February 26, 2023

Friends & Neighbors Edition

In This Edition

Last week saw the resignation of School Superintendent John Millay. Martin County seems to be in a state of flux with many of our leaders moving on. It is a time of uneasiness brought on by a more challenging political environment.

I was in Tallahassee earlier this week, and pre-emption of local government’s zoning and other land use codes are going to happen this session. I believe the legislature will do so because of a lack of attainable housing…this is in the “be careful what you wish for category.” Everyone complained and now the state will come up with an imposed solution. I am not going to go through everything that may change, but you will see much looser local zoning to accommodate the building of such units.

Any regular reader to the newsletter and my other articles on Medium knows that I have been advocating for changes to our codes to forestall the legislature from doing what they are now poised to do. Don’t be surprised if other more substantial changes won’t be made including changes to density and height restrictions.

Another bill that has been introduced will have the prevailing party pay the other side’s legal bills before an administrative body. There is also a bill to make it easier for public parties to sue for libel. All of which will have a chilling effect on dissent.

Residents of other states are starting to look at Florida not as a “Free” state but as one that is becoming less so. At some point, you may see fewer professionals wanting to hang their hats here. Teachers and professors especially may not come and those that are here may leave exasperating already a critical shortage. State-level restrictions imposed on local education may have a negative effect.

Perhaps some businesses that have been contemplating moving here will decide it could be too hard to attract the employees they need. Or the business may fear being under “woke” attack. With the rescinding of the Reedy Creek agreement with Disney for political reasons, other companies may feel their deals with the state could go away at any time.

All of which brings me back to John Millay. Perhaps he decided it was in his interest to leave and not stick it out. The board had changed and so had Florida pre and post COVID.

He did not come to Martin County to be near his family…which means he has less to hold him here. John Millay became a pillar of the community. He was everywhere and made himself available to all. I wish him luck in all his future endeavors.


A few weeks ago, we conducted a survey of our readers, and I promised you a few tidbits:

  • About 80% of respondents have been subscribers for more than a year, with 27% subscribing to the newsletter for more than three years.
  • More than 78% of respondents read every issue.
  • Over 87% of respondents said Government Reporting was their favorite section.
  • In the open-ended section of that question, we received many comments about the lack of any other in-depth local reporting and that Friends & Neighbors was filling an important void in that respect.
  • The majority of respondents find most topics to be somewhat to very informative.
  • More than 65% of respondents are happy with the current frequency of the e-newsletter – which is twice a month.
  • Over 58% of respondents have forwarded the e-newsletter to a friend.
  • A surprising 58% of respondents did not know Friends & Neighbors had a Facebook page. So, if that is news to you, please consider clicking here and following our Facebook page.

We look forward to hearing from you. Even if you have not taken our survey, send your comments to me here

As we move forward with our improved website in the next few months, you will see that many of your suggestions have been incorporated in the new format. We want to create a place where residents can come and receive information on Martin County.

Thanks to all those that participated in our survey.

Where Do You Live?

 I live in the City of Stuart. I know I live in the city because on my home’s tax bill, I have city taxes listed. If I lived in unincorporated Martin County, there would be no city taxes listed on my tax bill. I would have instead lines marked MSTU for things like fire.

Another sign that I live in the city is that I can vote in city elections. Sure, I still vote for county commissioners and that is because I also live within Martin County. It is not a very hard concept to understand.

Unfortunately, people living in Sewall’s Point, Port Salerno, Jensen Beach, Golden Gate, and other places all have Stuart postal codes, but their homes are not within the municipal boundaries of Stuart. The post office needs to stop designating addresses that are not within the boundaries of the City of Stuart from using Stuart in their address. Those of us that pay for the privilege of living in Stuart are tired of outsiders claiming to be part of our great city.

What really irks me is that so many people who do not live in the city want to have an opinion about how we operate within our borders. Public comment at commission meetings allows for everyone to address the commission whether they live in the City of Stuart or not. However, the commissioners should not give the same weight to their opinions as to those of us who have chosen to live here and pay for the privilege to do so.

I know how you can become emotionally attached to a place. New York will always be my city even though I no longer live there, pay taxes there, or vote in the city. I realize it isn’t the same city where I grew up, lived as a young adult, or had a business prior to COVID. The city keeps changing with new people coming and going, buildings being built, and neighborhoods transformed.

I may be nostalgic for another time that I remember fondly but I know that was then, this is now. Unfortunately for Stuart, those who don’t even live here yearn for a place that has changed and will continue to do so. Stuart isn’t the same place that I was introduced to 25 years ago. I accept that it has changed, and I believe it did so for the better. It is too bad some outside the city can’t see that the changes that happened are for the better and will ensure a better future.

"DeSantis Needed To Play A Much Broader Audience"

Governor DeSantis went into 2021 looking like a winner.

I don’t mean because of his re-election for governor. I mean going into the 2024 election for president. It doesn’t look that way any longer.

He squandered an opportunity to offer the country a real alternative to the MAGA minority of Trumpsters. He was governing as a real conservative. During the pandemic, DeSantis was listening to the medical experts but knew to open our economy and not succumb to the panic that gripped other states. He was out in front to bring the vaccine to Floridians.

Then a strange thing happened. He caught the presidential virus that made him begin doing strange things. The first symptom was when he began dictating to businesses what was allowed in their shops in the name of freedom. Instead of letting the owners decide Covid policies for their own establishments, he thought he should dictate to them. That is not freedom. That is anti-free market.

DeSantis championed a good idea about letting parents be more involved with their children’s education. It looked like he was pressing ahead to have more charter schools. But once again he needed an enemy to rally his base, and the professional educational establishment was it.

Instead of going all in for charters and devolving academics to individual schools, he went on some “woke” rant. If he had followed the natural progression of more academic freedom, then schools would have had a curriculum closer to the basics than the occasional bad policy DeSantis has exploited. Banning books in the name of freedom is an oxymoron.

That rabbit hole led to the Reedy Creek grab. No free marketeer could possibly agree that Disney, a private company, should have its own government. However, the state gave the mouseketeer that authority 60 years ago. While I probably would not have agreed with it, Disney played an enormous role in the development of the Orlando area and the Florida economy. I don’t believe DeSantis can show where they abused their authority.

If the then CEO in 2021 of Disney had agreed with DeSantis on his “WOKE” legislation, nothing would have happened. So, it wasn’t the idea of the district that the governor objected to but the company disagreeing with the DeSantis regime. Remember Disney broke no laws…it expressed an opinion. This is the stuff of dictatorships not democracies.

I have not even mentioned immigration and trying to frighten people from exercising their voting rights. How do these policies play outside the base? Not very well. The country’s suburbs have voters that like conservative governing but not the idea of throwing librarians in jail. These parents may think there has been too much school time spent catering to the beliefs of a small minority, but their next-door neighbors may still be two moms with kids who play with their children.

A leader cannot say he is for freedom and then limit the freedom of others with whom he doesn’t agree. If Trump flounders or is indicted, Ron may be the one that takes his place. But just like Trump he would lose the general election. That is a pity because DeSantis could have been so much more. Too bad there isn’t a vaccine for political ambition.

As Published In Medium

College Is More Than Just Books

A Black Studies Department was a relatively new concept when I was in college.

The Liberal Arts College of Fordham University at Lincoln Center had just opened a year or two before. It was an experiment in integrating an undergraduate college into a cultural urban experience. The campus was surrounded by the classical performing arts.

Fordham was started by Archbishop John Hughes in 1841 as a way for immigrants and the children of immigrants (overwhelmingly Irish then) to obtain a college degree. It became a Jesuit institution a few years later. Robert Moses ended up making a deal with Fordham to locate its law school and what became the Lowenstein Center at the new Lincoln Center that he was building. The Liberal Arts College opened in 1969. It was very much in the spirit of the original Hughes’ concept.

There were no dorms when I attended and about 75% of the students were from New York City and its suburbs. The student make-up mirrored the diverse population of the city at that time.

The only required courses were a foreign language, two English classes, one class each of science, anthropology, and history. The only other requirement was either a Black or Puerto Rican Studies semester. As a history major, when I spotted a Black Studies class titled “The Decolonization of Africa,” I read the class catalogue further. The course also counted as a history course toward my major.

Since a class like this was required, there was a cross section of white and Black students. Most of the whites were of Irish or Italian ethnicities while the Black students were either American or foreign born…mostly from the Caribbean. As the semester went on, discussions were livelier as students became better acquainted.

We not only learned from each other on this topic but gained a better understanding of an entire range of subjects. In that class, I heard someone once say, “as Americans, we have much more in common with each other than we do with the inhabitants of the countries our forebears came from.”

I never forgot those words because they were true. We may not always understand our fellow Americans, but we do have much in common with each other. When we forget our shared experiences, we place barriers between us.

The Vietnam War was still going strong when I attended Fordham. Race riots had occurred in New York a few years earlier, and there were still long hot summers. The Black Panther Party and the Puerto Rican Young Lords were in their hay day. The Italian American Civil Rights League was going strong as was the Irish American support of Sinn Fein amidst the “troubles” in Northern Ireland.

During a time when the country looked like it was coming apart at the seams, a group of city kids going to a Jesuit University shared a class on decolonization and spoke to each other about so much more.


Other Opinions

Other Opinions

Fletch's Perspective

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

Each day we climb a little higher up the mountain of life.

On our best days we celebrate the heights achieved and the improved view. Seldom do we fully appreciate the advantages inherent in the quality of our equipment, the value of our training, the depth of our support network, and whether we started our climb from the base of the mountain or the depths of the valley.

Instead, we understandably tend to focus on the progress achieved and the benefits derived.

This analogy came to mind Thursday when celebrating the winner of our esteemed Youth of the Year award.

Luis R. claimed the honor amid stiff competition.

BGCMC Youth of Year

A member of our Indiantown club, Luis is an assistant with our culinary program, member of our junior staff and a soccer aid. He’s from a large family and knows the importance of chipping in. He regularly helps other students with their studies during our homework Power Hour and volunteers in the community on food distributions.

Mia S. of our Hobe Sound club is president of Keystone, a culinary assistant and a cheerleading assistant coach. She mentors other kids in the club and organized a Trunk or Treat event for the community.

Started in 1947 by Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Youth of the Year first recognizes winners who then compete and advance at the local levels, regional, state and national. It might sound corny but my pride in Luis and all the Youth of the Year finalists—and frankly, all the kids in our care—is unsurpassed, regardless of how many accolades they collect.

Many have already “won” by overcoming—day by day—their circumstances. Tough neighborhoods. Tougher home lives. Exposure to an abundance of temptations with long-term consequences. Subject to a shortage of healthy options—from food choices to opportunities to friend groups.

As we seek to address those inadequacies at the clubs, we see how steep their daily climb. Conventional professional thinking concludes, rightly so, that any measurement of their progress commands a more balanced perspective and assessment.

But considering the efforts and accomplishments of these incredible children, it’s clear they’ve made massive strides—by any measure.

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

VanRiper's Views

Darlene VanRiper

Disney and DeSantis

I wanted to separate fact from fiction and give Pinocchio’s nose a rest.  I reached out to someone who would know the real story and who would be straight.  Representative Toby Overdorf graciously took my call and didn’t hesitate to answer my questions.

How did the Disney property get to be a separate governing entity?

In the mid ‘50s a variety of Community Development Districts were created by statute for a variety of reasons.  The rationale for the Disney CDD was that the huge property crossed county lines.  The legislature figured this CDD formation would easier enable development by Disney.  The area became the Reedy Creek District.

The CDD formation gave the entity powers over such issues as transportation, growth management, water and sewer.  It gave them easier wetlands mitigation.  The creation of their own District allowed them to potentially build an airport and power facility… even including a nuclear one!

In the 1990s Ken Pruitt was elected to the Florida Senate.  He realized that there was a free-for-all of these CDDs and that they had never actually been codified.  Trying to make sense of this menagerie of obsolete and possibly overreaching entities, Senator Pruitt created a bill mandating that every CDD re-register.   Not all did.

The Senator was generous with the time they had to file for re-charter, allowing for a 5-year deadline.  Some CDDs were obsolete and ceased to exist because they no longer served a purpose.  Only 6 simply ignored the mandate.  Disney was one of them.   Reedy Creek was never codified.  They ignored the law.

This gave Governor DeSantis the legal right to revoke the charter.  One might even say he had a legal responsibility to do so.  Concern over the approximately 1 billion dollars’ worth of outstanding bonds owed by Disney is overstated.  These bonds are agreements with private entities and are collateralized by Disney’s assets.

Should Disney default (an incredibly remote possibility) the private bond holders would seize Disney’s assets.  Not the assets of homeowners who reside within the CDD.  Homeowners who reside within the CDD’s boundaries number under 50.

Representative Overdorf says “some form” of allowing this particular CDD to continue is “best for Florida”.  The Governor’s insistence of Disney’s compliance will assure long-term stability of the area.  The new legislation allows Disney to retain a number of powers from the past such as regarding water and sewer.  And now the board overseeing the CDD will not be packed with Disney paid representatives (Foghorn Leghorn comes to mind), but with the Governor appointees who must be approved by the Senate.

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

Nicki's Place

Nicki van Vonno
van Vonno Consulting, Owner

The Elephant in the Room

Disney and Governor DeSantis are much in the news. It is an amazing spectacle: both are masters at staging events. While I could comment about free speech, college take-overs, the Governor appointing a board to govern Disney, and Nikki Haley announcing her run for the presidency, my beef with both Disney and the Governor is the elephant in the room, and I am not talking about flying Dumbos or the fees for fast passes that Disney does to manage ride times and jack up profits.

Here’s the beef.  Orlando is now the germ capital of the world. Every passenger is coming from somewhere, where something is germinating. Every time I go to Orlando, I get sick. It is not pandemic related, but the pandemic has made it much worse for all of us.

Before the pandemic, I was infected by a virus that ran rampant in my host’s family while attending her family reunion. Another time, over a long holiday weekend with my Disney obsessed friends, I got infected by a sweet, snot-dripping child who clutched my hand on the shuttle train. Last month I went to an event in Orlando attended by people from all over the country.  One of the attendees was so sick he stayed in bed all weekend.

Yes, this is first world bitching, a “Karen” whining about her q-tip life in the Floridaze.  I don’t apologize, watching the world collapse is enough to make us all sick.

Don’t tell me to go get vaccinated. I am one of those seniors who have received every vaccine and booster, flu shot, and pneumonia shot.  A new public service announcement features celebrities with health conditions that make them more at risk of catching Covid. Does seeing them remind you of your loved one with diabetes, heart trouble, depression, anxiety, or other known health risks?

I got Covid again.  The first time I got Covid, it was mild, a fever, fatigue, brain fog for a week or so. This time it has taken me several weeks to recover. Did I reach out for the medication? No, in my brain fog, it didn’t occur to me until I was well enough to sort of think again.

I have a wedding in Orlando soon.  While I am thrilled for my friends, I dread being in Orlando. I will shop locally for the perfect mask and gloves to match my dress, wear both as much as possible, and drive home as soon as I get up the next morning.

The next time Disney and the Governor talk at each other, please talk about the elephant in the room.   We are the number one place for tourism in the world! Guaranteeing safe tourism facilities is in everybody’s interest. Florida’s major international airports deserve to welcome the world safely.

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

First, let me give a follow up from my last article which involves Martin County 4-H member Olivia Lockwood and her giving heart. To recap, Olivia dedicated the profits from her 4-H Swine Project to the Krabec family to help with the unexpected loss of 4-H leader Dorrie Krabec.

Olivia entered the sale ring with a spring and her pig on sale night at the Martin County Fair. As the auction progressed bids were being offered at a level not normally seen. “$15 a pound, $16, $17, $18 a pound!” One bidder looking to make a big move motioned to the auctioneer with his hands “$30 a pound!”

And it didn’t stop there. It was shown that a buyer’s group had been formed and several bidders had come together to bid up the price and then split the cost of Olivia’s pig. That buyers group gave a total of $50 a pound and then gave the pig back to be sold again.

In the end the bidding amounted to $16,740! Thank you to the buyers group: Eberst Law Firm, Brownie Structural Movers, Douglas Ag, Stuart Plumbing, Leighton Farms, Willie Gary Law Firm, and Ronnie Kirchman with Kirchman Construction! As Paul Harvey would say, “Now you know the rest of the story.”

Now on to larger agricultural issues. We are currently in a Farm Bill year in Washington. The Farm Bill is a large package of legislation that is passed every five years. This bill has a tremendous impact on farming livelihoods, including how food is grown and what kinds of foods are grown.

Programs within the bill range from crop insurance for farmers to healthy food access for low-income families and from beginning farmer training to support for sustainable farming practices. Basically, the farm bill sets the stage for our food and farm systems over the next five years.

Since the population of Americans who are farmers is less than 2%, I would venture to assume you, the reader, are not a farmer. So why should you care about the 2023 Farm Bill? I will give you three reasons:

  1. You eat.
  2. 76% of the spending in the 2018 Farm Bill is for nutrition programs and I am sure that number will be the same or larger with the new Farm Bill.
  3. 7% of the 2018 Farm Bill spending is on conservation programs.

The more money available to farmers for conservation the more they can do to continue farming in a way that provides food for all of us in a way that best coincides with nature.

The Farm Bill ensures a safe and abundant food supply, helps feed the hungry, invigorates rural communities, and helps farmers care for the environment as they continue to provide food, feed, fuel, and fiber to the United States and to the world. You should be talking to your congressman about the 2023 Farm Bill and finding ways to support funding for programs that will keep American farmers farming. Why? See reason #1.

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

Hope In Our Community

Rob Ranieri
House of Hope, CEO

In previous columns, we have discussed the indisputable link between health and poverty. Lower income communities generally experience higher than normal levels of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other diet related illnesses.

In certain economically challenged neighborhoods, we see childhood obesity levels that range from 30% to as high as 60% according to statistics from the Florida Department of Health. Almost six years ago, House of Hope decided to revamp our program and service offerings in a large part due to this link between health and poverty. One of the key components in our efforts to provide hope through nutrition is the Gardening to Grow Healthy Communities program.

This program started as a pilot effort supported by the Children’s Services Council of Martin County. It has continued to evolve into a large-scale initiative focused on nutrition education for children and adults. House of Hope has built out our physical infrastructure to include gardens in Golden Gate, East Stuart, Banner Lake, and at the YMCA in Stuart. Last year we added our Traveling Nutrition Education Garden to the mix. This is basically a garden on wheels, designed to look like a small greenhouse. These resources provide a fun and interactive learning environment to teach both children and adults about gardening and nutrition.

House of Hope also provides nutrition and gardening education using evidenced based curriculum to school aged children at Hope Rural School, the YMCA, and the Banner Lake Club, among others. These students are pre and post tested to measure the results of the program. In addition to knowledge gain, we also see improvements in attitude about tasting and eating healthy fruits and vegetables among the participating students. For older students, healthy cooking classes are incorporated into the learning options as well.

House of Hope is proud to share that last year, we reached nearly 3,000 children and adults with health and nutrition programs, and we are confident that the impact will be even larger this year. We will continue to develop and operate innovative and effective programs designed to improve the overall physical health of our clients and community.

At House of Hope, we know that healthy children are better learners, and healthy adults are better earners. For more information about how you may support our efforts, or access programs and services, please 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

Semaglutide – The new wonder drug for weight loss

Obesity is a major health problem in the US.  In 2022 it was found that 19 states have obesity rates over 35%, which is up from 16 states in 2021. This means that 4 in 10 American adults are obese!! Just a decade ago no state had an adult obesity rate at or above 35%!!

Looking at the youth in America 19% of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years are obese. Obesity rates are highest in Black, Hispanic and Mexican American Adults.  If the trends in this country don’t change it is predicted that by 2030 half of all Americans will be obese.

Recently a new class of medication has been introduced to the market. Semaglutide was initially approved to treat diabetes back in 2017. The brand name is known as Ozempic.  In addition to helping keep diabetics blood sugars under control, the drug was also found to lower the risk of cardiovascular events in patients with type 2 diabetes.  Diabetics have double the risk for heart attacks as the general population.

When studying the patients who were on Semaglutide for diabetes it was also found that the patients lost 15-18% of their body weight during the clinical trials.   The drug company then rebranded the medicine under the name Wegovy which was approved by the FDA in 2021 to treat obesity (BMI >30 or >27 with at least one weight related condition (sleep apnea, high blood pressure, high cholesterol etc.)

Semaglutide is an injectable glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonist that is administered once a week.  GLP-1 is an incretin hormone that plays a role in your appetite and digestion. Incretins are released after you eat a meal. They help lower your blood sugar by triggering insulin release and blocking sugar production.  They also slow down how quickly food leaves your stomach.  This results in you feeling full- lowering your appetite and causing you to lose weight.

Unfortunately, many health insurance plans are still refusing to recognize obesity as a disease and are not covering medications used for weight loss.  The out-of-pocket costs for Wegovy is about $1300 a month!! Not affordable for the average person.

To help counter this problem many clinics, including my own, have been able to obtain generic Semaglutide from a compounding pharmacy.  Most of the pharmacies will combine the Semaglutide with vitamin B12 which gives you energy and contributes to an increase in metabolism.

The cost for the generic Semaglutide can be as low as $100 a month…saving the consumer almost $1200! As the dose of the medicine titrates up so does the cost of the medicine.

Semaglutide should not be used for vanity purposes to lose that “extra 10 lbs.  It should be reserved for those who are truly obese.  If you think you are a candidate for Semaglutide therapy, you should have a discussion with your physician.

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

Martin County Real Estate

John Gonzalez
Engel & Volkers, Managing Broker

John took this edition off.

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

January always is one of the longest months of the year – wrapping up the holidays, school is back, resolutions, etc. I always look forward to the cooler weather during this time, but this year we seem to have been cheated out of it. On February 2nd, Punxsutawney Phil emerged and predicted six more weeks of winter for everyone except us. Luckily, we can still enjoy our fabulous parks, beaches, and trails with our pets, friends, families, and out-of-town visitors.

Our dog loves the trail at the Kiplinger Nature Preserve. This natural area is at 4146 South Kanner Highway and is south of the Veterans Memorial Bridge.

The 164 acres were acquired through state funds and a substantial donation by the Kiplinger family. The park could be created in 1994. In 2022, Martin County completed the improvement of the parking area and landscaping, implemented invasive vegetation control to improve native vegetation and biodiversity, and added a chickee pavilion.

A canoe and kayak launch will be added, and we hope to see it open in the near future. Walk along the wooden path to admire our local history, river, mangroves, birds, and wildlife as it is showcased one plank at a time.

The other park that we frequent is Kiwanis Park at Confusion Corner in downtown Stuart. This is where we enjoy taking our young granddaughter. The playground has many different areas for a variety of ages and skill levels. They have a new sensory playground called Maddie’s Garden.

The Tot Lot playground has been updated for use by the younger children. There are plans to improve the playground area for children 6- to 12-year-olds, too. We spend our time in the Tot Lot playing on the equipment, banging on the drums, and making new friends with the other families enjoying the facility. Here you’ll see a variety of family dynamics but all with the common goal of putting their little ones first in a safe, nurturing, age-appropriate environment.

The beaches in Martin County are some of the most spectacular in the world. We are so fortunate to have such beauty in our community that’s just a walk, bike ride, run, or short car ride away. The beach provides opportunities for swimming, walking, sunbathing, water sports, and playing on the sand. With the addition of the new restaurants, you can take a quick trip or spend the whole day enjoying drinks, meals, and the local cuisine all along our shores.

Next month is Spring Break, so if you’re traveling during this time, have fun, be safe, and we look forward to hearing about your adventures. But if you’re staying here for a staycation to bask in the Treasure Coast’s local wonders, make sure you try a new park or an outdoor activity with a loved one.

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

Fishing Tips

Paul Sperco

Its February 20 and boy the calendar is flying by. As the days get longer and the sun has a longer chance to warm our waters, our local fishing will improve as we head towards March. The pompano season is normally at its high point in March and April, and hopefully that will prove to be true this year.

We had a good month of catching pompano from the beach in January but unfortunately February has proven to be challenging. Lots of wind, big surf, and off colored water has been the norm, not the exception. Those three factors will really shut down our winter run and to be honest its more typical of March conditions then February. Maybe Mother Nature is getting the bad weather out of the way and March will prove to be a great month.

The spring run of pompano is the time of year when you can catch numbers of pompano as the schools get bigger but the average size starts to drop . I remember days before I had my commercial license when I was leaving the beach after an hour because I had my recreational limit of six. Thats a good problem to have so let’s keep our fingers crossed that this spring is going to be a good one.

One change that you need to pay attention to is the prime time to be targeting these fish. During November, December, January, and February , the bite always seems to be in the early morning but as March approaches a high tide in the late afternoon is the time. Especially after Daylight Savings Time kicks in on the 12th of March .

Long rods and casting Powerlime Crab, Electric Chicken Crab, EZ Flea, and the new Blueclaw Crab Fishbites 70 to 100 yards from the edge of the surf will be your tickets to success. The other species that will be included on your catch list this month will be bluefish, jacks, whiting, croakers, Spanish mackerel, permit, and bonefish.

The days when you have calm conditions and really clear water put a little bigger piece of Fishbites, like 1 inch, if you want to do battle with a nice permit. “Pompano Mania” will be at its peak in the next two months so get out and enjoy our beautiful weather and beaches and put some of these silver tasty speedsters in your cooler. Good luck and catch em up.

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

On Education

Victoria Defenthaler
Retired Martin County Principal & School Board Member

Today my intention was to continue to show how one of our school district’s “A” rated elementary schools worked together with its parents, students, faculty, and staff to create such an improved culture for learning that it became one of only ten elementary schools in the nation to be recognized by the Washington D.C. based Character Education Partnership as a “National School of Character” with subsequent recognition from the Florida House of Representatives.  

But the extraordinary actions of our governor and legislature to obliterate public education as we have relied upon it for over one hundred years, requires our immediate attention.

How does that happen?


House Bill-1, titled the “School Choice” bill is now making its way through the Florida legislature. Is this “choice” or deception?


This Bill proposes to redirect your Martin County school tax dollars to a new education scheme of charter schools, private schools, home schools, religious schools, and public schools for the purpose of siphoning public school funds. (Please note that For-Profit charter schools have already been declared by the governor and the legislature as “public schools”. He has said that any schools that receive taxpayer money should be considered public schools, so that includes all types including private schools.) Traditional public schools are not-for-profit; they are public services, such as fire rescue, the police, paramedics, roads, lifeguards, fresh water, and waste disposal.

“Many think the HB-1 school choice bill up for debate soon in the Florida House is a universal voucher parents can use to send their children anywhere they please. Not true. HB-1 is an education savings account worth roughly $8,200.00, that supplements tuition, leaving parents to make up the difference. The 183,000 private-school students whose parents pay the full cost of tuition now will access a total of $1.5 billion. Parents who cannot pay the tuition have no choice.”

—Kathleen Oropeza, FundEducationNow.org.

It is not a “school choice”, it is a scam, or to be polite, a deception.  In the next article, I will detail how the so-called proposed “School Choice” bill robs all our state’s children of the opportunity to pursue a robust public-school education which prepares them to pursue their chosen career path and to become contributing citizens in our democracy.

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

Supervisor of Elections

From The Property Appraiser

As a property owner in Florida, homestead exemption is one way to reduce the amount of real estate taxes you pay on your residential property.  In this educational video, we highlight the benefits of filing for homestead exemption and how you may be entitled to additional tax savings!  Please watch this Homestead Exemption video on our YouTube Channel:


Tax Collector

Clerk Of The Court

Non-Profit Notices

Letters from Readers

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



From Audrey Taggart

I am wondering if those who want the Electoral College abolished realize that NYC (not the state) has more residents residing there than 39 states have? This means those in the less populous states would essentially be without any vote in presidential campaigns without the Electoral College. We could hold the elections in the four most populous states: CA, NY, TX and FL and not bother in the other 46 states. It is also possible to hold the elections in CA and NY only since the population in those two states would overwhelm the rest of the USA. Those other states would save a lot of money! Think of the good we could accomplish? More immigration, more affordable housing, welfare for many more, and so forth.

If we did away with the Electoral College this could be the result: when our population votes that, for example, women were no longer eligible to vote, or Caucasians could not vote, or Asians were not eligible to vote, or college graduates could not vote, it would be legal. We may have to do some fine tuning and adjustments to many laws on the books, but the majority would have spoken.

Majority rules. Mob rule; some say mobocracy. The definition of democracy in many political science circles is, “Three wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner.”

Be awakened from WOKE propaganda.

Wasn’t it Cicero who cautioned us that “those who do not know history remain children?”


The next from Dick MacAuley 

Hey Tom,

    We are fans of ‘Friends and Neighbors’ for a couple of years now. We find it interesting
and informative. Keep up the good work.

    Regarding your editorial piece re “ History is the story of Truth, “  I would like to add

some clarity to some of the points in your essay namely,

“ Race is a defining characteristic of our history,” and “Slavery is an integral part of who we are

as a people”.

    Slavery was brought to the shores of the Americas long before there was a United

States.  In fact, history is replete with people enslaving other people such as the Aztecs,

Incas, Mayans, and most of the indigenous Indians of North America.  Settlers and Colonists

grew up, lived, worked, and raised families under the specter of people owning people.  

Slavery was an institution and a fact of life for generations  but less than 87

years  after the founding of these United States the entrenched institution of slavery was

declared over and done. These facts and the thousands of gravestones of U.S military

personnel who gave their last measure of devotion to bring liberty to untold millions around the

world, I think more clearly defines who we are as a people.

People are being bought and sold to this very day in Libya, India, and numerous

countries around the world.  It is estimated that there are 46 million slaves in 167 countries.  

There have been Constitutional amendments. and hundreds or perhaps thousands of anti-

discrimination laws, rules, and regulations issued, but they can not cleanse the souls of men.



Lastly from Lawrence Cohen


Thanks for your great job- I read Friends and neighbors every week.

I do think you were biased against Unions today.  

Labor rates are only one factor in US business.  To lay the job exportation and foreign competition entirely on

US unions would be unfair.  Anti-union sentiment has been rife in the US but not so in Europe.  

 I would submit that :Taxes, government manufacturing laws, environmental laws, i.e. to

combat  horrible pollution, (I remember a time you couldn’t breathe the air near some industrial plants, water pollution

was rampant etc), overall rising cost of living and doing business in the US all had some impact to.

  Probably many other factors too that should not be discounted.  Foreign competition sometimes by companies deeply subsidized by

other governments was probably the greatest fator.  

From their start, Anti- Union sentiment gave rise to union-busting at every level from physical violence to anti-union legislation.  Sure there were some pro-union laws and they were often violated.  

You likely know the history of the industrial age causing terrible workplace  conditions with often deadly conditions.

Worker Compensation before unions was entirely up to supply and demand and the ethics (or lack thereof) of the company.

Unions obviously improved working conditions and raised pay.  They also created a once thriving middle class.  

Post WW2 the US had  little international competition and American business took full advantage of that.  Prosperity driven by the new rising middle class (often with the help of union jobs) also was a benefit.  We both know that foreign competition often with  foreign  subsidization corporate greed  had a lot to do with our inability to compete.

General Motors Chairman Roger Smith claimed: “General Motors is not in the business of making automobiles…It is in the business of making money”.  And he did until foreign competition took over the auto business due to horrible quality and inefficient models.  

Yes, US labor costs were higher and there were horrible examples of Union featherbedding and even corruption.  

Union membership is down to 10 percent.  Do unions still wield that power?   Big Business is still claiming unions are

destroying American business.  


Shouldn’t we pay some attention to some of the other factors?  


How about the lack of tariffs on imported goods produced by foreign government subsidized companies? 

 How about giving China preferential postal rates designed for third world developing countries while US companies pay full freight?

How about granting countries “most favored nation” trading status and allowing trade imbalance when we know they don’t buy US goods and we run up huge trade deficits.  

I know you cited your work in a union job hotel that no longer exists way back when you were getting started.  

Have you been to non-union “modern” warehouses with noise levels and heat in the summer that make you wonder where OSHA is?

Not too many unions to blame these days.  They are largely gone.  Still, American business spends big money fighting unions including money in politics and perpetuating the anti-unionism.  Meanwhile, we have record income disparity in the US.  Real Wages in the US in most sectors have fallen as unions fell.  Maybe we should focus on some other variables in 

the equation. 


Martin County


Assistant County Administrator George Stokus gave an update on the county’s affordable housing efforts to the commission.

He mentioned Banner Lake where they are looking to form a community trust to own the land and build affordable homes. Commissioner Jenkins envisions this as a pilot project for the entire county. The people involved are looking for a legal firm.

Stokus is looking for it to be a public/private partnership opportunity. The County is looking to put attainable housing in its comprehensive plan. What I did not hear was where the funding for either of these initiatives would be coming from.

The buzz word seems to be tiny homes. After reviewing whether the construction meets the building code, it appears that most do not. A bright spot is Operation Lift which does construct their tiny homes to meet the state’s standards.

Even so, in most areas of the county, the minimum home size requirements and parking standards would not allow these homes. Within certain areas like the CRAs, dwellings of 800 square feet or less are counted as half units. That would push your density up to 30 units per acre in some areas.

In Martin County, many believe we need hundreds of units (if not thousands) to be built to house our population. This is no small feat. Land trusts, tiny homes, and other single-family residences will, at most, give us tens of homes. That is not anywhere near what we need.

Tallahassee realizes this and is rapidly moving to pre-emp local control to speed development of attainable housing. I believe zoning will be the first casualty of this effort. It will be followed with density and parking requirements being curtailed.

By local government moving too slow in this regard and other land development matters, the state will execute what they believe is necessary to solve this crisis. Commissioners are very interested in paying lip service but are trying to be on both sides of this issue. I fear it is already too late to stop the first stage of pre-emption for development regulations. If our county and cities do not become serious, local authority will be a thing of the past in much of the development arena.

You can see Stokus’ brief presentation here

Fire/Rescue made a presentation to hire 40 more personnel. 20 of which would be immediate hires and 20 additional by applying for a SAFER grant. There is much to consider about whether to do so.

Chad Cianciulli

There is no doubt that while Martin County’s population has not grown very much, the call volume has. In the past, 15 years call volume has increased by 63%. The population has grown older and there are many more assisted living facilities than in the past.

A SAFER grant is a federal program that pays the cost of a new hire entirely in the first year. Over the next two years, it pays less and less of the cost until the local agency picks up the entire cost after three years. They are competitive grants, so applying for a grant is not a guarantee that it will be awarded.

Four of our commissioners asked no hard questions or even easy ones to justify what additional millions of dollars could be needed. Their focus was that this is the level of service our residents want. Yes, that may be true, but for what level of service are they willing to pay?

Commissioner Heard feels the department has grown very fast especially since 2017. There was a motion to approve the request by Hetherington, seconded by Smith, it passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.

You can see the presentation here

I am not a huge fan of district funds. While I will not call it a slush fund, it can be used for things that could be seen as a waste of money. Commissioner Smith used over $200,000 to have a more architecturally pleasing roof for a new fire house.

This time I want to applaud Smith for using district funds to pay for a study by the Treasure Coast Planning Council detailing the possible uses for the Treasure Coast Mall. The mall has suffered greatly with changing retail times. At some point, it will no longer be in existence…at least in its current iteration.

Commissioner Heard believes that staff can perform the work. It is true that staff can, but in the past few months, the commission have given the department several projects to work on plus their primary responsibility to look at new projects. The mall project is a forward-looking idea that has merit.

This wouldn’t usually come before the commission for a vote except that, in this case, an Inter Local Agreement needs to be signed between the county and the Treasure Coast Planning Council since they are both government agencies. A motion was made by Smith that was seconded by Hetherington for $115,000. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.


City of Stuart


It is apparent that Commissioners Collins and Rich both want the mantle of the “water commissioner.” Former Commissioner Matheson had been deeply involved in the issue.

They both have taken opposite views of obtaining the title. Rich has emersed himself in going to various conferences and seminars to dive deep into the issue of clean water. He has spoken with various groups and has learned the water lingo.

Collins appears to have spoken to a person or two who sees the hope of cleaner water by forcing the federal government to enter a consent decree of some sort through litigation. While it worked for the Miccosukee Tribe in the Everglades, the fact pattern is different from the city’s or, for that matter, Martin County’s.

I don’t know what the cause of action would be. I think it would be a big waste of tax dollars because the city is unlikely to prevail. If it were that easy to win, the entire 156 miles of the Indian River Lagoon would have sued by now.

The fresh-water releases from Lake Okeechobee that the commissioners are decrying are actually fairly clean fresh water. At this point, it isn’t water quality but water salinity that is at issue, and from the data, salinity hasn’t been drastically affected so far.

I don’t really think the city needs a river commissioner. If one had to be chosen, it should be the one spending the time in at least becoming knowledgeable about different water issues by speaking to the ecological experts and not gathering information by speaking with an attorney or two.

All politics are local even when discussing projects using federal funds. The city has put aside $1 million in ARPA funds for nonprofits. The only organization that has asked for the money so far is SafeSpace, a domestic abuse nonprofit. Their grant request is for $500,000 the maximum allowable for any organization under the city’s rules.

The money would only be spent in their Martin County operation. Last year domestic abuse went up by 54% in the county. Members of the SafeSpace board were there including Tom Bakkedahl, the State Attorney, for the 19th Circuit. A motion was made by Clarke and seconded by Bruner to approve the grant.

Collins wanted to know when the funds had to be distributed.  According to the manager  they must be allocated by 2024 and spent by 2026. He didn’t understand what the rush was. The money and the program have been around for over a year without any other applicants. He would like to get others to apply. What is the outreach by staff? He suggested that perhaps there was “a church that needs a roof.”

Rich took a tour of the SafeSpace facility and was impressed. A local attorney who has lived in Palm City Farms her entire life spoke during public comment noting that she had been abused and that the victims are not “white trash.” She broke down in tears. Pastor Gore from East Stuart also spoke and stated that we need a place like SafeSpace to give shelter and keep the cases confidential.

The vote ended up being 5-0. State Attorney Bakkedahl said that the money given will save lives. He is right.

The commission voted to create a new advisory committee named the East Stuart Historical Advisory Committee. They will meet quarterly and advise on cultural, art, and historical matters in East Stuart. The committee will be composed of 7 members being appointed by each of the CRA members. The terms are for one year. The vote was 5-0

It was finally time to approve the “Form Based Codes” for East Stuart and the Creek District on second reading. The writing of the codes and the community outreach has been going on for almost two years. There did not seem to be a problem with anything except Collins not liking the ADU (accessory dwelling unit) concept for East Stuart.

An ADU can only be built on a single-family lot. It is limited to no more than 700 sq feet and either the ADU or the home must be occupied by the property owner. ADUs can be built now in East Stuart and throughout the city.

Collins is obsessed with keeping only single-family homes in the city. He continually asked questions of Jessica Seymour from the Treasure Coast Planning Council who worked on the code. Unfortunately, he kept interrupting her as she answered.

Regulations book. Law, rules and regulations concept. 3d illustration

These units make perfect sense. An owner must occupy one of the units. Collins believes that there is no way that the city will really know who is occupying the units. He is right about that.

All cities, including Stuart, have many codes that are hard to enforce. And nobody will be going door to door to ask for “papers” to see whether an owner lives in one of the units. It does allow for code enforcement to use home ownership as a tool if there is a problem at the site.

Collins voted with the rest of the commission to approve the codes. Questions are good if they have a point. He needs to refine his style and really listen to the answers. Many of those question should be done with staff before the meeting.

This meeting was over four hours long. Is there some reason that they need to take this amount of time?


Martin County School Board



Town of Sewall's Point


Commissioner Fender wanted to discuss the town’s tree ordinance in light of what happened at 10 Oakwood spurred by what Fender said was the clear cutting of the trees on the lot.

Manager Daniels stated that the public canopy had been neglected. A tractor trailer sustained severe damage when a low tree limb hit the trailer roof. There is town liability, and fortunately the cab was not damaged.

Kurzman agrees that the canopy should be maintained by both the town and individual owners. Fender brought the matter up because he wanted to see whether there was any appetite to strengthen the tree ordinance. Tompeck was in favor of individual property rights and public safety.

Mayfield made the distinction between private and public trees. She also has read the ordinances and they seem adequate to her. There was some talk about a tree committee, but it comes down to code enforcement. Only the building official is currently responsible for enforcement. Mayfield wanted to know whether more money should be spent on staff to do that, but she didn’t think it was a good idea to have neighbors telling neighbors what to do.

There was discussion about current setbacks not being big enough to allow enough trees to be replanted. A motion was made to have staff bring back suggestions for making the ordinance even stronger but within state statute. It passed 5-0

Joe Capra gave a presentation on Phase 3 of South Sewall’s Point Road. Grant money seems to be endless. There is $8,335,000 in grant money including septic to sewer for Phase 3. Capra has gone through the details several times before.

The attached is a spreadsheet on the costs and expenses of the project here


Village of Indiantown


The controversy over the village manager continues.

Finding a new one has become the only thing that matters for Council Members Stone & Hernandez. Not how the village functions or finding the right employees for critical positions. It is all about replacing Kryzda as interim manager. Move over Captain Ahab…the search for the Indiantown “white whale” is in their sights.

For those two, the former manager took on mythic proportions. He was both a savior and a mentor…the alpha and omega. While I don’t think that Brown was a disaster as a manger, he wasn’t the greatest either. Once the majority on the council changed, Harold Brown was not going to remain for long.

Both Hernandez and Stone need to relax and realize that, right now, the village has a consummate professional in Taryn Kryzda. No one is more connected in Martin County and beyond as she is. At this meeting, Kevin Powers said everyone needed to take a deep breath and get through the next several months without this constant tension regarding the selection of the permanent manager, and he hit it right on the head.

To some, it may seem that Kryzda was rammed through, and to an extent she was. But who better to select than the former longest-tenured Martin County administrator? In the negotiations with the county over impact fees, the mobility fee, and other matters, most of the county people sitting across from her she knows and that can be valuable to Indiantown. Further echoing Powers…who better to renegotiate the agreement with FPL than the person that negotiated the original one for Martin County?

There are many things that need to be fixed in Indiantown’s government. Kryzda has the know-how to do it. She also has the confidence of Gibbs-Thomas, Dipaolo, and Perez which constitutes the council majority. Taryn is not giving anyone an ultimatum to find someone by a certain time. She can be in it for the long haul if necessary.

Most Martin County leaders trust her. She is a known quantity to many more. Let her spend the time necessary to bring good government to Indiantown. Taryn Kryzda can accomplish that. She can be more than a caretaker for a few months if the council would just ask and then accept her guidance.


Town of Ocean Breeze

The Next Meeting Is October 10, 2022


Ocean Breeze passed an ordinance requiring 7 meetings per year to be held in the evening at 6 pm on first reading.

The evening meetings will be in January, April, July, and October plus three budget hearings that must happen after 5:05 pm by statute. The motion was made by Docherty and seconded by Reese. It passed 5-1 with DeAngeles dissenting. If all goes according to plan, then the second reading will be held at the March meeting and the first evening meeting will be held in April.

Past council members, Terry Locatis and Richard Gerold, spoke in opposition to the change in time. Locatis stated that people did not want to come out in the evening. Mr. Gerold said that he had spoken to the scheduler at the resort, and she felt there could be conflicts.

I think there will be more confusion than conflicts with the changing times. Nothing is written in stone. There can always be another ordinance adjusting times if it becomes necessary.

Apparently, there has been acts of vandalism and unruly kids loitering at the plaza and Seawalk. This has been going on for some time. The Publix manager has already trespassed the kids at the sheriff’s office. The ice cream store owner (who lives in Seawalk) has had many problems with the kids blocking her entrance and harassing employees and customers. Seawalk has experienced kids going onto the property and causing property damage.

Classic Hollywood

Years ago, I stopped at that Publix one evening on my way home and noticed kids loitering, riding their bikes creating a nuisance for cars, and a general sense of disorderliness. While my wife and I were not frightened, we were uneasy. I can see why others would be fearful and some may not want to shop there.

The mayor, Kelly, and the town consultant had a meeting with the sheriff’s representatives.  Seawalk does have a trespass order in place with the sheriff’s department until the end of 2023. It also appears that Publix has one but unclear as to whether the entire center is part of it.

It kept coming up that the council wants a schedule of when the sheriff patrols the town. It is unlikely that the sheriff patrols in the manner the council may expect. Every street and every inch in the resort, Seawalk, and the plaza are private property. The sheriff’s department does, however, have an agreement to go onto the private property at the resort and Seawalk.

This is not a big city where law enforcement patrols up and down streets looking for problems. Rather, the sheriff’s department patrols on major roads and responds to calls.

Terry O’Neil, the management consultant, wants the town to spend up to $10,000 on hiring off-duty deputies for increased coverage. That seems to be a good idea. Another alternative would be private security that would patrol and call in the sheriff when needed.

The council voted 6-0 to approve hiring off duty deputies.


Town of Jupiter Island

The next meeting will be March 7, 2023

In The Spotlight

by Jackie Holfelder

The Inspiring Journey of Arati Hammond

Although you can’t live in Martin County and not know about Arati Hammond, her successful business and 1,000-watt community involvement and volunteerism, I didn’t know her personally as much as I do the other people who have agreed to be “In the Spotlight.” Prepare to be blown away!

Arati & Her Mom

Arati was born and raised in a very remote rural village in India. Growing up without a TV at home, books and reading became her window to the world. She was raised 100-percent vegetarian and the first time someone asked if she wanted horseradish, she replied “No thank you…I’m a vegetarian.”

She emigrated to the U.S. at age 23 and landed at a freezing cold JFK Airport with just one $20 bill in her pocket, leaving behind her parents, brothers and all she held dear. Never having experienced bitter cold temperatures and not even knowing how to drive, those early years were challenging and adventurous.

Early on (from 1990-93), Arati worked for three full years in a marketing/promotional products company without taking a single day off.  Not even holidays.  But she loved every minute of it – although clearly the whole work/life balance was lost on her.

When she and her husband moved from Connecticut to Palm City in 2002, Arati got her real estate license and began her career as a Realtor©. The “mom” hours worked perfectly for her, since son Andrew was just four years old. 

Arati with her husband & son

Arati says that since she’s a numbers girl who strives to have her finger on the pulse of the ever-changing landscape of the real estate market, she’s had great success at the Arati Hammond Team at Keller Williams Realty, where 90-percent of all her new business comes from former clients and referrals.

Arati is a founding member of Impact100 Martin, which has awarded more than $1 million dollars to non-profits in Martin County since it was founded in 2017. Her six years on the Impact100 grants committee opened Arati’s eyes to the needs of Martin County.

Since, as she says, “Martin County has been incredibly good to me and my family”, Arati feels it’s her civic duty to give back and feels blessed to able to do so. She firmly believes that where you were born should never pre-determine where you end up and that educating our youth empowers them.  Giving them the tools to soar both emotionally and financially creates a better community.

Besides Impact100 Martin, the busy Arati is also a board member of Boys and Girls Club of Martin County, Education Foundation of Martin County, SafeSpace and United Way of Martin County.

2022 Impact100 Martin Awards Ceremony

Since they’re foodies, she and her husband Art love to entertain at home, where she finds great joy and relaxation in cooking for friends and family. The Hammonds also love to travel.

Clearly the young woman who arrived in the U.S. from India (where her entire family still lives) has forged a beautiful and mutually-rewarding relationship with Martin County. How lucky for us that of all the places in this country she could have wound up living, Arati Hammond picked Palm City!


Final Thoughts



The legislature has been eagerly stripping authority from local government for the past dozen years.

In some cases, it was because of actions taken by one locality that annoyed a legislator. Taking away the ability for stricter local tree ordinances is a result of one then-state senator being told he needed a permit to cut down a tree on his property. Because of his annoyance at not being paid the deference he believed he deserved; many local governments had to adopt less stringent tree ordinances.

There are many examples of this. One might think that “freedom” loving Republicans would try to avoid passing mandates on to localities. That couldn’t be further from the truth. As we have become a one-party state, repression of local governments has only become worse.

I am willing to bet it doesn’t matter which political party is in power as much as the absence of a check on that power. Florida has written home rule powers into the state constitution unless the legislature pre-empts those powers. The legislature has been busy doing just that.

A bill has been introduced that would reduce the cap on how much a homestead property’s value could go up per year from 3% to 2%. That may not seem like much, but in the initial year it is estimated that $150 million will be lost to local government. That number only compounds over time.

The state derives no tax dollars from property tax. It is easy to give a tax break on the back of the entities providing most government services in Florida. The complexities of our real estate tax system make the federal income tax system look easy. Real estate taxes were supposed to be based on the value of a home not on who lived in a home the longest.

Two things have happened because of the legislature’s insistence on making real estate taxes a political football. First, in a development of 100 homes all built at the same time and having the same amenities, it is extremely likely that no two homes are paying the same tax. Second, this system depresses ownership of property because local government would rather see rental construction that cannot have a homestead credit.

Another bill making its way through the legislature is almost a perennial favorite…making members of local boards and all elected officials file different and more complex financial statements. Now county commissioners and constitutional officers file the more complex financial disclosure form than members of the LPA or other volunteer advisory boards along with most municipalities.

Most of the people who give of their time are unpaid. Many that unselfishly serve their communities would find a more invasive disclosure not worth the loss of privacy or the cost of an accountant to fill out those forms. There are already many safeguards in the current system to make sure that wrongdoing can be punished.

The very people with the most complex finances make the best advisory board members because of their experience. By imposing these more draconian measures, the legislature is limiting the number of people that would be willing to volunteer in local government. Any good is far outweighed by the harm something like this causes.

Lastly, with all the problems we have with the educational system, is it really the place of the legislature to mandate what time school should start? Imagine a state lawmaker wanting to dictate that your kid will start school no earlier than 8:30 a.m. if attending high school. A later start time is probably a good idea, but it isn’t only high school start times that become affected.

Busses need to be available for elementary and middle schools. What happens to sports teams and after school activities and jobs? Not to mention pickup times for the younger kids and parents’ schedules.

I think our legislators have enough on their plates without taking on more. Yet year after year, they chip away at Home Rule. They need to spend their time on more universal matters and perhaps take an oath to do no harm before trying to meddle in what time Johnny reports to kindergarten.

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

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

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