June 2, 2024

Friends & Neighbors Edition

In this Edition

Summer is definitely here.

June 1st is the start of hurricane season. There is every indication from the experts that we are in for an above average time. I am getting too old to do the prep work that a coming storm requires.

I guess that is why people move into condos. Yet with the new inspections required and property insurance going through the roof so to speak, it may become too expensive for people to afford. That gets us to the cost of housing, which also is increasing very fast.

It may be a dilemma with no solution for us in Martin County.

In this edition we bring you the latest news from Martin County, the School Board, Stuart, and our other municipalities. We also have our columnists, Government Notices, and Letters.

Don’t forget to check out our Non Profit Notices. If you are a non profit we print your press releases, events, and almost anything else you want the public to know. If you are the person handling public relations make sure you are on our list to receive reminder notices of when things are due.

And in between our editions, you should check out our Facebook page to see our stories first. Remember we are always looking for columnists so let us know if interested. And send us your thoughts so we can publish them.

Have a Happy Sunday.

Commuting To Work

If you ever lived in New York and owned a car then you understand about alternate side of the street parking.

Alternate side parking began in 1950 to allow the gutters to be cleaned by forcing car owners to mover their vehicles. It was never easy for a resident, especially of Manhattan, to own a car yet everyone in my family did. That is why learning to drive there we all paid much attention to learning how to parallel park.

My father-in-law was the neighborhood pharmacist. Everyday at 11am he would close his store if he didn’t have a clerk and move the car, a 1969 Toyota Corona. It usually ended up at a metered space in front of his store on 9th Avenue between 17th and 18th Street. Then about 1:30 he would again move the car back to where there was legal street parking on 20th, 21st, or 22nd Street between 9th and 10th  Avenues.

He then discovered that the Getty Station on 10th Avenue off 21st would for $2 move the car for him. They probably had 30 cars they did this for. Not a bad deal especially if he ended up closing his store to do it and losing business.

My wife, my mother-in-law, and I were either at work or school during this period in the early 1970s so we were no help. Once my wife got a job as a teacher, she received something even more prized than medical insurance. It was a placard that allowed her to park undisturbed outside of a school. She began driving the old Toyota to work first in upper Manhattan and subsequently the South Bronx.

Since our apartment building was across from Charles Evans Hughes High School, if she didn’t go to work, she usually got away with leaving the car right in front of the door. When we subsequently bought a home in Queens, her placard was no longer available to her parents though by that time we had bought our own car to play the parking game. My in-laws had moved on to buying a Ford Granada and began parking the car in a real garage for the princely sum of $90 per month.

WithIn the year of us moving we became a two-car family. By then I needed a car to go to all the properties I managed. They ranged from Manhattan to East Orange, New Jersey to Westchester, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens. What I would usually do is park near either a #7 or F Subway stop and take the subway to my office in Midtown and then in the afternoon, go back on the subway, pick up the car and visit the properties. It was about a half hour between the office and my car.

Yet alternate side still played a role on what day I would park where. If it was a Monday or Tuesday, then my preferred streets in Jackson Heights had alternate side parking. I would then slip down to either Long Island City or Sunnyside to take the subway. On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, I could always park by the 74th Street station in Jackson Heights.

I knew I was finally successful in business when two things occurred, I could afford a bigger house and my business could pay for my parking in a garage across from my office. These were two large milestones.

I was through with alternate side parking which had been part of my life for a very long time. I had made it.

What Do These Two Things Have In Common

I was taking my walk early one morning when I noticed a new campaign sign for Eileen Vargas who is running for county commission opposite Doug Smith.

The sign is next to Sean Reed’s sign, who is opposing Troy McDonald for a City of Stuart race. It is located at the top of Colorado near Dixie Highway. I was trying to figure out what the two challengers have in common that might persuade the same constituent to support both.

Vargas is relatively new to Martin County. Except for being a member of the Republican Executive Committee, she doesn’t seem to have other political or civic connections. Her website is short on biography and what she herself has accomplished.

Reed on the other hand through his website tells us he is a lifelong resident. The autobiography on his website states he is a small business owner of a preschool. However, the photos are of Sean and kids (all older than pre-K) walking on a beach by the House of Refuge, a photo of Bathtub Beach, an arial of the Stuart Water Tank showing lots of empty space, and traffic at rush hour going north over the Roosevelt Bridge.

What both are against is over-development and raising taxes, and they both want to protect the environment. I have never met anyone running for office in Martin County who doesn’t say the same exact thing.

McDonald as an incumbent is a little broader in his tax, development, and environmental stands. Doug Smith, also an incumbent, really doesn’t need any introduction. He has been there for 24 years, and his record is pro development, very pro-business, and pro-conservation. Smith is a very red Republican, and he has donated thousands in unused campaign money to the party over the years.

Similar to Vargas, I think no one should be in the office forever. Smith has the opposite view. Until the state enacts county commission term limits, nothing will change except by a vote of the electorate.

Stuart, which has a charter, did enact term limits in 2020 so there is nothing to disagree with between McDonald and Reed over that matter. As a city commissioner, McDonald voted to place the term limit provision on the ballot.

It seems that all challengers are against whatever the incumbents have done. The two signs in front of that business represent the owner’s desire for change. It can’t be a change of policy because growth has been less than 2% for many years. Commissioners can work toward better water quality in the river, but so much is out of their hands, especially for the Stuart commissioners. We will be more congested because thousands of people are moving into the thousands of new homes in St. Lucie County and will traverse Martin County roads for work, shopping, or recreation.

The old saying, “the more things change…the more they stay the same” is very apropos in our local elections.

Remembering

Last Monday was Memorial Day.

Once again in Martin County we celebrated with a parade and ceremony in Stuart’s Memorial Park. We are very good at this kind of thing. We have a Veterans Day parade and even a Christmas Parade on the first Friday of December.

While many of us come out and reflect on the meaning of the day, others have decided that no reflection is necessary. It is a three-day weekend with beach, boats, and bar-b-que. There may even be a little time for bargain shopping.

Memorial Day (or Decoration Day as originally known) was started right after the Civil War to honor the deaths of the more than 600,000 Americans on both sides. No war since has claimed as many lives. The day was set aside for the decoration of the graves of the war dead. As time went on, it now is for all the American men and women who died while serving in the Armed Forces.

Contrary to what some believe, it is not a kickoff to the summer season though it very much has become that for many. If one reflects for just a few minutes on those who have given their lives in defense of the nation, that may be good enough.

Unfortunately, the hated draft that came to define the formative years of Boomers has soured many of them from having anything to do with the military. For Boomers, it depends whether you were working class or upper-class college men if you were drafted or not. The four U.S. presidents from that group never saw active duty. George W. Bush was in the Air National Guard, but it is cloudy if he ever spent active time serving. Obama was way to young for Vietnam being on the tail end of that generation and the draft had ceased by the time he would have been eligible. Clinton had educational deferments and Trump had supposed bone spurs that prevented him from being drafted. 

Being in the military has fallen out of favor since Vietnam. Where once most Americans served, now about 1% do. That is why Memorial Day is important so that Americans realize that service, dedication, valor, and sacrifice allows us to be the country that we are.

Those who died for this nation are not suckers for putting everything on the line. They are not losers because they did not come home to their families, friends, and communities. That is why it is so important that we do not forget. Memorial Day is not a celebration but a commemoration of the brave who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Too Late Now

The Martin County Planning Organization (MPO) held a workshop regarding how to ease congestion on Federal Highway north of the Roosevelt Bridge. It is the busiest roadway in Martin County.

You don’t have to be a genius to figure out why that is. There is only one north-south local roadway and that is Federal Highway. It goes through Stuart and most of the traffic is neither Stuart’s nor Martin County’s. It is a throughfare for transit to the north and south.

A few weeks back I wrote a piece regarding how poorly the roadways in Martin County were designed. The county government never bothered developing a grid system. Almost everything is a dead end. Whether by design to stop rational development or by sheer incompetence is anyone’s guess. It is too late now.

What no one considered was that Martin County is not an island. There are no motes or drawbridges to keep drivers from neighboring counties out. They have developed or are developing extensively, and a percentage of those residents need to come here or go through our community to get to work, shop, or for entertainment.

We see it in our Marty System which is mostly useless in part because east-west and north-south roads are non-existent. Indian River County’s development including planning for more of a grid system of roads which makes taking their public transportation easier because customers are not miles from bus stops but rather just blocks.

U.S. 1 cannot be expanded. And most pedestrians feel that crossing the roadway is like a version of Mad Max with the pedestrian losing the competition. And where would anyone on this stretch of highway be walking from or to anyway? There are residential developments behind the one-story strip centers but no easy way for a walker to access the roadway.

We will have more of these workshops, but I believe it is too late for them to do much good.

VanRiper's Views

Darlene VanRiper

Is Anyone Surprised?

The move from medical marijuana to recreational marijuana was just a matter of time as soon as the former was approved. 

We were fooling ourselves if we thought otherwise.  Honestly, I thought they might wait a bit longer.  But why wait to make millions!

The pros and cons of my commonsense way of thinking.  This Amendment 3 is called Smart and Safe Florida.  So, is it?

Who is behind this Amendment?  Trulieve Cannabis Corporation which is a publicly traded company on the Canadian exchange.  It is not on the US exchange because marijuana is still illegal on our federal level. 

Trulieve started its high in 2015 when it won the first medical marijuana license. The board of directors can be found here:  https://investors.trulieve.com/board-of-directors .  There are at least 2 nursery owners on the board...and why not?  We’re worried about the disappearance of agriculture in Florida. 

But one of the nurserymen is from Tennessee.  It is said that you can judge people by those they associate with.  The previous CFO has been sentenced to 3 years in prison and fined $1.25 million for misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars.  His wife is the current CEO of the company. 

While it’s true the state can tax sales, Florida’s economy is performing exceptionally well relative to the nation.  Do we really need more regressive taxation?  Statistically every time there is a downturn in the economy, people reach for self-medication.  Soon they may have more choice.  It feels like taxing cigarettes.  Punishing those who are being hurt already.

Are the consumers of marijuana being hurt?  An argument Trulieve makes is that it’s a safer alternative to Fentanyl.  Yeah.  So is driving blindfolded, but I don’t recommend it.

It’s only for adults.  Stop the madness!  I can’t stop laughing.   Yes, that’s what used to happen with the pot sold in the 1970s when I grew up.  (I’ll never tell.)  Today’s pot is much stronger than the dime bags floating around my high school. 

According to “the Natural Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi’s School of Pharmacy [which] has been testing cannabis samples confiscated in federal raids throughout the past 5 decades, tests found that today’s weed is up to 57%-67% more potent when compared to samples from the 1970s!” https://timbercannabisco.com/why-is-weed-so-strong-now.

This ain’t your father’s pot, Dude!

Look I don’t care if you want to sit in your backyard and drool on your Jimmy Buffet shirt for the rest of your life.  But not everyone is going to stay home and waste their time fascinated by the passing clouds.  No, they’re going to be high on boats and in cars.  The main reason I will not be supporting this is not because I’m an old fogy (I prefer mature and sophisticated), but because there is no sobriety test for it yet.  This reminds me of building nuclear facilities without knowing how to get rid of the waste.  We would never do that! 

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

Nicki's Place

Nicki van Vonno
van Vonno Consulting, Owner

Joy Writing

Lines are clear.

Wires uncrossed.

Babel is reset and the colonizers

Still stalk the earth.

 

Even as the writers, philosophers, scientists, translators, shamans, cave smudgers,

finger painters and tightrope walkers

cross the river on a swaying rope bridge

the drain fed runoff of suburban wastelands

churns the muck-colored water.

In the snatch of a dream, I instruct children that they could go to a website for all the comics that they could want, since the editor is revamping the funnies page.

Which still ends up in recycling.

Oh, to dream in color and escape into the Middle Ages or the earth’s orbit.

To use the Brits’ spelling of colour in spite of  the spell check.

 

I do not know what this is.

Words on a page, typed by mottled fingers that flaunt my veins.

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

How do we make time for fun but avoid the summer slump while our kids are out of school for summer break?

This is a topic that is brought up each year. As parents, this is something that concerns my wife and I. Thankfully, 4-H has resources that can help kids have fun and learn!

Aligning with 4-H's "learning by doing" philosophy of youth development, we have fun, hands on lessons to keep children learning without the constraints of the classroom. The best part, it’s free! Through the 4-H Clover platform, children, parents, and educators can access curriculum that is developed to keep kids engaged and learning.

In Clover, 4-H learning activities can be selected by the topic of the lesson, the appropriate grade level needed to complete the lesson, the activity type, and how long it should take to complete the lesson. By sorting through these categories, lessons can be selected that fit the child’s interests, level of education, and available time.

Topics- There is such a wide range of topics that there is sure to be something for everyone in Clover. Topics include aerospace, agriculture, agriscience, animal science, biology, career exploration, chemistry, civic engagement, college readiness, computer science, cooking & baking, creative arts, emotional wellness, engineering, environmental science, gardening, Google computer science, healthy living, personal finance, physics, robotics, and STEM.

Grade- As 4-H is a program for youth ages 5 years to 18 years old, so does the Clover platform provide lessons for each of these ages. Most lessons are designed for a range of ages, so if you have multiple children they all should be able to participate and learn together.

Activity Type- There are two types of activities: stand alone activities and courses that teach a series of lessons. It may be best to start with some lone activities first before jumping into a course.

Duration- Using this filter you can select projects that typically take 15 mins, 30 mins, 45 mins, 90 mins, 2 hrs, or 1 day or longer to complete.

Visit https://4-h.org/clover/ and create an account that will lead you to a new world of learning!

If you do engage in 4-H learning through Clover, I would love to know about your experience. Please contact me at dhafner@ufl.edu.

Learning through Clover could lead to the start of a new 4-H club where your child can join with other likeminded kids and together, they can take their exciting learning adventure to new heights and accomplishments. If you are an educator- in any sense of the word- who would like to lead a learning expedition, I would love to have your help as well. In 4-H we are always on the look for new volunteers who can help our kids learn.

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

Non-Profit Perspective

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

As I write this, we are eagerly awaiting news on whether our Ride United program will receive another grant from our national office.

In 2022, we applied for grant funding to establish a free transportation program, in partnership with Lyft, for Martin County residents facing transportation barriers. We were awarded the grant in September 2022 and began with a soft launch to pilot the program. By spring 2023, we expanded the program to include partner agencies and the wider community to provide free, on-demand, round-trip Lyft rides to residents in need.

From the start, we knew there were individuals in our community who needed transportation for critical services such as employment and medical appointments. However, we did not know the specific individuals who would benefit. I personally scheduled a ride for a 77-year-old woman who could no longer drive, had never used Lyft, and needed to get to a medical facility for testing.

Imagine the stress of needing medical tests and realizing you have no way to get there. You don't want to burden your elderly friends, and then you discover Ride United. You call us, then a Lyft picks you up from your doorstep and brings you back home after your appointment. This is the purpose of Ride United.

Recently, there has been considerable discussion about the Marty public transportation system. I have never used the Marty due to owning a vehicle, so I cannot comment about the specific services the system provides.  What I can comment on is that from July 2023 through April 2024 we have provided almost 800 rides at an average cost of about $20 per ride.

This includes rides to critical services for both long-distance trips across the county and shorter rides of less than three miles. Regardless of the reason or distance, these rides are essential for community members needing transportation to work, medical and dental appointments, chemotherapy treatments, and more.

Our service offers door-to-door transportation, from clients’ homes to their appointments and back. United Way of Martin County aims to collaborate with the Martin County Board of County Commissioners to address the gaps in Marty’s off-hour services and to provide transportation to areas where Marty is currently unavailable.

 

Currently, the program is funded by a few philanthropists and a corporate donor. To expand our services, we need a consistent funding stream. Indiantown remains the only area with a shortage of Lyft drivers, but with effective marketing and community support, we can overcome this challenge.

If you would like to support Ride United, please consider making a donation to our organization and earmarking it for this program. The next time you drive to get a gallon of milk, think about our friends and neighbors in Martin County who lack that luxury and how, together, we can remove these transportation barriers.

For more information on United Way of Martin County, please go to our website www.unitedwaymartin.org.  As always, if you have any questions, please reach out to me at chdiez@unitedwaymartin.org or call me at 772-283

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

Contemplative Christian

Chad Fair
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Pastor

The Power of Prayer

Allow me a moment of transparency and vulnerability if you would. 

I grew up going to church, but I wouldn’t say faith was a hallmark of my youth.  Yes, we sometimes prayed at meals and bedtime.  I really did not read the Bible during my youth and young adult years.  I went to worship and Sunday school about twice a month, and I sort of paid attention, but it was more of a social thing than faith formation for me. 

Then in my late teens through my twenties I rarely attended worship. I suppose this all sounds like a bit of a confession and maybe in some ways it is, even if that is not my intent.  I write this to give you context for what I actually want to talk about, equipping ourselves and our young people with a life of faith.  No, a life of faith does not exempt any of us from the ups and downs of living but that doesnt mean it there is not value in navigating the challenges that come our way.       

I have no doubt that when my parents prayed, they included me among the things they prayed for, but I dont remember hearing them pray for me.  Now fast-forward to my adult years, I have reengaged my faith, attended seminary, was ordained and Im now serving in a congregation.  To say my life of faith looks much different would be a huge understatement. 

However, I do find some things more challenging than others.  Prayer for instance.  Yes, prayer is part of my daily routine, but it is not something that necessarily comes naturally to me.  That sounds crazy coming from a pastor, right? 

When someone says to me, for instance, Im having surgery this week, keep me in your prayers.”  I add them to my prayers.  I actually keep a running list of people to pray for in my phone.  In reality, what I should do and what we all should do is take a minute to actually pray with that person right then and there.  That is way more powerful.         

The reason I used to struggle with doing this was my lack of comfort, thinking I had to have all the right words.  Its not about having the right words, but about invoking God into the situation at that time and place, and it also sends a message to the person you are praying for that they matter enough to take the time to pray for them in that moment.       

I believe prayer has the power to transform lives, not just by invoking God, but also by strengthening relationships.  As a pastor I am on the giving end of prayers way more than the receiving end, but on those occasions when people have stopped, taken a minute, and prayed for me, it was an incredibly moving experience. 

Heres my challenge to all of us, me included, lets be more intentional about our prayer life.  Not just about who and what we pray for, but how we do it. Certainly, add your friends and loved ones to those prayers you utter during whatever time you pray, but also try taking them by the hand and praying for what they need, whatever that is.  Im willing to bet that it becomes transformative for you and for them.

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

Walter's Corner

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

This month’s Rivers Coalition meeting focus was on the ever-present threat cyanotoxin (blue-green algae) poses to the St. Lucie River and Estuary and the problems monitoring it.

The good news: Federal cyanotoxin standards are already in place.  They were established five years ago by the Federal Clean Waters Act so states could detect threats before an actual bloom occurred.

The bad news: Florida has ignored those standards. (Technically, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection isn’t required to accept those cyanotoxin standards --- but is required to explain why not. It hasn't.)

According to federal law, the Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for the quantity of water in the Lake Okeechobee system -- but the state of Florida is responsible for the quality of that water. Since Florida doesn’t have any standards for harmful toxin levels, water monitoring is inadequate and, when harmful algae is present, public notifications are sporadic.

Environmental groups think the time has come to take action.

“Five years is enough”, said Jason Totolu, the Senior Attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. That organization is heading a multi-group effort formally requesting, via petitions, that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency step in and set limits on algae toxins in Florida. The goal: Help protect both human and aquatic life health and, with water management agencies adhering to those standards, prevent toxin laden water from being discharged into rivers and the ocean. 

The Rivers Coalition is supporting this effort on behalf of its 106 member organizations. At some point in the EPA review process, though, letters of support from the general public will be appropriate. I’ll let you know when that time comes.

In other developments:

* The more than five-year process of developing a new Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual, which will replace the current 2008 version -- and which is much more environmentally-friendly -- is finally nearing the finish line. The Army Corps of Engineers expects to sign the final version and implement it in mid-August.

* Lake Okeechobee, thanks to a very helpful dry season, has dropped to 13.2 feet – three feet lower than it was in March. The Corps is “very optimistic” they can get through the hurricane season without needing to do any discharges. (They know as well as we do that the media has been deluging us with forecasts of a much more active hurricane season than usual – but the real issue isn't how many there are but how many end up affecting our area.)   

* The City of Stuart is installing 300 oyster beds along the Riverwalk.

* The South Florida Water Management District is starting to monitor health, fish and plant life criteria much more intensively than in the past. This will give water managers much more data to incorporate in their decision-making process. 

But the good news is that health issues are being weighed much, much more heavily in managers’ decision-making process now than in the past. It’s not just gallons of water any more.

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

Business Development Board

Susan Rabinowitz
Business Development Board of Martin County, Board Chair

It’s funny, but whenever you get a chance to give in life, you never quite know how much more you’ll receive in return.

Nearly two years ago I applied to volunteer on the board of directors for the Business Development Board of Martin County. Soon after, I was nominated to serve as chair. Admittedly, I was a little hesitant, but I’m glad I accepted. What followed was an exciting and educational experience complete with interesting challenges, noteworthy accomplishments and wonderful professional camaraderie.

It’s been a dynamic, fun-filled experience getting to meet and collaborate with so many talented colleagues who also volunteer on the board and represent a variety of local industries. Everyone involved—from the staff to the board members to our Investors Council to our numerous partners—remain dedicated to advancing the BDB’s mission of creating a stronger and more resilient local economy.

Now, my time as chair is coinciding with another important milestone for the organization—the hiring of a new executive director.

We’re actively advertising to fill the position. A team of volunteers—composed of experts from across the discipline of economic development—are currently reviewing applications. Economic development experience is preferred for job candidates, but not explicitly required. We’re looking for someone who’s adept at coordinating with the wide variety of private sectors employers that we work with—as well as government and nonprofit entities.

Qualifying experience could encompass banking, finance, community development, project management, entrepreneurship, and more.

A key quality is the ability to foster sound relationships. Local knowledge is vital, as is a track record of working with C-Suite executives and public officials.

For more specifications, applicants can visit BDBMC.org and navigate to “Careers & Internships.” The deadline to submit a letter of interest and resume is June 15.

In the meantime, we’ve fortunately had Dan Hudson at the helm as our interim director. A veteran manager of several local governments who excels at municipal budgeting and fiscal management, Dan has prepared the organization well for permanent leadership.

In addition to bringing on Janine Khan as office administrator to complement Inez van Ravenzwaaij of programs and partnerships, we’ve augmented our team with Kevin Farrell. Experienced in youth workforce development, security management and military operations, where his 24-year career includes multiple combat deployments, Kevin will assist with our Pulse program.

The BDB also contracted with acclaimed economic development advisory firm, BusinessFlare®. With an office in Martin County, the company knows the local landscape and will assist with comprehensive business attraction and expansion services. Founder Kevin Crowder outlined his goals of helping us “attract new businesses, support the growth of existing ones and ultimately enhance the economic well-being of Martin County.”

As a tightly focused, well-equipped BDB moves to attract its next executive director, I look forward to even more professional leaders joining the efforts and experiencing the invaluable returns that result from giving back.

Susan Rabinowitz's opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Anne's Assessment

Anne Posey
Tykes & Teens, CEO

Empowering Communities: Enhancing Mental Health Support in Martin County

By: Nicle Looney LMHC, Manager of Continuous Quality Improvement

In Martin County, there is 1 mental health professional for every 675 residents (https://www.flhealthcharts.gov). This number is alarming for access to care because it shows the limited number of professionals available to support the general population. This access is even further lessened when taking into consideration various barriers to care such as transportation, lack of access to electronics, unstable internet connections, stigmas, financial concerns, competing responsibilities and lack of availability.

However, as stigma is decreased and professional, personal and societal stressors increase it is resulting in more people seeking mental health support. With the lack of professionals available the demands for care are not able to be met and people are struggling to access resources. This is exemplified by counseling practices and agencies having limited availability and long wait lists.

As a result, it is important that all residents of Martin County know how to support a loved one experiencing a mental health problem or crisis. Some actions individuals can take are:

  • Educate yourself on the signs and symptoms related to a mental health problem or crisis. 
  • Familiarize yourself with local resources to know where to connect individuals needing support. 
  • Complete training to become a certified Mental Health First Aider. This training educates individuals on how to identify a mental health problem or crisis, how to interact with a person experiencing a mental health problem or crisis and how to connect them to appropriate support and resources. 
  • Provide support to local non-profit counseling organizations through volunteering and donations.

It is important for each member of the community to take responsibility for their mental wellbeing as well as know how to support their loved ones. This knowledge can save a life. Working together we can begin to bridge the gap to mental health support and care for our community. 

Anne Posey's and Tykes & Teens opinions are their own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Humane Society of the Treasure Coast

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

The Truth Behind Declawing Cats

Not only does adopting a pet save a life; adopting also provides a new best friend for you and your family. We all want to take the utmost care of our furry companions, which is why it is so important to be educated on what’s best for them. It’s now Kitten Season and our shelter at the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast is currently caring for over 200 cats. Many cats will be adopted in the coming months, and it’s our job at the HSTC to ensure that the adopters have all the information they need to guarantee a happy life with their new pet. 

One of the most important things that our adoption team educates new cat adopters on is about declawing cats, as it is a controversial and often misunderstood practice. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a simple procedure - it involves amputating the tops of the cat's toes, which can lead to a host of issues. According to Best Friends Animal Society, in humans, it would be equivalent to cutting off the tip of every finger at the first knuckle. The reasoning behind declawing a cat is simply for human convenience but does not benefit the cat at all. In fact, it almost always makes things that much more inconvenient.

Declawing causes significant pain and discomfort in the paws and can even result in arthritis later in the cat's life. Declawed cats also frequently develop litter box problems, as the amputation makes it difficult for them to dig and cover up their waste. These cats also tend to bite more, as they've lost their primary defense mechanism. Many owners with declawed cats become frustrated and don’t understand why the cat is displaying these types of behaviors.

Declawing is now illegal in many states due to the cruelty involved. Instead of declawing, there are much more humane alternatives, such as providing scratching posts, using nail caps, and regularly trimming the cat's nails.

If you're considering adopting a cat, keep in mind that you can find many already-declawed felines in shelters. While this is not an ideal situation, it's better than subjecting a new cat to this harmful procedure. Our staff can also educate new adopters on how to care for an already declawed cat in order to provide the best possible outcome for both humans and felines. According to the Humane Society of the United States, some of these tips include starting a declawed cat on a supplement to treat arthritis or providing the cat with an additional litter box in the house.

Overall, the facts are clear - declawing cats is an inhumane practice that should be avoided. With some patience and the right tools, you can have a happy, healthy cat without resorting to amputation. Not only is adopting a cat saving a life, adopting also provides a new best friend for you and your family… and you want to make sure your new best friend stays as happy as you are to be in a new, loving home.

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

One Life At A Time

Suzy Hutcheson
Helping People Succeed, CEO

Do you have causes that you truly believe in? Do you wish that you had resources to help the cause(s) you would like to support? I am one of those people who cares very much and wants to be able to help. However, I’m not in a position to make large contributions so imagine my surprise in finding an organization called 100 Women Who Care.

100 Women Who Care allows me and many others the opportunity to help create large donations out of many smaller ones. The organization started in 2006 as a simple way to raise money efficiently and quickly for local charities such as Helping People Succeed where I work. Members meet four times a year contribute $100 a quarter for the causes that are presented.

100 Women Who Care started after a one-hour meeting in Jackson, Michigan. The first group found that there was a major need for 300 new baby cribs. Her group of 100 women each wrote a check for $100 directly to the charity raising $10,000 to purchase the 300 new baby cribs. That group has grown to 200 in membership and is collectively helping many local organizations.

100 Women Who Care of the Treasure Coast is still growing. We currently have 40 members and are actively supporting local organizations. We meet quarterly and at each meeting, we discuss three (3) different projects and vote on the one we would like to fund. At our last meeting, our Coordinator Carolyn Strom reported:

I am pleased to announce that Helping People Succeed will be receiving the funds from the second quarter’s 100 Women Who Care of The Treasure Coast’s Members.  The mission of Helping People Succeed is to transform lives by realizing potential, creating hope, and building futures through education, counseling, training, and employment.  Their passion is building successful families and futures one life at a time! 100% of the funds will go to giving more underprivileged elementary school aged children the opportunity to go to a summer camp by being able to pay the operating costs of the camp, as it generally always comes short.  It gives these children a chance to stay off the streets and adopt a therapeutic model of how to be a thriving citizen in the community. They get to see what other kids have and it gives them motivation and resources to prevent that summer slide, thus positively enriching them with necessary life skills. 

We are thrilled—this donation will definitely help with our summer camp!

Many other worthwhile organizations from the treasure coast including Safe Families for Children of the Treasure Coast, the Inner Truth Project, Martin County Healthy Start Coalition, Love and Hope in Action, Inc. have received financial assistance. Our next meeting will be on Wednesday, July 10 at the offices of Helping People Succeed, 1601 NE Braille Place, Jensen Beach from 7 pm to 8 pm.

For additional information, call Suzy Hutcheson at 772.320.0777 or shutcheson@hpsfl.org or  Carolyn Strom at 772.220.4343.

 

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

Keep Martin Beautiful

Tiffany Kincaid
Keep Martin Beautiful, Executive Director

Keep Martin Beautiful Finds Environmental Heroes in

 Local Governments

Environmental heroes are everywhere in our community – they’re longtime residents and newcomers, students and businesses, workers and retirees, environmental activists and farmers. They’re also government employees!

When Keep Martin Beautiful does its call for Environmental Stewardship Award nominations, we look for people and projects that go above and beyond in their service to the environment. We’re always pleasantly surprised by the quality and quantity of nominated projects that are designed, implemented, managed, or sustained by Martin County and City of Stuart employees.

Just this year alone, we had nominations for five City of Stuart projects: their backyard composting program, their mobile environmental murals, their reverse osmosis water treatment facility, the SE Illinois Avenue living shoreline project, and the SE Mango Place drainage improvement project.

Martin County also came in strong, as always, with five projects of their own: the CRA Ripple project, the Golden Gate median compost and water conservation project, the East Fork Creek stormwater quality improvement project, the Savannas Weir project, and the Explore Natural Martin tour from the Martin County Office of Tourism & Marketing.

For 2024, Keep Martin Beautiful also created a very special new award in memory of Wendy Lee Parker. Wendy served as the Martin County Solid Waste Manager for more than twenty years. She was a cheerleader for environmental action, the mastermind behind many environmental outreach projects, and an inspiration to colleagues for what it means to be an environmental steward.  The Wendy Lee Parker Award specifically honors a government employee who, like Wendy, shows an exceptional commitment to environmental stewardship.

In 2018, Anne Hawkins presented the Recycling Champion Award to Wendy Parker. Anne admired Wendy and her sustainability efforts very much and it was especially touching that Anne received the Wendy Parker Award this year.

This year’s Wendy Lee Parker awardee is Anne Hawkins, a pivotal figure in the City of Stuart Department of Utilities and Engineering. She has consistently taken an active role in water conservation projects and coordinates the highly popular WaterFest, an annual event dedicated to water conservation and youth education.

Anne not only works hard for the city, but has served on the Keep Martin Beautiful Board of Directors since 2015 and is leaving a legacy for the future. She’s an incredible go-to resource for any student inquiry about environmental sustainability and she’s always eager to motivate students to care and to act on behalf of the environment.

Keep Martin Beautiful congratulates Anne Hawkins, our very first Wendy Lee Parker award honoree, and also every government employee who in large ways or small takes a personal stake in environmental stewardship.

To read more about Anne and the other 2024 Keep Martin Beautiful Environmental Stewardship nominees, visit keepmartinbeautiful.org. And keep your eyes open for the good work from the environmental heroes among us.

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

President of the Martin County Education Association

Matt Theobold
President of the Martin County Teachers Association

In 2023, the Florida Legislature passed SB 256. Despite what the authors of the bill claimed, workers around the state recognized it for what it was… With a requirement to be at 60% member density, the loss of payroll deduction, and the implementation of unnecessary and cumbersome financial audits, it was clear that this was an attack on our unions.

The consequences for not meeting these requirements were the decertification of the union as the collective bargaining agent and the nullification of our contract.

The Martin County Education Association and the Florida Education Association took some proactive measures to mitigate any potential effects of the law. First, FEA implemented a system known as eDues for dues collection, and then MCEA increased recruitment to ensure we were at 60% when the law took effect. However, despite these measures, many members failed to make the switch to eDues, and MCEA began the school year with 47% membership.

With so much at stake, MCEA and our teachers got to work. We started having real, meaningful conversations with our colleagues, and slowly but surely, our membership numbers began to grow. We also recruited faculty representatives to serve at each of our school sites to improve member representation and support, and once again our numbers grew. Then, as president, I began visiting school sites, personally visiting 22 of our 23 campuses, and again our numbers increased. We also reestablished our newsletter after a ten-year hiatus, and we began hosting monthly social events to increase member engagement.

As we inched closer to our goal, the Florida Legislature threw another monkey wrench our way by requiring members to complete state-issued membership authorization forms in addition to our own application. Undeterred, the conversations and the school site visits continued, and MCEA was forced to adapt again, this time amid a prolonged contract negotiation with the school board. Our members began regularly showing up at bargaining sessions and school board meetings in record numbers and were joined by members of the community as well. On May 15th, MCEA ratified that contract, providing our veteran teachers with some of the largest raises they have seen in recent years.

Eight days after ratifying an historic contract, MCEA crossed the 60% threshold both in terms of membership and completion of the member authorization forms, and as of this writing we are officially at 61%! I am so proud of our members and reps whose hard work made this possible, and while there’s too many people to thank individually, I want to personally thank all of the teachers who make up the MCEA. Because of you, 60% is the new floor, and there is no obstacle we can’t overcome!

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

Cleveland Clinic Reports

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

Next-generation Cancer Care Surrounds Patients with Hope

People with cancer diagnoses face difficult decisions. However, knowing that an entire team of experts is in their corner gives people with cancer, and their loved ones, more reassuring options than ever. Medical oncology on the Treasure Coast has made big strides thanks to the team approach and targeted therapies employed by Cleveland Clinic experts.

Cleveland Clinic surrounds patients with all-encompassing services from oncologists, nurse managers, and nurse navigators who care for every aspect of a patient’s journey. The oncology team is working diligently on the following initiatives:  

  • New hires to help expedite access to care
  • Weekend hours for MRI
  • Surgical services, including breast surgery and intra-operative radiation therapy (iORT)
  • Fractionated 5-day radiation, an effective approach to radiation oncology
  • Integrated services through a breast clinic that brings experts together
  • Genetic testing for all types of cancer
  • Whole-person services that include counseling, stress management, yoga, art therapy, nutrition
  • Improved authorization process and financial navigation

As these services grow, they will continue to be customized to the needs of each individual patient. Every cancer instance is different, and targeting treatment to each person has been proven efficient. Take genetic testing, for example. 

“Right now, if someone has an advanced cancer, we can use next-generation genetic sequencing to test for over 800 different gene mutations, which potentially gives us 800 targets to go after,” explained Kelley Kozma, DO, medical oncologist and director of the Robert and Carol Weissman Cancer Center at Cleveland Clinic Martin Health. “We can use targeted therapy instead of chemotherapy, which can be much better tolerated than chemotherapy.

“For example, in lung cancer, if we find an EGFR or ALK mutation, we can provide patients with oral treatment option instead of chemotherapy,” she adds. “In more advanced cases, such as Stage 3 lung cancer, patients can undergo chemotherapy followed by targeted therapy. Survival is better in those situations once we can target specific mutations.”

Genetic testing also provides the opportunity to detect mutations for different cancers that have FDA-approved therapies that could benefit each patient. Targeted therapy allows the patient to consider more options for successful treatment.     

The cost of next-generation sequencing has decreased, which helps test for many different types of tumor DNA so that new therapies can be developed to target specific mutations.

If you think of chemotherapy as a sort of shotgun approach that goes after any cells that are dividing rapidly, then gene sequencing is what allows oncologists to pinpoint a mutation and target it with a specific drug used for that mutation.

Currently, next-generation sequencing is used for almost all of the cancer center patients with advanced cancer, as well as patients who are elderly or who have other complications that would make it difficult for them to tolerate chemotherapy.

For oncologists like Dr. Xin Yao, who specialize in GI-related tumors, customized treatment – or precision medicine – has gone from a trend to a standard in oncology treatment.  “Let's say two people have cancer, the treatment can be totally different, and this is based on the individual tumors’ characteristics,” says Dr. Yao. 

Nowadays, doctors routinely send biopsy samples for next-generation sequencing. We learn the particular mutation, and then we use medication to target that mutation. That's why it could be the same type of cancer, but in any two people, it can be totally different treatment. That's an individualized treatment option for patients.

The Robert and Carol Weissman Cancer Center at Cleveland Clinic Martin Health also offers patients the option to enroll in certain clinical trials to study other aspects of the disease. There are 18 clinical trials currently underway at Cleveland Clinic Martin Health, and more than 60 clinical trials at Cleveland Clinic Florida at Weston Hospital. The two centers often share resources as they continue to build up the research program in Martin County.

In the next five to ten years, Dr. Kozma expects to see even more progress made in screening early-stage cancers, including the use of circulating tumor DNA (CTDNA).

“We know that in early-stage cancers, we can detect tiny pieces of tumor DNA in peripheral blood,” she explains. “In the future, we may be able to do blood tests that detect circulating DNA and screen for cancers, like ovarian and pancreatic cancers, that are unfortunately often found at stage 3 or 4.

“It also enables us to follow patients after treatment as well,” she added. “After a patient with colon cancer completes chemotherapy, for example, we can test their CTDNA through a blood test to see if the cancer has come back.”

LEARN MORE: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/locations/directions/549-robert-and-carol-weissman-cancer-center

Register for free event on June 7 – Thrive On – National Cancer Survivors Day at Cleveland Clinic

Rishi P. Sing's opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

IT Insight

Eric Kiehn
C&W Technologies, Owner & CEO

June 1st marks the beginning of hurricane season, a time when businesses must be particularly vigilant and prepared for potential disruptions. The importance of readiness cannot be overstated, especially when it comes to safeguarding your business and technology. Hurricanes can lead to power outages, flooding, and significant infrastructure damage, all of which can severely impact operations.

Proactive preparedness strategies are essential to mitigate these risks and ensure that your business remains resilient in the face of such natural disasters. Let’s get started Storm-Proofing your business.

Developing a Hurricane Preparedness Plan

It is imperative for businesses to develop a comprehensive preparedness plan. I’ll say it again, make a comprehensive preparedness plan! The time to prepare is not when a storm is approaching. To help you get started, we have outlined five crucial tips that will assist in safeguarding your operations and technology. This is only a place to start, under each category you should write out the details, pick who is in charge, and be sure each person knows what they need to be doing. Doing this will enhance your business’s resilience and ensure continuity even in the face of a hurricane.

Backup Data Regularly

Ensure that all critical data is backed up offsite or to a cloud-based service. This reduces the risk of data loss due to power outages or physical damage to on-premises equipment.

Unplug Non-Essential Devices

Before the storm hits, unplug non-essential electronic devices to prevent damage from electrical surges. Use surge protectors for essential equipment that must remain plugged in.

If you need things to run up to or while a storm is in progress

Invest in a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply)

Invest in an IPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) or a good stand by sine wave generator. A UPS can provide backup power to keep essential systems running during short-term outages and help you shut down equipment properly to avoid data corruption. A sine wave generator produces the proper electric power that won’t burn out your electronics.

Protect Hardware with Waterproof Containers

Place critical hardware such as servers and networking equipment in waterproof containers or elevate them off the ground to protect against flooding. We actually cover everything in our offices with plastic sheeting so that should roof leaks occur water damage will not likely cause a problem.

Establish Remote Access

Ensure that employees have remote access to necessary systems and data. This allows business operations to continue even if the physical office is affected by the hurricane.

Implement these fundamental protections and you will be well on your way to protecting your business in the event of an emergency even beyond a hurricane. If you want more help in making your plan, we are always available o provide advice.

Stay safe and be prepared.

Eric Kiehn’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Martin County Forever

Preserving Martin County’s Natural Lands – Forever

 

 

 

 

 

 

By: 

Committee Members Jim Snedeker and

Merritt Matheson, former Mayor, City of Stuart

Let’s Celebrate and Get to Work

It’s that time of the year.  Our snowbirds have already left for their northern homes, students have just graduated, and families are planning their vacations.  Summer is going to fly by quickly and before you know it, it will be fall. That’s why our Martin County Forever Conservation Initiative is wasting no time and is laser focused on getting the word out to all voters about the incredible opportunity we have to save our natural lands before they are gone forever. Let us explain.

In April, Martin County Commissioners unanimously approved placing a referendum on the ballot in November to let voters decide if they want to tax themselves to preserve critically important natural lands. We applaud the commissioners for not raising our taxes but letting the voters decide.

Here’s why Martin County voters should vote YES for a half-cent sales tax to preserve our environment, improve the health of our rivers and waterways, and protect our quality of life:

If the referendum passes, voters can expect:

  • The funds generated will only be used to buy lands in specific areas to preserve, conserve, and restore the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, Pal-Mar, the headwaters of the Loxahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers.  There are nearly 46,000 acres of land identified within these areas.
  • These purchases from willing sellers will help to protect our water sources and wildlife, preserve natural areas and beaches, and provide more open spaces and places for recreation.
  • A portion of the funds raised will be designated for the purchase of conservation easements that will be perpetual and irrevocable. Those easements help farmers keep farming but prevent future development or more intense use of their property and maintain the land in a natural, scenic, open agricultural, or wooded condition.
  • Over $180 million will be raised during the 10 years the half-cent sales tax would be in place. Importantly, that money can be leveraged and receive matching funds from state and federal sources so Martin County would have $360 million to buy these lands.

While there is no disputing that a sales tax is regressive, Florida already has exemptions in place for many items including groceries, prescription medicines, baby and toddler products, school supplies, prosthetic and orthopedic devices, hurricane-resistant products and more. These items will continue to be exempt.  Additionally, the half-cent tax would only apply to the first $5,000 of bigger ticket items.

Martin County Forever worked hard to ensure important legally binding guardrails are in place such as a Citizen-based Oversight Committee and an Annual Audit. These and other guardrails will prevent future county commissions from changing the rules governing how and where the money can be spent.

And now the fun begins!!! Martin County is a very special place - and we want to keep it that way. This conservation initiative is our best chance - and maybe our last chance - to purchase these undeveloped lands from willing sellers and ensure they remain that way during our lifetime and for future generations.

Please get involved and be a part of a lasting legacy. Help us spread the word.   There are many ways you can help:

  • Host a Meet & Greet or Invite us to Speak to your civic or business group or homeowner’s association. Contact us at martincountyforever@gmail.com.
  • Word of Mouth. Tell your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers and employees about the Martin County Forever conservation referendum.
  • Volunteer for one of our Committees, display a Yard Sign on your property, put a Bumper Sticker on your vehicle.
  • Donate. Campaigns require money to get the message out to voters. Please help us educate voters and build widespread support for the conservation referendum by making a donation in any amount.

Please don’t read this and then stand on the sidelines. The time to act is now - before it’s too late. Once the land is gone, it will be gone forever.

And if you’d like to dive into the details, the full referendum and ordinance language can be found here.

Any questions?  Please reach out to us at martincountyforever@gmail.com

For much more info visit www.martincountyforever.com. Follow us on Facebook at Martin County Forever Facebook  or on Instagram at Martin County Forever Instagram.

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

Constitutional Corner & Non Profit Notices

 

Supervisor of Elections

Tax Collector

Property Appraiser

 

Martin County Clerk & Comptroller

Business Development Board

Leading financial expert to share ‘invaluable’ insights at regional economic forum

JENSEN BEACH—Recognizing the importance of communities working together across county lines to develop a strong and resilient economy is the essence of why the three main economic development organizations are collaborating with presenting sponsor Bank of America to bring one of the world’s leading investment strategists, David H. Koh, to the Treasure Coast for an exclusive, invitation-only event in June. 

Bank of America approached The Economic Council of Martin County, the Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County, and the Business Development Board of Martin County about bringing Koh to the area, and the event quickly evolved from there.

“Opportunities and Risks on the Economic Horizon, Insights from Bank of America’s Senior Investment Strategist” will take place Monday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 3 at Hutchinson Shores Resort and Spa, 3793 NE Ocean Blvd., Jensen Beach.

Keynote speaker David H. Koh, senior investment strategist at Bank of America, is renowned for simplifying complex economic concepts. Koh's perspectives inform and inspire economic development strategists and organizations worldwide. He will share his insights on the opportunities and risks shaping our financial future and guide our ability to positively impact the Treasure Coast’s economy, enlightening us all.

“At Bank of America, we have access to expert insight into the latest economic trends and forecasts," says Susan Rabinowitz, chair of the Business Development Board of Martin County and Treasure Coast Market President and Business Banking Market Executive for the Palm Beach and Treasure Coast markets for Bank of America. "It's a pride point for Bank of America to be able to share this information with our partners and business leaders, thereby creating opportunities to build an even stronger community.”

“Bringing together leaders from the business communities of Martin and St. Lucie counties promotes increased understanding of their individual and combined community attributes,” says Ted Astolfi, CEO of the Economic Council of Martin County.

Early sponsors include Bank of America and Cleveland Clinic Martin Health; the event intends to ensure entrepreneurs, innovators, job creators, and business leaders across the industries gain advanced levels of knowledge that will empower them to excel individually as well as contribute collectively to the formation of a more robust regional economy.

Sponsor opportunities are still available. Contact Rachel Savela at the St. Lucie EDC for sponsorships at 772-324-2014 ext. 202 or sponsor online at https://youredc.com/calendar/details/st-lucie-martin-county-event-june-2024

About the BDB

The Business Development Board's mission is to strengthen and champion Martin County’s economy. Organized as a 501(c)6 not-for-profit public-private partnership, the BDB touts Martin County as open for business, fosters leading industries and good jobs, helps entrepreneurs and companies grow while promoting Martin County's strategic economic development areas, and collaborates with local business and civic leaders, investors, and partners. To learn more, call 772.221.1380 or visit bdbmc.org.  

Non Profit 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: https://www.facebook.com/Martin.ifas.ufl.edu  

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.

 

Camp Spark: Igniting Future Careers at MCPAL

Camp Spark, organized by MCPAL, is not your typical summer camp. This unique, hands-on career exploration camp is designed to equip youth ages 11-14  with practical skills and introduce them to a variety of trades and professions. By participating in Camp Spark, young individuals will gain invaluable insights into potential career paths, setting a strong foundation for their futures.

Camp Spark offers an exciting array of activities and experiences, each tailored to provide participants with a thorough understanding of different careers and trades. Here are some of the highlights:

Welding: Learn the art and science of joining metals. Campers will get a chance to try their hand at welding, understanding the techniques and safety protocols involved.

Carpentry: From basic woodworking to constructing small projects, participants will gain hands-on experience in carpentry, developing skills that are both practical and creative.

Automotive: Dive into the world of automotive mechanics. Campers will learn about vehicle maintenance, repair, and the technology that keeps cars running smoothly.

K9 Unit: Meet the heroes of the K9 unit and their canine partners. Learn about the rigorous training these dogs undergo and their vital role in law enforcement.

Florida Wildlife: Explore the rich biodiversity of Florida. Participants will learn about wildlife conservation and the various careers dedicated to protecting our natural environment.

Bomb Squad: Discover the high-stakes world of bomb disposal. Campers will get a behind-the-scenes look at the equipment and techniques used by bomb squads to keep communities safe.

Crime Scene Investigation (CSI): Step into the shoes of a forensic investigator. Participants will learn how to gather and analyze evidence, understanding the critical role CSI plays in solving crimes.

Financial Literacy: Equip yourself with essential financial skills. This session will cover budgeting, saving, investing, and the importance of financial planning for a secure future.

Lifeguard Training: Learn lifesaving skills and water safety. Participants will be trained in the basics of lifeguarding, including rescue techniques and CPR.

CPR Training: Gain the knowledge to save lives. This course will teach campers how to perform CPR, an essential skill in emergency situations.

Boxing: Develop discipline, fitness, and self-defense skills. Boxing sessions will focus on technique, physical conditioning, and the mental toughness required in the sport.

Fire Rescue: Experience the adrenaline of fire rescue operations. Campers will learn about firefighting techniques, equipment, and the critical role of firefighters in emergency response.

Courthouse Fieldtrip- Campers will participate in a mock trial to see how the judicial system works

At Camp Spark, every activity is designed to be engaging and educational, providing participants with a comprehensive understanding of each career and trade. By fostering hands-on learning and real-world experience, MCPAL's Camp Spark aims to ignite a passion for these fields, inspiring the next generation of skilled professionals. Whether it's wielding a welding torch, investigating a mock crime scene, or learning to save lives, Camp Spark offers an unforgettable summer of exploration and growth.

Spots are still available but very limited. Please visitwww.martincountypal.org to enroll.

 

Sandhill Cove Foundation, Inc. Distributes $173,000 in Scholarships

By Jackie Holfelder

For the ninth time since its establishment in 2015, Sandhill Cove Foundation, Inc., presented scholarships to employees of Sandhill Cove Retirement Living and/or their children to use towards furthering their education.

This year’s event took place on May 9 at which 40 scholarships were awarded, an increase of 38-percent over last year.

Kathy Garlington, chair of the Scholarship Committee, introduced each recipient and identified their connection to Sandhill Cove, their intended area of academic concentration and the school each will be attending. Several are multi-year awardees.

This year, the recipients Carina Adrasse, Valessa Alectus, Alesha Alexandre, Alessa Alexandre, Argan Alexandre, Cherelle Anderson, Whitney Beaucejour, Daria Behrens, Daniella Bianchini, Hailee Blanscet, Franke Bonhomme, Payton Canipe, Brandin Cher-Aime, Kathy Cher-Aime, David Clark, Belgine Desir, Nathalie Desir, Suzzlie Desir,Clifford Dominique, Jayden Dominique, Shana Donassaint, Wilma Durand, Flory-Anne Eliaza, Sandra Emile, Ana Fabian, Megan Flaxman, Taina Francois, Crystal Gray, Caleb Haughie, Maria Hernandez, Ava Horne, Andre Johnson, Luvrette Johnson, Mia Kerner, Besline Laguerre, Savoya Levers, Loudjina Louidor, Gilda Murillo, Heather Stone and Abichaelle St. Juste.

 

Two honorary awards were also presented. Andre Johnson received the William Holmberg Award, recognizing a student in the technical/industrial field and Taina Francois received the Curtis Coutts Award, recognizing a student in the dedicated educator field. Ava Horne was the Student Speaker.

2024 SCHOLORSHIP RECIPIENTS

Merrill Snyder, president of the Sandhill Cove Foundation, welcomed attendees to the awards ceremony, asking the students to consider “what they will do with their time.” He noted that “you get to decide what to do with your time and that because the velocity of time increases with age, you should make the effort to prevent your time from getting frittered away.”

He was followed by guest speaker Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, an educator, public servant and environmental advocate who is a Martin County native. Thurlow-Lippisch asked the students to think about not just what they were going to do with their lives, but also what they were going to do for the world wherever their passions take them.

The Foundation is an independent, tax-exempt charity set up by Sandhill Cove residents in August 2015 in accordance with Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS. To date, it has awarded more than $1 million in scholarships to both undergraduate and graduate students. For additional information about the Scholarship Program, call Merrill Snyder, President of the Sandhill Cove Foundation, Inc. at 772-283-7775.

Photos by Jackie Holfelder

 

ROAD TO VICTORY MUSEUM

he Road to Victory Military Museum invites vistors to come and see our new addition to the museum. We have acquired a M-60 tank along with a variety of military vehicles. The M-60 Main Battle Tank became our primary answer to the Warsaw pact T-72s during the Cold War.  It's powerful 105mm main gun and advanced capabilities gave the US and NATO allies a strong deterrence.  Final production number for this tank amounted to 15,000. These tanks remain deployed. The M60-A3 is the one displayed at the Road to Victory Military Museum. The M-60 was relocated from a museum that closed in Titusville, Florida.  As always, this item is still the property of the US Army.  It's on loan to us for display.  We are located at 319 SE Stypmann Blvd. Stuart inside Memorial Park beside the tennis courts. We are open Saturadays 10:00-2:00 and weekdays by appt. Call 772-2104283 or 703-8354166. You can also find us on faceboo/roadtovictory. 

 

 

 

FOR ADOPTION

Olive is a very petite little gal who is barely 2 years old and has already cared for at least one litter of kittens.  She has a sleek shiny black coat with a hint of white at the tip of her tail.  Despite so many showstopping attributes, Olive is a quiet sweet soul who just wants to live a quiet life with people she loves.  Olive is spayed, microchipped, fully vaccinated, and has tested negative for FIV/FeLV. She welcomes attention and affection in a quiet and appreciative way…come meet her!

Caring Fields is a no-kill, nonprofit feline rescue and adoption organization located in Palm City. Adoption hours are from 11am to 3pm daily (closed on Sun) and is located at 6807 SW Wedelia Terrace. 772.463.7386

www.cffelines.org

 

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.

 

Chuck Winn, Colonel, U.S. Army (Ret)

KEEP MEMORIAL DAY SOLEMN AND DIGNIFIED

America’s sons and daughters never have, and do not now go to war as Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, conservatives or progressive, but as Americans!

Memorial Day is a solemn National holiday established for the purpose of honoring the memories of our fallen service men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice defending our Republic as members of the United States Armed Forces; and the memories of our gallant warriors who have since passed on.  Accordingly, Memorial Day ceremonies must be conducted as dignified solemn events and not as festive activities celebrating the beginning of summer.

Accordingly, observances must be solemn, non-political, patriotic events.  It is repulsive for political candidates, organizations, and affiliated clubs to manipulate these events for their own ends, such as promoting a political candidate, party or contentious policy issue.  It is equally repugnant for commercial enterprises to advertise or promote their businesses or services. 

Elected officials should, by all means, participate in quiet dignity as distinguished guests.  Candidates for elective office should attend as private individuals. Both should direct their supporters to refrain from attending the event displaying signs, circulating petitions for signatures, or wearing T-shirts, hats or other promotional paraphernalia. 

The appropriate occasion for recognizing or thanking veterans for their service is on Veterans Day, November 11, not on Memorial Day..

 

Troy McDonald

Dear Tom:
I am running for re-election to the Stuart City Commission, driven by a strong commitment to maintaining and improving the quality of life that makes our city special. Stuart is more than just a place to live; it’shome to my wife Portia, myself and our beloved pug dogs, Wo Ai Nee and Jean Luc.

Recently, USA Today recognized Stuart as the Best Small Coastal Town. This honor highlights the vibrant community, beautiful waterfront, and excellent amenities we all enjoy. It’s a reflection of our collectiveefforts to preserve our small-town charm while ensuring the well-being of all residents.

Throughout my tenure, I have prioritized fiscal responsibility, ensuring stable tax rates and balanced budgets. Since 2019, our tax rate has remained steady at 5.0 mils annually, allowing us to meet the needs of our community without increasing taxes. Public safety has also been a key focus, with full funding for our police department and maintaining an ISO 1 rating for our fire rescue services, which keeps our community safe and helps lower insurance costs.

Environmental preservation is another cornerstone of my work. We have protected areas like the Heart of Haney Creek Preserve and advocated for Everglades restoration. Our new reverse osmosis plant guarantees the cleanest drinking water, and we’ve made significant strides in infrastructure improvements, such as transitioning from septic-to-sewer systems and enhancing stormwater management.

We’ve also worked hard to enhance recreational opportunities in Stuart. Our city offers extensive public access to the St. Lucie River, numerous pocket parks, playgrounds, dog parks, boat ramps, baseball fields, event parks, walking trails, military memorials, and tennis courts. These facilities ensure that everyone in our community can enjoy an active and fulfilling lifestyle.

With 30 years of residency in Stuart, I am deeply familiar with the values and needs of our community. While we have achieved much, there is always more to be done. I am dedicated to continuing our efforts to safeguard Stuart’s natural beauty, uphold fiscal responsibility, and improve the quality of life for all.

I respectfully ask for your support in the upcoming election on August 20th. Together, we can continue to make Stuart the wonderful place we all call home.

 

Clem McGrath

Tom,
I would like to ask Gene Zweden to give his legal opinion on motorized bicycles on sidewalks.
His article on giving bicycles room on the roads assume they use the road.
They don’t, they use the sidewalk.
I, as well as many others, walk on Palm City Rd daily and very seldom do I see any type of bicycle on the road.
I understand the pedal bikes are allowed in Stuart, but any type of motorized vehicle is not.
It has become dangerous for the walkers when some of these bikes are going 15-20 mph.
Maybe Gene could give us his legal advice.

 

 

Dwight Snedeker

Mr Campenni  

  Thank you very much for your reply to my questions. I guess news organizations only answer if it’s fitting their current stories.
   I have a couple more questions. 
   Who or where would someone go to contact about the crossing gates? I know the crossing at Skyline Dr has four gates. It’s in a residential area but it’s got a clear view from both sides. The Rio crossing is in a residential area also and if you have used it you know it’s what I call a blind crossing. I would have figured that gates and signals would be the railroads responsibility. 

  Is there a drawing of the proposed St Lucie River bridge? Is there a website someone can access?

My Answer

Dwight:

At this point there really isn’t a rendering of the bridge that I have been able to find. It is in the early design stages now. I understand that they are in the early stages of their NEPA review which is mandatory for receiving grants. At some point there will be a scoping where comments are heard. Just look on the Stuart, County websites and in TCPalm advertising.

As to which crossings should have four gates or other safety matters, if the crossings are in unincorporated Martin County, then it will be a county matter. I believe all the crossings you mentioned are in that area. I also believe that the crossings you cited are in Doug Smith’s district. His office would be a good place for you to start. Next check with public works which have jurisdiction over roads.

I hope I answered some of your questions. This is a work in progress. And trying to sort out the different areas of involvement and responsibility is not easy. Good luck.

Martin County

COUNTY COMMISSION MAY 20, 2024

There was a request by FPL to allow the building of a solar farm anywhere in the county as a minor site plan application.

That means going forward, no matter where or how large the farm is, Martin County citizens won’t be part of the process. It will be approved administratively by staff. Solar farms are now considered to be a targeted industry, (a category of business that the government wants to encourage), and therefore the government should make it as easy as possible for the applicant.

FPL has four of these facilities here. Each one was built going through the public hearings process, hearings at the LPA and then finally the commission. I understand in every case there was no public opposition. Yet the people had a right to attend, be informed that it was happening, and express their opinions. That is no longer the case.

Commissioner Ciampi wanted to make sure that FPL would build solar farms here. Tax-wise, as well as impact, they are small potatoes. The reason they are built here is that there are plenty of old citrus groves that are no longer productive. Lots of land is available.

I also heard that we do not want to make it too expensive to go through the land development process. FPL has billions of dollars. To spend a couple of thousand to go the public meeting route is not going to break the FPL bank or lessen anyone’s electric bill. Smith and Ciampi extolled how great FPL is.

They are a good company, and I am glad FPL is in Martin County. But as Commissioner Heard and Hetherington said, this was about transparency. Shouldn’t citizens be able to know and be able to speak?

 

Something that no one thought about is that FPL isn’t the only company allowed to have solar farms. The “ABC Company” can also build one. What happens if they do not have FPL’s commitment to the environment and being a good neighbor?

A motion was made by Ciampi and seconded by Smith to allow solar farms to be a minor application. It passed 3-2 with Hetherington and Heard voting no.

The very next item was a family that had a 2.5-acre vacant piece of property on Salerno Road that was zoned A-1A Agricultural District with a Future Land Estate Density of 2UPA. It is not rural and hasn’t been for some time. It is mandatory rezoning. All the married couple who owns the land want to do is build a single-family home.

Unfortunately, they need to go through the public hearing process. The time and money they have spent is substantial. This is not considered a minor application that staff can approve.

Commissioner Smith understood how idiotic this seemed to the public after just letting solar farm owners off the public-process hook. He made staff explain that when the comp plan was done, every parcel was to receive zoning and land use in conformity, but that didn’t occur. All these years later, an owner needs to spend time and money to do it.

However, for FPL, Smith, Ciampi, and Jenkins could move mountains to lessen their burden, the only thing Smith said to the applicant was he was sorry this was occurring because years ago the right thing wasn’t done. FPL, a multibillion-dollar corporation gets the break, and the little guy gets an apology. The change to the Salerno Road parcel was approved 4-0 by the LPA and 5-0 by the commission.

There was also a presentation regarding a proposed interchange on Bridge Road for I-95 and the Turnpike. Officials with Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise gave three scenarios for a “Bridge Road” connection. Most of the time was spent on explaining one, but it was the one that officials said couldn’t be done.

Commissioner Smith didn’t want to take no for an answer about having the full Bridge Road exit and entrance like Indiantown Road and the one in Fort Pierce. Chair Jenkins is emphatically against that option which turns out not to be an option no matter what any commissioner wants.

The two that are possible would cost $231 million and $156 million but would allow drivers already on the highways to switch without exiting onto Bridge Road. The options would have very little impact on existing Bridge Road traffic. All that would be visible will be flyovers (a structure that caries one road over the other) resulting in ramps for cars to change highways. Both occurring either south or north of Bridge Road. That would also require the purchase of up to 60 acres of property in the more expensive option.

Here is the bottom line that the newspaper and TV stories didn’t tell you…it will probably be at least a decade before any of this happens. The project isn’t funded. It is all talk. We consider the traffic unbearable. The state wouldn’t even consider what we have as a traffic issue or problem.

As the state continues to grow especially north of us, I would imagine that is where highway dollars will go. At 160,000 residents and growing less than 2% a year, Martin County is a backwater. For state and national office holders, we haven’t enough voters to matter. Factor in that the county is overwhelmingly Republican and the Democrats couldn’t matter less about this issue, the Republicans know they can do nothing and still count on the votes.

We are already in the St. Lucie County Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population of the MSA is roughly 550,000. Right now, Martin County still has its own MPO (Metropolitan Planning Agency) to plan transportation needs. That is only because St. Lucie County has an agreement with us to share those dollars.

At some point in the not-too-distant future, the Martin County MPO will be absorbed by St. Lucie County. Then even projects like the interchange will be out of county hands. That is the real story…not the one about Bridge Road. As a political entity Martin County is becoming unimportant.  

Cove Road Gets A Make Over

Darlene VanRiper

The Florida Department of Transportation held a public workshop on May 21st and 22nd regarding some big changes to Cove Road.   

A few options were presented, all involved 4 lanes.  Some with a median and bike lanes or separate sidewalks.  A roundabout at Ault Ave is recommended to slow traffic down although a speed limit hasn’t been determined yet. 

It was revealed that bike lanes and landscaping also work to slow traffic down.  Nice to know the County will have a say in the plant selections.   There will be no traffic lights to accomplish a diminishing speed as it will only lead to people running lights.  (We should be embarrassed!)    Turning lanes will be added for access to the housing developments and the charter school.  Noise walls to buffer some communities are a possibility that will be determined after a noise study is done.   

Property will have to be obtained.  FDOT is hoping acquirement by eminent domain will not be necessary.    

It is a 3-to-4-year project once begun.  Construction won’t begin until 2030.

When asked if the County would be responsible for any of the funding, I got this response:

 “Transportation projects are adopted into the Department’s (FDOT) 5-year work program and FDOT works with Martin County MPO to allocate funding based on priorities and funding availability. The funding source comes from appropriations approved by state legislature and the budget is approved annually for the coming cycle year. Currently since the project is not yet funded for construction the funding type has not been established for construction. The PD&E and Design phases are funded by federal funds.”

Martin County CRA Update

Darlene VanRiper

The Community Redevelopment Agency wants every business within the CRAs to know about their Investment Program Project. 

This program pays 80% of improvement costs related to things like fencing and landscaping, exterior improvements such as painting, awnings, windows dumpster enclosures etc.  For a full list and application go to https://www.martin.fl.us/CRAInvestmentProgram  

Since its inception in November of 2022 eight of 10 applicants have seen their projects completed.  Approximately $147,000 of taxpayer’s dollars have been spent on improvements.  These tax dollars are a portion of the property taxes paid by those residents and businesses within the 5 CRAs.  Director Susan Kores says the program can even be used to alleviate code enforcement issues since codes often change and a business can inadvertently find themselves out of compliance. 

Hobe Sound will finally have its historical old train depot returned sometime after the Board of County Commissioners approves the zoning at their July 9th meeting.  This was a mission of Commissioner Jenkins who solicited the developers of Atlantic Fields where the depot currently rests.  Due to his efforts, they have graciously agreed to return the relic.

PLEASE STOP SPEEDING ON A1A THROUGH GOLDEN GATE is the plea of that neighborhood advisory member.  The CRA has done everything it can including signage, traffic tables, and lowering the speed limit.  Recently a 7 and ½ month pregnant woman carrying twins was killed by a speeder.  Her twins did not survive either. 

Palm City Place and Patio will open on June 1st with much fanfare including a band.  The festivities begin at 11:00 on Mapp Road.  Commissioner Ciampi invites everyone to attend.

Marty Update

Darlene VanRiper

In 2027 fourteen MARTY buses will need replacing…at a cost of $500,000 apiece.  

To get the initial public transportation program started, the Federal government paid for them.   I’ve heard that’s how dealers initially get junkies hooked.  And all levels of government are junkies for grant money.  It is staggering how much grant money is applied for monthly. 

You think your property taxes pay for everything?  Not even close.   I would venture to say that the county couldn’t fund half of what they do without grants from the State or Feds.  Sadly, I never hear a commissioner ask, “Are there strings attached?”  That is how we have a big city bus system in a county that doesn’t want to look like a big city. 

In all these years of its existence and no matter that the bureaucrats keeping the numbers claim that annually over 100,000 rides can be attributed to MARTY, I still don’t know 1 person who has seen more than 2 people on any of the buses at one time. 

We are told that Indian River County does it right!  Their system is much more popular. Their rides are free.  Their wait time is less.  There are more routes.  So, with no fare, the cost to Indian River County’s taxpayers is $4.62 per ride.  Whereas Martin County, charging a nominal fee is subject to $32.60 per ride! 

One can certainly see why the Commissioners have finally seen the light and are considering instituting a “micro” transportation system.    

City of Stuart

COMMISSION MEETING MAY 28, 2024

Clarity Point was not a good project from the start. It offered nothing for the residents of Stuart. Why would we want a drug treatment and rehabilitation facility that would draw people from all over the country but very few from Martin County.

The project didn’t get better on the 2nd reading. The idea that no vote needed to take place on 1st reading was a mistake made by the commission. That vote deprived the public and the other commissioners from knowing where each was inclined to stand.

Voting only on 2nd reading may be legal but does not contribute to transparency. It heightens and creates anxiety among the public. Since commissioners can only speak to each other on the dais, they don’t really debate and see where their colleagues are on the issue.

Without a vote, commissioners cannot effectively bargain with applicants for additions to make projects better. It allows things to fester in the public’s mind because they have no idea what commissioners will do. For anyone who has ever sat up there, a first vote can be crucial.

Since no first vote was taken on either the land use change or zoning change, no one walked away from that first meeting understanding where the commission was headed. At the first meeting, there had been extensive public comment that was mostly against. Sheriff Will Snyder was the celebrity speaker who was firmly not in favor of the project.

Because no vote was taken, the applicant didn’t try to assuage the neighbors or the commissioners. The project stood firm without compromise. And when it comes to local development issues, compromise at times can change results. From experience, I know that added conditions can make a better result.

Though in my opinion, nothing was going to result in an affirmative vote for this project. There was just no compelling reason to vote yes. We were told by staff that there was no other vacant multi-family property in the city. That is why I don’t understand why staff recommended approval. There is much I no longer understand about the development department.

 

After the staff and the applicant presentations, the public had their turn to speak. No one spoke in favor. I think all the speakers were from Willoughby Glen, which is not in the city. Would it impact them? I guess so if the business’ patients signed themselves out of the facility and began wandering the streets.

It was then time for the commission to deliberate and resolve it. Commissioner Rich did what is called for in Roberts. He made a motion to approve in order to dispose of the request. That doesn’t mean he was in favor, but the motion and subsequent vote was needed because under Florida statute a vote does need to be taken. Unfortunately, no one seconded so the motion died.

 

The long pause that ensued on the dais meant no one knew what to do next. Commissioner Collins asked the attorney and city manager. Mortell said if there was no vote denying the land use change, then the applicant could bring this back in the future.

Collins then introduced a motion to deny the land use change that was seconded by McDonald. The vote was 5-0 in the affirmative which meant the land use change was denied. A motion to deny is not good parliamentary procedure. It is confusing and last night the public didn’t quite understand what was going on. Yet if a negative motion was the only way to put this to bed, Collins did the right thing.

 

Because the land use change was denied, the applicant withdrew their request for a zoning change. Unless other things develop, this should end the saga about the drug detox and rehabilitation facility going here.

In some jurisdictions, nothing comes to the floor without a motion. Stuart should follow that practice. When an item is brought to the floor, the chair should call for a motion to be approved for discussion. Once seconded, the hearing continues. After presentations and public comments, it comes back to the board for discussion and the vote. The original motion can be changed or even withdrawn, and a subsequent one be introduced.

Going forward I hope the commission adopts this practice. The commission needs to go back to taking votes on first reading. This is their duty as far as I am concerned. If it is the city attorney who wants to change this procedure, he may be legally correct, but it is not the way we should do it here.

It is not really a hearing if there is no vote. It becomes a run through for the real thing. The vote is how commissioners can telegraph their leaning on the project and how they can pull concessions out of developers and cut deals with fellow commissioners.

Stuart 2

ALSO, AT MEETING

During Commissioner Comments, Campbell Rich addressed something he has heard people say regarding commissioners and how they interact with each other.

He explained the only time that commissioners speak on city business is on the dais. They are not allowed to call each other and chew the fat. There is no discussion outside of a public meeting. Those who ignore sunshine by speaking about public business away from the dais risk going to jail…just ask a few former elected officials in Sebastion.

Rich said that he and the other commissioners read hundreds of emails from the public. He and his colleagues are more than anxious to meet with constituents. He ended by saying he works for them.

Having been in his shoes as an elected official, I know Rich speaks for any elected official I ever knew. Yet during the discussion about the detox project, I heard people in the audience say that the commissioners must be taking money. They were not satisfied until the 5-0 vote to deny. Those people should be ashamed of themselves.

Just because a commissioner doesn’t vote your way, it shouldn’t be presumed that the commissioner is on the take or in cahoots to subvert the sunshine laws. It is an insult to them and every elected official.

People who are so cynical of government are dissuading good people from running for local office. As fewer and fewer qualified people are willing to stand for office, the number of those who will run will be diminished. People should remember that.

In conjunction with Coastal Conservation of Florida, the City of Stuart is going to launch a new Vertical Oyster Garden project to improve water quality by installing 300 vertical towers of oyster shells along the city’s Riverwalk ten feet apart. There will be thousands of oysters growing in each garden. Each oyster cleans 50 gallons of water a day.

Even if there is a hurricane or intrusion of too much fresh water that kill the live oysters, the shells that make up the towers are still available because of the towers. Once the water is stable again then new oyster larvae can be attached, and new oysters grown.

You can see the fact sheet here 

Martin County School Board

SCHOOL BOARD MEETING MAY 21, 2024

The school year is ending. The three high schools have had their commencements. Another year in the books.

The board will be asking for reauthorization of the ½ mill additional school tax on property. Li Roberts has put together a two-page sheet of information about the tax since it was initially authorized in 2018. Though it was reauthorized by the voters in 2022 and runs through 2026, the law on when referendum can be on the ballot has been changed. 

In order not to miss the 2026 tax year, the millage must be re-authorized now to go through June 30th, 2030. The other school based added tax is the sales tax. The board is not seeking to keep the ½ cent sales tax after it expires at the end of 2025 since the capital projects have been completed. This gives me hope that reauthorization of the ½ mill will continue to be used appropriately.

According to Roberts the tax brings in an additional $900 per student. Most of which goes toward teachers and other personnel. You can see the fact sheet here https://acrobat.adobe.com/id/urn:aaid:sc:US:e6174000-c0f5-4833-84b1-885d83a2e5c8

Public comment hasn’t been drawing as many people as in the past. Yet the commenters bring up some interesting subjects. One speaker made us aware of Moms For Liberty Founder, Briget Ziegler and her husband. An article which she claimed with subject matter too racy to be read at the school board meeting, called the Zieglers predators trolling for sex partners. The leader of the Martin County chapter, the speaker said, was the person with the most book challenges.

She also went on to state that there still is a member of the organization on the current school board. According to this speaker and another, two school board members were Florida School Board Association certified through Hillsdale College. According to their website, Hillsdale is “a private, conservative, Christian liberal arts college in Hillsdale, Michigan.”

Our current public charter school, Treasure Coast Classical Academy, is staffed by teachers using Hillsdale-developed courses. I have contributed both to Hillsdale and Treasure Coast Classical Academy. If I had school-age children, I would seriously consider sending them there. However, I don’t know whether our school board members should be certified by the college.

One of the things Hillsdale is so proud of is the fact they take no government money. If the district is paying for those certifications, then that is government money, and I would find it hypocritical of the college. And besides Florida School Boards should be using Florida schools to gain any necessary certification.

We also heard a former drama teacher who complained that theater courses were going away at Martin County High School. Several students spoke about the compressing of several courses into one. Superintendent Maine pushed back later in the meeting and gave the following stats: there were 8 students signed up for Tech 1, 25 students for Theater 1, 2 students for Theater 2, 6 students for Theater 3. They have compressed the classes offered into one course.

It seems to make sense to me. This has nothing to do with any music or other arts courses. It isn’t a cutting of electives that enough students want. Nor does it mean an end to any drama, musicals, or other performing art clubs after school. Courses can’t be offered if only a few take them. 

Town of Sewalls Point

COMMISSION MEETING MAY 28, 2024

After three meetings, the commission is finally now voting on what will be on the referendum for voters to approve in November. These are the charter changes.

The criteria for running for commissioner will be residency for one year. That passed 5-0.

A commissioner would forfeit the office when he/she fails to meet the qualifications, is convicted of a felony offense, or has three unexcused absences from three consecutive meetings. Mayor Tompeck suggested adding other reasons that are similar to those used to terminate an employee. The others believed that a commissioner is unlike an employee. It remained as written. The vote was 4-1 for approval with Tompeck dissenting.

The deletion from the charter of regulating drays and wheelchairs passed 5-0

The elimination of a planning board led to some fierce opposition. To make it clear, that board has never been convened. One of the members of the charter review committee said that elimination was not the charter review board’s members’ ideas.

Manager Daniels believed that if it hasn’t been used since the town’s inception, it probably isn’t needed. If there was ever a reason to convene such a board, then it could be done as an ad hoc committee. This is the time to do away with a board that was never convened seems safe.

Unfortunately, in the realm of local politics, not having a board would be going against transparency, a member of the audience said. The commissioners all agreed that they were in favor of transparency. A member of the audience also stated that the planning board could plan for the future, and then the town wouldn’t need to spend money on planners to update the comp plan. It was stricken from moving forward.

The next ordinance discussed was permeable and impermeable areas. Wooden decks were included as something that is impermeable. The commission removed decks and passed the ordinance.

The next was removing athletic facilities and pools from what counted toward total lot coverage. Currently, things like pools and tennis courts do not count toward total lot coverage. The idea behind this is that people are building more on their property than the total of 50% covered area allowed. They ignore setbacks because of what was characterized as a loophole.

Commissioner Mayfield stated she was alright with tennis courts counting but thought pools should remain exempt. The vote was 4-1 with Mayfield dissenting.

It is painfully obvious that the public doesn’t understand what a CIP is for from the public comment. It is not a budget as Commissioner Fender said. It is a listing of capital improvements that the town will make over the next five years if the funding is found. You can see the CIP list here 

In his comments, Mr. Daniels mentioned that there was a short-term fix for the Margarite area. It would cost $250,000. Please see here 

And there was a tree canopy improvement project done by Mike Flaugh, a landscape architect. You can see the study here 

Village of Indiantown

VILLAGE COUNCIL MEETING MAY 23, 2024

There was nothing of great importance on the agenda for this meeting. The excitement came when Council Member Dipaolo began speaking during discussion items.

Carmine Dipaolo was elected to office, but he is not a politician. He isn’t there for any of the typical reasons people run for office. He is not worried about being liked. He said that he is not worried about being called a bully by some. Dipaolo has a mission, and he wants to see it accomplished.

Dipaolo was a sheriff’s deputy for 30 years and a small business owner. You don’t survive either of those endeavors without being self-assured. Carmine lacks nothing in that department. Yet sometimes having your heart in the right place doesn’t always work out in an elected office.

Government is full of byzantine rules and protections for their employees and to make sure corruption is not an issue. When sunshine regulations are added, a guy like Dipaolo feels really hampered. We saw that at this meeting.

Dipaolo’s personality is very similar to my own…so I understand. Even though he was in a para-military command for 30 years, he was assigned to Indiantown for most of it which is an outpost far removed from headquarters. When he became sergeant, he ran his own show.

As a small business owner, you learn very fast that no one is going to make you succeed. There is no guaranteed paycheck, time off, or vacation. Chutzpa is prized as opposed to being a bureaucrat where if you don’t make waves, you are guaranteed a good wage, pension, and healthcare.

Carmine mentioned all the businesspeople and developers he has been trying to lure to Indiantown at the meeting. If only a small percentage of them pan out, Indiantown will change. Dipaolo will move mountain and earth to accomplish his vision. His way is not that of the other council members, and it is resulting in pushbacks.

He brought up the privately-owned non-profit Civic Center. The village applied for a grant two years ago after a council vote to harden the center so it would be a pet-friendly emergency shelter. The grant application and all it entails is being managed by village staff.

According to Dipaolo there is much staff time devoted to this, and the village has paid Kimley-Horn $40,000 to do a required engineering study of the center, that will be reimbursed if the grant is approved. Dipaolo reached out to the owners of the center to see if they would sell it to the village. The answer was no.

Dipaolo, as a small businessperson, believes that government shouldn’t subsidize the private sector, even if it is a non-profit. There is a risk that no grant comes through, and the village will be out countless hours of staff time plus the cost of the engineering study of $40,000. He isn’t wrong.

That action regarding the grant was voted for by a previous council of which Carmine was not a member. Perhaps it was a decision that was wrongly made, but it has been made. The expense didn’t bother the other council members though.

They showed their annoyance because they felt Dipaolo was getting too much information from staff. Council members wanted to know why they didn’t have it. Hernandez said how could she represent her people without knowing the cost?

Dipaolo claims this all came to light for him because there was a seminar for first time home buyers held at the civic center and the promoters were charged $300 for the rental. He was mad about the charge given that new homes are being constructed in the village and many current residents are renters. Are these homes for today’s Indiantown residents or tomorrows?

There was also a disconnect on the council regarding a citation program being adopted. Dipaolo said that private yards and other spaces are being used to sell a myriad of products including food. Their current codes make most of these activities illegal without a permit.

Yet Vice Mayor Angelina Perez was against citing people selling food and other things because that is the way they make a living. Dipaolo is not only a small businessperson but also a former deputy who wants people to follow the rules. He said that when he comes over the hill on Warfield Blvd. on Sunday, it looks like a flea market. He also mentioned Terra Lago spending hundreds of millions of dollars in new housing.

We are seeing the first glimpses of the new Indiantown versus the old one. Terra Lago, with its relatively inexpensive homes as compared to Palm Beach County and eastern Martin County, will bring new people who are not used to people selling things and food on their front lawns or on street corners. This is what some will call progress, but others will mourn as the loss of the old Indiantown.

Here is where the battlelines will be drawn for the next decade. If the anticipated development happens, then the sleepy village will be forever changed. Apparently whether it is changed for the better will be determined whose vision prevails… Perez’s or Dipaolo’s.

Town of Jupiter Island

COMMISSION MEETING MAY 14, 2024

There was another attempt to change how the Impact Review Committee and Board of Adjustment operate.

Anne Scott has tried to change the way these two committees operate since being elected last year. She would like them to be advisory, as they are in almost every jurisdiction in Florida. But after 70 years of being independent and giving those boards, the final say except if appealed, residents who serve as members are not anxious to give that up.

There is a point that a commission majority can agree upon. If there is an appeal to the commission, it should be what is known as a de novo hearing, meaning a consideration independently with all the same and new evidence from what was submitted at the lower board. Currently the commission cannot consider any new evidence in deciding an appeal.

That still hasn’t passed because of all the other dissension regarding what the committees should decide and how they are at times in conflict with each other regarding jurisdictional matters. Now a new point has come up. Who on the island has an interest in contesting an application and appeal.

Should the resident be a property owner 1000 feet from the proposed change, 1500 feet or anywhere on the Island? Who has standing to challenge a home being built? If it is everyone, then that is about 800 homeowners.

If we assume 800 homeowners, then notice would go out to all of them. If only 10 decide to challenge, that could stop every new home or even renovation going forward. There is no surprise that Anne Scott is for the broader number. Field, who has an extensive development background, sees the practical side of who should have standing before boards or the commission. It seemed to me that both Mayor Townsend and Commissioner Warner would be in favor of something more than 1000 feet but less than the entire Island.

Commissioner Taddeo, who was absent, wrote the following for the record and to his fellow members:

“ORDINANCE 395

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

  • We notify neighbors now, take their input, investigate it, and report their concerns in an IRC meeting.
  • If we now want everyone’s opinion, wouldn’t it be fair to notify everyone on each development – How do you discriminate?
  • If notices were sent out to 800 homeowners, and 95% discarded the notice, then only 5% responded, but that’s 40 letters that must be investigated – Who does that?
  • What if there are 200 – 300 letters? This would be very feasible, especially with a controversial situation like beach houses on the 300 Block. Who investigates all those? IRC has to read all and report on each one at meetings – it could result in all day meetings.
  • What weight does IRC give to the letters? Does it change the criteria for their decision? Will this involve more legal scrutiny?
  • With all the extra workload, it could become impossible to populate the IRC – then what?

From now on, I propose that anyone who wants to change an ordinance has to fill out a section that states the possible negative consequences and possible benefits to the ordinance change

These may seem like extreme examples, but the fact is we don’t know what the unintended consequences may be. Until we have a better understanding of what could happen, I’m not prepared to vote – if you want to vote, count me as a No.

If the vote is yes, be prepared to own the consequences.”

This will be discussed at a later meeting.

Another discussion was had about Jupiter Island having its very own representative on the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB), which is a county-level board.

The PRAB is made up of 9 members. Each county commissioner appoints one person, and there are 4 at-large seats which are composed of those residents who have filled out an application and have an interest in parks. The whole commission chooses the members for the four seats. There are no municipal seats on the board.

I was on that board for about three years and was the chair for some of the time. The board meets once a month and recommended policies and appropriations to the county commission. It was dry stuff.

All current board members are serving until 2025 or 2026. I don’t believe that an elected official can be appointed. The two ways that someone residing on Jupiter Island can be appointed is by the county district commissioner appointing and capturing one of the at-large seats.

The Jupiter Island Commission should realize that placing someone on the board will probably not result in the nighttime closing of Hobe Sound Beach. Even if they are successful in an appointment, there are 8 other members who won’t come up with that recommendation. And then of course it would need to go to the commission for discussion and approval.

As a former county commissioner, Commissioner Scott knows that is what a board being advisory means…the governing board will for the most part completely ignore their recommendations. 

Final Thoughts

 

LOSUM Is Here

 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released the “Final Environmental Impact Statement” for the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual or LOSUM.

 

It replaces LORS (Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule)2008 that the Corps was using to regulate the lake’s waters. The new document is a vast improvement over the current system which has used the St. Lucie and the Caloosahatchee Rivers as Okeechobee’s escape valves.

The new schedule doesn’t let us off the hook entirely but does call for the Corps of Engineers to take what those releases do to our ecosystems and health into account for the first time. It isn’t only about farm irrigation to our south anymore. The risk of floods will still necessitate releases, but nothing like it has in the past.

LOSUM is an incredibly complicated plan that is trying to consider the needs of many different people and areas. There is still much to do to our north and south. Martin County plays a role in the health of our waterways by the runoff into the St Lucie and our continued use of septic systems.

But in our area, the nerds of science and engineering figured out a way to make our lives better. That is a big success we should celebrate. All those who wanted to file lawsuits and make enemies rather than friends were wrong. Our better angels prevailed.

If you really want to dig into LOSUM you can find it right here https://acrobat.adobe.com/id/urn:aaid:sc:US:57b1e541-3f7f-43bf-a5c6-61ecaf7f3ba7

IF YOU ARE NOT A SUBSCRIBER DO SO FOR FREE HERE www.friendsandneighborsofmartincounty.com

GET THE WORD OUT  

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

Tom Campenni 772-341-7455 (c) Email: thomasfcampenni@gmail.com

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