July 23, 2023

Friends & Neighbors Edition

In this Edition

Parenting changes from generation to generation. How today’s parents may approach something is different from how I did which was different from how my parents did.

When my children were really young, I was seldom home much before they went to bed. My wife worked as a teacher and was home by 4:00 and never had to work a weekend. Most of the child rearing fell on her shoulders.

By the time they entered school, I had a bit more home time as my businesses became more established. My parenting job usually fell into the play arena. Play catch, play dress-up, play tea party, play G.I. Joe.

This was also the time that learning to ride a bike emerged. Though my son was nearly two years younger than my daughter, he almost immediately took her bike and rode it without any help from me. He had his own bike in a short time.

My daughter didn’t take to it so fast. In fact, after falling a few times, she usually would refuse to try again. My letting go of the back of her bike seat became a time for tears from her.

Finally, one summer evening we had a conversation and I said we would be going out every evening after dinner and learning to ride. I also told her we were not going to do it on the sidewalk in front of the house but rather at the park a few blocks away. We would have more room to maneuver since the park was a square block and the cement and asphalt was not as cracked and broken as the sidewalk was.

Most New York City neighborhood parks have no grass and barely a tree. At least then they had slides, teeter totters, the now-dreaded sand boxes, handball and basketball courts, splash pools, and benches. Even the “softball fields” were asphalt. There were plenty of hard surfaces.  

The first evening, she tried to get into the same pattern of refusing to ride after two or three times of failure. I wouldn’t let her. I had said we would be there for an hour and an hour it would be. Back up and let’s go. The inevitable tears came but we perservered.

Finally, it happened. I let go of the seat and she kept going. Her tears (which she had been shedding) turned to a squeal of laughter. She was riding. She hadn’t mastered the turn yet or the brake, so it was a gradual stop until I got there to help with the soft landing. We did it a few more times and she then rode home with me running mostly behind.

I don’t know if that is the same way that kids learn to ride today. Maybe they do it through 3-D simulation. I grant you my daughter was a hard case but there still must be some of those out there. She and I still speak about it occasionally and smile.   


Here we are with our second edition using our new format. I hope you are enjoying reading it as I am producing the new product.

Even though we are in the middle of summer there have been an enormous amount of government meetings in Martin County in the past couple of weeks. Some have to do with setting the millage rates for next year. The BOCC budget meeting was a hard one for the participants as well as the taxpayers. Every county resident should read that section because taxes are going up.

One of the joys of covering our area is the yearly barbeque out in Okeechobee. It really isn’t a barbeque but a place where elected officials are invited as guests of the Council of Local Governments and the Treasure Coast Regional League of Cities. There was an excellent fifth generation rancher as the speaker and prime rib as our meal. I want to thank Dowling Watford of the City of Okeechobee and Patricia Christianson from the League for inviting me.

We have our news features, columnists, editorials, government notices, and non-profit notices. You should look at all our sections. Don’t forget to sign your friends up to receive the newsletter. Write us a letter or if you want to discuss becoming a columnist fill out the form on our website.

Have a good Sunday morning! 



In the last few years, I have agreed with most of the decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Some readers may find this hard to believe knowing what my views are on many issues. However, my beliefs are not the same thing as thinking the court decided issues correctly. From executive agency overreach to Dobbs, the justices were right.

Ideologically, I am in favor of a woman’s right to choose. A large majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal. What Dobbs really meant, in my opinion, was that this issue is a political one and not a constitutional one. It should be decided by popular referendum and legislation rather than judges.

Again, most Americans want clean air and water. The EPA knows that by enforcing high standards against polluters, there isn’t going to be much push back except by those affected. The administrative agency that is part of the executive branch should only be enforcing laws that Congress has passed.

Congress cannot give broad interpretive powers to other branches of government even for overwhelmingly popular actions. While I may like the result of agency actions, concentration of that amount of legislative authority to the executive has ended up diminishing our nation. Congress or state legislatures need to do their jobs.

After thinking about this most recent decision of affirmative action in college admissions, I believe the Court should have struck it down but not for the reason it did. Ramesh Ponnuru in his Washington Post column resurrected the Bakke decision in 1978 and Justice Steven’s argument for using The Civil Rights Act of 1964 to rule that any form of discrimination is illegal.

In both cases, it would have been preferable to strike down affirmative action because of the 1964 Act instead of using a Constitutional argument. If you use the law instead of the Constitution, it allows the parties to make political arguments for their positions. The adherents to affirmative action can petition Congress to pass a law exempting race-based admissions or as an addendum to the Act itself.

Given the fact that 70% of Americans do not believe that affirmative action should be used, such a law doing so is not likely to pass. As distant as it seems now, a political solution can be achieved in the future. If Americans want affirmative action to be used, Congress would not be precluded because of the U.S. Constitution from passing legislation.

The goal of the Supreme Court should be to make as many of their decisions as possible based on interpretation of laws. If a law is ever passed which would allow affirmative action, a Constitutional argument would need to be made. Until then, let the political process be used. That is the way the Founders intended the United States to work.   

As Published In Medium



A few weeks back, I read that two teens were pursued by men with guns in a rural South Carolina area after they had made a turn in one of their driveways.

The kids made no threatening gestures or did any damage while making the turn. The men with the guns were identified as the town’s fire chief and his son. They later said that the reason for the chase was because the fire chief had recently suffered thefts at his property.

However, if the kids turned around and left what was the reason that they needed to be chased with drawn guns? Luckily both parties were on the phone with police dispatchers during the pursuit. The teens’ car was run off the road by the pair, the kids were ordered out at gunpoint and made to lie face down. It wasn’t long before a local sheriff’s deputy was on scene.

No arrests were made, and everybody was told to go home. The parents of the teens could not figure out why the two men had not been arrested. A civil lawsuit is now pending against the men.

This goes way beyond a “stand your ground situation.” There was no justifiable fear for the fire chief and his son. They were in hot pursuit of the kids. It would seem the teenagers had a “stand your ground claim.” A reasonable person would have at most called law enforcement and made them aware of the situation if they thought the teens were responsible for any mischief.

What would have happened if the kids had been hunting and had rifles in their car? What if, during the pursuit, an accident had occurred? What if one of the kids had said no to lying prone on the ground? Would the men have shot the kid?

Which leads me to my second point about gun rights and societal rights.

In the last few weeks, the toll of mass shootings has again picked up. Philadelphia, Shreveport, Baltimore are just a few of the places where gunfire has occurred resulting in the killing and wounding of people having birthday parties and Independence Day celebrations.

We are a country that has glorified the gun as a symbol of constitutional liberty instead of seeing these weapons as instruments that can have deadly consequences. It appears to me that we have held 2nd Amendment rights to be greater than other rights.

There is the right to own a firearm and use it for self-protection. That is a far cry from indiscriminately shooting people at parties and pursuing kids for making turns in driveways. Along with owning a firearm comes huge responsibilities.

The two men who acted the way they did with their guns have abrogated their right to possess them. They acted irresponsibly and recklessly. It should be seen as a criminal offense. That is the simple part to fix.

It is more difficult to correct events precipitated by mass shooters. While I agree that a gun buyer should not have to prove a need to own a gun, it is my contention that not everyone should have a gun (e.g., a convicted felon, a person suffering from mental illness, or a person who has shown a willing disregard for life). Nothing in the 2nd Amendment has a prohibition from the government requiring a registration of all weapons. There is also nothing in the Constitution that prevents the government from prohibiting certain weapons from being owned by the public.

Like everything, there is a balancing act. The American public gets it. They overwhelmingly think that guns should be registered. They overwhelmingly believe that certain weapons like assault type rifles have no place in our society. We need to listen to what common-sense Americans think.

New York’s Sullivan Law was government overreach, and the Supreme Court made a good call in declaring it unconstitutional. But the Court never said that gun registration or red flag laws were unconstitutional. An assault weapons ban would not be either.

Owning any gun requires responsibilities that go with that right. There are no absolutes. To live within a society requires individuals to recognize that.

Those two teenagers had rights that were taken away from them by men acting irresponsibly with guns. The people shot in Baltimore and Philadelphia were deprived of their right to life by men with guns. Government exists to enforce every right for the good of all of us.



What is Florida, California, Colorado, Montana, New York, Connecticut, and many other states doing to ease the housing shortage? Whether their statehouses are Republican or Democrat, what each state governor and legislature have determined is that absolute local control of zoning must end.

Not nearly enough is being built in deep red Florida or very blue Connecticut because NIMBYism is alive and well regardless of political party. States have decided the need to house their citizens trumps local control. States must curtail the use of zoning and local control as reasons not to build housing. From one end to the other, the country is having more and more problems in making sure a basic right to a dwelling unit of some sort is honored.

The homeless, including families with children, are living in cars, tents or in the woods due to a lack of housing. These are not people who are mentally ill or drug addicted. Many are gainfully employed but still cannot afford a place to call home.

Real estate is a perfect market. Supply needs to be in equilibrium with demand. Prices for products rise and fall depending on that simple equation. When there is a shortage of the units needed, then even older and less-than-perfect units cost more. That puts upper pressure on the entire market.

There are a couple of ways to attack the problem. But the number one way to have a solution is to build more units. The market will handle much of the dislocation once enough new units come online.

It doesn’t mean that the government’s role should be limited to just zoning. In some cases, the federal government must provide rent vouchers for those who cannot pay market rent. Rent control could be instituted, but that just perverts the market and in short order shortages would happen since units are artificially withheld from a free market.

Barriers must be eliminated to providing supply. States can do so by curtailing local government’s responsibility for many zoning decisions. Once municipalities and counties do not call the shots and prevent more dense housing from being built, America can begin to solve the housing problem.

Governors Newsom and DeSantis have come to the same conclusion that the state must step in. Nimbyism could be seeing its final chapter. Its about time that we learn how to take care of all Americans once again.

Fletch's Perspective

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

When they return to class in August, if any of our club members receive that classic writing prompt, “What I Did Over Summer Vacation,” none should suffer from writer’s block.

That’s because it’s difficult to imagine more fun and fulfilling experiences than the ones our club directors create during our Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County’s annual Summer Enrichment Program.

Every child of every age, background and interest finds something that suits their preference. To paraphrase The Karate Kid: Boredom does not exist in this BGCMC club.

Most importantly, the dreaded summer slide—in which national studies show students during the break consistently suffering learning losses of more than two months in reading and math—is defeated by the combination of imagination and expectation.

We provide the elements and atmosphere for their imaginations to soar and set expectations—which the kids embrace—that our commitment to academics and the pursuit of knowledge does not take a summer break.

Of course, Power Hour—which during the school year is dedicated to homework with help from our onsite certified teachers—reflects the summer vibe. That means plenty of reading alongside creating desert biodomes, molding clay dinosaurs, constructing prisms using candy and toothpicks—even playing STEM video games on a mobile gaming truck.

The field trips incorporated learning moments, too, particularly at Lion Country Safari, Palm Beach Zoo, Cox Science Center, Manatee Lagoon, and Dubois Park where—I’m happy to report—no children or crustaceans were injured during their hands-on interactions with hermit and blue crabs.  

The other fields trips are sheer unadulterated, unapologetic summer fun such as Sailfish Splash and Rapids Water Park. Though for children raised overwhelmingly in Florida, that ice-skating trip no doubt provided a lot of lessons in physics and gravity.

In keeping with our commitment to healthy lifestyles, there’s been plenty of physical exercise through soccer, football, and yoga. During our upcoming “intermural” basketball tournament—in which the clubs face off against each other—the competition and club pride really heats up.

Fortunately, the Kona Ice Truck shows up weekly with treats to cool everyone down.

This summer of fun—complete with two meals daily and a healthy snack alongside a backpack full of food for the weekend—is free to every member. It’s made possible by our generous donors—individuals as well as corporations—who thankfully prioritize the power of investing in people.

Even, especially, little people.

As our members grow up and go on one day to great things—better off as adults for the childhood summers they spent having fun far removed from the pitfalls and troubles too commonly accessible in most of their neighborhoods—our donors may get to witness the power of their gift.

For now, they can share in the joy of knowing they’ve helped make lifelong memories and inspire endless material for hundreds of back-to-school summer essays.

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

VanRiper's Views

Darlene VanRiper

The Dark Side of the Sunshine State

I went to see The Sound of Freedom recently.  This movie is about the appalling issue of human trafficking or more accurately...selling children for sex.  

I was disappointed that it didn’t bring the issue home to the US and Florida in a way to make Floridians realize that trafficking is happening right here.  This 5-year-old movie, not previously released because of Covid, may leave the viewer thinking that trafficking is happening “over there”.  However, the US is the number 1 consumer in the world and Florida is the number 3 state in the US led by Texas #2 and California #1!  Reasons we are so prominent include our high transient population, large number of port cities, large number of immigrant children that cannot be traced, our large number of runaways, homelessness and foster kids and that Florida remains a major drug market.

The movie did little to explain how to stop this pervasive crime against mostly children.  So, I reached out to Lynne Barletta who has started an organization called the Florida Faith Alliance to educate parents and children about the danger that lurks on the web and in our neighborhoods.  I asked her about our area.  There have been arrests right here. 

From December 2022 until now, there have been 5 arrests concerning pedophilia, sexting, and child pornography in Martin County including a high school coach. There was a trafficking ring in the Treasure Coast using motels and hotels, six arrests in Palm Beach County and Broward County including a prominent attorney, and a city commissioner / Fire Chief, and over 40 Disney employees have been arrested since 2014. In Polk County a whopping 218 have been arrested for possession of child porn and trafficking just this year including a Disney employee.    Because traffickers move their victims constantly, every county is visited. 

You may be under the misconception that this only happens in big cities or to children whose parents are neglectful.  Lynn explained that there are “recruiters” in our public schools and online.  Once “befriended” via the internet, kids send sexually explicit photos on their phones which is called “Sexting”.  The child may be invited to a party, drugged, and forced to perform.   They are videoed and then “sextorted”.  The perpetrator threatens to show the videos to the victims’ parents and school friends unless the child returns to perform after school or weekend after weekend. 

Know that 80% of all prosecutions involve online activity and that 50% of all victims are US citizens…our kids!  These criminals sell the child for sex many, many times a day!  A single trafficker with 5 kids can make a million dollars a year! The life span of these kids is about 7 years.  Even if they escape, the brainwashing and trauma are all consuming and a life-time issue with which to deal. 

So, how to stop this heinous crime?  Keep your eyes out for people moving in and out of homes in your neighborhood.  Don’t allow your kids to sleep over at other children’s homes.  Even if you are diligent with your children regarding their internet access, other parents may not be. 

Remember the contacts are made over the internet by traffickers posing as kids.  And if you don’t think it could happen to your child, just realize that 1 out of 3 girls claims to have been sexually abused and 1 out of 4 boys.  Human trafficking is now a $150 Billion a year industry and has grown by 98% since Covid.  It is such a large problem that it will take all of us to stop it. 

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

Nicki's Place

Nicki van Vonno
van Vonno Consulting, Owner

Movie Jones Reports

After another record day of heat advisories in southeast Florida; Film Critic Movie Jones advises: Stay home and watch movies.  Normally I would celebrate the 4th of July with a showing of the Will Smith/Jeff Goldblum’ “Independence Day”, but there was the slap, when the production team for the sequel did not hire Mae Whitfield to return as the President’s daughter.  They wanted to blonde her up. Not only did it damage the production teams’ credibility, but it also affected the heart and the quality of the sequel. She’s an excellent actress.

So, this year I looked for other films that embrace the American dream. For example, I love “Giant.” How can you resist Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson loving and fighting while raising kids, cows, oil wells and greedy developers. When Sarge kicks Rock’s butt over serving a Mexican family at another table, is the film championing the rights of all people to be treated fairly, or the right of a business to decide who they will choose to serve?

“All the Way” is an HBO film about Lyndon Johnson and the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Johnson, born and bred in poverty, becomes a champion of the poor and disinherited. He eliminated the poll tax, a tax collected prior to being allowed to vote. If this was all he managed to accomplish we would be in his debt. But he championed the passage of the Voting Rights Act, and other civil rights legislation after he assumed the presidency, and then passed a domestic program to make the Great Society real. That he succumbed to the madness of Vietnam haunts our country still.

“Lone Star” is the 1996 John Sayles film starring Chris Cooper. Movie Jones hint:  If Chris Cooper is in a movie, it is bound to be good or at least interesting, very interesting.  Once a skull is found by two amateur archaeologists in the desert more than an old murder is buried in the ties that bind families.

Lastly I tried to watch “Matewan” another John Sayles movie about the coal mine wars in West Virginia. Movie Jones hint. Any movie by John Sayles is bound to be good or at least interesting, very interesting. “Matewan” is a gripping tale and a genre defining documentary. Currently Matewan is not available to stream, but a documentary film about the making of Matewan was.  What a story. What a land.

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

Shark Week is only a week away!

Six of the top ten shark attack locations in the USA are in Florida. Jensen Beach sits at #9 on the list. Jacksonville #8, Ormond Beach #5, Melbourne Beach #4, Cocoa Beach #3, and New Smyrna Beach #1. Movies like Jaws may add fear to our minds as we enter the water at our favorite beaches, but the truth is you are far more likely to be struck by lightning than to be killed by a shark. In 2022 there were 6 deaths attributed to shark attacks and 19 due to lightning, but what is a more deadly killer than both of those may surprise you.

Each year approximately 22 people are killed by cows. We aren’t talking about running with the bulls in Pamplona or bull fighting in Madrid. These are farmworkers who are raising cattle to feed our families and provide the many products we use daily that contain beef by-products. In case you are wondering where we stand in cattle, Florida is #18 in the USA for total amount of cows and has the 7th largest ranch in the country- Deseret Ranch with their 44,000 head of cattle located on 300,000 acres in Osceola, Orange, and Brevard Counties.

I really like cows. I like to be around them and to look at them. I love pointing out cows on road trips. By the way, it is un-American if you don’t point and say “I see cows” as you pass them.

I enjoy the products cows provide. But I also respect the fact that these are animals, and when working with them it only takes a moment for things to go wrong. I have raised beef cattle for market and have helped my son raise a Brown Swiss dairy cow as a 4-H project.

In my time around these large animals, I have been knocked down, been given a black-eye, and roughly pushed aside, and they were all non-aggressive incidents. I have also seen the look of a mama cow who was warning me to come no closer to her newborn calf and a bull that was contemplating if I was a threat. Those had the potential to turn aggressive, but thankfully the cattle did not act.

I love cattle, but the truth is working with them is an inherently dangerous job. So next time you enjoy a steak or put on your nice leather belt or shoes, I hope you will think about the risk that ranchers and farmworkers knowingly enter when working with cattle. It is a way of life and these people do not want thanks. But they do deserve for the rest of the population to better understand what it takes to raise the cattle that we all enjoy.

Maybe next year will we see networks offering Cow Week? I’ll chew my cud while I wait.

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

Hope in Our Community

Rob Ranieri
House of Hope, CEO

House of Hope is excited to announce that our packing house is officially online.  The 3,080 square foot facility, located on the campus of our Growing Hope Farm in Palm City, allows us to safely and efficiently wash, package, and store the produce that we grow, glean, and receive through generous donations. The facility has been and will continue to be inspected, monitored and permitted by the USDA and the Florida Department of Agriculture and follow all appropriate food safety protocols and industry regulations.

Our packing operation includes:

  • Fruit and vegetable wash, dry, sort and pack production line
  • Continuous feed lettuce, greens, or cut veggie submersion & wash tank
  • Large capacity, high speed spin dryer
  • Two station set up for bulk or individual weighing and packaging
  • Bag sealing, boxing and labeling stations
  • Small products wash and rinse
  • Walk-in, multiple temperature refrigeration
  • Water reclamation system to conserve and repurpose processing water
  • Coming soon, a spray conveyor root veggie washing system

The benefits of the packing house to our organization and partners include improved shelf life for produce, access to more nutritious foods for clients and partners, the ability to accept, process and store large volume produce donations, and expanding our existing educational and paid internship programs to provide additional training.

The packing house will also allow House of Hope to assist small, local growers by providing them a resource in the community to clean and package their products for sale, increasing profits and helping to keep local agriculture viable and successful. Our Pack and Pay program will give local producers the opportunity to have professionally packaged items and either pay a reasonable fee to House of Hope or share some of their products, allowing us to have even more resources to provide our clients and partners with high quality food and improve overall household health. If you are a local grower and would like more information, please email us at info@hohmartin.org

Another great benefit of the packing house is that by moving our produce packing from our Elisabeth Lahti Nutrition Center in Stuart, to our Growing Hope Farm Campus, we now have additional production time in the Nutrition Center to make sandwiches and salads, hot meals and fresh baked goods for our clients. We will also be able to do more job training in the Center.

We are grateful for the incredible support we get from funders, philanthropists, government, partner agencies and local residents that allow us to be a leading agency in the fight against hunger and poverty. Special thanks to everyone at Palm City Farms produce & Market for their amazing support and generous hearts.  For anyone interested in learning more about our services and programs, or interested in volunteering at our farm or elsewhere, please email us at info@hohmartin.org or visit our website at www.hohmartin.org.

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

Michele's Medical Moment

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

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are two potentially life-threatening conditions that can occur because of prolonged exposure to high temperatures and excessive physical exertion in hot environments. While they share some similarities, there are distinct differences between the two conditions in terms of symptoms, causes, and treatment.

Heat exhaustion is a heat-related illness that occurs when the body's cooling mechanisms become overwhelmed and fail to regulate its core temperature effectively. It is often a precursor to heat stroke and should be treated promptly to prevent further complications. The primary cause of heat exhaustion is excessive sweating, leading to dehydration and an imbalance of electrolytes in the body.

Prolonged exposure to high temperatures, coupled with inadequate fluid intake, can contribute to this condition. Common symptoms of heat exhaustion include profuse sweating, dizziness, weakness, headache, nausea, and rapid heartbeat. It is essential to recognize these signs early and take immediate steps to cool down and rehydrate the affected person. Moving to a shaded or air-conditioned area, drinking plenty of fluids, and applying cool towels or taking a cool shower can aid in recovery.

On the other hand, heat stroke is the most severe form of heat-related illness and is considered a medical emergency. It occurs when the body's core temperature rises to dangerously high levels, surpassing its ability to regulate itself. Unlike heat exhaustion, heat stroke is characterized by the absence of sweating, as the body's sweating mechanism shuts down.

The causes of heat stroke are similar to heat exhaustion, including exposure to high temperatures, high humidity, and physical exertion. However, heat stroke can also be triggered by certain medications, underlying health conditions, or prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. Symptoms of heat stroke include a high body temperature (usually above 104°F or 40°C), confusion, disorientation, rapid breathing, flushed skin, seizures, and even loss of consciousness. Immediate medical attention is crucial for heat stroke. While waiting for professional help, efforts should be made to cool the person down rapidly by removing excess clothing, applying cold water or ice packs to the body, and seeking shade or air-conditioning.

Prevention is the key to avoiding heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. It is vital to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, particularly water, even before feeling thirsty. Avoiding excessive physical activity during the hottest parts of the day and taking regular breaks in shaded or air-conditioned areas can help prevent overheating. Wearing lightweight and breathable clothing, as well as using sunscreen to protect the skin from sunburn, are also essential precautions. Individuals who are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses, such as the elderly, young children, and those with certain medical conditions, should take extra precautions and be monitored closely in hot conditions.

In conclusion, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are serious conditions that can occur when the body is exposed to high temperatures for prolonged periods. While heat exhaustion is a precursor to heat stroke, both conditions require immediate attention and prompt treatment.

Recognizing the symptoms, taking preventive measures, and seeking medical assistance when necessary are vital in ensuring the well-being and safety of individuals in hot environments. By staying vigilant and implementing appropriate strategies, we can reduce the risk of these potentially life-threatening conditions and enjoy the summer season safely.

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

Martin County Real Estate

John Gonzalez
Engel & Volkers, Managing Broker

I was in a meeting of the Martin County Realtors of the Treasure Coast this morning.

It struck me that the majority of our clients (and friends) see us as salespeople that simply concentrate on selling or buying homes. The truth is that many Realtors come from diverse backgrounds and contribute a lot of their time to learning about the market and, also, giving back to their community.

I was listening to several of my peers that all come from diverse backgrounds and achievements before they were Realtors or even Martin County residents. I am one of those seasoned individuals. Many readers may know that I once was a chef/caterer in our little town. Then I worked in finance and finally, before this career, I ran a non-profit organization that supported individuals with intellectual disabilities. Now, I am a proud Realtor, just like my father and brother.

One Realtor this morning discussed his career in biology and eventually owned his own sunglass manufacturing company. Another Realtor discussed her career in HR and her volunteerism chairing a major golf tournament that raised millions of dollars for her local charities. Finally, one Realtor discussed her career as a journalist.

Here is why I am writing this - your local Realtor gives back to their profession and adopted hometown. Most of the men and women I know in this career raise their families here, serve on community boards, charitable and church organizations and they even open their hearts and wallets to support important causes.

I have known Realtors that found houses for homeless veterans and foster families, worked at local shelters and food banks, and even served on government committees to improve our town. Our local Association has raised nearly $1,000,000 for Habitat for Humanity - we not only raised money we have physically worked on the houses and serve on their Board of Directors.

So, get to know your local Realtor. Use the men and women that serve your community. You would be shocked how many people sell or buy a home in this community with a Realtor from another county and he/she has no local knowledge and more importantly has not contributed a minute or dollar to our Martin County.

If you are planning to shop for a home or sell your current residence, “shop” for a Realtor that is local, knowledgeable and even consider their background and volunteer experience. Full-time Realtors love our profession and want our clients to benefit from their business relationship with us far beyond the transaction.

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

Palm City Highlights

Missi Campbell
Palm City Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director


It is such a major part of your life for so many years and then suddenly, it’s not. You become an adult and go out into the workforce and don’t think about school. Then, maybe you have your own family and school is back. This too passes, until the grandchildren come along. Or if you choose not to have your own children, you see the neighborhood children out and about more so you realize, it must be a school break.

I chose to be a part of the school environment even longer by becoming a teacher for 34 years. Once I retired from being an educator, my children are adults, and my only granddaughter is too young for school, I recognize that I am not current on the school schedule as much as I was previously.

Whether you were popular in school and loved it or were just there to get through each day, it was a major factor in your life. This is where you were educated, socialized, and developed into the person you are today.

Young people today have so many options and opportunities available for them, it is mind-boggling. They may take courses in high school to earn certifications so that they can be gainfully employed immediately after graduation. Trade schools are a fabulous way to enter the workforce skilled and prepared with a good paying career. College is the way to go for other students. With so many alternatives available to our students, they should all be prepared to enter our community and become successful members of our society.

I share this because public school in Martin County starts on August 10th. I always looked forward to the beginning of a new year. I was grateful to be able to see my friends again daily and hoped to meet new people that may become friends. But I do realize this isn’t how everyone feels.

Sadly, some of our students are not prepared for another school year. They may need supplies, mental health care, clothes, and other forms of support. This is where our local community and YOU come in. While you’re out shopping, pick up a few school supplies, children’s clothing, or shoes and donate them. If you’re not sure where to donate, the Palm City Chamber of Commerce is happy to take your donations and see that they are delivered to students in need.

I would suggest contacting your local school directly or contact the United Way, 4 C’s, (Caring Children Clothing Children), House of Hope, Elev8 Hope, Hope School for Autism, Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County, or any non-profit that is near and dear to your heart.

Growing up in Martin County, I love the fact that I see fellow classmates in town all the time. I am thrilled to see former students locally and catch up with their successes. School is a major part of our lives and should be cherished

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

Fishing Tips

Paul Sperco

Summer fishing is in full swing here on the Treasure Coast along our local beaches.

The croaker and whiting action have been fantastic on some days and nonexistent on others. The bite will be determined by the bait schools that move down the beach and if you found the bait the last couple of weeks you had constant action with the whiting, croaker, sand perch, and catch and release snook.

I fished with my son Randy last week and we filled the cooler with big whiting and croaker on Wednesday and Thursday. We returned to the area where we had been fishing on Friday and caught two. The bait was gone and so were the whiting and croaker.

I am heading out again this morning and a tip you can use at this time of year is to walk to the dune line and look for the pelicans and terns that feed on the greenies and glass minnows. If they are visible on that beach access, go back to your vehicle and grab your tackle. We have lots of beaches to look at from St Lucie to Fort Pierce Inlet so put a little time in and find the bait.

Light tackle, a 7-foot rod with a 3000 sized spinning reel, a one ounce pyramid sinker, a bag of Orange clam or Shrimp Fishbites, and some small pieces of shrimp, and you are in business. Keep your baits 5 to 15 yards from the edge of the surf and you will be successful. If catch and release snook are your target a heavier 7-to-8-foot rod with a 4000 or 5000 sized spinning reel should be your set up. A 3 foot leader of 40 lb. test fluorocarbon and a 4/0 circle hook will be the tackle you will need .

Catch a small croaker or sand perch, put him on the circle hook and live line him in the surf. A snook or big jack should find that bait so have some fun playing tug of war with those two species but get them released after taking a picture in a prompt manor.

Stay hydrated so bring lots of water and Gatorade and a cooler with ice to keep the whiting and croaker cold. They are great table fare so pick a weekend and have a South Hutchinson Island fish fry. Fish around the high tide mark at beaches like Tiger Shores, Stuart, Bryn Mawr, or Beachwalk Pasley and you should find some fish.

Good luck this month and catch em up. 

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

On Education

Victoria Defenthaler
Retired Martin County Principal & School Board Member

It appears that long before anyone realized it a parent of a Martin County School District student and member of the local chapter of Moms for Liberty made it her mission to ensure certain books were removed from the shelves of all classrooms and libraries in Martin County. It’s important to note that parents had and have the right to disallow their child from checking out any book through the library software system, Destiny.

However, unbeknownst to the rest of us, this appears to have been a systematic, coordinated tactic used by the national Moms for Liberty organization. By the time we realized what was happening 92 books had been banned in Martin County with no procedure in place to challenge these book removals. This highly contested issue has created controversy within our community and around the country with parents, teachers, authors, community members, and various organizations speaking out against this assault on the freedom of those who disagree with these decisions.

During our local school board meetings, speaker after speaker has asked our school board for a procedure by which a parent can request that a book be reconsidered to be returned to the classroom and school library.  Now it appears that in an effort to take away even more local control, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a new law that took effect July 1, 2023.  HB 1069 says that if a parent disagrees with a school board's decision about a book challenge, they can request the Florida commissioner of education appoint a special magistrate, at the school district’s expense, to hear the case. (Note that our commissioner is appointed by our governor, and the special magistrate is not appointed by an independent entity, but indirectly by our governor’s appointed representative.)

The law reads, "The special magistrate shall determine facts relating to the school district's determination, consider information provided by the parent and the school district, and render a recommended decision for resolution to the State Board of Education within 30 days after receipt of the request by the parent.” Besides the fact that a process is used to review such challenges, the cases require school districts to incur this expense. This is a blatant ploy to discourage book reconsideration challenges.

“Books are being ordered removed from libraries, or subject to restricted access within those libraries, based on an ideologically driven campaign to push certain ideas out of schools,” according to a lawsuit filed by PEN America and the nation’s largest publisher, Penguin Random House. Ultimately, this is just another way to usurp local control.

Is this another tactic to circumvent the rights of those who disagree with Governor DeSantis, his allies, and his political base to ensure the freedom of some over the freedom of others?  We must stand up for the safety and education of our children and the future of our country by not sitting idly by but rather by becoming fierce advocates for protecting the First Amendment rights of EVERYONE!

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

Arati's Advice

Arati Hammond
Keller Williams, Senior Real Estate Specialist


From Arati Hammond, Seniors Real Estate Specialist

 at Keller Williams Realty

5 Tips for Creating Your Own Modern Family

If your family is considering a move to a multi-generational house, here are five considerations.

  1. Legal implications. Meet with elder lawyers and estate planners to discuss how a house will be titled, how to minimize tax consequences when a family member dies, and the effect the living arrangement has on estate planning.
  2. Financial obligations. Have a realistic discussion about finances. How much money can each person contribute? What are everyone’s big and small – prescription drugs, tuition, cars, hobbies, and so forth -- monthly expenses? How will those expenses shrink or grow? For instance, will an elderly family member need in-home, skilled nursing care? How much can you afford to spend on a house? Make realistic choices so that no one person is fully supporting the other.
  3. Space considerations. Have an open discussion about everyone’s needs and daily living expectations. What does privacy mean to each person? How do they want to spend their time? How do they relax? What kind of home spaces and amenities are important to each person?  Don’t set yourself up for failure by, for example, buying a house with one bathroom.  Be certain there’s appropriate space for everyone’s comfort, privacy, relaxation, communal gatherings, and meals. 
  4. Universal design. Be certain the house has aging-in-place features or that it can be retrofitted to include a bedroom or master suite on the first floor, 36-inch-wide doorways, walk-in showers, and other universal design elements critical to aging safely.
  5. Daily chores. Decide how household duties be divided.  For instance, it may be an easy, organic process that is accomplished with open discussions. Therefore, there’s no rigid agreement about day-to-day duties. But some families may prefer a more formal arrangement to minimize friction. Decide what works best for your family.

Don’t Do This to Your Kids

Here’s yet another entry in the don’t-do-this-to-your kids’ category.

They struggle to understand the parents’ full financial picture, and their efforts are complicated when they find mysterious folders, notes on scrap paper, passbooks bunched together with rubber bands, and multiple accounts at multiple banks.

Just think of your own financial life and the shorthand and shortcuts you use to deal with your checking account, passwords, pensions, and stocks. Then imagine someone swooping in and trying to understand what you own, what you owe, and how to access accounts.

So do your kids a favor.

Create a list with account numbers and passwords so they know about everything -- assets, loans, mortgage payments, deeds, insurance policies, online account passwords, keys to safe deposit boxes, and so forth.

And be sure to tell them the safe place where the list is stored.

Arati Hammond is a Luxury Home Marketing Specialist and Seniors Real Estate Specialist at Keller Williams Realty.  You can reach Arati Hammond at 772-342-5599 or Arati@AratiHammond.com

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

Mindful Meditation

Jessica Miranda Roberts
Mindfullness and Moving Meditation Instructor

Have You Experienced Tai Chi?

Tai Chi is rapidly gaining popularity with classes popping up at community centers, gyms, martial arts, and yoga studios around the country.

Hospitals and medical centers are now even offering classes. Here in our area, we had two separate World Tai Chi and Qigong Day Events this past Spring. One at Memorial Park in Stuart and one at the Port St. Lucie Botanical Gardens. Increasingly, more doctors and therapists are recommending Tai Chi as well (more on that later). Many classes are available locally.

We are seeing a growing acceptance of and interest in Tai Chi because there have been so many studies in recent years revealing the health benefits of the practice. With mounting medical research and the fact that it is “low impact” and a very inclusive form of exercise for all ages and fitness levels - it is very safe to recommend and try.

Many people who practice Tai Chi say they feel more energy and peace from doing it. And in today’s busy and changing world who is not interested in inviting energy and peace into their lives?

What is Tai Chi and where did it come from? While I do not have enough space here to go into all the details, what has become known as “Tai Chi” in America is usually a blend of two ancient Chinese practices called Tai Ji Quan, and Qigong (pronounced Chi-gong).

Qigong, a form of Chinese medicine, dates back over four thousand years and focuses on aligning breath, specific body movements and awareness for optimal health of mind, body, and spirit. Tai Ji Quan is over four hundred years old and has evolved into five different classic styles of martial arts. Generations of people have practiced these for health, self-defense, community, mindfulness, and exercise.

Tai Chi has been well studied and has proven medical benefits, including improving heart health, lowering blood pressure, reducing fatigue and chronic pain, improving cognitive function, mood, and mental health, improving balance, and preventing falls, stress reduction, better sleep and the list goes on and on.

Please visit the library at https://www.worldtaichiday.org if you want to see some of these studies or are curious if Tai Chi could help benefit you or a loved one. Anyone can participate in these types of classes, even if seated in a wheelchair, and still experience many of the benefits.

Today in the US there are various avenues to explore, from moving meditations in parks and community centers to national martial arts competitions. Health benefits come from all forms of Tai Chi, and much of the recent medical research is focused on the slow, peaceful, mindful movement type of classes and the findings are impressive.

Thinking about giving Tai Chi a try? Just go for it! You will have fun and make some good friends along the way. Remember to wear flat soled, athletic shoes and loose comfortable clothing. Always bring water and an attitude to try something new.

Check out a class in your area and let me know how it goes. Or if you are looking to bring a class into your center or community, please contact me for more information. If you would like to join me on Fridays at 9:30 AM we have a free class for first-time practitioners at the Treasure Coast Universalist Unitarian Church, in Stuart. Send inquiries to JessicaRobertsYoga@gmail.com

As always, wishing you peace and wellness!

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

Legal Corner

Gene Zweben
Founding & Managing Partner at Zweben Law Group


5 Things to Do After a Car Accident

Any time you get in a car, you face the risk of a car accident. To protect yourself, try to follow these five steps.

  1. Assess Safety and Injuries

Take a deep breath and assess the situation. Are you or anyone else in danger of further injuries in your current position? If so, try to move or protect yourself in some way. Turn on your emergency flashers, and make yourself and your vehicle as visible as possible.

If you’re seriously injured, of course, your ability to do anything will be severely limited. But try to evaluate your condition and the condition of others involved in the accident.

  1. Call 911

Even if you notice no obvious injuries, it is a good idea to call 911 to get professional help on the scene. Emergency responders can protect those involved from further harm and start tending to injuries. Police can take a report which will be extremely helpful as evidence later.

If EMTs recommend transportation to the hospital, take their advice. If not, you should visit the doctor on your own because a physician can check for signs of injury that may not be immediately apparent, such as internal bleeding. Some injuries do not present symptoms until hours or days later, so if you notice something, get it checked out.

  1. Document the Accident

Try to preserve as much information about the accident as possible. Take photos with your phone or ask someone else to. Get pictures of not only the vehicles but also any injuries and the scene surrounding the accident including skid marks, things that could obstruct the view, traffic signs, etc. Collect the name and contact information of others on the scene including witnesses and the other drivers involved.

  1. Talk to Your Insurance Company

You will need to report the accident to your insurer but stick to the facts when providing information. Don’t try to speculate about what may have caused the accident. You are not obligated to talk to the other drivers’ insurance companies, and it is best not to do so until you are fully prepared.

  1. Get Advice from a Car Accident Lawyer

Insurance companies are always looking for ways to avoid paying claims, so you need to take care with everything you say or do. An experienced attorney can help you protect your rights and explain your best options for recovery. They can tell you if you have a legal claim, and fight to get you the right compensation.

A car accident is a unique and shocking situation for most people, but a lawyer who focuses on personal injury law can guide you through the process to help you put your life back together as efficiently as possible. Take advantage of the assistance they can provide.

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

Kiwanis Park Update

Virginia Lane Hill

President of Kiwanis Club of Stuart

For the last two years, the Kiwanis Club of Stuart has been actively fundraising for a "Destination Playground" for older children to be built at Kiwanis Park at Woodlawn. With a slew of emotions and incredible gratitude, to be a part of such a wonderful community, I had the honor and the pleasure, as President of the Kiwanis Club of Stuart, to present a check on their behalf for $200,000 to the City of Stuart, to go with their matching funds for the construction of this playground. This will be our single largest park endeavor partnership.

The newest addition includes playground adventures that are not present in any other playground in our county.  The single largest and key piece to our youth section is Landscape Structure's, "Crab Trap", a 33'  by 36' steel frame structure that has no shortage of climbing challenges. Made to hold up to 75 children at one time,  this is like an above ground, 3D,  net climbing obstacle course and is meant to challenge older children and develop problem solving skills. It is also ADA compliant and accessible. The frame is hot dip galvanized in order to provide advanced corrosion resistance in coastal environments. 

The second piece to our new youth area, is the "Alpha Tower", also by Landscape Structures, it is a three story playing tower and will have double slides. The turbo twister slide comes down from the third story and is an enclosed tunnel slide of 12 feet in length.  From the second story position an eight foot slide also descends to the new rubber surfacing, that will replace much of the sand in this area and also make all of the new equipment areas ADA accessible.

The old tire swing must go, this item while beloved by the children of this community, has reached its life span and needs replacing.  An "Oodle Swing" which is very similar, but ADA accessible, from a wheel chair or a walker, is a larger and more modern version and can accommodate up to six children at a time.

Last and by no means least, our wooden benches, just do not hold up in such a moist Florida Environment, while they gave parents many years of enjoyment and a place to sit near their children, the last seven remaining benches will be replaced with very colorful "Kaleidoscope" benches.  These benches are layered up for structural integrity and are made of 73% recycled materials, and are a  beautifully artistic addition to the park, especially since it lies within the Creek Arts and Entertainment District.

We had literally hundreds of sponsors from our community, who without each and everyone's help this would not be possible, but I have to mention our three major sponsors, Heidi and Branden Baird,  of Chambers Truss, who believed so much in us they donated three times, Impact 100 Martin and ME's Team, that has donated to our cause multiple times as well, for making this project a reality.

 It takes a village, it is true.  We have public servants, the assistance and dedication of several, including Milton Leggett, MIke Mortell, David Dyess  and  Alaina Knofla, were essential; Kiwanians, our members are generous with their time, their money and their talents; and individuals  and community groups , who combine their talents and service to make a better world for the children and families in our community.  It shows how wonderful things can happen when we all work together and not against each other.

The million dollar question, of course, is when will it be here? The playground is on order with the manufacturer and  design signoffs were finished this past week. We should know more soon, but it looks like preparation on site will begin in early to mid December, with a grand opening around February 2024.  We'll keep you posted, the child in all of us can't wait!

Virginia Lane Hill’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Constitutional Corner & Non Profit Notices


Supervisor of Elections


Tax Collector


Property Appraiser


Martin County Clerk & Comptroller


Non Profit Notices

-From Banner Lake -

Garrett Sr., Jody Ann, and their four kids are overjoyed and grateful to have found an affordable, permanent home in the city where they both grew up …. the city of Hobe Sound.

Garrett Sr. and Jody Ann, both natives of Hobe Sound, were trying to raise four children while grappling with the rising costs of rent and the upkeep of a house they could never call "home." They put in long hours seeking security for their young family. Garrett Sr. and Jody-Ann found a townhouse in Stuart, FL with three bedrooms and two bathrooms because they needed a place to raise their family and make a living. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the townhouse doubled as the family's place of education and employment, making the already difficult living situation even more so. After the pandemic, the family's monthly rent costs increased to nearly half of their combined monthly income. While waiting for God to provide them with a more permanent dwelling, Garrett Sr. and Jody-Ann made their home here.

From infancy onward, Garrett Sr. and Jody-Ann's four children (now ages 12 down to 4) have been regulars at the historical Dunbar Center (now The Banner Lake Early Learning Center) and BLAST (Banner Lake After-School Time).

The Weavers contributed sweat equity to the "Keep Banner Beautiful" project at Banner Lake Club by, among other things, helping to maintain the yard and landscapes of senior residents, taking part in community clean-up events, and attending workshops for parents.

In an interview, Garrett and Jody-Ann expressed their gratitude to Banner Lake Club Inc. for providing them with affordable housing by saying:

“As a first order of business, we want to give thanks to the great God we serve. When we were at our lowest, he wiped away our tears and surrounded us with angels who encouraged us to keep going. It was his way of reassuring us that our children were being watched over whether we were there or not. God sent an army of support our way in the form of The Banner Lake Club when we were worried about the security and affordability of providing a roof over our children's heads. You see, he was cognizant of the fact that we required many people to help us out, as well as inspiration, information, a chance, and a clear path to success. It takes a village to raise a child, as the proverb goes, and the Lord has blessed us with an incredible one. We appreciate Banner Lake Club including us in this program. I'd like to express my gratitude to everyone who has contributed to and invested in this fantastic initiative and group. We appreciate Banner Lake Club's faith in us and support as we've grown as a family.” Garrett Sr. went on to say in closing, “Thank you, Dad, for making it clear that some angels need to be spirited away from this world before we can move on to better things. We have returned to the city where you raised me. The journey has just begun; this is not the end.”

Healthy Start Issues Call for Diaper Donations

Stuart, Fla. - Babies go through a lot of diapers in a month. That puts a real strain on the budgets of families who are already just squeaking by financially.  A new national report by the National Diaper Bank Network, the NDBN Diaper Check 2023, found that nearly one in two American families with babies are experiencing difficulties in providing diapers for their infants.

Martin County Healthy Start Coalition staff know that this is true locally as well. “In the past we were giving out 8,000 diapers a month to families at the financial margins,” says Healthy Start CEO Samantha Suffich. “This spring, we gave out a record breaking 17,000 diapers a month!”

Families eligible for the Healthy Start Diaper Pantry frequently have to decide between buying diapers or paying utility bills or even putting food on the table. “Not being able to provide your baby with clean diapers is emotionally stressful,” Suffich says, “but it also leads to health problems.”

The statistics from 2022 tell the story. The Martin County Healthy Start Coalition served 3,561 clients; 145,000 diapers were distributed; and 507 new clients were added to the service.

To meet the growing need, the Healthy Start Coalition operates its free Diaper Pantry at each of these locations: the Healthy Start offices on US 1 in Stuart, the Golden Gate Enrichment Center in South Stuart, Booker Park in Indiantown, and the House of Hope offices in Indiantown.

“We always need more diapers for the pantry,” Suffich says. “We welcome donations of diapers or dollars to help us with something as simple and as urgent as diapers for a baby.”

Any Martin County resident with a child under the age of 3 can enroll in the diaper pantry. For a complete schedule, go to the Healthy Start website, www.mchealthystart.org, or call 772-463-2888.     

Hibiscus Children’s Center Promotes Sustainers Program  

Treasure Coast – Would you like to join a special team of supporters who make a difference for children every month?  You can be a Hibiscus Children’s Center Sustainer and help change lives of vulnerable children in our community.  Our late Founder LaVaughn Tilton had a passion stirring in her heart to make the world a safer place for children, free from abuse and neglect.  LaVaughn laid the blueprint for the care victimized children needed almost 40 years ago.  Following in her footsteps, Hibiscus’ mission continues to focus on protecting our children and helping them cope with trauma while building positive adaptive and problem-solving skills that will lead to a successful future.   The Hibiscus Sustainer Program is one way we can ensure that children continue to receive these critical services that LaVaughn envisioned decades ago.

Each month we incur ongoing expenses as any household with children would.  These expenses add up quickly and can overwhelm our budgets.  Some of these costs include haircuts/styles for kids in our care, birthday celebrations, honor roll and other educational accomplishments to be celebrated, allowances and positive reinforcement goals, and school pictures.  At Hibiscus, we want children to experience normal and usual lifestyles.  Our hope for them is to experience going out to dinner as a family, having the option to purchase a yearbook, celebrating that big birthday with a little more fanfare, getting special hairdos for special occasions like prom and homecoming and having a beautiful gown or sharp tuxedo to wear.   The kids are already enjoying a fun summer and in the words of Madison, “"My favorite thing is ... everything!  But I especially love the water park, it's so fun!"  You can  help kids just like Madison enjoy the special memories of childhood!

Will you consider becoming a sustainer and help ensure we can provide these type of experiences for children? By joining our Sustainer Society, your gift each month allows us to better budget and prepare for unexpected expenses as well as ensure children are experiencing a full life while living at the Hibiscus Village in Vero Beach and Tilton Family Children’s Center in Jensen Beach.

Please visit us at hibiscuschildrenscenter.org/becomeasustainer to learn more and begin your support as a Sustainer.  Please contact Lori Swift at lswift@hcc4kids.org with any questions.  Thank you for helping to change children’s lives and give them a brighter future! 

House of Hope Receives Three Community Impact Grants

 from Martin County United Way

STUART, Fla. – House of Hope is the recipient of three generous Community Impact grants from the United Way of Martin County for 2023-2024. The grant awards, totaling $110,750, will help to sustain House of Hope programs that are vital in empowering Martin County residents to overcome hunger and hardship.

The grants specifically support House of Hope’s Client Choice Pantries, Project HOPE (Helping Others Progress through Empowerment), and the House of Hope Centers for Enrichment. The United Way has been supporting the House of Hope mission to empower Martin County residents to overcome hunger and hardship for more than three decades.

“House of Hope has always been at the heart of meeting community needs for basics like food and household goods,” said Rob Ranieri, CEO of House of Hope. “We’ve become very innovative in how we produce and distribute fresh food, educate our clients, and help them make connections to break their cycle of poverty. United Way’s investment in our organization will enable us to continue performing our vital work and strengthen Martin County.”

House of Hope operates four Client Choice Pantries throughout Martin County--in Indiantown, Hobe Sound, Stuart, and Jensen Beach--where people can receive food assistance. Last year alone, the pantries provided 1,488,150 pounds of food to its clients and 35 nonprofit food bank partners who operate soup kitchens, shelters, smaller church pantries and youth programs throughout Martin County. Food distributions also include some of the 900 meals prepared each week by the agency's Elisabeth Lahti Nutrition Center. Thanks to House of Hope’s Growing Hope Farm, clients have fresh, high quality produce as part of their food choices in addition to donated non-perishable items. As part of its overall health and nutrition initiative, House of Hope also uses this grant funding to support its nutrition education programs and nutrition gardens.

Project HOPE seeks to move individuals and families past a crisis situation, stabilize the household, and work with clients to develop a plan toward economic self-sufficiency. Every client that enters House of Hope meets with a team member to start the process of making a plan for recovery. Project HOPE support includes financial assistance to help clients pay critical household bills and even access to a clothes closet if needed. Each month the team makes more than 1,200 referrals to connect clients to programs and services provided by a vast partner network within the community, including the agency's array of enrichment programs.

The Centers for Enrichment are hubs of activity in Stuart and Jensen Beach. A third center, known as the KinDoo Center in Indiantown, joins the House of Hope family of services this summer. The Centers offer a variety of classes and programs focused on the fields of health and nutrition, education, job skills and job training, the arts, and family-friendly social opportunities. Some of the available classes and programs include English as a Second Language, computer instruction, career coaching, smoking cessation, early learning, homework helpers, and diabetes education sessions. In just one year, the Centers served 863 clients with a total of 3,393 services.

All programs and services of House of Hope are provided at no cost to the individuals and families served by the organization.

“Our community continues to feel economic stress and food insecurity,” Ranieri says. “Every month we reach a new milestone in the number of people we serve, the meals we provide, and the financial assistance we distribute. That’s why we’re proud to partner with United Way of Martin County to provide opportunities for success to individuals and families in our community."

Humane Society’s Pup Crawl planned for August 5

STUART, Fla. — The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast’s 9th Annual Pup Crawl — a summertime favorite for pups and people — will be held on Saturday, Aug. 5, from 5:30 to 11 p.m. Presented by Wagnolias and sponsored by Camp Bow Wow, the Pup Crawl provides participants the opportunity to access six venues in Stuart’s downtown district, where they will receive one free drink at each stop.

Open to anyone 21 or older, pre-registration tickets are on sale online now for $30 at https://hstc1.org/post/Pup-Crawl. Participants also may register that evening at the Promenade next to Spritz City Bistro, the first stop during the event. All proceeds will benefit the humane society’s shelter animals.

Participating venues are the Lush Lounge, Spritz City Bistro, The Hangar, Sneaki Tiki, Duffy's Sports Grill and Taco Shack Bar & Grill.

The event is dog-friendly but all dogs must be kept on a non-retractable leash and the owner must make sure the dog is properly cared for at all times. Pet owners must be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion, aggressive behavior, overstimulation and other problematic areas as pet health and safety are essential. Pets will not be permitted indoors at any of the establishments so participants with dogs are encouraged to have a buddy system.

The theme of this year’s Pup Crawl is “Miami Vice.” Think white blazers and neon lights! Supporters are encouraged to participate in a themed costume contest to win prizes. Official Pup Crawl swag is on sale now, which includes T-shirts, tank tops and more. For those who can’t make the event, these items may be purchased as a show of support. To place an order, visit https://www.bonfire.com/pup-crawl-2023/.

Pup crawlers also are invited to participate in a 50/50 raffle where half the proceeds will be awarded to a randomly drawn winner with the other half benefiting the shelter pets.

For more information, contact Community Events Specialist Alyssa Bean at 772-600-3215 or Events@hstc1.org.

Letters From Readers

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


Althea Redway


1)  Millions of Federal Funds were given for this program.  Reality is Water &  Sewer is a revenue business, therefore customers shouldn't be paying for materials to build your business and then have to pay the mandatory monthly service provided by the same business.  Unethical, seems like robbery and only government offices can do or allow to do such an unjust act because the average company owned by locals cannot do and would not get away with such an act.  Seems like ABUSE OF POWER.

2)  Prior to this mandatory plan of Connect to Protect Program in Florida homeowners were never charged infrastructure fees.   Go back to the county files and see the proof, so if it didn't happen then, why now.

3)  Florida talks about -    Live Local Act” supports affordable housing policies in Florida and takes effect July 1, 2023. Creates and/or enhances tax incentives for affordable housing, restricts local government opposition. Provides additional, funded appropriation totaling $1.5 billion over next 10 years." 

REALLY, it seems like a joke and I would say SHAME ON YOU because this is all an act, especially in Martin County, knowing homeowners will incurinfrastructure fees ranging from $5,000 - $20,000, CONNECTION FEES $1,500 - $3,000, LIEN ON PROPERTY FOR 20 YEARS, PLUS INTEREST FEES.  WOW, GOVERNMENT HIGHWAY ROBBERY TO THE FULLEST.


1)  Removal of Liens on Homeowners properties

2)  Zero (0) Interest rate 

3)  Lower the outrageous cost for your infrastructure fees, if any at all

4)  Follow other counties, example:  Hernando County where they are only charging homeowners 10% of total cost of $36,000 per property owner which amounts to $3,600.  OR, Port Saint Lucie where the flat fee is $6,026 or 120 monthly payment of $50.22 interest free.  

5)  Martin County, do what is right and ethical.  Erase the greed and have some compassion for your homeowners


I decided to spread awareness of what seems to be government fraud and should no changes happen; That's fine, because within my heart my purpose was to be the voice for many.  I overheard and listened to homeowners who are on fixed income and wondering if they are going to become homeless.  Martin County has grown and with all the new developments and taxes they are acquiring from these new homeowners.  Follow the money because where is it going? I see nothing new, just many buildings and traffic.  I stand firm on my word that NO HOMEOWNER SHOULD PAY FOR INFRASTRUCTURE ASSESSMENT FEES.

Please join us by signing the petition https://chng.it/vYYNrDkg


Jim Fithian Comments:
Response to:
Final Thoughts
What is Justice

In response to the above article, I would like to offer my opinion and observations regarding the video that took you by “surprise.”  Like your good friend, I also have a “conservative bent.” However, I was not surprised by what I observed in this video.
This was obviously a staged interaction between a university professor and a female student in a classroom setting. The student was instructed to leave the classroom and to never return. She meekly complied while the other students provided no support.
Fear is the reason neither she nor the others questioned or resisted even in the slightest manner.   Todays universities have become bastions of compliance and group think with little regard for questions, disagreement or any break from the cultural shift that is permeating our schools.  Critical thinking and debate are discouraged and subject to retaliatory consequences.  The student’s grades, scholarships, reputation, and future career opportunities are all in jeopardy of reprisals if you break from the expected dogma.
You will adhere or suffer the consequences. This is particularly true within the social, political and philosophy sciences.  So, fear sets in and students become comatose.  Just say what is expected in order to graduate.
Where is the “justice” in a university setting where liberalism is the order of the day.  It is no wonder that conservative thought is mocked and rejected in every way possible.  Approximately 9 of every 10 professors are democrats at our colleges according to a study investigating the political affiliates of college professors. That study found that they vastly outnumber republicans. Please see the article by John Patrick dated Jan. 23rd, 2020 printed in the Washington Examiner.
There is more than just the appearance of a lack of intellectual diversity among instructors in our universities. The proof is in the pudding.  Conservative speakers who attempt to speak are routinely shouted down, refused entrance to the building, spit on and one was just recently kidnapped.  We should be disgusted by the inability of conservative thought to be freely discussed without fear and humiliation tactics. Is the disparity of democrat vs republican professor positions due to intentional bias because of hiring practices that have gone on for decades?  Or, are conservatives just resigning out of frustration?  It is probably a combination of both.
There will never be “truths that are accepted by every American.”  There are bullies in the world who resort to force, cheating, stealing and a variety of unethical and illegal methods in order to get their way. This is a “fact” that must be recognized and addressed by peaceful and forceful responses within the legal system.  Unfortunately, these people and/ or groups are many times in positions of trust and leadership which makes it particularly difficult to confront effectively.
Facts are not necessarily truths. So called facts have been proven wrong throughout history.  By the way, I would tread lightly when it comes to questioning Kelly Ann Conway’s assertions regarding facts.  The woman is brilliant and I am certain she can defend her position regarding alternate facts.  You may want to leave her out of the conversation until you bone-up on your debate skills.
Do we still believe the Hunter Biden conspiracy theory is still just a theory?  Stay tuned as the evidence continues to mount.  Can we rely upon the media for facts and truth?  Are they accurate and unbiased?  Recent polls indicate that most Americans have very little faith in their facts and truth.  Americans are beginning to legitimately question who they thought they could trust.  This is a good thing!
There will never be justice for all until God is fully in charge.  Man has demonstrated throughout history that he almost revels in injustice.  However, there are always glimmers of light that appear just like a snapshot.  One example might be when the “White male Christians” you mentioned fought and died in order to attempt to correct an injustice.
No, this country was not “born of a lie.”  It was born with imperfections.  Still, with all its flaws it continues to be a light on a shining hill.  Thank God for America as it continues to fight for freedom and justice.


Audrey Taggart

I think most folks know what those are whether or not they belong to any religious group. The most serious of the seven deadly sin is Pride. “Pride goeth before the fall,” etc. You know the drill. The lesser 6 are greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, sloth.

Being proud of one's accomplishment – whether in academics, music, art, sports, and so forth – is understandable for a moment. But to be proud of the color of one's skin or gender falls into the category of sin. It is not an accomplishment. MLK wanted his 4 little children to be judged by the content of their character,

not the color of their skin. Imagine if a person of color were born in Zambia or the Congo - would they feel the Pride they claim here in the US, the most tolerant country on the planet?

John Adams, our 2nd Vice President, famously told his son, John Quincy Adams

(6th US President): “You came into this life with advantages which will disgrace you if your success is mediocre. And if you do not rise to the head of your own profession, but of your country, it will be owing to your own laziness, slovenliness and obstinacy.” White privilege?

Wow! Quite different from today's youth who expect a trophy for however they played the game or who expect accolades for showing up and breathing. What a disservice we perpetuate on our youth. What a loss of incentive. What low expectations we set. Why on earth do we do this?

Today Adams' words would probably earn him a visit from Child Protective Services. And his son would never have earned much at all, let alone the Presidency.

Martin County


When commissioners want to gin up either support or opposition for a project, sometimes they have four or five neighborhood residents speak during public comment.

I think Ed Ciampi did that regarding a project known as Martin Highway in the Old Palm City CRA. The project is still in the draft stages, so nothing has been set in stone. It is a 90-unit multi-family dwelling. I don’t know if it is a good project or not. I do know that the opposition currently is just solely based on NIMBYism.

Chair Ciampi is also opposed to the project, and I find that odd. He has consistently championed the building of “affordable housing.” I don’t know what the cost of rent will be for Martin Highway. I do know if you are going to champion more housing for people, you can’t then say, “Not In My Back Yard.” It smacks of political opportunism with whatever position, pro or con, the commissioner takes in the future.

Projects should be judged on whether they meet the criteria that is in the comp plan and LDRs. Mr. Ciampi is one of the five votes that can change or alter those things. There will never be affordable housing if enough housing isn’t built…especially multi-family.

Through zoning, impact fees, and building codes, government can make housing more or less expensive. Unless Martin County subsidizes rents, then the private market will provide housing. That means equilibrium must be found in the market. Newer stuff will be more expensive than old stock. Greater availability results in less expensive rents.

Maybe it will take another round of changes from the Florida Legislature to curb local authority. It sure doesn’t look like commissioners have learned any lessons. And that is too bad. But we are creating economically insecure citizens by making shelter perilously rare to find for some. The state cannot allow this to continue.

The restaurant and hitting bays will reopen at the Sailfish Sands Golf Course on July 27th.






This facility will accept cash or credit cards. The commission wanted to have a cash option for customers. There will be a service charge of 20% on each food and bar check which will go to the front of the house staff. No other tips will be allowed.

Commissioner Heard made the motion to accept the policy and it was seconded by Commissioner Jenkins. The vote was 4-1 with Commissioner Hetherington in opposition. Hetherington had said this operation belongs in the private sector all along. That was a vote after my own heart.

In conjunction with the City of Stuart, the BDB, and many other entities, the county is moving ahead with launching the Innovation Hub. BusinessFlare, the consultant that put the study together defines the Innovation Hub as a project “to envision an employment hub for innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology in the region.”

The boundaries are Cove Road to the south, Monterey Road to the north, Federal Highway on the west and Dixie Highway to the east. It is located in Stuart, Golden Gate, and Port Salerno.

In the report, the city and county will not need to make any zoning changes for now. They will need a stormwater management master plan. It has a complete streets element. The plan envisions Commerce Avenue as the central spine of the corridor.

The county will move forward with an infrastructure plan and developing an economic tool chest. You can see the presentation here



Prioritization is not a virtue possessed by this commission.

As a child, a friend of mine had a charge account at the corner candy store. After Sunday Mass, his dad would buy the newspapers there, and he would settle the bill with the owner. If my friend went over budget for the week, he was then curtailed the following one.

During this meeting, our commission found itself in similar circumstances to my friend when he had exceeded his limits. But the commission doesn’t have a dad to keep check on what they are buying. And instead of a weekly bill, the commissioners received one with the new budget year. This one was a doozy.

The county’s tentative budget as presented was $643,325,000. To bring in enough revenue to pay for those expenses, the tax rate would need to increase by 4.58%.

Setting tax rates in Florida is complicated. The state has passed measures that make it almost impossible for Martin County to raise taxes by a simple majority. The question raised was whether it would be four votes needed or five.

What were the drivers of this increase? Two things…the Sheriff and Fire/Rescue. Law enforcement’s budget will be $102,000,000 this year primarily because of payroll costs. Fire/Rescue is almost $59,000,000. The rest of the operation budget for the other county departments has not increased at all or only slightly.

The increases are due to more employees and higher pay. The question became how you reconcile income to increasing expenses. The commission passed the budgets for the county, except that Heard voted no for the budgets of law enforcement and fire and both Hetherington and Heard voting no for Parks because of an $85,000 stipend for a new employee for Special Olympics.

After the county administrator took the budget ax to the CIP and FARB the tax increase was dropped to 2.649%. That would require a super majority vote of 4 commissioners to pass. Two commissioners, Heard and Hetherington, were not convinced to vote for that amount.

To encourage new growth, Tallahassee has its own special way of determining when a super majority is needed to pass an increase.  Because the growth in Martin County taxable value was mostly due to the increase in value of existing properties, to raise taxes would require a supermajority. If we had followed St. Lucie County’s way of increased value by new construction, then a simple majority would be necessary.

There are other factors like exceeding the 10-mil rate but the main reason for the super majority vote is just that. The state is punishing slow growth in multiple ways, not just one such as the Live Local Act. This is one more instance where Tallahassee has let counties know what they expect.

Another take away is Martin County cannot afford to have the Rolls Royce of either a Sherrif’s Department or Fire/Rescue. It doesn’t matter what Palm Beach or Miami pay their paramedics or deputies. Martin County can’t afford the current level of service.

That may be hard to hear. Yet if residents want to have a small laid-back place to live and consider that lifestyle an advantage, then it comes with a few tradeoffs. Two of which are reduced law enforcement and rescue services. Unincorporated Martin County, especially in the rural areas, can’t expect to have municipal services to the degree that Stuart or Sewall’s Point do.

Commissioners who are selling that (Ciampi, Smith, Jenkins, and Hetherington) have placed us on the road to unsustainability. The argument that employees will go somewhere else to work that pays more is true in general but not always. Just like residents are sold on the Martin County lifestyle so must government employees be. Martin County cannot afford to keep up with the Jones’, which in this case are the counties to our north and south.

Since Hetherington said she could not support the increase in the millage, Jenkins asked where she would like to have the cuts. She didn’t want to see new employees in departments such as in Public Works, General Services or Parks. Unfortunately removing those positions wouldn’t have any results on the millage rate. Administrator Donaldson began cutting more from the CIP.

Finally Heard said that she didn’t want to see the county infrastructure suffer anymore cuts. She would support the increase. The final vote to approve the tentative millage of 2.649% was 4-1 with Hetherington dissenting.

What are they going to do next year for an encore? The two monster departments will only consume more and more of the budget crowding out all else. We will be safe in our pothole broken parks and roads.

You can browse the complete budget here



The board is slowly changing. At the landowners meeting, Bob Berman was replaced by Kevin Cutting, a long-time landowner. The rest of the board remained the same: Martin County Commissioner Sarah Heard, Palm Beach County Commissioner Maria Moreno, Lew Lolmaugh, and George Stokus.

There was a motion to terminate Mary Viator of Caldwell, Pacetti, the board’s attorney. Stokus was tasked with finding a new attorney.

The other good news was that there were three applicants for the maintenance supervisor position. At some point they will need to replace the manager and engineer who have not performed as well as they should have.

Stokus also recommended that the meetings be taped and televised. This is something that is extremely important. In today’s world, it is essential that a visual and audio record be maintained. We should all be lobbying our legislators to require government meetings to be recorded and available on their websites.

There is no meeting in August.



By Kyla Shay, President Of Trailside Owners Association

And Here We Are…

Once again, the residents of Trailside Homeowners Association have been abandoned by Martin County departments and the legal system.

An emergency injunction was granted by the judicial system for Be a Man Buy Land for access to PalMar. In addition, an admonishment that hopefully if anyone else who is a property owner at PalMar needs access that it would be granted.  This leaves Trailside and Trailsidee residents straight in the crosshairs again. 

Now the county has decided to wait by their determination for an unscheduled court case before locking the gate. Trailside residents were assured Gate One would be locked July 1, 2023. No, it is not locked now, and we doubt it ever will be. Access to the PalMar region was not denied. It was returned to how it was over the past 20+ years. A PalMar lot owner may walk in, bike in or ride a horse in. However, that is not enough for certain people who were erroneously promised something more. 

Wetlands continue to be destroyed.  Activity reported to the Sheriff’s department goes unchecked.  Do we really want them to go in when we report the shooting at 2 AM? Yes, we would like to have the same service from the Martin County Sheriff’s department that the rest of the county receives. 

The weekend shooting has returned with a vengeance.  Thousands of high-powered rounds are detonated every weekend. There is sporadic shooting during the rest of the week.  By sporadic we mean, they only shoot for an hour or two. We never know if the rounds are coming towards us.  Would county officials and the judge like to live here?  Would it be OK if it were their property and lives at risk? We are told to be patient. They are working on it.  Promises, Promises.  We would like some definitive action.

Bullet Holes In Barn at Trailside From PalMar

The residents and Board of Trailside would like all county officials, FWC, SFWMD and the legal team that failed us to camp out at Trailside for a weekend. Of course, we aren’t going to disclose which weekend. We will provide tents and sanitary facilities for everyone to be close to the action they cannot control and will not rule to stop. 

We would like you to live a few days of our lives here.  Let’s see if you can take the continual gunfire, while not knowing if today is your day to die or someone in your family, your beloved pets or your neighbor.  Let’s see if you develop a little bit of fear. You can listen to the ATV’s, dune buggies and side-by-sides racing around day and night, and yes that is ALL night.  You can have the pictures in your house rattle from the explosions and the races. 

Failed again by Martin County, SFWMD, FWC and legal system which are all supposed to protect us. 

Come live a day and night in our lives.  Somehow, I doubt any official will have the wherewithal the see how we are being forced to live. 

Kyla Shea’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

City of Stuart


It is expensive to run a city. Stuart is fortunate that it will be receiving a fairly large pay day in the near future from the PFOA court settlement. I don’t know how much it will be but enough to implement the plan that I am outlining to help with those costs.

The worst thing that the city could do is spend the money on one-time purchases. All that will do is dissipate money that will never be seen again. The money should also not be used to fund ongoing expenses. Again, that would mean that the city will become accustomed to living beyond its means.

Stuart should treat this windfall as an endowment just like any non-profit or university would. That way Stuart can have a cushion to lend itself money and then repay the fund with interest in perpetuity. There are very few local governments that are given this opportunity. The money in the endowment that wasn’t actively lent to city entities would be earning interest of currently 5% or more in a Florida government fund.

The city will shortly be looking to borrow money to implement planned improvements to the 10th Street Recreation Center and Guy Davis Park. It will also need funds to repurpose the Wells Fargo Building for use as City Hall and then do the same for the current City Hall site. Moving City Hall can only be done after a referendum as required by the city charter.

All these improvements are within the CRA. The CRA will receive about $5 million dollars in TIF taxes this year. That is more than enough to repay the Stuart Endowment for the money borrowed at market interest rates. It is a win-win for everyone.

I am not taking a stand on whether the move to Wells Fargo should take place. I think that needs to have much more planning and a referendum once a proposed plan is known. What I am proposing is a way to fund projects and instead of paying interest to anyone else, the city would be paying interest to itself. As the endowment grows, the money would be available for other capital improvement loans. Projects could be self-funded, and Stuart’s future would be more secure.

There may be a tendency for the commission to shove money to their favorite cause. That should be vehemently resisted even if organizations that want the money promise to pay it back. As we have seen, organizations seldom live up to their original agreements when it comes to Stuart government, and then Stuart government rolls over. This endowment is for the government of Stuart, and like any endowment, it can be created with rules and parameters.

Strategic plans are nice, but they are usually just dreams. This settlement could be life changing for generations of citizens. I hope the unique nature of this windfall can be appreciated. That would mean the commission would need to have a long view that political bodies seldom have. This is another one of those decisions that reveal statesmanship or just political gutlessness.

As Published In Martin County Moments



Stuart had a special guest speaker at the meeting, Congressman Brian Mast. He spoke elegantly and beautifully about the railroad bridge from his perspective.

The Coast Guard announced an interim plan to have the bridge open for fifteen minutes on 15 after the hour and 15 before the hour along with other requirements like a bridge tender. That would leave 30 minutes for trains every hour. These opening times were supposed to last until December 17th. There is a public comment period until August 4th which Mast wants extended.

Here is the rub…the railroad is not adhering to that schedule. At this point, the bridge is in the up position most of the time pretty much as it has been for years. If there is no freight train coming, then there is no need to lower the bridge and keep to the schedule.

At the present time, Congressman Mast is in favor of this approach. Given that the bridge is open for more than the fifty-fifty time frame that was mandated in the temporary order, the marine business owners who filed suit against the Coast Guard have ended their suit for now. Yet there is a problem with this approach.

How can the impact of the rule be evaluated if the rule is not enforced? Further the reason why the bridge can currently be left open most of the time is that Brightline is not even running their test trains… let alone the 32 trains a day they intend to run. Is it all political smoke and mirrors?

In Mast’s presentation, which is attached, he cites many quotes from the 2015 economic impact study. There are quotes about Brightline claiming to be private yet gobbling up as much government largess as possible. That is all true.

A new bridge will cost more than $100 million. The current span is 97 years old and single tracked while everywhere else along the route, there are double tracks. FECR (Florida East Coast Rail) is the owner of the tracks and Brightline, a separate company, is renting the right-a-way. People are still arguing whether Brightline will succeed.

None of that really matters. If Brightline goes away tomorrow, there is still FECR with their 23 freight trains and promised more in the years to come. Some could be as long as three miles.

Brightline and FECR are private companies and therefore they should fend for themselves…in a perfect world. That doesn’t solve the immediate problem of where the money comes for a new bridge in our imperfect world.

The government builds airports, seaports, and highways including bridges. The government uses those facilities very little as compared to private industry. That doesn’t mean the infrastructure isn’t funded by the public. In Mast’s presentation, he claims that Brightline is not ready for a new bridge.

Regardless of if that is true or not, the people of Stuart and Martin County are. As are the boaters locally and those that use the St. Lucie as a passage to the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. We need to get together and press for a permanent solution. Trying to get someone else to be responsible is not leadership.

The only reason that chaos has not descended on Stuart and Martin County roadways is because the newly imposed Coast Guard schedule is being ignored by the railroad as well as everyone else. The August 4th date to make comment will come and go. Does that mean the Coast Guard will permanently implement a schedule that hasn’t been followed and therefore the results can only be guessed at?

Somebody needs to be a leader to bring all sides together (including the railroad) to figure out how to build a new bridge. As much as Brian Mast may not want to be the person, by his position, he is. A new bridge will be what settles this matter. One that our boaters, the Marine Industries, motorists, and the people of Martin County and Stuart can count on.

FECR and Brightline are not absolved from acting responsibly but when the cost of a new bridge is pegged at about $150 million, it is time for government to shoulder the lion’s share. Sorry, Congressman Mast, but you are the pivotal point person that must do the heavy lifting.

It takes 5-7 years to build the bridge. The longer we wait, the more chance that we enter gridlock on our roads and on our waters. The time to start is now.

The Congressman has an opportunity to show leadership. He is the indispensable person because of his office and position. This is the time that he can show that he is a statesman over being a politician. His constituents are counting on him to be that statesman.

The presentation can be found here 

The board was presented with the strategic plan from their planning sessions. They broadly discussed the plan but nothing of substance until Commissioner Rich specifically brought up City Hall’s move to Wells Fargo. I am glad one commissioner wants to speak about something that will impact the future of Stuart for years to come.

It is imperative that planning be done now not just go bumbling into a move that will have costly ramifications.  That is what happened with the Finance Department’s move which occurred because of a leak in the roof. Wherever City Hall ends up, it will cost many dollars for renovation at both sites but less if Stuart stays at the existing one. Where will that money come from?

I keep hearing about how cheap the current financing is on the Wells Fargo loan… currently at 1.3%. However, the terms of the loan do not allow the city to do anything other than occupy the premises as the space becomes vacant. Paying off the loan was to be done by the rents collected. Now it is costing the city since the income no longer meets expenses. Not very good planning. Or was that the plan all along?

By not planning, the city now is forced into doing something without much time to plan. This is always the problem with the government. People change, and there is no collective memory. We are treated to hearing the old chestnut of “I wasn’t here when this was done, therefore I am not to blame.” The commission needs to own this and so does staff.

I hope that the city manager doesn’t think the commission will come up with any sound ideas for the existing site or how to pay to move to the Wells Fargo building. It is nice to see, however, that this debacle in the making is on their radar screen.

The strategic plan will come back at the next meeting for final approval.

Martin County School Board


Board Member DiTerlizzi has been working with SPAM (Speed, Power, Maneuverability) Robotics and the district about finally securing a location for their operation. They are currently at the fairground in an un airconditioned space. The organization has never had a real home.

There are now 40 kids involved.  Before Covid, there were 70. I would imagine one of the reasons for the reduced enrollment is because of the space they currently occupy. The fairground location is basically a leaky shed. Would you want to be working under those conditions?

The site that has been chosen is an unused one behind the new board chambers at the district’s headquarters. It has its own entrance and bathroom, which is a big plus. The amount of work needed would be minimal.

DiTerlizzi has done a good job in shepherding this project. The members of SPAM have won statewide and national competitions while primarily raising their own funds. It is time that they receive some concrete recognition by the district.

You can see the particulars here 

As reported in various news sources, it has become harder and harder to recruit teachers in Florida. In the past, the district counted on local colleges to educate and train new teachers. According to the Martin County School District, these programs have been cut back. Another path needs to be found.

There are currently 45 paraprofessionals already in the classrooms with an associate degree. 28 would like to become teachers. The thing holding them back is the expense and time in pursuing their bachelor’s.

Now an innovative program identified by the district will allow 15 paraprofessionals to earn their teaching degrees while remaining in district classrooms. They will not need to go to classes or write papers. They remain in their jobs and the bachelor’s is earned while they are working.

The company which the district will hire is named BloomBoard, Inc. from Pennsylvania. For $255,000 the board will be “growing” their own teachers from within. It is a great way to hire teachers that the district already has vetted.

The good thing about programs such as these is the district can reward employees and help them advance. In two years, we could have newly minted teachers who have already shown they want to work in Martin County. To participate, the applicants would sign contracts to work in the district for an additional two or three years.

Superintendent Maine and his staff are really hitting the ground running. Innovative programs that broaden the pool of qualified teachers are important to show how much teachers are valued in the Martin County system. You can find the presentation here 



Following up on the workshop from the week before, the board decided to approve SPAM/Robotics having a devoted space for their club on school district property.

This 20-year long journey will happen as recommended at the workshop. DiTerlizzi made a motion for the district to obtain estimates to design the space and upgrade electrical service.  The space will be located behind the new board meeting room. It was seconded by Pritchett and passed 5-0.

The board then turned its attention to the BloomBoard proposal regarding allowing paraprofessionals with an associate’s degree the opportunity to obtain their bachelor’s while continuing to work as they currently do in the classroom. This will allow them to become licensed teachers.

The cost to have this program is $255,000. There were some questions on the mechanics that were answered. A motion was made by DiTerlizzi and seconded by Pritchett to proceed. It passed 5-0.

Town of Sewalls Point


This commission also sits as the LPA. In most local governments, the LPA is composed of citizen volunteers.

The LPA wants to make sure that the town has a way to confirm that trees are not being cut without their knowledge. One part of the tree ordinance under discussion was providing a mitigation plan before issuing a permit to remove any trees.

The state has preempted local government regarding their ability to fully regulate when a permit for tree removal and work is necessary. Commissioner Fender believes that the town should be more forceful about maintaining its rights even if it conflicts with state law. He believed most residents would compromise even if an ordinance the town passes is in conflict with state statute.

Commissioner Campo thinks the tweak of the existing tree ordinance is more than what he envisioned. He does not want the town to pass ordinances that conflict with the state. He also would like the Code Enforcement Board to handle tree violations instead of the commission.

There was some confusion about which trees are on the invasive species list and whether a permit is needed. That is one of Tallahassee’s preemptions. Kurzman doesn’t think Banyon trees should be classified that way even though they are on the list.

Campo was concerned about concentrating power in the hands of the town and property rights. He continued to say that he did not want to be in conflict with the state. It was decided that the ordinance would come back for further discussion.

There were also several ordinances having to do with raising the home height limit from 27 feet to 30 or 32 feet. According to the building official, about 70% of new construction needs to rework their plans because of the current height limit.

Because of the height restriction, more and more roofs are flat instead of pitched. This takes away from the town’s current predominant style and character. Flat roofs have more leaks than pitched ones according to the building official.

Campo made a motion that the limit be raised to 32 feet. It was seconded by Kurzman. Mayfield felt that she could support 30 feet but not 32 at this time. There would not be enough notice for residents. It passed 3-2 with Fender and Mayfield voting no.

There were three ordinances having to do with elevation for consistency in the LDRs and Zoning Code. Mayfield voted no on all three and Fender did so for two of them.

At the commission meeting, the real estate firm selected to sell the town lot on Heritage Way believes it is worth $550,000 to $650,000. It could accommodate a 4000 square foot home. In their opinion, the famous oak tree on the property makes the lot unbuildable.

At a previous commission meeting, Campo had brought an architect to the property and a rendering was done that designed a home around the tree. While it is a good attempt to save a hundred-year-old tree, it doesn’t hold up once professional scrutiny is applied.

Kurzman said the tree has not been maintained and there are many branches that are dead. Fender wants to save the tree. There was talk about moving the tree. The commission and the realtors will talk about it again.

The commission set the tentative millage rate of 2.87 mills and the capital rate of .40 mills for 2024.

Frank Tidikis, a resident, gave a presentation regarding the effects of CS/HB 1379 regarding sewer conversion in the town. It appears some in the town will need to have an enhanced wastewater system if a sewer hook up is not available when their current system fails depending on where their home is located.

There are other ramifications according to Tidikis and he had a 15-minute presentation for the commission. Frank made an enormous effort to put this together and was commended by the commission, especially Campo.

You can see the presentation here  

Village of Indiantown


The main item on the agenda was choosing a real estate firm to sell the lot purchased to build a village hall.

Council Member Dipaolo was not shy about choosing Indiantown Realty. Though he stated that all the firms that had submitted proposals were well qualified, Indiantown Realty was local and knew the village. He immediately made a motion for that firm, but it died for a lack of a second.

Council Member Perez said she had narrowed her choices to two firms. She thought another firm besides Indiantown Realty deserved a chance. She also liked N.A.I. Southcoast.

Stone was of the same opinion only he liked Colliers as the second firm in addition to Indiantown Realty. Gibbs-Thomas thinks Indiantown edges out the competitors because they have intimate knowledge of the village.

Dipaolo stated that Indiantown Realty had brought many businesses to the area. He made his motion again to select that firm. This time it was seconded by Stone. Attorney Vose wanted the opportunity to make a few legal changes to the contract. They agreed to do so without the contract coming back to the council for approval. It passed 4-0.

Janet Hernandez was away at a conference.

At the last meeting, Stone wanted to have a discussion regarding reducing the schedule to one meeting per month. He thought there was very little on the agenda now. Kryzda suggested that instead of taking formal action, the charter was flexible enough to allow for cancellations of meetings.

Dipaolo thought they needed more meetings to handle outstanding issues. For example, the LDRs needed to be updated, there is a need to discuss affordable housing, and there should be credit counselors and banks to explain policies and what people can do to buy their own homes or those that the council will introduce.

It was decided that no changes were necessary.

Town of Ocean Breeze


One thing you don’t want to do is have Terry O’Neil pursuing you. He is relentless. He is reasonable. He doesn’t give up. When he believes that something is wrong or an injustice has been committed, he will work very hard to see that it is corrected. He truly believes in the power of good government.

That is why the homeowners of Sea Walk are so fortunate. In any project, there are things that need to be corrected. D.R. Horton’s Sea Walk is no exception. But even Ocean Breeze Town Consultant O’Neil can only go so far. In many instances, the individual homeowners must go after the builder. This is spelled out in a letter from the town’s attorney, Crary Buchanan, to the mayor which reads in part, “Generally, construction defect claims, warranty issues, and building code violations are the subject of private claims between the wronged homeowner and the at-fault party (e.g. the developer or builder responsible for construction).”

It appears that O’Neil can spearhead the government part of the equation, but individual homeowners should be using their own attorneys for much of what is wrong. Perhaps it would be a good idea for the Homeowners Association to offer their attorney to work with Terry and Crary, Buchanan. In that way, nothing falls between the cracks in addressing the issues.

Many of the problems are because of private inspections that were done and paid for by the builder, which is permissible under Florida Statute. There is no independent check on the work. If everyone did their jobs responsibly, it would work fine. But we know that does not always occur.

Ordinary homebuyers are not experts in construction and land planning. That is why government building inspectors serve as a check on work that is not up to code. Take away that check, and the system is not in balance.

O’Neil is trying his best to rectify that wrong. Normally once the town’s building official signs off on a project, then almost every time there is an assurance that the code was followed. That doesn’t mean that the doors were painted or that the extra money the buyer paid for upgrades was done. Those are private matters between purchaser and developer.

The town is doing its best, led by O’Neil. The homeowners either individually or collectively need to do their part. If they wait and expect the town to solve all their problems, they may be disappointed.

Town of Jupiter Island


There was an empty chair on the dais at this meeting. Commissioner Tim Smith has resigned. There was no further discussion about how the seat would be filled.

During discussion of a proposed ordinance to indemnify commissioners and appointed board members, Mayor Townsend recused herself since she is currently being sued in her capacity as a commissioner. It seems to me that is the prudent course of action on her part.

At present, the town has become divided. The fear of being sued has made many residents hesitant to serve on advisory boards. It may have had something to do with Smith resigning.

There was some discussion because of the way the ordinance was presented. According to Attorney Baird under Florida Statute language being added needs to be underlined and language needing to be removed has a line through it. When trying to make sense of what will be written in the ordinance, it can be very confusing.

It didn’t help passage when Commissioner Collins said the ordinance was sloppily drafted especially because there was reference to Palm Beach in the body. Commissioner Scott wanted a memo to accompany the ordinance explaining what and why it was being passed.

photo of collins

A commissioner stated that they were paying for their defense in ongoing legal matters from the building fund. Mr. Baird stated that only building-related expenses could be paid from the fund. Interesting.

It was decided to postpone the ordinance until it can be re-worked. The current version can be found here 

The commission was going to add a mandatory property rights element to the comprehensive plan. Scott vehemently opposed doing anything. She said it did not have to be done until 2025 when the next comp plan update was due. Baird said it would have to be done sooner if there is any amendment to the plan.

The language that they were using was from the Florida League of Cities. It has been approved by the league’s legal counsel. Most municipalities have used that language. I believe Jupiter Island is the only Martin County government that has not incorporated this element into their plan.

The commission extended the pickle ball court ZIP. In addition, they also decided to adopt a code enforcement magistrate system. Currently, they have a board that hears code enforcement violations. By going to a magistrate, they are professionalizing this function. Most local governments have moved in that direction. They chose to ask Paul Nicoletti who is currently the magistrate of several local governments in the area.

The new audio system now employed is a great improvement over the one in the past. And thanks to Mayor Townsend who reminded all the commissioners to speak into their microphones.

It isn’t everyday when I am recognized by a commissioner. I want to thank Commissioner Scott for doing so. She acknowledged that I was listening online and encouraged me to ask any questions during the meeting, and if I report the meeting, to do so accurately. I always do, Ms. Scott.

Other Government Notices

Final Thoughts


I am a devoted viewer of TCM. I usually record what I want to watch to see at a different time.

There was an old 1930 movie on about the making of a film. I had heard of some of the actors before but most I didn’t recognize. The plot was simplistic to say the least and, in the end, the ingenue, her boyfriend who was the director, and the faded actress all ended up with being “movie stars” as well as the movie’s stars.

I had seen the movie before but only remembered parts of it. The reason I didn’t turn it off was because it was made the same year my father was born. I could see my pregnant grandmother, who loved movies, watching it at the local theater waiting for the very much expected outcome.

The plot was predictable, and it reminded me of a government meeting. The film, as well as the meeting, follows a script. After a while, meeting attendees sort of guess which character or elected official is going to say what. There are seldom surprises by the ending of either.

There may be some plot twists along the way, but it is almost pre-ordained as to the outcome. Each actor or commissioner plays his role, and the vote or line is stated with certainty. A jazz riff returns to the melody.

All art forms follow a predictable pattern. Iambic pentameter, a haiku, a murder mystery, or a symphony all have defined characteristics. When the play or film leaves the realm of the expected for the unexpected is when we become anxious. We may not appreciate the break with tradition.

Remember “French New Wave” which used facial close ups, fast paced editing, real locations, and young actors with realistic dialogue. It was “abstract” painting for the screen. It began in the late 1950s but was gone by the mid-1960s. Too hard for sustainability as an art form.

The same can be said for a government meeting. Sometimes the format will be the same, but the steady no nonsense council member may do something completely unexpected. The performer steps out of character and a plot twist will give us something new.

That is what keeps us coming back. Perhaps we hope things will change. Most never do.  But every once in a while, we could be surprised by an unexpected outcome.

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


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


Tom’s Articles

From Medium

“America Is Still A Nation Of Bang Bang”


“Excessive Zoning Codes Have Robbed Cities Of Their Vitality”


From Martin County Moments

“Leadership Is Needed With The Railroad Bridge”


“Stuart Needs To Plan”


Other Articles

The Washington Post: “New York’s Hudson tunnel project to get $6.9 billion in largest U.S. transit grant.”


Route Fifty: “The federal government has more than 8,000 vacant properties. Why aren’t they being used to house the homeless?”


The New York Times: “It’s toxic slime time on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee”


The New York Times: “Blocked Rail Crossings Snarl Towns, but Congress Won’t Act”


Join Our Mailing List