. Though I go to the meetings and report back, I am no substitute for your attending meetings. Your elected officials should know what is on your mind.

Tom Campenni 772-341-7455 (c) Email:


Tom’s Articles

From Medium

"Policies That Inhibit Markets Are Wrong Whether Blue Or Red"


"It Isn't A Difficult Concept"

From Martin County Moments

"DeSantis, Cows, & Being Anti-Market"


Other Articles

Route Fifty: "Amid a housing crisis, hospitals offer a dose of relief​"


The Capitolist: "Florida Policy Project report recommends changes to stabilize property insurance rates"


The Washington Post: "The dangerous new call for regime change in Beijing"


The New York Times: "We Have A Housing Crisis. This New Jersey Town Has A Solution"


Florida Phoenix: "Desantis signs tax package to benefit individuals and corporations"


TC Palm: "An Epidemic of Dumping"


Florida Phoenix: "Chaplains could soon come into Florida public schools"


Florida Phoenix: "Ag Commissioner WIlton Simpson wants to sell off lots of Florida Preserve land"


The New York Times: "The Deep Tangled Roots of American Illiberalism"


AFT On Medium: "Undocumented students should beallowed to work"


The New York Times: "Was The Stone Age Actually The Wood Age"


Copyright ©  May 17, 2024 Friends & Neighbors of Martin County, LLC., All rights reserved.

Join Our Mailing List