July 9, 2023

Friends & Neighbors Edition

In this Edition

In almost anywhere but Florida, this is the point by which summer’s halfway mark is measured. Our summer humidity and the threat of hurricanes will be with us until late October if patterns stay the same. Summer sort of ends around November 1st.

In my childhood, Memorial Day (which was May 30th regardless of Mondays) would be the start of summer even though we still had final exams and three more weeks of school. By July 4th and especially by the All-Star Game, we would consider summer halfway over. And for many kids, having so much unstructured time was beginning to be boring.

By the dog days of August, the heat was just oppressive. These were the days before air conditioning, and I don’t even remember a fan. A wet washcloth on your face kept you as cool as you ever were going to be while you tried to sleep.

Rockaway Beach was pretty good for the summer doldrums as was the amusement park there. If I remember the location, it was when you first got off the subway on Beach 98th Street. The place was deteriorating in the late 1950s and very early 1960s. I can’t even imagine what it was like when it closed in the late 1980s.

I had a cousin who was much older than I, and he was a cop. One summer day, we ended up at a Rockway bungalow that was owned I guess by another cop he worked with. There were thousands of summer bungalows in the Rockaways which were handed down from parents to children. The cop must have been Irish since in those days the NYPD was about as Irish as you could get as was the summer bungalow community.

That was a day I still remember. The cool ocean breeze, sitting on the porch, and making friends with a kid I never saw again after that day. I remember the orange sky as the sun set over the ocean. We went back home on the E train from Rockaway late in the evening tired and satisfied.

Once Labor Day came and went, it was time for school to begin. The empty hours ended. The day was regulated by the clock and for the next nine plus months a sense of order and predictability returned to a kid’s life.


This is our new website’s inaugural edition.

Thanks to all the people who gave us feedback while in the testing phase. We could not adopt every suggestion received, but we will keep them in our back pocket and may be able to include them in the future.

None of this would have been possible without the aid of our sponsors. Their support was invaluable in accomplishing this task. I also personally need to thank Stacy Ranieri and the entire Firefly Group for making this digital newspaper’s format a very appealing and improved one. Friends & Neighbors could not have done it without them.

It has been our goal to allow our many contributors to express their views rationally and politely even when they are at odds with opinions and points of view that we may have taken. As I have said many times, no one has to agree with us to have a letter published or an idea expressed.

Explore our new format and read our sections. As this is an evolving work in progress, there may still be some glitches. Please let us know if you have any difficulty finding what you’re looking for. And don’t forget to sign up your friends & neighbors to receive their very own free copy of our publication. 

Friends & Neighbors is a Martin County community effort. We bring you what we believe is valuable information twice a month to make sure you know what is happening in Martin County and our local cities. We report on every government…large or small…because we believe that every resident has a stake in what happens locally both within his own immediate community but also all of the surrounding areas within Martin County.

If you feel you want to help us in this work, become a sponsor. It is easy to do right on our site, and you will be helping to ensure that this electronic publication continues.

Have a great Sunday!

Is City Hall Ready To Move



Stuart seems to be moving City Hall from its iconic spot on the river to the Wells Fargo Building in almost imperceptible slow motion.

The city has moved the IT and Finance Departments there without any fanfare. Stuart seems ready to let things just happen. There has been no community input. It is planning by sleepwalking, and there are a million questions I have that commissioners have left unanswered.

There was a resolution that the commission passed a few years ago stating that the goal was to move operations to the Wells Fargo building. Yet at the time, it seemed like the distant future. There has been no discussion about costs, a timetable, or planning about how such a move will affect both areas.

Staff believe that this is the will of the commissioners. This very issue was a discussion item a few weeks ago. Yet I heard no affirmative desire to move forward. It was more an announcement by Manager Mortell that because of water leaks, the Finance Department needed to relocate. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of the commissioners thought it was temporary.

Mortell tried to get the discussion going, but all that was suggested having a meeting of groups like Main Street to get their ideas. What about us, the citizens, instead of the “faux downtown group” that takes so much of their operating funds from our tax dollars that their opinion is tied to the official city’s opinion even though not clearly annunciated.

The Wells Fargo building was purchased to house city hall…eventually. The current tenants were supposed to remain for several years, and their rent was to be used to pay off the bond. Instead, the city has not kept the current tenants in place necessitating the city having to make up the difference in operating expenses. If the city did not occupy the space, both the county and Stuart would continue to receive real estate taxes because of the current tenancy. That money is rapidly going away.

The entire property was to be a redevelopment project, but because of city inertia, it has become a liability. Now Stuart is slowly cascading into a move that only perhaps groups such as Stuart Main Street want to have happen. A quick review of that organization’s website will show that few, if any, of their board members are city residents and/or owners of businesses downtown.

It will soon be too late to stop this momentum. We will lose ad valorem and what will happen to the current city hall site? Before the site can be developed, there will need to be a referendum by the charter.

If this were a strictly business decision, then perhaps a sale or long-term lease would be justified. I have been around the government long enough to know that when it comes to things like land development or commercial property, Stuart will never get a good deal.

We are going to hear that they want to extend Osceola Street and have a park with the new hotel or condos that will be built. And that may come to pass in 5 or 10 years. I just don’t believe that today (and the movement and expenditures) are justified.

All we need to do is look at the mess of the Northpoint property that has been ongoing since 2008. A succession of failed deals has happened, and all these years later, it is still an empty piece of property and mired in lawsuits. This is the result of Stuart’s property machinations.

I believed that the city hall site should be developed. But not right now. City Hall should remain right where it is for the foreseeable future. Instead of spending money to redo Wells Fargo, we could spend much less and fix our current location.

Wells Fargo will have to be refinanced because of the type of bond that was used to purchase it. If it is re-leased to business tenants, then the financing and upkeep would be able to pay for itself. The building would remain on the tax rolls.

I know I am not ready to place our City Hall on the market. I believe many other Stuart residents aren’t either. All you need to do is look across the river at Northpoint to see the commission and the city’s ability to do real estate deals. I am terrified of the results. 

Granny Flats Are Part of The Housing Solution

In its battle with localities to increase housing units, California has latched onto “Granny Flats” or accessory dwelling units (ADUs) as they are known in the industry. Guess what? Homeowners like them too.

Not only are they being embraced by many homeowners, but they also seem to garner very little neighborhood opposition. 23,000 permits were issued in California for ADUs last year. State law requires that localities must allow this type of housing, and they can be up to 850 square feet per unit by statute. ADUs usually have their own utilities and separate entranceways.

In Los Angeles last year, 7160 permits were issued for ADUs while just 1387 new single-family permits were issued. L.A. had 13,400 multi-family unit permits applied for. Local ordinance allows ADUs to be built to a maximum of 1200 square feet.

Local ordinance also prevents the units from being leased as vacation rentals. The state has made sure that permitting is being done expeditiously. The way they have been embraced by homeowners has shown that the idea has broad support.

As a property market becomes more and more expensive, two units on one lot allows people who cannot afford to own a conventional home the opportunity to do so because of the extra income potential. It is an ideal approach for increasing density without changing the character of a neighborhood.



In Los Angeles, where rental prices have seen astronomical growth, this may be the only way tenants can afford to remain. The median rental rate is 40% higher than the rest of the country. However, ADUs lease typically for less than a multi-family apartment of similar square footage. Perhaps it is due to the more personal relationship between owner and tenant. It is hard to charge a “friend”.

The typical ADU costs about $300,000 to build in the city. Depending on location and size, the amount could be less. Many builders are buying homes and then adding ADUs before reselling the properties. The original two-family home is making a return to the market.

Most permits are being issued in middle class neighborhoods. They are in close proximity to jobs, shopping, and public transportation. These are the neighborhoods that would feel the most pressure to have new multi-family development. The ADU increases the housing supply without changing the face of the area.

ADUs will not solve the housing crisis alone. And depending on the area, they may not always be possible. But the monumental shortage of affordable housing for every segment of our population suggests that nothing should be off the table. This is a viable solution for many localities and states.   

As Published In Medium

Medical Care In Martin County

Have you heard people say the reason Americans are against a single payer system or “socialized medicine” is because we don’t want to ration care.

Anyone who is still saying that hasn’t tried to see a primary care doctor or specialist recently. If you are sick, try calling and getting in to see the doctor. By the time you get the appointment you either have become better on your own, gone to the urgent care, or the emergency room. 

And if you need to see a specialist then you may have to wait months unless you are already an established patient. I don’t mean a patient from five years ago but rather have an ongoing appointment of some sort. But the belief is that we do not ration care and you can “see any doctor you want.”

This is not to disparage any medical professional. No, for the most part once at the promised land (the office or hospital unfortunately) you are treated well. It is getting around the bureaucracy that takes some doing. Let me give you two examples just from this week.

The first is from a friend. She was due for her 5-year colonoscopy as ordered by her physician at her last colonoscopy. The Cleveland Clinic bought Martin Health Systems and has now replaced Martin’s computer system with their own. There is one central number you call, and they are supposed to connect you with their doctors for appointments. Guess what? You can go forever and never speak to a live person as the phone rings and rings.

If a live person does answer, you will hear “please hold” while no one ever again speaks to you and eventually you are dropped to start all over again. You would think that the My Chart system should enable you to go online and contact your doctor to at least make an appointment that way. You would be wrong.

My friend, trying to schedule her colonoscopy, just went over to the gastroenterology group’s office. The office was empty probably because no one could call and make an appointment. The PA saw her right there and scheduled her colonoscopy for three weeks later.

I tried to make an appointment for my mother’s bloodwork at Cleveland Clinic, ordered by her physician, by going to her My Chart. It automatically gave me many options to schedule her draw at various Ohio locations but nothing in Martin County. So now, about a week before her doctor’s appointment, I will drive her over to the lab facility at Kanner Highway and wait an hour and a half for our turn.

Our health system in Martin County is broken. It doesn’t work. I am not blaming doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, or physician assistants. The Cleveland Clinic controls health care in this county. As with any monopoly, their customers a/k/a patients don’t matter.

In America, we have created the most expensive medical treatment system in the world, and we get the same level of care (or worse) as any other OECD country’s care.

After being on Medicare for the past several years, I will tell you this single payer plan really works. Because of our income level, my wife and I each pay about $660 a month…I wouldn’t trade it for any previous insured plan I have been covered by.

The next time someone says that they don’t want rationed health care, ask them what it is when you wait three or four months to see a doctor just so you can be diagnosed. That is rationed healthcare. Only in the United States, it is known as American medicine.

As Published In Martin County Moments

VanRiper's Views

Darlene VanRiper

I attended a summit on Affordable Housing on June 22. 

It was very informative.  I would say the only downside is that the presenters spoke way too much about Broward and St. Lucie Counties.  We in Martin County tend to shut our ears when being compared to those two counties because we vehemently don’t want to be like them. 

Never-the-less it is information we need to digest regardless. Those counties are figuring out a way to house and retain their teachers, police, hairdressers, wait staff and other workers.  The people that make our world go around.

There was a presentation regarding transportation.  Predictably, it was geared toward creating walk friendly areas or providing buses which run every 5 mins or so.  With a struggling MARTY system, we are nowhere near that.

What I found would fit nicely in Martin County was a presentation on the “Basics of Financing” by Mitchell Rosenstein, Principal of the Green Mills Group, a private development company.  He has found a way to make lovely condos and apartments which the average person in Martin County can afford. 

This is in NO WAY Section 8 housing projects.  Go to the website here 

His company uses Low Income Housing Tax Credits or the “Housing Credit” program to fund affordable rental housing.  The allocation in Florida for this program in FY-2023 was $500 million.  Unfortunately, Martin County will only see $1.8 million of this.  Why?  Perhaps we are not asking our state representatives.  We should be.

The Green Mills Group uses these tax credits and finances the building of housing for Affordable & Workforce Housing as well as Veterans Housing and of course our fastest growing homeless endangered population of seniors.  We are an aging population according to the last US Census.  “The median age is up by 0.2 years from 2021 and is nearly half of the average life expectancy of Americans, which was 76.1 in 2022. The median age in 2000 was 35.3, and in 1980, it was 30.” 

I have friends in their 70s who are unable to return to work even if anyone would hire them.  They are seeing their life savings dwindle due to inflation and other factors.  Some have left Florida because they can no longer afford to insure their homes or rent one.   Floridians who have lived here for decades are being displaced by wealthier migrants from other states.  They’re moving in, we’re moving out. 

The Green Mills Group goes one better by managing their housing.  The worry is always that “affordable housing” will not be kept up.  Mr. Rosenstein explained that they vet the renters.  Not just anyone is accepted.  The applicant must pass credit and criminal background searches.  And The Green Mills Group does not sell their developments.

Housing is considered NOT affordable if you are spending over 30% of your gross income on rent/mortgage and utilities.  In Martin County the median income is $84,000.  That would leave only $25,200 for housing and utilities.  Divided by 12 months = $2,100/mo.  The average 3/2 in the county now rents for $2,500/mo.  That doesn’t include utilities.  And remember “median” income means that half our people make less than $84k. 

The Green Mills Group rents a 2-bedroom unit for $1,500/mo.  That would qualify someone making up to $54,000 a year.  For those in the very lowest income brackets they set aside around 15% so they aren’t priced out of housing. 

My recommendation would be that the Board of County Commissioners invite the Green Mill Group to do a presentation.  Maybe your kids won’t have to buy their first house in Okeechobee like mine did. 

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

Nicki's Place

Nicki van Vonno
van Vonno Consulting, Owner

Between Two Worlds

Old and new. Trash and treasure. Ships that glide into the night and books that rain stories. I recently visited the Netherlands. It was a family trip, gallivanting around villages, suburbs, and college towns. And boats, always boats. We sort, shop, ship, and cry. I search for news in English on the cable and I read.

I visit one of my favorite bookstores. The bookstore is still there, larger, more visible and filled with booklovers. How lovely to say hello to the bookseller, and maybe, goodbye, leaving with two books.

“If We Were Villains” is a murder mystery set in an elite cult-like performing arts college in New England. The professors select their best students to enact ritual performances during the school year for both secular and religious holidays. The book follows the senior class of thespians. I knew who the killer was by page 50 but how M.I. Rio, a University of Miami graduate, weaves this tangled web of murder gives proof to the phrase “thy wit is as quick as the greyhound’s mouth; it catches.”

“Lanny” by Max Porter is the story of a gifted but unusual child, his parents and a famous, now, elderly artist, living in a small village. Narrated by the village tree spirit who guards the village he can hear all the voices, the trees, the winds, the villagers, and so can Lanny. My daughter bought it, then gave it to me after she had finished it. It is about family, the interplay of nature and habitat and of community and belonging, and the role of art. I have already given a copy to a dear friend.

Gabriel Garcia Marques’s “Love and Other Demons” is full of greed and lust, treachery and torture, addiction and temptation, saints and sinners, scripture and voodoo.  As a young journalist, Marques’s editor sent him to see if there was a story about an old church excavation. There was.

On my flight home I began TJ Klune’s “In the Lives of Puppets.” This dystopian sci fi adventure story is set within the heart of a forest where three robots hide and care for a human. In this world, race and gender are meaningless. The young genetically created human inventor designs a wooden heart for his dad robot whose mechanical heart is malfunctioning. When the family’s hidden home is discovered, and his father arrested, our human leads his family of chattering robots and a “hysterically angry puppet” through a world of vast forests, waste dumps and cities to rescue his dad. That he also learns about love and sexuality is only part of his journey of discovery. As a wise woman has said “Nothing human is alien to me.”

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

I spent a week in Tallahassee working with representatives as they developed bills in committees, then moved the bills through debate on the floor of the Florida House and the Florida Senate, and through final passage with hopes that the bills would be signed into law by the governor.

The bills covered topics such as allowing teachers and staff to carry guns on school campuses, banning the sale of sunscreen containing oxybenzone and/or octinoxate, abolishing the death penalty, and excluding agricultural loans from accruing interest, among many more pressing topics.

At this point you are probably wondering what I am talking about because nothing about this has been in the news. That's because I am talking about the 51st Florida 4-H Legislature. For a full week over one hundred 4-H members from across the state convened on our state capitol and took on the roles of governor and lieutenant governor, senators, representatives, lobbyists, media specialists, and even pages.

Florida 4-H Legislature provides an opportunity for teen 4-H members to have a “learn by doing” experience in state government. The purpose of Florida 4-H Legislature is to provide an experience that prepares 4-H members for leadership in the American democratic process. Each participant learns, practices, and defends the theory and process of representing citizens and making public policy. 4-H participants get to experience what it takes for laws to be considered and passed or vetoed in a model legislative session at the Florida State Capitol.

This was my first time participating in Florida 4-H Legislature. I watched as these youth navigated our legislative system in and out of chambers. They sponsored bills and debated them, made deals with other representatives to further advance their own agendas, and successfully overturned a veto by the governor. I have spent a lot of time involved in our legislative system and I was fully impressed at how true to life this experience was for these 4-H members.

Along with how accurate the legislative system was portrayed, it was also impressive to see that this event is mostly youth led and they followed Roberts Rules of Order nearly perfectly. There are adults on hand to give guidance where needed, but the youth handled almost all of the process with little help needed.

"Point of Order!" was called out when Governor Wolking entered the Senate chamber. "I rise to ask a nondebatable technical question" was the response given to Senate President Eubanks when she called on Senator Dressel. The session culminated with a Sine Die ceremony and the signing of the successful bills by the governor and lieutenant governor.

With opportunities like 4-H Legislature it is no surprise to me to see 4-H members taking on the roles of elected officials when they become older. 4-H program alumni serving as elected officials in Martin County include Senator Gayle Harrell, Mayor Susan Gibbs-Thomas, and Commissioners Harold Jenkins and Stacey Hetherington.

Florida 4-H created a Flickr account to share pictures from their events. You can find the pictures from Florida 4-H Legislature here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/florida4-h/sets/72177720309349306/

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

Carl's Conclusions

Carl Frost
Kai Kai Farms, Owner

Historically farms have enjoyed great protection from county government harassment due to their noisy, smelly, dusty, and lighted operations. 

Some farms are not very attractive places with equipment and debris strewn about. Large corporate farms have by and large shied away from agritourism but smaller farm operators in locations sometimes surrounded by or near homes picked up the agritourism opportunity. County and state laws allow small farms to conduct noisy, smelly and incompatible activities in their neighborhood but few if any did because their small size precluded the use of large noisy equipment.

Tallahassee is telling communities that agritourism should be treated no differently than other farming activities. Some counties have disagreed and so begins the expensive struggle of small Florida farms against their local government. Sadly, this is a David v. Goliath situation and agritourism may be in for a rough patch.   

A most interesting agritourism legal case is unfolding in the Jupiter Farms neighborhood located in northern Palm Beach County. It is Palm Beach County v. White Trail. I’ve just returned from a full day (June 16, 2023) of a special magistrate hearing in the (perhaps) first climax of a case which has been simmering between the neighborhood (basically the plaintiffs) represented by Palm Beach County Zoning and a 20 acre rose flower farm which hosted fourteen weddings in 2022.  

So why should Martin County residents have an interest in this “test case”? It’s about HOME RULE or how much authority over zoning should local government possess. The agritourism statute is a wedge in the home rule firewall. Tallahassee granted farmers the right to engage in some commercial (tourism) activities regardless of what a county’s agriculture zoning classification permitted use matrix listed. For example, assembly gatherings like weddings are not a permitted use under existing zoning. Now Tallahassee says weddings are OK on a farm. Counties are starting to push back. 

Palm Beach County wants White Trail to cease and desist all agritourism events with sound speakers and curtail the use of valet parking. These two items, namely amplified sound and a lineup of cars awaiting valet parking were described at the hearing as “significant offsite impacts” to an area the county attorney tried to portray as the land of tranquility.  

The phrase “significant offsite impacts” is one tool granted to county governments to “address” county government concerns over agritourism nuisances. How this is to be accomplished remains unclear as there is virtually no Florida case law. The White Trail zoning violation is Palm Beach County’s first agritourism law test. How much regulation over agritourism can the county impose on the farm operator?  

All morning we witnessed a parade of approximately a dozen people testifying concerning the adverse impacts such as amplified sound the venue has delivered to homes as far as a mile away. This includes children who are experiencing psychological difficulties due to the noise with chandeliers rattling, horses restlessly moving about their stalls, sleeplessness, cardiac illness, depression, and divorce.

Other significant offsite impacts include racing cars piloted by drunk patrons, a private road having too much traffic, jet skis droning on for hours at a time (must be a rental business!—it’s the kids), a fleet of RV’s which appear to be the precursor to an RV park (only a photo shoot), stalking, chickens being slaughtered because the music drove the guard dogs to bark constantly which required their removal and finally a catastrophic decline in property values.

The Florida legislature created 570.8 F.S. which in theory shields farmers from county orders to cease and desist agritourism activities. So why is Palm Beach County asking to curtail amplified sound, valet parking and shuttle buses at White Trail?

Furthermore, if the special magistrate agrees with PBC they want to include a $15,000 per day fine for future infractions. Let’s digress. White Trail is not the first venue in this exclusive enclave of 5-10 acre lots in northwestern Jupiter Farms to host outdoor events with amplified music and singing guests.

The area has a history of big fund raisers, gunfire, fireworks, and commercial activity related to nursery growers. Several homes, including White Trail share in the road easement and it required three years to agree on a speed limit sign and some asphalt millings. These folks were not getting along. It started with a small group of disgruntled malcontents who campaigned and badgered Palm Beach County Sheriff and code enforcement officers until finally the administration had to curtail the nuisance, or at least try.   

Closing arguments made by PBC to the special magistrate included the right of the county to “address” offsite impacts through the existing zoning code. They argued that agritourism statute 570.8 does not limit their authority regarding nuisance created by noise, traffic, and impacts of shuttle buses picking up passengers at offsite locations. They acknowledged the PBC ordinances provide a noise exemption for bona fide agriculture performed per Best Management Practices (BMP) however given there is no “agritourism BMP” and that agritourism is not agriculture (in their view) the ordinance shielding farmers from nuisance complaints about noise is not applicable.  

This hearing is before a special magistrate and the ruling would be binding but the legal impact limited to Palm Beach County. The White Trail owners can appeal an adverse decision if they can afford the legal expenses. Other counties will be watching closely. 

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

Non-Profit Perspective

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

At the end of June, United Way of Martin County hosted its annual “Big Reveal” event which was sponsored by Capstone IT and STS Aviation.  Having 160 community and non profit leaders attend to hear how this year’s campaign dollars would be invested is very humbling. 

Throughout the year, United Way rallyies individuals and organizations to contribute to United Way’s Community Impact Fund. These funds are then invested in local programs that improve the education, health, and financial stability of Martin County residents.

But what makes United Way unique is our citizen review process which ensures donor funds are used efficiently on the most needed programs. Each spring, dozens of volunteers provide an extra layer of accountability by carefully reviewing grant requests to make sure the programs that are requesting funding are effective, meet current community needs, and are financially stable and sustainable.  No program is guaranteed funding and new grant requests are received each year from multiple organizations.

This process is one way that donors can be assured that their contributions are going to critical programs in Martin County that are monitored and evaluated on their overall effectiveness in changing outcomes for the good of our community and residents.  For the upcoming fiscal year, United Way is investing $959,910 in local non-profit programs that applied for funding through our grant process. 

Awarding community impact grants is only one of many ways United Way addresses our community's unmet needs.  In addition to these grants, an additional $769,621 has been allocated to support direct program services, donor designations, and funding for the United Way's internal programs. This includes the United Way Holiday Project, Ride United, Student United, AmeriCorps senior volunteer program, and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

The total United Way investment this year is $1,729,531.

These are just a few examples of the benefits that a strong, healthy United Way in Martin County can help to provide for our community.  I will continue to share some of the amazing work that we do in Martin County. When we get closer to the holidays, I will share more about our role as local coordinating organization for Toys for Tots and how we assist families in Martin County for the Christmas holiday.

For more information about  United Way of Martin County, please go to our website https://www.unitedwaymartin.org   As always, if you have any questions please reach out to me at chdiez@unitedwaymartin.org or call me at 772-283-4800. 

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

Contemplative Christian

Chad Fair
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Pastor


A few weeks ago, eleven youth and two adults packed into two SUVs and headed to Savannah Georgia for a mission trip. 

This isn’t my first youth mission trip, a few months ago I mentioned last year’s trip to Nashville.  These trips are all fairly similar; sleep on air mattresses, do different service projects throughout the week, do some sight-seeing, worship, sing and dance with our youth, and do A LOT of laughing.  These trips are always exhausting, but they are a blast and totally worth the exhaustion.  Providing the opportunity for youth to serve, grow in their faith and build relationships is truly a privilege.  I think I now know the words to EVERY Taylor Swift song.  I guess that makes me a Swiftie.

Sadly, our trip did not include tickets to a Taylor Swift concert, but we did buy tickets to tour First African Baptist Church.  FABC was organized in 1773, making it older than our country.  The church and its leadership have played a pivotal role in the history of this country; from being part of the Underground Railroad, to being a gathering place for civil rights leaders. 

The sanctuary was a beautiful gathering space with many of the original elements preserved.  When you walk into some places you can just feel a sense of history and the presence of God.  Our group gathered in the front pews of the church and were greeted by Joe, our guide and history teacher for the tour.  I don’t know how Joe conducts most of his tours, ours was set up specifically for the youth on the trip, with a few others joining us.  Joe began telling the story of the church’s history and asking the youth questions about African American History.  Joe was an excellent blend of humor and historical knowledge.  I suspect he needs to have an excellent sense of humor to stop himself from crying.

During our tour Joe pulled a couple twenty dollar bills out of his pocket.  He told the youth gathered in the church, for every question you get right, I’ll give you twenty dollars.  I didn’t count the questions but I can specifically remember 5 questions.  He would call on a youth, ask them to introduce themselves and ask them a question.  If you do the math, 5 questions at twenty dollars apiece, that’s $100 to potentially hand out. 

I happen to be sitting just a few pews back and I can tell you Joe didn’t have five twenty-dollar bills in his hand and he didn’t need them.  That day, Joe handed out exactly zero dollars for correctly answered questions.  I’m not saying, of the 60 youth, none of them knew the answers, the girl sitting next to me knew all but one.  This wasn’t the first time Joe had given a tour to a group of high school students and this wasn’t the first time Joe put some money on the table for correct answers and this wasn’t the first time Joe didn’t hand out any cash.

After the tour Joe and I were talking about the state of education and some of the current language in education pertaining to teaching history in ways that doesn’t make white student’s feel guilty or uncomfortable.  That’s when Joe hit me with a truth bomb!!!  “Man, brother Chad, they’ve NEVER taught the actual history of enslaved people in this country.  They gloss over the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement.  They talk about King and Carver and call it good.” 

Joe’s not wrong and tour after tour after tour his point is proven.  Sure, he hands out some money every now and then, but it’s not the norm.  The history of race in the country is a complicated one and sadly we seldom learn the entire story, perhaps because it is uncomfortable.  Sometimes we need to be uncomfortable if we are going to grow and move forward.

We had an amazing week on our mission trip and created memories and relationships that will last a lifetime.  I am continually amazed at young people’s passion to serve and make a difference in the world.  This generation is more inclusive than mine ever was. 

Much of what I have learned about African American History and the plight of people of color in this country happened after my high school days.  I am convinced that education and exposure to other cultures and customs breaks down barriers.  I am convinced that we as a community are better when we have diversity and are able to understand other cultures. 

As a pastor and a Christian, I am called to cultivate community and build relationships and work toward Biblical justice.  We simply can’t do that until we break down walls, build relationships, and learn about the history of our country.  All of it.  Even the uncomfortable stuff.

Chad Fair’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Fletch's Perspective

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

With their determination, tenacity, and defiance of oddsmakers everywhere, the Miami Heat’s and Florida Panthers’ respective playoff journeys from last seeds to championship contenders testify to the oft-overlooked truth that there’s no shame in a second-place finish.

However, no one—other than maybe the super fans—remembers the runners up.

Even though we’re able to reach through our programs more than 6,000 children each year, at Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County (BGCMC) we gladly accept our role as the No. 2 provider of youth services behind the Martin County School District.

While the district certainly surpasses us in size and scope, we’re proud of how effectively our comprehensive academic, nutrition and mentorship services can complement their key initiatives. And we’re especially excited that Dr. John D. Millay—the district’s first-ever appointed superintendent—is strengthening this partnership and continuing his service to Martin County children and families by becoming a member of the BGCMC team.

Hired as senior vice president, Dr. Millay will manage our litany of academic initiatives, school-based partnerships, our mentorship program, AmeriCorps, and help oversee the construction of our Stuart flagship club.

BGCMC is about making sure our members know the sense of safety and acceptance of the club environment. We want them to recognize their value as individuals and position them for achievement and ongoing success.

Our certified teachers—drawing insights from our real-time data-share partnership with the school district that synchs in-class and afterschool lesson plans—guide their learning.

Our mentors—AmeriCorps members, business partners and otherwise—help strengthen their character.

We also leverage every other advantage possible. This includes corporate partnerships—such as our relationship with Mattamy Homes introducing the kids to agricultural practices at Newfield Farms (recently featured on WPTV News). It also means helping in attaining scholarships. We’ve helped students at the three local high schools secure a total of $7 million in financial aid over recent years.

We strive, nonetheless, to do more and do it better. Dr. Millay is ideally suited to help us do so.

A tremendous administrator, innovator and organizational leader, Dr. Millay brings immense value to BGCMC and I’m honored to welcome him aboard. Also tasked with handling direct day-to-day supervision of key departments, I’m confident he’ll value the immense expertise and dedication of our staff—whose heart for our community’s most vulnerable children continually inspires me.

I know they’ll inspire him, too.

Just recently my staff demonstrated their character in their rapid response to a single mother in desperate need of afterschool care for her child after fire displaced them from their home. They moved with urgency while safeguarding the dignity of all involved.

It’s the same willingness to do whatever it takes that you find on championship-caliber teams. Only in this dynamic, the kids and families are the winners and what we get to do—and more importantly, how we get to help make them feel—changes lives, maybe even creates a few superfans, and makes memories that last for lifetimes.

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

Water Corner

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

The June 22nd Rivers Coalition meeting focused on the mushrooming
threat of a harmful discharge this summer from Lake Okeechobee.

The big problem: The lake - currently loaded with toxic algae -- is a
full foot higher than it should be at this time of year with the
rainy season beginning. On top of that, above average precipitation
is being forecast for our area this summer. The combination poses a
terrifying threat to our river and estuary; the closest precedents
are the environmentally-disastrous years of 2016 and 2018.

Ben Hogarth, from the City of Stuart, and John Maehl, from Martin
County, presented the plans to deal with any toxic discharges.

Mr. Hogarth noted the current El Nino conditions (above average water
temperatures in the Pacific Ocean) typically lead to more tropical
systems in the Atlantic than usual, adding that it is unusual to see
so many tropical waves coming off Africa this early. This creates a
threat of too much rain in our area creating a higher lake level and
increasing the threat that the Army Corps of Engineers would be
required to release water down the St. Lucie Canal -- water full of
toxic algae.

Mr. Maehl shared Martin County's Algae Response strategy. He is
optimistic: The Department of Environmental Protection, South Florida
Water Management District, Florida Department of Health, and the Army
Corps of Engineers are all much more responsive to health issues now
than they were in 2016 and 2018. He noted that the SFWMD now leads an
"all hands on deck" response to toxic algae which has generated
positive results: the algae bloom two years ago at the Pahokee Marina
was successfully handled.

One nagging problem: The Corps of Engineers still has to follow the
old lake management schedule (LORS) rather than the new one (LOSOM)
that was supposed to have gone into effect this summer but has been
delayed. LORS permits greater discharges at lower lake levels than
the new LOSOM does. Fortunately, Lt. Col. Polk, from the Corps of
Engineers, told us they were well aware of this distinction and were
going to consider the more accommodative(and more estuary-friendly
LOSOM guidelines in their decision-making process.

The bottom line: The agencies believe they are ready, willing and
able to deal with any toxic algae that shows up in our area - and
urged us: "If you suspect you're seeing toxic algae, REPORT IT!"

Finally, a bittersweet note: Our pleas to the Governor to keep Jacqui
Thurlow-Lippisch on the South Florida Water Management District's
Governing Board fell on deaf ears. Her term expired this past Monday.
She received a standing ovation in thanks for her service to our area
and her long, steadfast fight for clean water - a fight she vowed to
continue whenever and wherever she could.

Walter Deemer’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Business Development Board Bent

Joan Goodrich
Business Development Board of Martin County, CEO

Even though they can come in every age, there’s something inherently youthful about entrepreneurs.

It takes an idealistic spirit to believe that your abilities, ideas, and products will succeed in the marketplace—and boundless energy to see that they do. And since cultivating entrepreneurs is vital to the creation of a vibrant economy, it’s one of many reasons why the Business Development Board of Martin County is so excited about the addition of Indiantown High School to our community.

Opening Aug. 9, the school will serve ninth through 11th graders. Operated by Indian River State College in partnership with the Martin County School District, Indiantown High School will give students access to a unique educational experience.

Like Clark Advanced Learning Center—which is located on IRSC’s Chastain campus so students can also take college classes—Indiantown High School will offer students the chance to earn college credits as well as technical certifications in variety of trades and vocations. The discipline and determination required for a young person—especially one still in high school—to earn such achievements will not, I’m confident, be lost on a prospective employer.

As they advance in their schooling the students can gain access to an impressive assortment of academies such as Medical Science, Emerging Technology, Mechanical Technology, Construction Technology and Environmental Technology. They can study for and earn certifications, among others, in Medical Assisting, EKG, automotive repairs, electrical, welding, HVAC, agriculture, Social Media Strategy, Adobe Illustrator, and Business Communication.

One of the most appealing aspects of Indiantown High School—particularly for a certain personality type—is that it’s right-sized, allowing instructors the ability to provide students with individualized attention. We found this feature especially relevant when considering the Emerging Technology Academy’s certification in Entrepreneurship.

Famously equipped with active minds and abundant energy, entrepreneurs often admit to having a touch of attention deficit disorder. Their impatience and unquenchable curiosity eventually lead to new discoveries.  

So, an intimate learning environment with the right dynamics for one-on-one instruction is ideal for creating our next generation of entrepreneurs.

At the BDB, in addition to our core services of site location, financial assistance, market intelligence, business-climate advocacy and speed-to-market support, we support and celebrate entrepreneurs. At the 2022 Martin County Business Awards of the Year, we unveiled a new category, Youth Entrepreneur of the Year.

Keegan Nunes captured the inaugural prize for her company, K-Soaps, for which she sculpts gorgeous bars of organic soap using a cold-press recipe she refined herself. She even donates a care bag of soaps to people in need with every sale. If you really want to feel inspired (and humbled), note that she took home the honor at the ripe old age of 11!

While Keegan set the bar (pardon the pun) high, we have no doubt that thanks to Indiantown High School, plenty more remarkable young entrepreneurs will soon join her ranks in the future.

Onward and upward Martin County . . . our future is bright!

Anne's Assessment

Anne Posey
Tykes & Teens, CEO

Tykes and Teens held their annual meeting this past week and said goodbye to Board President, Ken Kenworthy as well as welcoming a new slate of officers.  

Mr. Kenworthy has been instrumental in guiding Tykes and Teens over the past two years, ensuring that Tykes and Teens maintains both quality clinical work and fiscal wellbeing.  Guiding a complex organization that serves four counties and over a thousand young people is no small feat and Mr. Kenworthy did so with dedication, passion, and commitment to the youth we serve.

The Board of Directors continues to provide strong leadership with our incoming slate of officers.  The President for the coming year is Linda Kloss, who also served as interim CEO during the past year.  Vice President is John Gonzalez, local real actor who has been dedicated to the Board for many years.  Treasurer is James Russell of the Rehman Group and Secretary is Anne McCormick, retired CEO of Boys and Girls Club.

This summer Tykes and Teens provided their first ever summer camp in collaboration with the Hope Center for Autism and Southeast Florida Behavioral Health Network.  Andrea Greenlee, LCSW – Director of School Based Services provided tremendous leadership, even becoming the “lunch lady” when needed.  The ability to provide a camp for those youth with mental health needs who might struggle in traditional camp settings has proven invaluable. 

Fun activities have included Drumbeat (which uses music as a way of self-expression) and activities such as mindfulness and meditation provide both enjoyment and a therapeutic purpose.  Youth learn how to manage their mental health symptoms in a therapeutic milieu setting which should prove to be beneficial when they return to the school setting in the fall.

We look forward to continued growth in collaboration with our Board of Directors and the communities we serve to provide clinically sound and needed programming.  We value all our collaborations!

Anne Posey’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Mindful Meditation

Jessica Miranda Roberts
Mindfullness and Moving Meditation Instructor

Summer Solstice is Upon Us

This week we pass through Midsummer, or the Summer Solstice on June 21st.

Summer Solstice means “the time the sun stands still”, the day and night are equal, and, in some ways, it is like slack tide, that short period where the tide seems to be still.  It’s not coming in or going out. This special day each year marks the middle of the year, and it is a good time to pause and be still within us, to find our own inner balance.  

Most of us would agree that there is great wisdom in taking time to be still on the inside, have pause for reflection, occasionally, so I will share a few ideas of ways to deeply connect with yourself in our beautiful Martin County this week or anytime.

  1. Watch the sunrise. Maybe from your window or patio, or even better at the beach. While it is always important to remember to protect your eyes from direct sunlight, there is something magical about being present to witness first--light, and see the sky gradually brighten as the sun comes up over the horizon.  It is a great way to reset your circadian rhythm as well for improved sleep at night. Presently, first light is just before 6 am and sunrise is just before 6:30am.
  2. Get outside, alone for a bit. Beat the heat and do this at sunset. Take a leisurely walk through a park or along a local waterway.  One of my favorite places to stroll on paved paths is Indian Riverside Park in Jensen Beach. There are paved paths totaling about a mile of walking if you were to explore all the routes, with plenty of benches along the way to rest, and or reflect. Being outdoors and observing nature is shown to reduce stress all on its own so even if you do not have any huge epiphanies, you’re bound to feel greater inner stillness.
  3. Visit a local yoga studio and take a class there. Summer Solstice is also International Yoga Day and a great opportunity to support these important local businesses, who are dedicated to helping others find unity of mind, body and heart for greater health and well-being. Yoga is the process of looking within to know and understand oneself and finding peace and balance. And every yoga class ends with the traditional Savasana (deep relaxation and stillness) so perhaps a good teacher can guide you to that place inside yourself.  Namaste’

Wishing you a warm and wonderful Summer Solstice, whatever you do this year. And even if it is a different day or another activity, if you do happen to take time to pause and connect with that deep stillness within and you would care to share your experience, please reach out to me. I would love to hear from you. 

Jessica Roberts’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Humane Society of The Treasure Coast

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

Pets for Patriots Program

As a country, we owe so much to the brave veterans who risk their lives in order to protect our freedom.

Unfortunately, fighting for our country can result in health conditions, an inability to work, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast (HSTC) is a proud partner with Pets for Patriots, an organization whose mission is to give gifts of fidelity, joy, and love to veterans and pets through companion animal adoption.

Pets for Patriots strengthen the lives of military veterans and their families while saving the most overlooked shelter dogs and cats. In 2022, Pets for Patriots had a total of 537 animal welfare organizations participate in the program across 40 states plus the District of Columbia. Their reach and quality of care speak volumes to the lives of both pets and people.

Pictured is Julie and her dog, Luna. Julie is a Navy veteran who adopted Luna from the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast in 2021. After an unfortunate incident, Julie went into septic shock and had to fight for her life. During that difficult time, Luna sat vigil at her bedside and aided her full recovery. Luna was even allowed in the hospital while Julie was receiving her life-saving treatment.

As part of this partnership, Pets for Patriots offers pre-adoption counseling, post adoption follow ups, a $150 pet retailer gift card, and discounted pet care at select veterinary partner clinics. The organization accepts applications from active, separated, and reserve military men and woman who live within a 40-mile driving distance from the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast.

In addition to the benefits offered by Pets for Patriots, HSTC also offers a 50% discount on adoption fees and one free dog-training session. The shelter’s veteran adoption package includes vaccinations, basic vet exam, behavior assessment, carrier (cats), FeLV/FIV (cats), fecal test, flea/tick preventative, heartworm preventative, heartworm test, microchip, pet food, spay/neuter, and an additional $30 off 6-week training classes at HSTC.

Both organizations are dedicated to giving back to the veterans and making it as easy as possible to own and thrive with a new, four-legged friend. Having a companion animal can improve a veteran’s mental health, PTSD, and social interactions. In return, the lucky adopted pet will live a beautiful life with their new best friend. This partnership is a small way that we can give back to our veterans for sacrificing their lives for the betterment of our country.

To learn more about HSTC’s partnership with Pets for Patriots, please visit https://hstc1.org/Pets-for-Patriots

Frank Valente’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Helping Hand

Suzy Hutcheson
Helping People Succeed, CEO

Successful Employment Opportunities for those Experiencing Mental Health Issues

The news regarding the need for mental health services continues to increase. Statistics show that many adults who experience mental health issues are either unemployed, underemployed or unable to maintain their employment due to their issues. Studies show that employment can significantly improve recovery outcomes.

Helping People Succeed has successfully provided employment services for adults with a variety of disabilities for 30+ years. The retention rate for these services has remained at approximately 87%; however, adults who experience mental health issues are a very small percentage of those who are and have been served.

Recently, Helping People Succeed was chosen as one of three new IPS (Individual Placement and Support) organizations to provide a method of employment that increases the likelihood of success. Through the State of Florida Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Southeast Florida Behavioral Health Network, IPS Employment Center, Helping People Succeed will gain the tools to be able to help those who experience mental health issues obtain and maintain employment.

The IPS system is based on finding competitive employment of the job seekers choice through a systematic job match process; providing rapid job search without any drawn-out assessments rather a place and train approach. The key to success is using an integrated team of employment consultants working hand in hand with the mental health treatment team to provide the appropriate individual-centered wrap-around support to ensure the individual’s success.

The other key to providing these services is the acceptance of the business community. Helping People Succeed has been welcomed by many businesses in Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Indian River Counties. Since the pandemic, businesses including Helping People Succeed have experienced difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff at all levels. 

This has led, in many cases, to a higher acceptance of a relatively new group of employees—those with disabilities. As with any employee, with the correct training, modeling and teaching, people with disabilities make great employees.

Helping People Succeed’s IPS team will include Shannon Wilson, Successful Futures and Janet Cooper, Behavior Heath Services. Together they will begin to accept referrals from other mental health providers as well as self-referrals for these services. 

We are proud to have been selected to begin to offer success-based employment services to those who experience mental health issues through this new collaboration.

For additional information about the IPS Employment Services or how referrals are handled, please call Shannon Wilson for employment questions at 772.320.0832 or swilson@hpsfl.org; or for mental health questions, call Janet Cooper at 772.320.0791. Visit our website hpsfl.org for general information about Helping People Succeed.

Keep Martin Beautiful

Tiffany Kincaid
Keep Martin Beautiful, Executive Director

Keep Martin Beautiful Looks at Food and Fashion with an Eye Towards Sustainability

Tossing out leftovers and old t-shirts may not seem like serious contributors to our environmental problems, but here’s some information that may cause you to reconsider.

Food Waste is a Real Issue

  • More than one-third of all the food intended for human consumption - enough to feed 3 billion people - is wasted or lost every year. That’s a shocking thought when we put it against the fact that more than 800 million people worldwide are suffering from malnutrition.
  • Food waste accounts for fully 21% of our landfill volume. As it rots, it gives off methane, a colorless, odorless and potent greenhouse gas that is much worse than CO2 and accounts for more than 25% of the global warming we’re experiencing today.
  • Growing food that then goes to waste ends up using up to 21% of freshwater, 19% of fertilizers, and 18% of croplands. So, wasting food is seriously wasting natural resources.

Preventive Measures Matter

As Keep Martin Beautiful likes to remind readers, while just one of us can’t solve the world’s complex problems on our own, collectively we can make small changes that are good for the planet---and for our own budget! Here are some simple and obvious reminders for when you peek into your refrigerator and pantry and before your next trip to the store:

  • Use ‘em or lose ‘em.  Look around, especially at those cans and jars hidden way back on the shelves, and either use them up or donate them to a local church, food pantry or House of Hope.  Also, don’t let leftovers get lost in the fridge while they’re still edible. Using them will save you money.
  • Don’t shop for groceries when you’re hungry and buy only what you need.
  • Learn the difference between “Use By” and “Best Before.” Foods with “Use By” dates are perishable and they need to be eaten before the date on the label. “Best Before” foods are still safe to eat after the given date. Look up the real expiration dates online before deciding to throw out “Best Before” foods. 
  • Learn to eat “ugly.” Half of all produce in the U.S. is thrown away because it’s deemed too imperfect for the retail market. Try fresh produce from farmers’ markets, where quality is usually superior and where appearances can be deceiving.

Old Clothes Catastrophe?

  • The World Economic Forum estimates that one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill EVERY SECOND!
  • Worldwide, clothing production, which uses massive amounts of water and energy, has doubled since 2000, and 85% of the material ends up in the landfill.
  • The average American now generates 82 pounds of textile waste each year.
  • Polyester is found in 60% of the garments produced. Polyester doesn’t break down in water, so not only does it take up space when we discard items, after consuming energy resources to produce them, but our old clothes have a long life of polluting our lands and waterways.

Consider Clothing Alternatives

Just like food waste, clothing production and disposal is a huge global issue but each of us can do something about it at a local level:

  • Shop and purge your closet. Lots of people buy new clothes every season and sometimes much more frequently. How about first being a discerning shopper in your own closet and take some advice from Marie Kondo. Declutter your closet by deciding which items “spark joy.”
  • Then, donate and shop used. Lots of nonprofits have quality Thrift Stores, like House of Hope, Hibiscus Center, Treasure Coast Hospice, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church and others, where smart “thrifters” can give new life to someone’s donated items.
  • Instead of buying new, check out online sites like thredUp or Rent the Runway to buy or rent secondhand clothes. You never know what treasures you will find!
  • Locally, we also have many consignment shops such as Style Encore and Rag Street where you can sell your gently used or unused clothing and buy someone else’s, all without adding to landfill waste.
  • Choose more sustainable fabrics, such like cotton and linen, and look for manufacturers committed to sound environmental practices when making purchases.

So, eat and shop and enjoy the experience, but be mindful of the little things we do that add up to big effects on Mother Earth.

For more information about Keep Martin Beautiful visit www.keepmartinbeautiful.com


Vicki Davis
Martin County Supervisor of Elections

Each election cycle, the Martin County Elections Office depends on civic-minded citizens to give of their time and talents to serve as election workers. These are the dedicated men and women who assist in setting-up the polling precincts, greeting voters and assisting them on Election Day as they participate in the democratic process.

For the upcoming 2024 elections, we are actively recruiting local citizens interested in serving as election workers for Election Day and/or early voting positions, for our three scheduled elections.

To become an election worker, an interested individual must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a registered Martin County voter
  • Attend required training
  • Complete orientation
  • Remain non-partisan while working the polls
  • Work a 14+ hour day

If you are interested in joining our elections team in 2024 and assisting our office in conducting safe, secure and accurate elections, please visit us online at www.MartinVotes.gov and complete the election worker Election Worker Request Form.

For further questions, contact Kherri Anderson, Election Worker Coordinator, at 772-288-5637 ext. 8063.

Two Substantial Tax Saving Benefits of Having Homestead Exemption Save Our Homes

Jenny Fields
Martin County Property Appraiser

The Florida Constitution was amended effective January 1, 1995 to limit annual increases in assessed value of property with Homestead Exemption to three percent or the change in the Consumer Price Index, whichever is lower. No assessment, though, shall exceed current fair market value. This limitation applies only to property value, not property taxes and not new construction such as a new swimming pool. This is known as the Save Our Homes (SOH) benefit.

The SOH benefit prevents homestead property owners from being taxed out of their homes. When someone buys a home and files for homestead, from that point forward, even if their market value appreciates 10% in one year, their assessed value cannot increase any more than 3% each year (not including new construction such as a new swimming pool). Over time, there is an accumulation of “non-taxed” assessed value which may reset to full market value the year following a change in ownership. That is why when buying a home, you should not assume that the property taxes will remain the same as the prior owner.

Homestead Portability (Transfer of Homestead Assessment Difference)

In January 2008, voters approved a constitutional amendment which allows portability of accumulated SOH benefits for homeowners who move from one homestead to another, anywhere in Florida. Note: The SOH benefit is the difference between a property’s market value for tax purposes and its assessed value that is limited from increasing.

When you move, you have from January 1st of the year you move, until January 1st three years later to re-establish homestead and retain the SOH benefit. For example, if you sell or move from your homestead property in September of 2023, you have until January 1, 2026 to move in and reestablish your homestead on a different property in Florida to retain the SOH benefit.

  • If “upsizing” to a home of equal or greater market value, the homestead owner can transfer 100% of the SOH benefit to the new homestead, up to a $500,000 transferred benefit.
  • If “downsizing” to a home with a lower market value, the homestead owner can transfer a SOH benefit that protects the same percentage of value as it did the former homestead, up to a $500,000 transferred benefit. Click https://www.pa.martin.fl.us/homestead-tax-estimator for portability calculator.
  • Check out upsizing and downsizing examples here https://www.pa.martin.fl.us/images/stories/Proposed-Constitutional-Amendment-Examples.pdf

If you have any questions regarding the SOH benefit or portability, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (772) 288-5608, email info@pa.martin.fl.us or take advantage of our Live Chat available on our website at www.pa.martin.fl.us.

Other Opinion

Anne Schafer Was a True Local Luminary

By Jackie Holfelder

Everyone knew when Anne Schafer was in the room. She was generous, beautiful and didn’t take no for an answer when she was working on a project or plan.

On June 27, Anne passed away, leaving friends and colleagues saddened and recalling all that this kind and elegant lady did for Martin County for so many years.

Whenever I picked up the phone at Luminaries and heard “Hi Jack” in that distinctive voice I knew it was time to fasten my seat belt. In 2015, I wound up moderating a Social Media/Cyber Safety for Business Workshop she put on for the City of Stuart. I don’t remember many people talking about Cyber Safety in 2015, but Anne, on behalf of Women’s Power Lunch, and Paul Nicoletti staged a great event, loaded with experts and local leaders.

Who else could have spearheaded a 100-year celebration of the City of Stuart at the Lyric Theatre in 2014, on behalf of Women’s Club of Stuart, titled “Century in Review” with singing, dancing, reminiscing and dozens of us on stage bringing Anne’s vision to life. That time she cajoled me into emceeing a special “awards” ceremony at the end of the show and turned the tables on me by naming me Stuart Woman of Distinction. (By the way, if you missed it or would like to see it again here 

Anne was the queen of fundraising fashions shows – House of Hope, Building Bridges, Pink Tie Friends and of course Women’s Club of Stuart were among those who benefitted financially from her professionally-produced luncheon events for which we all eventually got the call to strut down the catwalk.

Her list of community efforts is lengthy, among them founder of Rio Business Group, founder of Women’s Power Lunch of Martin County, creator of the Jensen Beach Green Market and creator of the Pink Tie Gala and calendar and longtime member of Woman’s Club of Stuart.

But the words of the people who knew and loved her tell the true story of Anne Schafer.

“Anne Schafer was a great asset to the Woman's Club of Stuart (WCS). For years she headed the committee that arranged the club's yearly fashion show and luncheon, one of our biggest events. Proceeds go to college scholarships for deserving senior- high girls in Martin County.  And when the club celebrated our hundredth anniversary, she was the one who headed and planned the many events associated with that. Every event of hers was a tremendous success, due to her many contacts in the community and her own special sense of elegance and grace. She was also instrumental in revitalizing the club by introducing many new, younger members to the group.  Her years of service are greatly appreciated, and she will be sorely missed.” Dottie Lanci, WCS

“Anne’s participation in the causes she was passionate about will be greatly missed by our community. She was a wonderful person whose passing is a great lost for all that were fortunate to call her a friend.” Ed Ciampi, Martin County Commissioner

“This is a huge loss for those of us privileged to have known and worked with Anne on projects that made Martin County a great place to live. Anne was a true Treasure to the Treasure Coast. She and I shared a mutual admiration for one another. If she needed an emcee for a non-profit event, I couldn't say no.” Barry Marsh, Advertising and Marketing Consultant

“Annie showed a sense of selfless energy to improve her community and a special spot in her heart for children. I was so honored we became so close. She was like my second mom.” Rene Grissom, Women’s Power Lunch

“Anne was a good friend who knew everyone. She was always ready for the next adventure.”  Tracy Howse, Women’s Power Lunch

“Anne was a true gem of Martin County!! She was a fine, classy woman who gave her best in every project she accomplished with her team of supporters.  She will be missed but always lovingly remembered as a dear friend!!” Eula Clarke, Stuart City Commissioner

“Annie was more than just a friend. Annie was a mentor to me and so many, not only in our community but everywhere she went. I first met Annie at a fundraiser many years ago and we instantly connected. She always gave of herself. She made those around her feel so special. Annie will be missed by all with whom she came in contact.” Debbi Greer, Pink Tie Friends and Women’s Power Lunch.

Thank you for everything you did for Stuart, your friends and your nonprofits, Anne. You were one of a kind.

Other Opinion


BY Mickey Ricciardi,

Co-Founder New Urban Towns

Over the course of a nearly 40-year career as a builder who specializes in redevelopment and urban infill, I’ve had the privilege of leading numerous signature “turnaround” projects. In each case, our efforts created or enhanced character, walkability, affordability and livability, resulting in vibrant communities and beloved destinations.

The success of these undertakings depends on finding the right properties in the right places and bringing forward a vision that—while perhaps not always initially embraced—eventually earns the support of the community.

So, in listening to the feedback during our first public presentation on Riverlight, which we’ve proposed for downtown Jensen Beach, I was encouraged and energized.

Sure, the room was packed. True, those who spoke shared concerns and criticisms. Finally, if any supporters were present, they certainly remained quiet. But that’s OK. After all, I thought, there’s a lot of opportunity here to turn opinions around and create something that honors the local culture and complements the community’s character.

At New Urban Towns, we focus on redevelopment and designing communities that fit the character, culture, size, and identity of the host community. We design with great emphasis on integration into the surrounding dynamics.

Naturally, we immediately fell in love with downtown Jensen Beach. We purchased a waterfront parcel (5.5 acres, not including nearly 3 more acres submerged) in the Community Redevelopment Agency area. The site is virtually undeveloped with only a couple structures onsite.

Our vision for Riverlight is of a mixed-use project featuring a total of 76 units—single- and multi-family—with a restaurant and commercial space as well as docks and a riverwalk—all open for public enjoyment. Our proposal comes in under the maximum allowable density, which is 15 units per acre). The core of the project consists of two-story detached homes, with additional homes no taller than three stories along Indian River and Pineapple drives.

We’re also offering nearly 190 new parking spaces.

Riverlight will include a dog park as well as space to host arts shows, musical performances and activities that attract community gatherings.  

Of course, there’s much more we hope to contribute both directly and indirectly through our project. We’re listening closely to the community to determine how best to do so. Until we deliver results, we expect skepticism. That’s understandable and even fair. Anyone proposing change—especially to a close-knit community with a distinct culture such as Jensen Beach—rightfully deserves scrutiny.

Some issues residents raised—particularly on important omnipresent macroeconomic factors such as the rising cost of housing—reflect understandable concerns common across Florida as its appeal to new arrivals expands. Multiple market forces—particularly the cost of materials and labor—play an important role and exist outside of our control.

We seek to influence what we can. Redevelopment projects—unlike suburban communities often composed exclusively of single-family homes on larger parcels—call on the creativity of the designer. By offering—as Riverlight does—a blend of housing styles and sizes that includes single family homes, townhomes, apartments, and studios, we’re able to bring more affordable options to the marketplace. That will include some units at 400 and 560 square feet.

As to other concerns the public touched on—parking, drainage, and design and architecture that complements the unique Jensen vibe—we intend to listen carefully, gain broad input, and offer something of value that hopefully the community can embrace.

Constitutional Corner & Non Profit Notices


Supervisor of Elections



Tax Collector


Property Appraiser

Did you know that our July 1st Tax Roll Certification kicks off the annual budgeting timeline for local government agencies that rely on ad valorem tax revenue? This is what we call the Preliminary Tax Roll Certification.   Each government office uses these certified values to determine a proposed millage rate.  Click here to watch this brief video:  https://youtu.be/0nUHwbR1aB8

Martin County Clerk & Comptroller

Non Profit Notices

BBBSPBMC Adds to Staff; Celebrates Anniversary

By Jackie Holfelder

Yvette Flores Acevedo, president/CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Palm Beach and Martin Counties (BBBSPBMC) recently announced the addition of two new staff members, as well as the significant anniversary of the nonprofit’s Vice President of Programs.

Jeanette Otero, who has over 20 years’ experience in social work and social service will be a Match Support Specialist at the 501(c)(3). In her new role, Otero will offer consistent guidance and encouragement to mentors and mentees, addressing any concerns, challenges, or questions that may arise during the mentoring journey.

In the past, she has managed office operations, coordinated special events, and advocated for persons with developmental disabilities.

Otero graduated from Florida State University with a B.S. in Social Work/Psychology. She is a member of the Exceptional Student Educator Advisory Council in Palm Beach County.

For relaxation, she enjoys volunteering, attending outdoor activities and festivals, traveling, camping, dancing or teaching ballroom dance, and spending time with her daughter and family.

Otero believes that positive, uplifting, and supportive people help others to thrive and become the best version of themselves.  She feels that every individual has gifts to share and is passionate about supporting and empowering others to achieve their goals.

Damian Perez is Event Coordinator and will be planning and executing fundraising events, as well as serving as liaison with event vendors.

The lifelong resident of West Palm Beach grew up playing sports. Perez is bilingual in English and Spanish.  He is a graduate of St. Leo University, where he received an Associate of Arts and is attending Palm Beach State to pursue his Bachelor’s degree in Marketing. Prior to BBBS, he worked at ESPN West Palm as a marketing event supervisor and content creator.

In his spare time, Perez enjoys playing soccer and being outdoors engaging in all kinds of activities. His family inspires him, and helping those in need is an important part of his life. 

Perez is looking forward to setting up events that benefit youth and the community in his new role at BBBSPBMC.

Celebrating a major milestone at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Palm Beach and Martin Counties is Katie Knapfel, Vice President of Programs, who is marking her tenth anniversary at the nonprofit.

Knapfel sets the strategic direction of the programs, and oversees design and implementation, and quality. Prior to joining BBBSPBMC in 2013, she spent a decade working for the School District of Palm Beach County as an Exceptional Student Education Educator and Coordinator.

Knapfel graduated from the University of Florida with a Batchelor of Arts Education and a Master of Education. For relaxation, she enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, going on family vacations, and cheering for the Gators.

She loves seeing the relationships between mentors and mentees develop and believes that “a hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”

One of the most satisfying parts of Knapfel’s job is seeing programming develop, grow, and serve more children in both Palm Beach and Martin Counties.

Photos provided by BBBSPBMC

Jeanette Otero

Damian Perez

Katie Knapfel

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.

As H.L. Mencken once famously said: Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.

Perhaps this sums up what recently happened in Martin County and beyond during the last Florida legislative session. Martin County was pushing for Affordable/Attainable Housing for the past few years. It was discussed at the Board of County Commissioners – they even formed a committee on the subject.

In other parts of the country when government flaunts the “free market rule” and invests in housing, it is often open only to residents of that county. Not so now that home rule was overturned. The Legislature (with both of our state representatives and our state senator voting in favor) passed a law to build it. Now it is out of the hands of the BOCC. Their decisions are moot. They can 'rubber stamp' what Tallahassee tells them.

Our Representatives Snyder and Overdorf and Sen. Harrell appeared at a meeting Thursday evening and answered questions. Not only will such government housing be open to those from other states, but there is also no limitation to only US citizens. (Build it and they will come.)

Writers on the Stuart News report this “Live Local Act” brings erosion/attack on home rule. Some note the difficulty in receiving health care locally now and adding many more residents will only add to the burden, not to mention crowded schools, roads, local amenities – parks, beaches – even emergency services.

Back to Mencken – Thanks for warning us.

Audry Taggart


Martin County


By Dan Romence

President of Indiantown Marine Center

Sometimes in life you must fight for what you know is right. That’s why we joined scores of other marine businesses in calling on federal agencies to fulfil their duty to ensure that navigation through our local waterways remains unobstructed.

We realized we’d made progress when the U.S. Coast Guard—one of the named parties in our lawsuit also against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Florida East Coast Railway—recently released a new schedule better accommodating boat traffic under the Stuart rail bridge. We’re particularly grateful for Congressman Brian Mast’s uncompromising and consistent leadership in demanding answers and accountability on this issue. 

Now, we’re asking everyone to speak up in support of what’s always worked for our maritime community—leaving the rail bridge in the default open position. But we only have until Aug. 4 to respond to the Coast Guard, which you can do here: 

The new schedule requires FEC—which owns the tracks and rail bridge—to hire a bridgetender, develop an app informing boaters of the bridge position, and open the bridge twice an hour for 15 minutes at a time. Prior proposals by Brightline limited openings to no more than 15 minutes every hour—and limited hours at that.

Keep in mind: The rail bridge’s clearance when closed is only six feet, denying passage to most vessels. Even when open, its narrow passageway prevents more than two smaller vessels from navigating the channel simultaneously, causing long lines and delays during weekends and holidays.

Hence the importance of the open default position. Brightline seeks to reverse this longstanding practice and appeared unimpeded in achieving its goal before our suit slowed them down.

Brightline doesn’t even want to share access evenly, stating that abiding by the new schedule will mean blocking vehicular traffic.

Call us cynical, but this appears an attempt to divide our community into two camps—boaters vs. motorists.

Let’s pause here for a quick look back. It’s been 11 years since Brightline—known then as “All Aboard Florida”—first announced plans for passenger rail from Miami to Orlando.

Martin County residents understandably worried about high-speed trains racing by near residential areas and first-responders losing valuable seconds delayed by increased rail crossings. Citizens groups formed and local governments across the Treasure Coast, including Martin County, filed lawsuits.

Eventually, a settlement was reached with Martin County. Brightline pledged increased mitigation measures on noise and better safety barriers. They even dangled the prospect of a local train station, which many find appealing.

We get it. We’re not unsympathetic to Brightline’s situation. Yes, we’re unapologetically pro-boater, but we’re not anti-train. We’re also businesspeople in a profession regularly faced with logistical challenges. And this is a challenging intersection indeed.

It’s where the Okeechobee Waterway—the only way to cross the state by boat—meets the St. Lucie River in route to the ocean. It’s just a few hundred yards from the Old Dixie drawbridge—and by land about the same distance from Confusion Corner and the converge of traffic into and out of downtown Stuart.

Fortunately, the Marine Industries Association of the Treasure Coast, who alongside Marine Industries of the Southwest Florida & Tampa joined our suit, positioned cameras facing the rail bridge on live feeds so everyone can see the activity. This oversight will provide invaluable insights.

But the conclusion is clear: It’s a tough area for transit of all kinds. This crossing cries out for a specially engineered solution. Improvements to the nearly 100-year-old rail bridge are certainly a must. Perhaps there’s need for a span over the St. Lucie River dedicated solely to passenger rail. We’re not sure of the precise solution. But then, we’re not tasked with finding it. Nor are we the beneficiaries of Brightline’s business model.

In fact, we—all of us—share in the detriments. Hundreds of local marine businesses, hundreds more along the Okeechobee Waterway, thousands of individual Martin County boaters, thousands of homeowners west of the bridge facing devaluations to their property values, all face costly impacts.

We cannot stand by passively in the face of this treat. Recent history shows that Brightline bends when confronted. The only way to secure the best for our community is to speak up. In a clear, unified voice, we must call on the Coast Guard to recognize our maritime traditions, maintain an open position for the bridge, leave our waterways unobstructed, and respect our livelihoods and quality of life.

After all, we live here. And Brightline is just passing through.  

Dan Romence's opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.


The BOCC will next meet on July 11, 2023


City of Stuart


When up to date information is being presented, it might be in a rougher form than what is normally expected in a more formal presentation.

Unfortunately, from an audience perspective, the visuals projected with Finance Director Boglioli’s presentation couldn’t be read. They were directly off the city’s website. To inform the public, it must be a real presentation. This was not even close.


You can find what was projected here

Stuart’s taxable value is $3,200,000,000 for the coming year. There will be 9 new Fire/Medic positions which will be mostly to staff the new fire station north of the bridge. There are 4 new FTEs in the water division. Stuart PD wants 3 School Resource Officers. If hired those positions would be reimbursed by the school board or sheriff depending on the entity that signs the agreement.

Until we have a more complete look at the budget, there is not much to comment on.

Willis Custom Yachts wants to open a show room and minor repair facility between Harborage and the new Mariana by the Old Roosevelt Bridge. It will have the designation of Marine Industrial from its current designation of Urban Waterfront. Only in Stuart could people see a problem with a business that wants to open and employ 30 people in well-paying jobs.

Willis’s boats are custom made. They are each worth millions of dollars. The yachts are made in Martin County at their facility by I-95 on the St. Lucie Canal. This facility will have an office and make small repairs and adjustments for their clients. In my view, the city should be jumping for joy.

While I didn’t think it would be denied, some of the questions and suggestions made and asked by the commissioners were downright silly. Commissioner Clarke asked whether the boat building would be constructed in accordance with the building code.

Commissioner Collins kept asking about the possibility of residential being built on this site which is a little over an acre. He wanted to make sure there was no bait and switch. Even though it was explained more than once that any units that could have possibly been built on the site already had their rights assigned to the Harborage Condominium next door during its construction.

Commissioner Rich wanted to allow Willis to do very minor repairs outdoors. This was something that they hadn’t asked for. This supposedly outraged Harborage “residents” who were texting their representative, Marcela Camblor, to make sure that didn’t happen. If there were so many residents that were angry, why not just come to the meeting? You can walk from there to City Hall in about 10 minutes.

No one from that condo appeared at the CRB meeting where it was approved. Ms. Camblor, a land planner and not an attorney, was there representing the “residents” that evening.

Even though Harborage and this property are part of the same PUD, the PUD agreement in 2018 was changed according to the staff report,

“…amending the original approval for the Harborage Development. This Major Amendment to the Urban Code Conditional Use allowed for the removal of the emergency gate at the site’s northern boundary, a new parking allocation plan, revision to the site traffic patterns, including the reorientation of certain parking spaces from 60 to 90 degrees, designation of boat slips for intensive "live- aboard" use, the creation of new parking spaces, and voiding a requirement to build a new parking structure in the event an existing parking lease with the Florida East Coast Railroad is dissolved. According to Condition #4 outlined within Resolution 50-2018, any owner of the subject parcel (Building 10) may amend the development approvals for Harborage Development without joinder of other property owners within the development.”

With this amendment, there is very little the condo can do to stop this from happening.  If there had been no amendment, they would have had to sign off on any changes.

The mayor allowed Ms. Camblor to argue her points even though she was not an intervenor. She should have had 3 minutes to make her comments and then been quiet for the rest of the item. Instead, she repeatedly was called back up to speak or rebut the applicant. I don’t blame Camblor for taking advantage of everything the mayor allowed. He was wrong as were other commissioners who asked questions of someone that was not a party to the hearing and was not sworn in to give testimony.

It was approved 5-0.



Martin County School Board

The board will next meet on July 11, 2023


Town of Sewalls Point


Manager Daniels presented the 5-year Capital Improvement Plan. This plan is required by law to encourage municipalities to plan and discuss future projects.

The only year that truly matters is FY 2024 which begins October 1, 2023. The other fiscal years are just the best guess estimates the town has today for accomplishing capital improvement projects. Expenditures for Fiscal Year 2024 come in at a healthy $23 plus million. The biggest portion of that, $13,230,000, is for Phase 3 of South Sewall’s Point Road.

All of this going forward is based on what grants the town receives. Currently, much of that amount is still unfunded. It also has a 500 plus day construction timeline. Since it hasn’t yet been started, Mayor Tompeck wanted to see some of that amount placed in FY 2025’s budget.

A storm water master plan needs to be completed for Sewall’s Point to receive further grants going forward. It is required by the different government agencies who distribute funding. The amount of $3,050,00 for the septic-to-sewer conversion is based on Martin County’s allowing grinder systems to be installed in the homes most in need of conversion because of flooding and resiliency. You can see the capital budget here

Daniels wanted to go ahead and have the town pre-approved for a State Revolving Fund loan in case of unforeseen problems. A couple of years ago, the work on projects had to stop because of a lack of grant funding resulting in a much more expensive project when the work resumed. Having a program like this already in place and, if needed paying interest of 1-2%, is much cheaper than what happened last time.

The commissioners expressed support since no money was being drawn down now.  The program is like a home equity line of credit. It doesn’t have to be used, but it is good to have for emergencies. It passed 5-0

Captec Engineering submitted a bid of $587,000 for the design work for South Sewall’s Point Road Phase 2.

There was some confusion regarding what Captec, as the town engineer, does. Projects such as this type of design work fall outside of the normal scope of services. When functioning as the town engineer, Captec would do things like approve a driveway elevation or look at submitted building plans. In the design work for South Sewal’s Point Road, Captec would be putting together the entire project.

What the commission felt was missing was a cash flow statement, a timetable, and deliverables. Campo suggested that “things” were taking too long to complete. Captec responded that since much of his work had to do with helping obtain and then waiting for grant money, it is impossible to have the flow of work that a normal job has. In most cases, a contract would be signed and then the engineer gets to work so it is easier for the town and Captec to plan.

In many instances, Capra cannot do things until the grant money is received. If he does, then his services may not be able to be paid for by the grant. He would provide a very rough timetable and cashflow for this contract all subject to revision because of grants. The motion passed 5-0 to allow staff to negotiate with Capra on this contract.

Captec’s continuing service contract is up at the end of August. Campo brought up the issue that many town residents want to see more transparency. He thinks Sewall’s Point should go out to bid on the contract. Perhaps they should have more than one firm, he said. He would like to discuss it at the July meeting.

It will be placed on the agenda for then.


Village of Indiantown


There wasn’t much on the agenda for this meeting.

Perhaps that is why Vice-Mayor Stone asked that an agenda item come back regarding having meetings once a month instead of twice. This meeting lasted 50 minutes. There was nothing really of substance.

However, if the meetings are once a month, then the rhythm of the village’s calendar changes. Instead of waiting every two weeks to have things discussed, it becomes once a month. It will take longer to get things done. One isn’t better than the other…it is just different.

It was decided that Stone would be the voting representative at the annual Florida League of Cities Conference. Hernandez will be there on Friday and Saturday. A “motion” was made by Dipaolo by him saying “motion.” It was seconded by Stone, but it was not at all clear what the motion was.

Was it a motion to have Stone cast the village’s votes for president, etc. at the conference? Was it to pay for the hotel and meals for Hernandez for Friday? I don’t have the slightest idea. And when the motion is reduced to written form, it will be whatever the clerk and staff think it is.

Kryzda and Vose know better. The clerk is new. Yelling the word motion means absolutely nothing because a thought isn’t articulated. Whoever is making the motion should give a coherent statement in a non-ambiguous way that the council can vote on. The mayor should repeat the motion and the name of both the motion maker and the person who was the second. There can be no misunderstanding as to what was meant and voted on.

They again “motioned” in one word when the promoter for the upcoming “Swamp Fest” asked for a fee waiver. Was it a motion to waive the fee? Was it a motion for the fee not to be waived? As they use to say years ago, “only the Shadow knows.” In this case it is the person yelling “motion”.

At the last meeting it was decided that at this meeting a council member would appoint one person each to a fact-finding panel to study different recreation programs in other places. It was my understanding this would allow the members to not worry about sunshine. That notion quickly fizzled out.

Perez said she wasn’t appointing anyone since she knows all about recreation programs. That was followed by the mayor saying she would do her own fact finding. Then Dipaolo stated he wasn’t going to appoint anyone either since the point was for these individuals to eventually be appointed to a newly created Parks & Recreation Board with some experience.

He argued the point for doing so but with both Stone and Hernadez also not appointing anyone, it died.

There will be an agenda item for creating such a board on the July 27th agenda. 


Town of Ocean Breeze

The council will meet on July 10, 2023



Town of Jupiter Island

In our last Friends & Neighbors issue we wrote regarding the inadequacy of the town’s audio-visual system.

Jupiter Island has ordered a new system. That is good news. They sent out an announcement on June 26th.

“Over the past few months, the Town has been in the process of replacing the Audio-Visual system in the Island Room at Town Hall. We are aware of the low volume and audio quality of the meetings with both the streaming and recorded video.

Please know that supply chain issues have lengthened the process of equipment replacement, initial setup and customization. We are actively identifying problematic areas and correcting them in order to provide the best possible experience for our residents.

We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your continued patience during this time.”

Drawbridge Maintenance
July 5 - 21, 2023
The Town has been informed that Martin County will perform maintenance on the Bridge Road drawbridge beginning July 5 through July 21.
Openings will occur irregularly and will be limited to 15 minutes throughout the day during this period. Openings requiring a longer duration will be scheduled for nighttime work with 24 hours' notice.
Thank you for your patience during this time.



Final Thoughts



A friend with a conservative bent sent me a 4-minute video that took me by surprise.

The video took place in a college classroom where the professor summarily told a student to leave the class and never come back. He didn’t know the student. She was apparently just randomly chosen.

What was the point? After her expulsion, he asked the class, “Why are there laws?” Reasons given by the students skirted around the answer the professor was looking for until one said, “Justice.” The professor then asked whether he was unfair and unjust to their classmate? Why hadn’t anyone spoken up?

According to the professor, the reason was because it did not affect any other student. Yet if we do not speak up as injustice occurs, we may also be victims, and no one will speak up for us. No truer words were ever spoken.

The reason I mention my friend’s conservative leanings is that whether liberal or conservative a person can stand for justice. Which then asks what does standing for justice really mean in our polarizing world? Do we still see basic justice the same way in America regardless of political party or ideological viewpoint?

To have a societal injustice, we must have truths that are accepted by every American. There needs to be universal agreement that an act is wrong. I don’t know if that is any longer possible. We have become so much in our own bubbles that we can’t agree on the facts.

Facts are truths…there cannot be two set of truths despite Kellyanne Conway’s assertion about having alternate facts. So how do we come together to fight injustice in America? For, as a people, we are becoming less and less reality-based in what shapes our beliefs.

Conspiracy theories and sheer lies are what we are confronted with daily. We have former and current elected officials stating blatant untruth as truth and it is accepted with fervor. As a people, we have become so lazy that we can’t even look up and read for ourselves the law that has been misquoted to color the facts. And worse yet many don’t care.

Some of our citizens are doomed to suffer injustice because we can no longer recognize the truth. If the truth conflicts with our beliefs, we do not then say we were wrong, but instead we disregard the facts. How long can America survive without adherence to self-evident truths?

I write this section on the eve of Independence Day. The pre-amble to the Declaration of Independence states:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain un-alienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Even at the beginning of our nationhood, those rights were only granted to White Christian male property owners. Was the country born of a lie? Have we perpetuated untruth as truth for 250 years? How can we ever have justice for all?

All these years later, we are still caught in the sectarian and racial battles of our nation’s birth. Most of the disunity and injustice that we have seen in the past decade is because of a fear of having to share the bounties expressed in the pre-amble by some to all. The view on what is injustice is colored by what we fear…not what we do not.

In our history, we have gone though several periods of rancor. I don’t believe we have been so divided since just before the Civil War. So let me end with quoting from Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address in 1861 where he implores us to listen to our better angels.

"I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

You can see the video here  




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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The Atlantic: “Putin Is Caught in His Own Trap”

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