June 25, 2023

Friends & Neighbors Edition

In This Edition

I have some definite opinions of things I like and things that I do not as far as food is concerned.

I like my beef rare. If it is a steak, I want it “Black & Blue.” However, I also like a good, braised brisket, a pot roast, or short ribs which must be cooked until they are fork tender. I adore organ meat from tripe to liver, and because my wife doesn’t, it usually is my restaurant choice when it appears on the menu.

There isn’t fish or seafood I don’t like, no matter how it is prepared. I have an affinity for most vegetables, especially greens. My favorite food is bread, but I seldom indulge now because of Type 2 Diabetes. The same unfortunately goes for pasta, potatoes, and rice.

Wine was always on the table. Beer and cocktails were also something I enjoyed. Now they are pretty much verboten.

A couple of things I have never liked are beets and garlic knots…beets from the time I was a kid and garlic knots from the time they started being substituted for bread in Italian restaurants. Using garlic from a jar is food sacrilege as far as I am concerned.

I am the cook in our house, so I pretty much prepare what I want with a few exceptions. My wife is a little more discriminating in her selections but as she always says, “there is plenty, and I won’t starve.” Though I seldom give her an opportunity, she is a good cook also.

We were up in Connecticut last weekend and had our clan over for Father’s Day. She shopped for and prepared our meal. Most dishes were made with my Diabetes in mind, and it was spectacular.

“Man does not live by bread alone.” Though this man wishes he could.

1B

We are still hoping to have our new website available for our July 9th edition.

I think you will enjoy our easier reading format. All our current sections will still be available, but you won’t have to go through the entire publication to see everything. You will be able to go directly to the different sections. And for our columnists right to your favorite ones

We intend to increase the number and subject matter of columnists. We are looking for you or a friend to let us know if you want to join our ranks, we encourage different points of view on a broad range of subjects. Friends & Neighbors is Martin County and our municipalities and school board.

Don’t forget to make sure that your friends & neighbors have subscribed to our free publication by sending their email addresses here: thomasfcampenni@gmail.com. We do not ask for nor keep individual names or other information. Our subscribers are completely anonymous even to us.

For any breaking news stories, you can go to our Facebook page between publications.  You can find that here https://www.facebook.com/martincountyfriends

I hope you enjoy this week’s edition.

Where Does The Fair Stand

With the recent resignation of Jay Spicer as the Martin County Fair Manager, the moving of the fair to Indiantown is even more in doubt than previously.

I don’t understand the county commission’s unwillingness to take the matter under their auspices. The self-proclaimed fair board has brought incompetence to a new level. They oversee a county asset worth millions of dollars and their fumbling inaction has slowed the moving of the fairground from cramped Stuart to Indiantown where it is much more appropriate.

The Martin County Fair is a two-week event. There are even some year-round responsibilities that the manager oversees. But clearly for most of the year the current fairground is either rented to third parties or vacant.

One of the largest components of the fair is to provide the 4-H club kids with a venue to show their animals. The Parks & Recreation Department is responsible for that program under extension services via contract. It would make sense for the county to take a more active role so that this program does not suffer.

Further the county is getting ready to spend a considerable sum on bleachers at Timer Powers Park for the once-a-year rodeo that lasts for a couple of days. It would be a better investment of county tax money to incorporate a new event space as part of the fair. The venue would be bigger, and it wouldn’t be retrofitted. Then Timer Powers could have more recreational space.

In 2023, it makes very little sense to have more than a hundred acres devoted to a fair, which is the current plan. About half the space could be used as a true industrial and commercial hub for the benefit of startups of western Martin County. Since it is all county land and the infrastructure for the most part was being paid for by the county, it just makes more sense to take this project over and complete it. The county could use the same model as the Tourist Development Board.

I have often criticized the Parks Department for taking on the role of a private business. A county fair is anything but a private business. The Indiantown Business Chamber could use the space to have their rodeo in a more optimal setting. During the rest of the year, it would be ideal as a rental space for a variety of events including concerts, carnivals, and different equestrian events.

Martin County should take this opportunity to see that a fairground gets built. Currently, a private, kind of self-appointed, ineffective group controls a lease on a county asset that has resulted in nothing being accomplished. The commission, for reasons that are no longer rational, hasn’t done what is in the best interest of Martin County taxpayers and residents. 

What Is Mainstream Media?

When someone says mainstream media, what do they mean?

If the content is displayed on television, radio, newspapers, and magazines, then that would qualify by most definitions of the term. Slate, though owned by the Washington Post Company, is viewed as alternative media because it is electronic. YouTube would also be viewed that way as would Facebook. In general, if it is distributed through the internet, then it would be classified as alternative media.

Almay Stock Photo

CNN has an online presence. Is the television part mainstream and the online section alternative media? Newsmax had 311,000 viewers as of June 11th. Most of its viewers would not classify it as mainstream. Many on the right consider any news outlet that they perceive as too liberal to be mainstream (or lamestream in a more derogatory term) regardless of ownership and how accessed.

When each town and city had many different newspapers, the reader would pick their source for information depending on political slant and economic status. Generally, broad sheets were read by the intellectual and moneyed classes while the tabloids were read by the working people. At the height of the newspaper era people read three or four different papers a day. Radio was just coming into its own and television was still in the lab.  

By the 1960s, newspapers were failing on a regular basis and that is still going on. Television news was in the ascendency and radio news was evolving into a headline service that could give you weather, sports, and news every ten minutes. Local television news seems to be now doing the same thing.

With cable came the possibility of having many channels devoted to news and politics. In traditional broadcast television, the goal was to have the broadest base of viewers. Specialized networks such as Fox News or MSNBC have targeted the market to a particular segment either Republican or Democrat and conservative or liberal. Now with the internet, the opportunity for even more segmentation has been created.

What is this publication? Good question and while we often have a point of view, it doesn’t fit neatly into any one ideology. Friends & Neighbors does stand for free markets and property rights. It believes in conservation but does not believe that every time a vacant property is developed there is a detrimental impact on our environment. Friends & Neighbors wants transparency in government and an end to the good old boy network being given an advantage that others do not have.

We think more different ideas on our pages are very important. That is why you see more and more Martin County residents writing pieces for us. We have Victoria Defenthaler’s point of view being expressed on schools and, until recently, Moms for Liberty wrote regularly to share their point of view. They have chosen not to contribute at the current time, but they have a standing invitation to come back any time.

Are we alternative or mainstream? You can decide. I just want to be informative.

Politics As Usual

I have taken my time before commenting on Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch’s not being confirmed to her second term on the South Florida Water Management District Board.

Sometimes things sort of work out and that is what I was hoping for this time. Unfortunately, politics got in the way of good government. It is not as though the same hasn’t happened over and over.

When Governor DeSantis came into office four years ago, he swept out the then SFWMD Board. Adam Putnam, the Commissioner of Agriculture, ran against the then Congressman DeSantis in the primary and was defeated. Putnam was key to many of the appointments that made up the SFWMD board at that time. With the urging of Congressman Brian Mast, who was an advisor and friend to DeSantis, Jacqui was appointed, and she found her true calling.

Yet four short years later, things have changed in our state. The current Commissioner of Agriculture, Wilton Simpson, was the Florida Senate President from 2020 to 2022 and the current president, Kathleen Passidomo, was his deputy. Simpson, like Putnam, comes from a long line of farmers, and Simpson championed a bill that Thurlow-Lippisch spoke out against.

Jacqui did so at a SFWMD meeting from the dais. To say the least, she was forceful in her condemnation of the bill and the Florida Legislature. One thing a politician has is a long memory. Passidomo is no exception. When the governor re-appointed her for another term, the senate refused to confirm her.

Perhaps there were other political factors involved such as Thurlow-Lippisch’s political sponsor and former DeSantis advisor and bud, Brian Mast, who endorsed Trump over DeSantis in “the current presidential Republican primaries.” Perhaps the Ag people wanted to continue to control Lake “O” and where the water would go, and Jacqui was seen as an impediment.

Governor DeSantis reappointed her without the same fanfare as the last time. Why didn’t he insist that she be reconfirmed. This governor has been pretty good at getting what he wants out of the legislators. My guess was he didn’t want to expend any political capital on this appointment or knew all along that the senate wouldn’t confirm her, but DeSantis wouldn’t take the heat.

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch had a terrible accident that almost killed her about 25 years ago. She struggled back from that and went on to be involved in politics as a commissioner and mayor of Sewall’s Point. She nearly became a Martin County commissioner but lost in a close race. Her real passion has always been the St. Lucie River.

For a non-scientist she has the knowledge of a PhD when it comes to the environmental issues of South Florida. She help found the River Kidz. She was active in environmental groups. And that is the shame of it.

Sure, she could have been more temperate in her remarks at the SFWMD meeting when commenting against Simpson’s bill. But passionate people are passionate. Yet there was no better board member nor advocate than Jacqui.

Martin County has lost one of our best representatives in the water wars. As we enter a period when we could have one of our worst summers ever, Jacqui could have been a bridge to the technocrats at the Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, FWC, the environmental community, and the rest of us. Politics in Florida is a blood sport and Jacqui was considered expendable. The environment is the real casualty.

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Other Opinions

Other Opinions

Fletch's Perspective

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

Fletch is missing this edition.

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

VanRiper's Views

Darlene VanRiper

I observed a couple of poignant presentations recently.

They addressed separate issues, but they are very much linked.  One was by a statewide nonprofit with lofty goals the components of which are “successful parents, magical early learning experiences [for children], and a happy workforce”.  Again, lofty goals.

It did start a conversation between me and Rob Ranieri the CEO of House of Hope.  If you don’t know about House of Hope, you probably haven’t lived in Martin County very long.  This non-profit is a success story by every measure.

When Rob told the presenter that a key component to their “plan” was missing, it caught my attention.  I was able to catch up with Rob a couple days later and he told me transportation is key to helping the less fortunate and immigrant families as far as early learning goes.  These families often have only 1 car or none, so when the breadwinner leaves for work there is no way to get the children to Voluntary Pre-kindergarten or other programs which would assist readying them for kindergarten.

“If the facility isn’t’ within walking distance, the kids stay home,” said Rob.   House of Hope went a long way to remedying the situation in Golden Gate by obtaining and renovating an historic building for the purpose of offering programs to just such a population.  Rob feels that facilities need to “meet the people where they are”.  This population has no “social capital” and therefore are either ignorant of how to work the system or are so intimidated that they are easily put off.  Makes sense coming from someone whose opinions are forged by grass roots experience.

The other and more jolting presentation was by Sheriff Snyder.  Another person whose opinions are forged by grass roots experience.  He showed a video everyone should watch at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmPUFLSOaT8&t=1481s.

His presentation begins at 49:45. IT IS GRAPHIC.  There is little argument that poverty and lack of education lead to drug use and crime in many cases.  We have a pandemic of long-term drug use in our country now.  Along with other factors, mental illnesses can be caused and/or triggered by long term drug use.

According to the Sheriff we need to build a facility to house mentally ill persons.  He revealed that as much as 30% of the arrests made in Martin County involve a mentally ill person.  The facility he needs will cost a lot.  The starting point is $30 million.  It became very clear to me that this is the cost of not meeting the people where they are early on.

As Marsha Powers, MCSB and an attendee at the first presentation put it “Early Learning is a work force issue”.  So, educate early by providing facilities in the areas needed which will help employ and lift people out of poverty and help to keep them off drugs.  As Rob put it the goal should be to eventually put the Sheriff’s (not yet built) mental facility out of business.  I don’t think the Sheriff would argue with that.

The long and short of it is that these are two men we should be listening to.  How does the old saying go?  “Pay now or pay later”.

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

Nicki's Place

Nicki van Vonno
van Vonno Consulting, Owner

Decluttering and Dictating

My sister died and I am sad.

I designed her tombstone with the cemetery advisor. The advisor was using a design program and it kept locking up on her.  It enabled me to really think about my sister and our relationship and friendship. After the meeting, I met up with a good friend for lunch and a respite.

I look at the Hospice paperwork and think about calling or attending a zoom grief group, and then I wander to another pile, going through books, clothes, ornaments, papers of all kinds. I start filing, thinking about cancelled award shows.

I have done this exercise many times over the last few years, the death cleaning after a loved one dies.  I have emptied the houses of my parents and my in-laws’ homes.

At my home, I begin the purge.  When someone dies, I clean I purge I have to I have to do something and cleaning sorting moving filing gives me busy work keeps my nails out of my mouth and clutters my mind so that the sorrow cannot drown me.

I know families who do not do this. Who keep everything the way it was when their loved one lived.

For me it is a freeing experience. It helps me process my grief and gives me permission for inventorying and inventing my remaining years.

I began using Dictate when I write.  Mastering it while creating a poem is a two-sided brain exercise, capturing the creative muse while exercising my brain.

That is what I am doing now. I sigh as I see the words burbling out like a sink that has a little too much grit in its drainpipe. It seems slow to me, saddled as I am with a 3-second attention span. My closed caption reader types faster!

The Dictate cautions that it understands Standard English.  So presumptuous of this old fangled Artificial Intelligence to question if my tongue is speaking English. My Appalachian-streaked blue tongue writes in English, but my reading brain wanders many paths. I put on some makeup to go to my genealogy storytelling group as we work on writing a family history story.

As I jump in the car, I wonder did The Dictate just made a joke?

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

On June 15 Governor DeSantis vetoed the $100 million that the Florida legislature allocated for the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program.

“There is no conceivable reason to target agriculture in a year when we have billions of dollars in reserves,” Commissioner Simpson said in a statement. “Agriculture was harmed today and so was the State of Florida.”

MYAKKA CITY, FL – NOV 29: Rancher Jim Strickland, partner Julie Morris and goddaughter Ayla Morris, 4, at the Strickland Ranch in Myakka City, Florida. ©Journal Communications/Edward Linsmier Photography, Inc.

The funding of the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program is a top priority for Florida Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson and Florida’s many agricultural organizations. And it should be a priority for all of us.

The Rural and Family Lands Protection Program (RFLPP), according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), is an agricultural program designed to protect important agricultural lands through the acquisition of permanent agricultural land conservation easements. The RFLPP is designed to meet three needs:

  1. Protect valuable agricultural lands.
  2. Create easement documents that work together with agricultural production to ensure sustainable agricultural practices and reasonable protection of the environment without interfering with agricultural operations in such a way that could put the continued economic viability of these operations at risk.
  3. Protect natural resources, not as the primary purpose, but in conjunction with the economically viable agricultural operations.

Basically, through the RFLPP the State of Florida purchases the development rights of certain agricultural properties. The deal is made that the land will stay in agricultural production for perpetuity. That means these large tracks of agricultural land can no longer be developed and the land is devalued to a solely agricultural rate so what it is affordable continue farming on it. This is not only important for the sustainability of our nation’s agricultural needs, but it is also crucial to preserving our state’s green spaces and wildlife corridor.

Preserving the Florida wildlife corridor has also been a priority of our state’s legislature over the last few years. The Florida wildlife corridor is a statewide network of 18 million acres of connected lands and waters. With 1,000+ people moving to Florida every day our native lands are being encroached upon by development. Because of this fast-paced development, native species like the Florida panther are facing extreme pressures that could put them into extinction. I urge you to watch Carlton Ward’s “Path of the Panther.” It’s currently on Hulu and Disney+.

Coming back around full circle, hopefully now you see that there is a strong connection between agriculture and preserving open spaces for Florida’s native species. That connection is tied together with a pretty bow called the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. Agricultural operations such as Adams Ranch in Fort Pierce and Blackbeard’s Ranch just outside Sarasota and many more are taking steps to preserve agriculture and protect the environment and it’s going to take continued funding of the RFLPP to prevent more agricultural land from becoming neighborhoods strip malls and that same land being ripped away from our native species.

When asked why the governor vetoed the RFLPP funding, Jeremy Redfern, press secretary for the governor’s office, noted that the governor approved $300 million last year for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, which he said could be used the following fiscal year.

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

Hope In Our Community

Rob Ranieri
House of Hope, CEO

Summer is here. For many of our readers this time of year may bring exciting vacations, family reunions and time to relax at the beach or pool.

But for so many of our neighbors, summer brings additional challenges to their already difficult circumstances. More than half of Martin County students are eligible for free or reduced breakfast and lunch during the school year. We see a spike in the number of hungry children in the summer since schools are closed and those meals are not available.

The high cost of groceries and the need to replace those meals at home is also challenging for many families, especially due to the seasonality of so many jobs in our area. We are also seeing many resources for lower income families that were available during COVID and supported by the federal government come to an end. SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) have seen a reduction in dollars for many participants.

All of this leads to greater need in our community, and a need for more resources at House of Hope. We remain determined to combat child hunger, and to support our clients with fresh and nutritious food choices. If you are part of a community, business or group that would like to conduct a food drive to help us feed children and families, please visit www.hohmartin.org/food-drives.

We are also excited to share a positive summer development. Our long awaited packing house located at Growing Hope Farm in Palm City is open for business. Click here to see our produce bath in action: https://youtu.be/FVCjqnaDdzs.

We are looking for volunteers on Tuesday and Friday mornings in our air-conditioned packing house to help load produce to be washed and dried, as well as pack it out for distribution to House of Hope pantries and to our food bank partners. Our Farm is playing a key role in our ability to provide healthy food to our clients. This year we expect to distribute approximately 1.5 million pounds of food, with nearly 500,000 pounds being fresh fruits and veggies. We have lots of other exciting and fun volunteer opportunities as well. To learn more about volunteering, please visit us at www.hohmartin.org/volunteers.

As always, House of Hope is proud and grateful to be a part of such a caring and compassionate community. We could not accomplish our mission without the support of all of you. Our best wishes to everyone for a safe and exciting summer.

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

Michele's Medical Moment

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

Michele is away.

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

Martin County Real Estate

John Gonzalez
Engel & Völkers, Managing Broker

Recently, I experienced a sale where the other agent to the transaction was from Miami.

The buyer chose an agent from an internet site that said he had knowledge of this property and our area. Frankly, he had no clue. The added stress created by his lack of local knowledge was hard on all the parties involved. Why should you and your friends use a local Realtor?

The Treasure Coast is well-known for its diverse and scenic landscapes, from stunning coastlines to riverfront parks. A local realtor will have expert knowledge of the different neighborhoods within the area and can help you navigate the local market based on your specific needs. They will know which school districts may be best for your family, where the best local restaurants and shops are located, even the best golf courses. Readers should know that this Realtor knows where to find the best food and golf.

Our local Realtors will have a network of other competent professionals in the area. They will be able to recommend trustworthy home inspectors, lenders, and lawyers to streamline the process. This can be particularly useful if you are new to the area or unsure of what steps to take.

Additionally, your local Realtor will have experience negotiating with other real estate professionals in this area. This can be a significant advantage when it comes to closing the deal and getting the best price for your property.  A local realtor will know how to navigate and communicate the local real estate rules, discuss market fluctuations and the current inventory to help you secure the property of your dreams.

When you are selling a home, the advantages become even clearer. Working with a local professional who has in-depth knowledge of the market will likely ensure that you will receive the best price for your home. Showing the home, negotiating the deal, reviewing documents, combing through the inspection reports, and navigating the entire closing process is a stress reduction benefit. Going it alone is not for most sellers.

Whether you are buying or selling a home, a local Realtor can provide valuable resources that the internet or an out-of-town agent cannot bring to the table. Places of worship, green markets, festivals, and parades make a community. We, the local Realtors, know where to find these places and events.

Overall, using a local Realtor can save you time, money and stress during the buying or selling process. It will leave more time for enjoying our Treasure Coast.

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

Palm City Highlights

Missi Campbell
Palm City Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director

I remember the old, wooden Palm City Bridge, Snake Road (now Salerno Road) and Cove Road being dirt roads, and when Martin County High School was the only high school. I share all of this because I have obviously seen many changes to Martin County. I had the opportunity to go on a tour of the Kiplinger Conservancy a few weeks ago and I must admit that this local girl loved what she saw!

We rode in a side-by-side along a rough trail through the 450 acres of preserve that is part of Newfield. This property will never be built on and will remain a preserve forever. What a fabulous legacy provided by the Kiplinger Family.

I am a sea turtle lover and my former Kindergarten students just assumed that meant I also liked gopher tortoises.

When one would come under the fence at our school and on to the playground, I would carefully direct the tortoise back to the safety of the woods and away from curious children. The biologists managing the site are careful to ensure key areas are thinned out for gopher tortoises to thrive.  Prescribed burns taking place on the property are already producing fresh shoots of new foliage.

A roller chopper is employed to manage the growth of palmettos. The canopy in the area is being thinned out and the invasive plants removed. Once the environment is secured, fencing will be put around the perimeter to keep the tortoises safe inside. While on our tour, I was fortunate to see a gopher tortoise, beautiful flowers, birds, and the occasional reptile and amphibian.

This space will remain natural for hiking so families will have the opportunity to learn to appreciate what Martin County has to offer in the pine tree uplands.

The Newfield property is also home to a working farm that is being cultivated by the students at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Martin County. The students are learning all about farming and gardening while they help to grow food that they can then consume. This is a wonderful partnership in our local community to foster healthy eating habits and future employment opportunities.

The local farm will be accessible to the families that choose to live in Newfield, being developed by Mattamy Homes. Newfield will have a variety of home styles and a downtown area for the residents. The working farm, trails, and parks will be part of the 2300 acres dedicated to green space in Newfield.

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

Fishing Tips

Paul Sperco
Captain

It is June 19th as I am writing this column and things are red hot along our local beaches.

A wind shift to the west has moved the sargassum off our shoreline and the fish are chewing. Catch and release snook, big whiting and croaker, palometa, jacks, and sand perch have been on the catch list for those who have been fishing from the beach. I fished Stuart beach last week and caught some of the biggest whiting and croaker of the year.

This is fun fishing for all members of the family as most of the targeted species will be found 5 to 10 yards from the edge of the surf. Not only are they great fun to catch, but the table fare is also second to none. Alight seven-foot spinning rod paired with a 3000 or 4000 sized spinning reel spooled with 12 lb. monofilament is all that you will need.

The hot bait was the Fishbites Chartreuse Bloodworm or Orange Clam scent tipped with a small piece of fresh or frozen shrimp. I had my grandson Christian down last week from Georgia and he even caught a 2-pound pompano and a 20-inch snook that we released on a whiting rig. The calm surf allows you to fish a whiting and croaker rig with a one-ounce pyramid sinker.

The key is to keep your bait close to the shoreline in the first trough. A cast of over 15 to 20 yards will put you in an area that will not be holding any fish. The fishing even got better this past weekend as my son Randy, and I put over one hundred whiting and croaker in the cooler. The reason we kept so many is because I always make sure my friends and neighbors put some in the freezer for summertime fish fry’s. I fillet and skin these great eating fish and they freeze very well.

The factor that has all these schools of fish filtering into the area is the amount of bait moving south. It is the time of year for the glass minnows, pilchards, and greenies to invade our waters as the water temperature is up to 83 degrees. If you are planning a fishing trip to the beach, check a local tide table for the high tide mark.

An hour before high tide to 2 hours after is the stage of the tide you want to fish. A cooler with ice is a must to put the fish in as it gets warm on the beach this time of year. Bring enough water and Gatorade to stay hydrated too.

The other situation you must pay attention to is the threat of afternoon thunderstorms. The lightning that goes along with these storms can be a killer and I always leave the beach after the first clap of thunder is heard or a visual on a lightning strike. Sometimes these cells pass quickly and a trip to your vehicle to get out of the weather and wait out the storm is all you must do.

It is a great month to catch a bunch of fish at beaches like Stuart, Tiger Shores, Santa Lucea, or Bryn Mawr just to name a few. I hope everyone has a safe and happy month and go out and enjoy the beautiful beaches. Good luck and catch em up.

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

On Education (MOD Blocked)

Victoria Defenthaler
Retired Martin County Principal & School Board Member

MOD blocked

Arati's Advice

Arati Hammond
Keller Williams, Senior Real Estate Specialist

Ways to Help Your Parents Downsize

You get the call every child dreads. It’s about a sudden illness or accident. You catch a red-eye flight to get to your parent’s bedside that night.

In addition to getting through mom’s or dad’s immediate health crisis, you realize that you probably have to sell the house.

Here are some ways to make the process of preparing and selling your parents’ house efficient and less stressful.

Legal Hoops. Identify the challenges you’ll need to manage to get the house sold.  Get a power of attorney so you can sign paperwork for your parents. If your parent has died and you’re selling a property, check if there are barriers like liens or back taxes to settle. Determine whether the mortgage is paid off or if there’s a reverse mortgage.  Your real estate professional or real estate attorney should be able to assist you.

Up-to-Date Information. Gather all the information about a home’s systems and appliances, repairs, warranties, and so forth. Also list the changes and upgrades that have been made to the property and when the projects were completed. These could include the roof, HVAC system, appliances, etc.

Pick a Pro. Pick a real estate professional who really understands your parents’ market beyond just the business side of real estate. The person needs to understand local senior housing options, universal design principles, and the challenges of aging. You also benefit from someone who can connect you with local resources and services, such as home stagers, mortgage professionals, moving companies, and home healthcare providers.

Location, Location, Location. The old real estate phrase about the importance of location can be critical to a seniors’ well-being, especially as they face the limitations (mobility challenges and an inability to keep driving, for example) that aging brings. So, look carefully at transit options, access to medical facilities, offerings by community and recreation centers, and proximity to retailers, restaurants, parks, and other things that are part of your parents’ lives. When you’re vetting properties, also consider how accessible such places will be if your parents are no longer able to drive.

Decisions. Unless your parents can’t make decisions, your role is to help them find the perfect home. Don’t rush them or force them into options that you consider ideal. For example, you may be wowed by a home’s design, aesthetic upgrades, and fancy appliances, but your parents may not care about those things. Maybe they’d prefer the house with old appliances and a dated kitchen because they love the spectacular garden. Weigh in with your opinions but let them decide.

Clear Timeline.  Seniors often are concerned about the details of the selling process, especially if they’re still living in the house when it goes on the market. Be certain that your real estate professional is sensitive and outlines the timeline for activities associated with listing and marketing the house. Those include the date the home will go on the market, when flyers and MLS tours will be available, when a lock box will be installed, when broker tours will begin, and what to expect during showings and open houses

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

Constitutional Corner & Non Profit Notices

 

Supervisor of Elections

 

Check Your Voter Status!

The 2024 presidential elections are just months away for the state of Florida. Are you ready to cast your votes in the three major elections scheduled for 2024? Is your voter information current and up-to-date? Have you checked your voter status?

The dates to save and prepare for are:

  • Presidential Preference Primary-March 19, 2024
  • Primary Election-August 20, 2024
  • General Election-November 5, 2024

Additionally, I would encourage all registered voters to take the time to make sure your voter information is up-to-date. Ask yourself these four simple, yet important questions:

  • Has your address changed?
  • Has your name changed?
  • Do you need to update your signature?
  • Would you like to change your party?

Please visit www.MartinVotes.gov and click on the ‘Access Your Voter Information’ tab located in the middle of the homepage, fill out the prompts, and review your information. You can update your voter information at www.RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov or by calling the elections office at 772-288-5637 for assistance.

As your Martin County Supervisor of Elections, I consider it an honor to serve you. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns as we prepare for the upcoming presidential election cycle.

Vicki Davis

Tax Collector

Property Appraiser

Martin County Clerk & Comptroller

Non Profit Notices

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Palm Beach and Martin Counties Announce
 Awards and Scholarships

Wednesday, June 14, 2023– West Palm Beach, Fla. – Big Brothers Big Sisters of Palm Beach and Martin Counties recently held their annual Big and Little Awards on Thursday, May 25, at the Manatee Lagoon. New this year, scholarships were awarded powered by FP&L.

Amidst trophies, plaques, videos, grilled-cheese bar, and dessert, friends, family, and supporters gathered on May 25 to cheer the bonds between ‘bigs’ and ‘littles’ that steadfastly represents the nonprofit Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Palm Beach and Martin Counties. The awards dinner was held to honor the successes of the BBBS Littles and those who defend their potential.

The event was held at the Manatee Lagoon in Riviera Beach and set the stage for smiles, laughter, hugs, sentiment, and recognition for the Big & Little of the Year honorees and scholarship award recipients.

“These awards celebrate critical relationships between mentors and youth. This year, FPL has provided these amazing opportunities for Littles to continue their path to success after high school. “said Yvette Flores Acevedo, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Palm Beach and Martin Counties.

The newly founded Florida Prepaid College Foundation Path to Prosperity Scholarship Program powered by Florida Power & Light offers high school students the opportunity to receive a two-year Florida College Plan Scholarship. Eligible students must meet all the criteria, including being an active member in the mentoring program through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Palm Beach and Martin Counties.

After a short program, the honorees gave personal, heartfelt accounts about the difference the program has meant to their lives because of the ‘matches’ and the life-mentor experiences enjoyed throughout the past year. Following the Big and Little awards, Juliet Murphy Roulhac from FP&L and Jeanni Hawkins from Florida Prepaid College proudly announced the 16 scholarship winners and presented them with an award.

Among the top awards for service and commitment to Big Brothers, Big Sisters Palm Beach, and Martin Counties in 2023 are:

Big Brother of the Year- Hank Henderson
Little Brother of the Year- Damarius Green and laWanda Green*

Big Sister of the Year- Kelly Logan
Little of the Year- Kahmoras Hendrix and Crystal Plummer
Teen Big of the Year- Madeleine Simoneaux
Teen Little of the Year- Messiah Jefferson and Shantrell Thomas

Partner in Potential- Naywona Burnett-Graham,
Partner in Potential- Connections Education Center

Scholarship winners include Tanvir Ahmed, Breyana Brown, Janevea Clayton, Rhianna Ennis, Andree Francis, Karen Garcia, Jennifer Geffrard, Mikayla Gibson, Suzely Jayseus, Jessica Laroche, Dina Medelus, Malachi Nelson, Tatiana Ronelus, Kirley Ross, Miyocha Simeon, and Guerlandy Villanoix. (Schools Represented: Forest Hill High School, Florida Virtual School, The Open Doorway School, Lake Worth High School, Santaluces High School, Suncoast High School, and Inlet Grove High School).

Hibiscus Children’s Center
Keeping Kids Safe

Treasure Coast –   June is National Safety Month!  This is a time dedicated to raising awareness about preventing injuries and promoting safety in various aspects of our lives. One crucial area that demands our attention is the safety of children, as they are the most vulnerable members of society and our most precious resource. 

Close to 40 years ago, Hibiscus Founder LaVaughn Tilton was deeply affected by the lack of safe placements for abused children removed from their homes and had a vision of communities where children could grow up free of abuse.  Since that time, more than 3,500 abused, abandoned and neglected children have received safe haven at the Tilton Family Children’s Center in Jensen Beach and Hibiscus Village in Vero Beach. Children arrive at Hibiscus scared and traumatized. Every day, they are welcomed by caring staff and volunteers and have received over 450,000 nights of safety since 1985. Children are provided critical services including mental health, educational, medical, trauma-informed care, career training and hope for a brighter future.

Ava (name changed) was eight when she was placed at the Tilton Family Children’s Shelter.  Although she felt scared and alone, the Hibiscus team of caregivers immediately assured Ava that she was safe. Over time, Ava began to feel more secure and learned to trust the staff and volunteers. Mental Health Counselor provided therapy to help Ava heal, feel more confident and learn to cope with the trauma she endured. After leaving Hibiscus, Ava was placed in foster homes for several years. Ava returned years later to the Hibiscus Village and felt hopeless and alone. The years of moving from foster home to foster home and the difficult circumstances that surrounded her family had taken its toll. The staff worked with Ava to help her realize how valuable she was and that she had the potential for a better future. Slowly, Ava began to envision the life she wanted to have. She concentrated on school and was involved in sports. Her determination to get her life back on track was evident in her willingness to work hard in school and with her therapist who provided the tools to handle her anger and hurt appropriately.  Ava participated in the Career Pathways Program which assists teens in preparing for the future. When Ava turned 18, she was equipped with the life skills, career knowledge and resources she needed to succeed and was enrolled in college. Ava shared, “I don’t know what I would have done without Hibiscus. I would not have made it here and on the road to a productive life”.

We would love the opportunity to share more with you about how you can get involved and help children!  For more details, please visit us at HibiscusChildrensCenter.org or contact Michelle King, CDO, at mking@hcc4kids.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.

From Julie Marshall

 

Hi Tom!

 

  In regard to your recent post (‘School Vouchers Can Prevent Book Censorship’) that was sent to me along with Victoria Defenthaler’s (‘VD’) opinion piece in your May 28th newsletter, I truly wish people would actually listen when other people speak.  As I stated in the MCSB meeting on March 21st, many other times and now must reiterate again, I am not just one parent filing the book challenges.  I work with a local group and multiple other groups across the state and country on the book issue.  My position is to file the challenges with the various schools per the MCSB policy, keep the lists organized, make sure the deadlines are met and communicate with the principals and the district, when necessary.  

 

  As for everyone’s favorite talking point that I have not read the books – I have read some of the books, but not every single book in its entirety, however, someone in our group absolutely has.  That is how we get our very detailed information that is submitted with each challenge.  I have researched and read each and every book report which is more than enough to identify harmful content and inappropriate material that lacks any scholarly or literary value and violates HB 1467, HB 1557, §1006.40(3)(d), F.S., §847.012, F.S. and the FLDOE Library Media and Instructional MaterialsTraining.  To turn it around, have the librarians read each and every book that they have ordered and put it into the MCSD libraries?  I highly doubt it.  

 

  Again, this is not one sole parent’s effort or mission, but as I’ve said before, if people want to keep giving me the power that I can have all of these books removed by myself like I’m ‘Wonder Woman’, then so be it.  (I know people didn’t get that the first time I said it at a SB meeting, but that’s a joke.)

 

  A few other comments on VD:  

 

    1)  In your May 28th newsletter, VD states: ‘…by saying “air on the side of caution”.’   Too funny – it’s ‘err’, not ‘air’.  Oh my goodness, belly laugh.  And this is from a self-proclaimed lifetime educator…  Ha!Ha!Ha!   

 

    2)  I’d also like to point out VD’s inappropriate conduct at the March 21st MCSB meeting when she continued to yell at the SB members after her time was up about only being allowed to speak for 1 minute.  She conveniently forgets when she was on the school board and they limited time to 1 1/2 minutes per person for public comment during the mask issue at the May 12th, 2021 meeting.   There’s that saying, ‘what goes around, comes around’.  

 

    3)  Why is VD now demanding that the school board lobby for gun control?  Is gun control an educational issue?  Should our tax dollars be spent on SB members to be lobbying for gun control?  And if this is all to be true, why did VD not do it during her 4 year term?   

 

4)    What did VD actually accomplish during her 4 year term?  I cannot recall anything.

 

  Sadly, her legacy will be her childish antics to disrupt SB meetings when she, of all people, knows that they have much more important work to do.  

 

James Stedman writes:

 

On Sun, Jun 11, 2023, 7:32 PM James Stedham <jvstedham@gmail.com> wrote:

Saw it! Thank you!

Very well done!

I appreciate your integrity. 

 

Tom quick question, why doesn’t this information hit the mainstream media?

 

Jim was speaking about the Costco item in the last edition.

 

Jim: There is a new article outlining the settlement. They should be going vertical shortly. A great victory for the city and county.  

 

John Giaccio:

I just wanted to express my appreciation to you on your work on the newsletter. I know it takes a lot of time and energy to do this, so I wanted to say thank you.

Best wishes,

 

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Martin County

SENATOR HARRELL BRINGS DISTRICT MILLIONS

Gayle Harrell first went to Tallahassee in the year 2000. She succeeded Ken Pruitt in the old 81st Florida House District. In the Florida House and now in the Senate, she has represented Stuart and Martin County along with St. Lucie and northern Palm Beach Counties. Yet I always consider her a Stuart girl. Her late husband Jim practiced medicine here for many years.

I don’t always agree with her, but in the 10 plus years I have known her, Senator Harrell has always at least listened to what I had to say. And she has brought back millions and millions of dollars to her district including Martin County and Stuart. As far as I am concerned, that is an important responsibility of a state or federal representative.

Harrell will be up for re-election next year. She is running and is counting on her loyal base to turn out the voters. The last time around, she ran unopposed. I don’t know if she will next time. If she does have an opponent in either the primary or the general, that person will have one hell of a fight on their hands once Gayle slips into her red sneakers for campaign season.

During this legislative session she brought home appropriations for her district. Below are her budget requests along with the few that were vetoed by Governor DeSantis:

  • FAU College of Dentistry Planning, Engineering, and First Traunch of Construction $30,000,000
  • IRSC Renovation Science $4,000,000
  • IRSC Deferred Maintenance $3,093,317
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County Education and Mentoring Program $250,000
  • Busch Wildlife Sanctuary Environmental Education Center $500,000
  • District 19 Medical Examiner Facility Planning and Design $1,000,000
  • Palm Beach County Sheriff – The Unmanned Aerial Response Team (UART) $500,000 VETO
  • FAU Doctor of Dental Medicine Program

$5,000,000

  • Statewide Study of Community Residence Zoning

$110,000

  • Alzheimer’s Community Care – Critical Support Initiative $750,000
  • Drug Free America Foundation – Reducing the Use of Marijuana During Pregnancy and Postpartum

$216,727

  • Els for Autism Foundation Specialized Autism Recreation Complex Phase 1 $1,000,000
  • Florida Senior Living Association CNA On-The-Job Training Program $500,000
  • Improve Health Care for Florida’s Mothers: Assuring Quality Florida’s Hospital Levels of Care

$300,000

  • Lucie County Homeless Veterans Community Village $875,000
  • University of Miami Miller School of Medicine – Florida Stroke Registry $1,000,000
  • 211 Palm Beach & Treasure Coast Building

$1,000,000

  • Place of Hope – Child Welfare Services $1,000,000
  • Florida Community Health Centers, Obstetrical Services Viability for Underserved Population

$1,249,467

  • Center for Child Counseling: Urgent Children’s Mental Health Services Expansion $300,000
  • Council on Aging of Martin County, Indiantown Senior Resource Center $250,000
  • Florida Research & Innovation Center Protein Production for Novel Therapeutic Development

$750,000 VETO

  • ARC of the Treasure Coast Women’s Accessible In- tensive Behavioral Living Environment $750,000

 

  • Hanley Foundation Community Recovery Center

$1,500,000

  • Dental Student Loan Program $2,000,000
  • Pediatric Cardiac Technical Advisory Panel Proviso

$$87,733

  • Child Protection Team Retention and Inflation in- creases in operations Proviso $7,000,000
  • Loxahatchee Groves Stormwater System Rehabilitation $750,000 VETO
  • Indian Trail Improvement District M-0 Outfall

$500,000 VETO

  • Juno Beach Universe Boulevard Drainage Improvements $1,000,000 VETO
  • Loxahatchee River Preservation Initiative

$985,255

  • Royal Palm Beach Canal System Rehab Phase II

$500,000

  • Loggerhead Marine life Center Lifesaving Water Treatment System for Sick or Injured Sea Turtles

$250,000

  • Loggerhead Marine life Center: Improving Water Quality and Coastline Cleanliness $250,000
  • Pahokee King Memorial Park Improvements Phase 2

$550,000 VETO

  • Martin County Fair $900,000
  • Martin County Public Safety Training Tower

$1,000,000

  • Town of Jupiter Town Hall Cybersecurity Infrastructure $102,250
  • Port of Palm Beach Land Acquisition for Cargo Capacity Throughput Increase $500,000
  • City of Port Lucie Tom Mackie Boulevard Phase 4

$3,000,000

  • MartinArts: Creating an Arts Center for the Treasure Coast $500,000 VETO
  • Town of Sewall’s Point South Sewall’s Point Road Reconstruction Phase 2 $1,000,000
  • Martin County South County Line Road Bridge Re- placement $3,000,000
  • Village of Indiantown SW Lincoln Street Roadway and Drainage Reconstruction $550,000
  • Royal Palm Beach La Mancha Subdivision Roadway Underdrain $500,000
  • JARC Florida Community Works Program

$425,000

  • Communities Connected by Kids and other CBC ‘s Shortfall Proviso $18,496,941

I asked Gayle why some of her appropriations were vetoed. Here was her response:

“Florida’s 2023/24 budget is the largest budget in the history of Florida, over $116.5 billion, and it continues the great progress we are making in education, health and human services, the environment and infrastructure while putting over $10 billion in reserves and returning over $2.7 billion in historic tax relief to Floridians.  I am so pleased to have sponsored over $100 million in various budget requests that made it into the budget. Although 7 of the 47 were vetoed (a little over $4 million) many of those projects will have the ability to procure those funds through various grants that were established in the budget. It was a great year for Florida and District 31!” 

Some people are upset because she voted for the Live Local Act which preempts local government’s ability to prevent multi-family construction in some situations. That bill was Senate President Passidomo’s chief priority, and if state senators expect to get any of their bills or appropriations through, they just don’t say no.

Besides, at some point as a state legislator, doing what is good for the entire state is what needs to be done. Martin County isn’t the only place in Florida that is trying to thwart any reasonable development, but it is the best known and not always in a kind way by the rest of Florida. The public has been screaming about the lack of housing for years, especially for those that can least afford it. Did we think it was going to happen by building single family homes?

Harrell’s home is on the St. Lucie River in Martin County. She has lived in it for decades. She has seen the green slime, the degradation, and deterioration of our river and the estuary. She has sponsored and helped provide millions of dollars to the cleanup efforts and to water quality not only in her district but throughout Florida.

Many spout how much they want this or that for a better environment. I am still waiting for someone to match her track record for delivering and not just talking. Today, we have elected officials who substitute rhetoric for action. That is not leadership. Gayle has quietly done things and in some cases allowed others to have the bulk of the credit.

There is no perfect score in politics, the goal is to have someone who tries and succeeds most of the time. Gayle Harrell does that and has done so for almost 25 years in Tallahassee. In my book, if she wants to stay another four years, she has my vote.

COMMISSION MEETING JUNE 20, 2023:

Up for discussion and a vote was the sceptic-tank-to-sewer conversion for Port Salerno and New Monrovia neighborhoods.

In 2015, Harbor Branch did a study that concluded that those areas had higher concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus than their reference sites. They stated that the residential wells that supplied drinking water had wastewater contamination which led to these neighborhoods being chosen for a more accelerated conversion.

Estimated wastewater conversion costs per unit would be a total of $12,774 including removal of the old septic tank. According to commission policy, mandatory hookup needs to happen within 365 days of completion. The entire amount of $11,924 can be prepaid or paid over 20 years with fees and interest as an assessment on your tax bill estimated at $749.17 per year. Homeowners who don’t hook up are charged the minimum sewer fee of $19.34 by the utility.

That sure is a good sum for the people of these mostly working-class neighborhoods. Yet new infrastructure has traditionally been paid for by the homes that will use it. There also is the part about the contaminated wastewater in the drinking supply. After public comment, what was the commission’s decision?  Punt.

There are various programs that will help lower income homeowners pay for hook-ups including Florida SHIP funds and possible CDBG funding. All good but limited in the amount of money available. Another tactic employed was securing a 60-day extension from the contractor on the price for his winning bid. That may not appear to be much but with constantly escalating prices, it certainly is.

Ciampi said he couldn’t support doing the work at this time because of the costs. That shows he is in full election mode more than a year away. Is it alright for the neighborhood to be drinking what is not the safest water? The entire commission voted 5-0 to postpone the vote on whether to do the work.

In the meantime, they may change the county ordinance requiring mandatory hook-up. While the state only requires it when your septic system fails if sewer is available, that is not a good policy. We are spending billions of dollars to construct modern sewer systems and then allowing people to go on as if they are not there. It is a criminal waste of tax dollars.

The county can also see whether there are more grants available to lower the costs. Already grants have been received in this case that have cut the individual expense in half.

I don’t know legally whether the county can use ad valorum funds to subsidize these homeowners. Ad valorum funds are paid by every taxpayer in the county including those who live in the municipalities and even county residents who have different utilities providing their sewers. As a Stuart utility user, I know I don’t want to subsidize another utility customer.

Then perhaps the utility’s funds could be used to buy down the cost. That would be asking one rate-paying customer to subsidize another. If the people of Palm Lake Park had to pay for their hook-up, why should they be asked to pay for another neighborhood’s hook-up?

Besides the contamination aspect, there is a huge push to develop the many empty lots in the area. Without sewers, builders and developers will not be able to do so. Some may not care but people who have bought property with the assumption that they can build will care.

Let’s see what happens after the 60 days. I expect the same dilemma that the commission faced in June will be faced again in August. You can see the presentation here

Fire/Rescue Chief Chad Cianciulli made a compelling presentation for the new contract.

The most compelling figure I heard was that there were 7 structure fires so far in 2023. The notion that many of us grew up with that “firemen” are constantly fighting roaring blazes is no longer even remotely true. It appears from the statistics that the department’s biggest responsibility today is providing emergency medical care.

They are the ones who not only transport people to the hospital during a heart attack or were in a car accident, but they administer first rate care while doing it. Fifteen years ago, victims had to wait until they were in the emergency room. It sort of puts to rest the idea that volunteers could administer this level of care.

Cianciulli provided many statistics about why he needed not only more personnel but that his people needed to be paid 12% more in the first year of the contract. He said that most who leave end up in Palm Beach County where currently the beginning salary is $77,518 as compared to Martin County’s $55,793. It takes roughly 5 years to train a Fire Medic. At that point, they are being paid $70,437 per year and in Palm Beach they would go back to the starting salary of $77,518. That is still more than one receives in Martin County.

We have essentially created emergency rooms in fire/rescue trucks. This is a level of service beyond anything we could imagine a few short years ago. Do they deserve the $6 million more in the first year? Who can say no? Four commissioners will not.

The one who voted no was Heard. Her reasoning is the sheriff has a clause in his labor contract that is a “me too” clause. So that 12% will go over to his department too. Heard also mentioned that the rest of the county employees will be receiving 4% raises. Taxpayers are left to pay for this great care. You can see the presentation here

If you acknowledge that the department is providing a great level of service, then the question is, does the public want to pay for it? Most people want the very best that money can buy. The catch is they don’t want to be charged more. It isn’t whether the fire/rescue employees are performing better and better as care givers, the question that is never asked by anyone except Heard is can we afford the Rolls Royce that has been created?

Budget time is coming up, and I suspect there will need to be instances when the four commissioners who voted for this contract will have to stick together. They will need all four to vote for next year’s taxes to pass. Heard will be a no and that will be consistent with her other votes throughout the year.

Ciampi, Smith, Jenkins, and Hetherington will be doing all sorts of posturing regarding raising your taxes. Throughout the year, they have voted on ways to make it palpable. Can they cut other projects? Sure, parks, public works, and administration can all take hits. Without having a policy discussion about how much public safety services are necessary and the true costs, they vote yes, and the future should look after itself.

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City of Stuart

The city has come to terms after years of pending litigation with a manufacturer of PFOA which contaminated the city’s drinking wells. This necessitated spending millions to correct the  problem.

On Friday June 23rd the city commission in executive session reviewed the settlement offer and accepted. The details have not yet been made public. But it is definitely in the millions. How the city can and will use the proceeds is not known at this time.

As more of the details are made public, we will give you a more in-depth report. As of Friday, it is all still full of unknowns. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for more details as they unfold.

 

THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES

After almost two years, the Kanner PUD lawsuit is finally coming to an end.

Last week after publishing an article about a possible settlement, I was asked by the developer’s representative to take it down. They were afraid that it would prevent a settlement since the article pointed out that the proposed settlement was identical to the original approved plan from August of 2021. I took it down. You can see it here

We have all heard of the fairy tale, “The Emperor Has No Clothes.” In this case, the person who instituted the administrative hearing, Robin Cartwright, had nothing ultimately although the administrative law judge found several points in her favor. She was reversed on all substantive matters by the Governor’s Council. She then put in a “Notice of Appeal” to the Council’s decision in the Fourth District Court of Appeal.

In the interim, the Florida Legislature passed the Live Local Act which in effect gave the developer the right to build many more units than what the current plan calls for on that parcel. The developer was sitting in the catbird seat. But for two reasons, the developer decided that a settlement was in his interest.

The first was the original plan is probably the nicest one that Stuart has ever seen. Why try to reinvent everything because of a time delay. At the same time, a further delay of 6 months to a year could chase away Costco. I can see them not wanting to hang around forever.

With that said, what could they give Cartwright?  A promise. The promise was to build the original site plan and not withdraw it in favor of much more intense development available under the Live Local Act. Call it whatever you want, but the only thing that was given up was time.

We can’t make light of time. The developer was making mortgage payments and paying taxes for two years without income. He was able to clear the property and do some sitework. It cost him legal fees. It also cost the city of Stuart increased tax money and utility fees…you and me.

Nothing was accomplished except delays. And we can’t forget the level of disharmony that was rampant in Stuart and Martin County about this development project. What a grand waste of resources. We all deserved better.

At least we all realized that the self-crowned emperor had no clothes.

As Appeared in Martin Moments

COMMISSION MEETING JUNE 12, 2023

Both the Business Development Board and Main Street made presentations to the commission.

Joan Goodrich from the BDB went through how the board has enhanced business over the past year. I have never been a fan of the organization, but under Goodrich it is trying to have more of an impact. You can see the presentation here

Candace Callahan, the Executive Director of Stuart Main Street, also made a presentation. It was full of facts that are unverifiable including that more than $11 million in private investment is occurring Downtown. It was as if she had reached into the air and pulled that number down.

The presentation was full of the unknowable. Even if the $11 million number is true, how is it tied to anything Stuart Main Street did?  I was not even going to comment on this presentation until Ms. Callahan stated that only 13% of Main Street’s budget came from government sources.

If that were true, it is something to be celebrated. I didn’t think it was, but I wanted to give her an opportunity to provide the data that led to that number. She refused to do so. I then reached out to the president of their board, Joe Flanagan, for verification. He refused to confirm it. I gave them every opportunity to prove what they claimed was true or to admit that they made a mistake.

How much can their information be trusted if they remain non-transparent about how they derived those numbers? They are a private non-profit which receives a small fortune from the taxpayers of Stuart. Their protectors, the commission, have placed that organization’s interest over that of the citizens. When is enough…enough? Hold your commissioners responsible for their actions and the absurd use of your tax dollars.

See the following in-depth story on Stuart Main Street, an organization that has its own facts and refuses to share information with the public. The very same public that is funding and housing the organization. A refusal of an explanation for a statement made at an open meeting while supposedly informing the city on their programs and financials.  It stands to reason that they would want to get out a good news story, but only if it were verifiable truth.

Our own Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch has served one term on the board of the South Florida Water Management District. She was re-appointed by Governor DeSantis, but the Florida Senate would not schedule a hearing to vote on her nomination. We don’t know why and are not likely to ever know the reason.

It is more than fitting that the Stuart Commission sends a letter that urges that she remain on the board. What was not fitting was Commissioner Collins calling out Senator Harrell, the senate president, and governor for this as well as the loss of funding for a sewer project, the Live Local Act, and a prejudice against single family homeowners. Collins was so proud of himself that he put the entire colloque on his Facebook page.

That was a mistake. Harrell has been a main stay in Stuart for more than 50 years. She has been a teacher, a partner with her late husband in his medical practice, a patron of the arts, and a successfully elected state representative and senator. Harrell is entitled to respect. I have disagreed with her stance on some things, but I consider her a capable public servant.

What many newer pols fail to see is that an opponent today could be an ally tomorrow. On the national level, any civility shown is considered a weakness or fault. The reason that a pol votes for or against a bill or appropriation is sometimes because that vote will allow their priority bills and appropriations to make it through the pipeline.

I believe Collins is overlooking the complexities of being in political office. He is making enemies when he should be making friends. And none of his actions will result in Jacqui being confirmed or aid in bringing needed money for Stuart projects. It may make him feel better, but it is not better for his community.

The Waterfront, which is the successor to Mulligans, is seeking reimbursement of $750,000 for repairs to the premises for structural and other items. It was decided to send it to the CRA for further action.

A brief discussion ensued regarding the new city attorney position. But the commission was quickly swayed in another direction by interim attorney Paul Nicoletti saying that before creating criteria for hiring an attorney, Mortell would have to be formally offered the permanent manager position. The commission wanted to immediately offer him the position. Mortell and Nicoletti both said that it needs to wait until a noticed item can come back. The commission did instruct Nicoletti to negotiate a contract with Mortell.

It is not clear why looking for a permanent city attorney needs to wait until Mortell is permanent manager. It is true that if Mortell is not approved as the next city manager, then he would return to his old job as attorney. But the commission can still discuss the next steps for hiring a new city attorney now. They just shouldn’t hire one until Mortell is formally voted upon. This is one easily swayed commission.

The mayor’s discussion of moving city hall to the Wells Fargo building was equally brief. I don’t believe the commission has a good understanding of the financing or consequences of this move. This is a momentous occasion that will have a far-reaching impact on Downtown including answering the question of what happens to the current city hall?

It is my understanding that they would need the money generated from the sale of our iconic building to pay for the extensive renovations of the bank building. Do the residents want the current city hall to be demolished and turned into a hotel or apartments? If they need the money for renovations, then a sale must be made which requires a referendum.

In the meantime, the different departments relocating to Wells Fargo continues without an end plan. There are no estimates of cost or what the eventual outcome will be. It is the moment to stop further movement until all of that is studied more. I haven’t even mentioned that Tim Hernandez, one of the developers of Azul, is slated to build apartments on other portions of the Wells Fargo property as part of the deal.

I have asked for records on the Wells Fargo financing so that it can be more fully analyzed. Commissioners need to slow down before the city spends millions and decides a move is not in anyone’s interest.

SECRETIVE STUART MAIN STREET

I don’t quite understand why Stuart Main Street decided to be less than truthful when they made their presentation to the Stuart City Commission.

They could have just used their usual puffery. Instead, they mentioned that they receive only 13% of their funding from government sources. I didn’t believe it was a true and accurate statement.

 

I contacted Candace Callahan by email for an explanation:

From: Thomas Campenni <thomasfcampenni@gmail.com>
Sent: Tuesday, June 13, 2023 8:07 AM
To: Candace Callahan <Director@stuartmainstreet.org>
Subject: RE PRESENTATION LAST NIGHT

Candace:

During your presentation you quoted 13% of your budget comes from the government. Could you please let me know how you derived that number.

Also I would love to have your current income and expense numbers. Thanks.

Her response:

Hi Tom,

It was a pleasure to see you last night. And thank you for taking more of an interest in Stuart Main Street. Pursuant of Florida Statutes Chapter 119, please direct your records request to the City of Stuart.

Respectfully,

Candace Callahan, Executive Director

Stuart Main Street | The Flagler of Stuart | Market on Main | Rock’n Riverwalk

201 SW Flagler Ave. Stuart, FL. 34994

e | director@stuartmainstreet.org p | 772-286-2848 w| www.stuartmainstreet.org

I don’t know why asking for clarification on a statement made in a public meeting elicits a mention of a public record. She made the reference, and I was trying to have some insight into it. If it is a true statement, I think it would be remarkable and she would want to tell the world.

Chapter 119 has to do with Public Records. Is Stuart Main Street required to keep a public record? They are a “private” organization, but it looks to me like it is almost completely dependent on the City of Stuart for its financial support with both direct and indirect subsidies. The only things they are required to provide the city with as per agreement are their yearly budgets and financials.

To give the organization every chance to defend Callahan’s statement of 13%, I contacted President Joe Flanigan. Flanigan spun the web in every way possible except to verify the number. He said he could not. If he has any information that would verify his executive director’s statement, he should love to give it out. Instead, it is treated as a state secret.

Since I could not receive any information from secretive Stuart Main Street, I made a public records request from the city. In return I received the 2021 and 2022 budgets and the Flagler lease. Those records showed inconsistencies.

According to a budget submitted to the city from Stuart Main Street, they received from the city $70,000 in 2021. There was also a line item for $2500 for grants. There is no explanation of what the grant was for or where the funds came from.

The total income number is just as vexing. What was presented was not a total budget. If the budget I received is what Main Street gave the city, then they did not accurately report. They did not fulfill the terms of their agreement. Nothing in this budget states anything about Flagler Center now called The Flagler.

There are obviously pieces missing. Entire columns have disappeared. For example, the General Administration Column is M on their budget document. Beginning with column N, the other columns do not appear until column AB (14 columns are gone). The secrecy of Main Street continues.

You can see the 2021 budget here

The 2022 budget has gross entries and individual entries. It is a more accurate portrait of Main Street’s overall year than 2021. It received $70,000 from the City of Stuart. There is also an entry of $8000 labeled CRA proceeds. Another one is for “Grants” for $50,000.

For Flagler events, which looks to me is a subcategory of the budget, Main Street took in $188,000 in total. That includes allocating $35,000 of income or half of the city’s $70,000 contribution. They also paid the city $33,000 for the year as rent for Flagler Center. The entire idea of the below market rent was to allow the organization the ability to stand on their own two feet and not take any direct subsidy from the city. Instead, it has worked out to be one more subsidy for secretive Main Street.

You can see the 2022 budget here

Instead of working with me, secretive Main Street left me to find the information on my own. I went to their tax returns. I found inconsistencies with their budget.

Their tax return for 2021 showed income of $222,000 and the income in the budget $101,000. Expenses were $227,000 on the return and about $30,000 according to the budget after adding and subtracting bottom lines from the various categories. 2021 should be chalked up as indecipherable with the information in our possession.

The tax return for 2022 has not been loaded onto the GuideStar website yet. You can look at the 2021 return here

Why is it so difficult to get information out of a taxpayer-supported nonprofit group that has as its mission the preservation of Downtown? Is it because their real mission is to preserve themselves? According to their website, there are nine board members and three ex-officio members.

Why has the city entrusted The Flagler, an asset worth millions of dollars, and tax supported funds of close to $100,000 to a board without much of a stake in Downtown? Where is the oversight? As a taxpayer I am outraged. As a good government advocate, I am saddened.

Secretive Main Street is not elected. There are no qualifications for being on the board such as owning a business Downtown or being a Stuart resident. I would venture to guess that half or more of the current board members do not meet either of those criteria. Yet they supposedly are guiding Downtown’s future.

And they refuse to give basic information to the Stuart public. Is there any reason why residents believe that government is nonresponsive to the public. Don’t ask secretive Stuart Main Street because they will not answer.

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Martin County School Board

SCHOOL BOARD MEETING JUNE 20, 2023

I am perplexed as to why (at least in my opinion) the most significant part of the meeting was buried in items that were on the consent agenda.

The reason that the board wanted Michael Maine to become superintendent and completely in charge so fast was because he had to implement changes to his team before the new school year. I imagine that the board is in complete agreement with the changes and that is why the items were on consent.

Which begs the question, why not take the time to have Maine explain the changes publicly at a school board meeting? Why leave these very important personnel changes, if not exactly in the dark, not discussed by the board in public. I think it was a missed opportunity.

On the district’s website and through a public relations campaign, the district immediately got the changes out to the public. I think a more important opportunity was missed when it was not discussed at the meeting. To see the changes and press release you can go here

There seems to be no letup regarding the controversy with books. A good portion of the meeting had to do with each side using public comment to make their points. In general, the district is following the law. They could be using different procedures for how books are removed but those who are against what is happening should be speaking to their state representatives instead of school board members.

If this is an important issue (and it is), then it should be one that would make your representatives in Tallahassee decide to change the law to agree with your thoughts somewhat more. That is done by the public saying if the current law is not changed, then they will vote for the legislator’s opponent at the next election. Politicians understand two things…voting and money. It is all about those two things.

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Town of Sewalls Point

COMMISSION MEETING JUNE 13, 2023

The commission was trying to wrap their arms around Phase 3 of the South Sewall’s Point Road project.

There had only been one bidder and it had come in at a much higher price than originally planned. At the last meeting, the suggestion was made to see if there was a county project that the town could piggyback on. There is not.

The original project was for the necessary road work, sewer, and stormwater placement. Joe Capra, the town engineer, suggested that they have the contract bid in parts to take advantage of multiple contractors. Campo believed it was a good idea.

Manager Daniels wants authorization to do preparatory work with the State Revolving Fund (SRF). SRF is a state agency that lends money to municipalities at a 1-2% interest rate. He didn’t want to borrow anything at this point, but it does take time to get approvals. Daniels wants to have this as an option as they search for other grants.

After much discussion, the commission voted to proceed with breaking down Phase 3 into various components and rebidding. Also, Daniels will do the preparatory discussions with SRF but will make no commitment for any borrowing at this point. You can see the agenda item here

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Village of Indiantown

COUNCIL MEETING JUNE 8, 2023

Council Member Janet Hernandez is on the board of the National Association of Latino Elected & Appointed Officials. She wants to go to their convention in New York from July 11-13. She is receiving one free night of lodging before the start of the general meeting to attend the board meeting. Her conference fees, meals, and air fare are either being waived, or Hernandez is paying for them.

She is asking for the village to pay for two nights lodging for the convention. There seemed to be some reluctance because no one seconded her motion and therefore it died. But it was resurrected.

About 65% of the Indiantown population is Hispanic. Hernandez being on the board of the organization is a feather in her cap and to a lesser extent the village’s. Does that mean a small place like Indiantown can afford it? That is a council call.

A couple of things happened under the old manager that did not serve this council well. One was his encouraging of junkets. The council went to Tallahassee at the drop of a hat and called it lobbying. Besides, “sunshine” or the perception of it was compromised when they travelled together. It was never necessary for multiple members to go.

I think what brought the travel to a head was the two new members that were elected last year. They want more fiscal discipline for the village. Vice-Mayor Stone’s trip to the National League of Cities earlier this year was not viewed favorably by a majority.

In my opinion, here are the important things regarding travel. One is the board meetings of the local league of cities. The designated representative or the alternate should go. Except for milage, there is no other expense since it is in Fort Pierce.

There is also a local league advocacy team. One member should be on the team, and they go to Tallahassee during session to advocate for league bills.  In addition, one voting representative should attend the annual Florida league conference. While it can run for four days, the two important days are the voting day, and the day classes are given. It is in Hollywood or Orlando which are easily driven to.

Apparently, there is an $8000 budget for travel and education. $4377 has been spent so far this year. I would assume most of it on Stone’s trip. Going forward the council could divide the budget equally among the council members. If someone needs more than allotted, they could ask their fellow members to release someone’s allotment that is not being used.

Upon reflection, the council decided to pay for one night’s lodging for Hernandez at her convention.

The utility has allowed people going on vacation or up north for the summer to suspend their service. The excuse being if there is a leak then no one would know about it until it is too late. The price charged would be $15 to turn off and the same to put back on. During that time, no water would be used and charged but sewer and stormwater would also not be charged.

To maintain the infrastructure, the utility relies on a steady stream of customers paying, including when they are away. This program the town inherited from the private company makes no sense. It was suggested that the homeowner could shut the water off from the outside. Good suggestion.

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Town of Ocean Breeze

The Next Meeting Is October 10, 2022

COUNCIL MEETING JUNE 12, 2023

What is the town’s responsibility to protect homeowners from bad workmanship?

That is the question that is being asked by the people that bought homes in Seawalk. D.R. Horton, the builder, is not responsive to the defects claimed by the buyers of their homes. Not just defects but outright violations of the Florida building code.

In most cases, consumers are better protected because the town would send their building official to inspect and not issue a sign off or the final certificate of occupancy until everything was deemed according to the approved plans and the code. The legislature decided that they didn’t want to hold up “progress” while local government was supposedly dragging their feet and not expeditiously inspecting the work.

In the case of this project, D.R. Horton hired their own inspectors to certify their work. If the subcontractors and the inspectors performed their responsibilities as intended, the system could work. In this case, that hasn’t happened, and the individual homeowners are left holding the bag.

After one of the Seawalk owners spent much time at the microphone, the question was still unanswered. Are these warranty matters or does the town have an obligation to force the builder to do what is right? At this point, it seems the town staff doesn’t have the answer.

Staff can try to force the builder to make the corrections. If the builder’s work is not up to code as far as the infrastructure, which they put in, then the answer seems clear. The town is holding a performance bond and can at some point take corrective action.

If a roof leaks, an air conditioner is wrongly installed, or a vent cover was never installed in someone’s home, how much leverage does the town have and what is the remedy? There is a home warranty law that covers defects. The buyer of the home is the party that needs to act under that law to have the builder correct the defects.

The town really can’t be blamed because they were not allowed to do the inspections which are intended to help protect the unknowing home buyer from purchasing a home that is not up to code. The legislature, by allowing private inspectors paid for by the builder, has removed that safeguard in consumer protection. We are back to the buyer beware time before consumers were given an equal footing.

At some point this will be resolved. The town, the builder and the individual homeowners will come to a settlement. The legislature should revise self-inspection especially with developments of this size. There should be an easier pathway than the court system to achieve justice. D.R. Horton has not apparently been a good party in this case. And in Martin County there are other complaints about their developments.

I guess the adage Buyer Beware is back in vogue.

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Town of Jupiter Island

COMMISSION MEETING JUNE 13, 2023

There was a presentation regarding the town’s new website including a module for the meetings.

Unfortunately, the static from the dais was continuous on the recording making it almost unintelligible. You could only hear the mayor and, for the most part, Commissioner Scott though the sound quality was atrocious. Whenever Commissioner Field spoke, I did not hear anything. The same for Commissioner Collins.

Commissioner Smith and Manager Garlo were in and out. At least Mr. Baird and the speakers at the podium were quite easy to understand. This is not a new problem but a continuing one.

I think it has two parts. One some of the commissioners don’t speak directly into their microphones or forgot to turn them on. The other issue is that the static hum is so distracting that, at times, it is louder than those speaking. If recordings of the meetings are going to be made, they should be done so that those not in the audience can listen online or later.

I believe this was an information only item since it falls under the manager’s purview.

In a 3-2 vote, the board affirmed the Impact Review Committee’s decision for 486 South Beach Road. It was a very long discussion. However, since I could not hear much of what was said, it is impossible to provide accurate reporting.

At that point, I stopped listening to the meeting because it was not going to be productive. I urge each of the commissioners to listen to an hour of this meeting and ask themselves if that is acceptable for the Town of Jupiter Island. I would doubt that any to think it is.

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Final Thoughts

 

CIVIC VIRTUE

The approval of the Martin County Fire Rescue Union contract by the BOCC reported above got me thinking.

Not only in Martin County but throughout the United States, citizens expect so much of government. From public safety to keeping us safe from defective products, we expect that the government performs a wide variety of things. There is just one catch. Americans hate paying for it.

Taxes are looked on as the Original Sin of government for most Americans. It doesn’t matter whether we live in a high tax state like New York or a low tax one such as Florida. We think we should have Triple A services and somehow, they need not be paid for.

We all realize that Medicare and Social Security are going bankrupt. The only reason they have been around for this long is that they are universally received by all Americans when they reach the golden years. It doesn’t matter if you were the bank president or clerk you are going to get a check and have good healthcare. I have never been so happy since qualifying. It takes the sting out of getting older.

Yet you always see and hear that someone has an idea that we should privatize one or both programs to some extent. The minute that is ever done I would predict that within a decade, or two Social Security and Medicare will be looked on as welfare and eventually be means tested. Once that happens and all taxpayers have no skin in that game, those programs will join SNAP (food stamps) and Medicaid as just another welfare scheme.

Both those programs could be easily fixed by having all income subject to tax. If you remove the cap on Social Security, then solvency would be insured indefinitely. It isn’t increasing the rate which is 7.65% which includes Medicare but broadening the income subject to the tax including on all forms of earnings such as carried interest and capital gains.

The likely hood that will happen is slim because Americans want it all but not pay for it. At some point in the not-too-distant future the programs will not have enough money to continue in their present form. First, we will apply a band aid to shore up the programs. Then what?

As the Roman poet Juvenal wrote in about 100 CE that the state by providing “Bread and Circuses” to the citizens so they would remain calm, and content allowed the Patricians to continue their orgies and amass great fortunes. When bread and circuses could no longer be provided the state withered because the rulers had long ago substituted a show for civic involvement—corruption for civic virtue.

Two thousand years later people haven’t changed very much.

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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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