August 20, 2023

Friends & Neighbors Edition

In this Edition


When I was in junior high, I often stayed after school since I was on what was known as the stage crew, which handled the lighting board, curtains, and set up the stage before concerts, plays, and assemblies. We were pretty much left alone though the head of the music department was in his classroom off the auditorium.

The auditorium was on the opposite side of the building from the gym where most of the after-school students were. Our section was quiet most days. While we didn’t have our own rest room, the boys and girls were close by.

One of the girls often used the boys restroom. I don’t know why. She obviously couldn’t use a urinal. But she would walk in and look at whoever was standing at the urinal and go into a stall. I know a few of the boys would call her over but that never amounted to anything but avoidance on her part and probably relief on theirs.

I never encountered her in the boys room during regular school hours. Nor did she dress differently than any other girl at the time. I guess doing what to all of us was a forbidden act was her one concession to her psyche in her young adolescent life. 

I once asked her why she did it, and she just said she thought she belonged there. Every once in a long while, I think about her even though I can’t recall her name. I do remember she had a beautiful singing voice as a second soprano.

It took me nearly 60 years to figure out what she meant. And I only did so recently because of the controversy about gender in Florida schools. If alive today, she could be gay or trans. Back then, other names would have applied.

There is nothing new, only things repackaged and rebranded. That is what all the hubbub is in Florida today. Many people don’t know what to make out of the closet being open. I even put myself in that category. I can’t even remember all the letters and names for today’s sexual spectrum.

And, I don’t think I have to. Not because I wish this multi division of sexuality would go away. After years of living, I try to accept the person and not the label. Growing older, I’ve come to realize that most things are unimportant except how you treat others...even those you don’t understand.




School has begun but summer is still with us. Hurricane season is just ramping up and Friends & Neighbors is publishing under our new format. I know which of the three I like best.

I hope you are enjoying the new and improved Friends & Neighbors. I think it was quite an achievement and a much more expensive one than I thought. I don’t believe anyone can knock the product.

We still can use a few more columnists so contact me using the link under the contribute page. Your letters are always welcome. Just click that link and it will appear in the next edition.

If you are a non-profit and want to reach our subscribers, it is as easy as writing to me and I will give you all the details on how to submit your press release or event flyer. If you have nothing now and want to receive reminder emails of publication dates just let me know.

Don’t forget to follow our Facebook page here 

We publish updates and new pieces between issues on Facebook

And please make sure your friends, neighbors and relatives are signed up for their own copy. If you belong to an organization or club sign them up to receive their free copy.

Have a Happy Sunday!




Schools opened for the new year in Martin County on August 10th.

In Florida, districts are looking for 7000 teachers to fill vacancies. That is 1000 more than this time last year. Of the 2.9 million enrolled kids, 36.4% are Hispanic, 35.3% White and 20.9% Black according to the Department of Education.

If anything, schools are even more in flux than they were last school year. Can Shakespeare’s plays be read in their entirety or only excerpts because of rules concerning sexuality. What books are still allowed? How about AP Psych…yes or no.

How do you teach anything if almost everything could cause someone to feel bad and therefore teachers are afraid that they could be in legal trouble for mentioning that topic. Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Educational Association, said that the Education Department has been intentionally vague in their guidance. Not good for morale.

With the introduction of vouchers for all, perhaps 100,000 students will move from public schools to private or charter ones. I personally believe that is a good step to introduce choice. Parents are taking their tax money back and using it in what they consider an appropriate manner to educate their children.

I do understand how a public-school employee would consider this a threat. Just like any other market, there is an educational market and I think Florida so far has gotten that right. It should make public schools more focused on their mission.

At the same time, the state needs to back off on what is and isn’t appropriate to be taught. It should be a school-by-school decision. You can’t introduce market education and then dictate the terms of the market. Parents, schools and to some extent students need to decide what is appropriate for what age and grade.

The state, by expanding vouchers, can then rely on the market to weed out the bad actors. As a parent, I would want my child to be exposed to a broad range of books, ideas, and situations. I would not want limitations on knowledge whether it was uncomfortable or not which includes human sexuality, climate science, and all of our history. Other parents may want more severe limitations. If students pass the state test at the end of the year, the state should not care.

Unfortunately, the state currently is tending to politicize education. It doesn’t help that our governor is running for president. Unleashing market forces means not micromanaging any part of the educational industry. All public schools should become charters. Let the school administration or owners with parents, teachers, and to some extent students decide the intricacies of curriculum. If not enough parents buy in, then the school fails.

Politicians are not educators. Nor should they have much to say about what goes on in the classroom. Broad guidance is all that Tallahassee should control.    




A few months ago, the New York Times ran a story about how the government in Delaware County, New York, retaliated against a local paper for what it had printed about the County Supervisor.

I read the article for two reasons. First, I had once owned a weekend house across the East Branch of the Delaware River from the Town of Hancock which was also in Delaware County. We did all our shopping and socializing in that county, so the article was about my old neighborhood.

The second and more urgent reason was that the local government had retaliated for what a small local paper had reported. That is of great interest to me because of this publication. I wondered if it could happen here.

There is no monetary risk from the county or any municipality they don’t pay me to run their ads. I am on solid ground there. Second the newspaper in Delaware County, known as the Reporter, has a subscription base of 4000. We are six times that size so I would hope more readers would jump into our defense if need be.

The real reason I believe that it wouldn't happen here is because Martin County folks don’t act that way. I try not to go after people personally but rather policies and actions. It is inevitable that I may anger elected officials and their staff at some point. But I believe that they work or go into government service to help their constituents not themselves. There may be people in those lines of work that are dishonest in other places, but I haven’t met any here.

When John Roberts was being confirmed to the Supreme Court, he said in answer to a question from a senator that his job was to call balls and strikes and not pitch or bat. That is pretty much the way I see what Friends & Neighbors does. It makes no ordinances nor passes any policy. I just call it as I see it and tell Martin County residents the box scores. 





The railroad companies and Coast Guard have come together with the boaters and other marine interests to have a compromise on when and for how long to open and close the Stuart Bridge.

In a statement released to News Wire, Brightline and FEC the entities stated that the agreement that was reached will allow 10-minute openings at the top of each hour from 6 am-10 pm with an additional five minutes at 8:55 am, 9:55 am, 10:55 am, 12:55 pm and on weekends at 4:55 pm.

Yet all of this is the equivalent of a band-aid placed on a gushing wound. The cure is still a new double-track bridge that will allow 80-90% of the boat traffic to pass while the bridge is in a closed position. Then the bridge can be opened on demand if no train is passing or scheduled at the time when the other 10-20% of boat traffic is waiting. Most of us accept that a nearly 100-year-old bridge is still old and subject to not working much more than a new bridge would be.

Perhaps the state and federal elected officials are ready to talk turkey and move the request of funding forward. In a letter dated August 9th to Ali Soule of Brightline, City Manager Mike Mortell stated that the city had passed Resolution 43-2023 earlier this year not only supporting a new bridge but also authorizing staff to work with Brightline to apply and obtain state and federal grants that would offset the costs.

Stuart will be helping to obtain a $50 million grant from the state by January of 2024. There is also a $100 million grant from the federal government that needs to be obtained for the new bridge to be built. I was told by someone who attended a recent event where Congressman Mast spoke, he wanted to know why the railroad had waited so long to ask for help.

Now is not the time for anyone else to ask why the parties including Mast couldn’t have worked together sooner. The important thing is they are apparently doing so now. That is all that counts.

In conjunction with Martin County, Stuart is courting Brightline regarding a station here. No matter whether it is in the heart of downtown or at the courthouse site, Martin County deserves it. It will be a boost for our economy and will provide a way to remove cars off the road whether going north or south.

Now that is the way to run a railroad.  

VanRiper's Views

Darlene VanRiper

How to get what you want from the BOCC…….


Special Olympics came before the Board of County Commissioners months ago. 

They made a presentation.  They received compassion from the commissioners.  Of course.  What public figure (or anyone for that matter) is not going to express compassion for Special Olympics!  Or any other non-profit?  Predictably there was an ask.  Would the BOCC consider funding an FTE (full time employee at a cost of $85k per year) to handle the logistics of Special Olympics events and coordinate with Parks and Rec.? 

The BOCC didn’t want to say no, but they didn’t want to say yes.  So, they kicked the can and asked the Special Olympics to make an application ostensibly to get more information and ponder just how this would work.  Next thing you know it pops up “for the board’s consideration” having been added to the “Aid to Private Organization Governmental Agencies” list.  To Commissioners Heard’s and Hetherington’s credit they questioned the Special Olympics addition. 

Commissioner Heard expressed concern that the county won’t have oversight of this position.  Commissioner Hetherington said she remembered wanting more information.  But now a memorandum of understanding has been created and so the process moves forward. 

Chair Ciampi doesn’t see a need to oversee the position as the county doesn’t oversee the other non-profits on the list.  He prefers not to oversee the position because the county would then have to grant the position raises each year. 

Frankly, it sounds like the county has been misleading or at the very least raising the hopes of Special Olympics.  Hetherington asked the pertinent question…which is “What is the process”?  Administrator Donaldson explained that there is no “formal” process only a “clunky” one.


I liked his next sentence which was “some communities have “gotten out of the grants and aids business entirely”. Let’s take that as a suggestion.  Each commissioner has their favorite charity.  Chair Ciampi would like to see the Equine Rescue Organization added to the list to receive $150,000. 

In 2019 the Martin County Taxpayers Association wrote a paper on this non-profit list to which the BOCC gives our tax dollars.  The article remains relevant.  Find it here 

Commissioner Smith made a motion to separate Special Olympics from the rest of the non-departmental budget and it carried unanimously.  For the separate vote to add Special Olympics to the Grants & Aid list, Hetherington was the lone descent.  This funding will come back for consideration. 

Aid to Private Orgs contracted services now stands at $490,432.  The Commissioners were looking for somewhere to cut.  Here is a half mill.  Get out of this business.  If we can’t help fund every non-profit in the County, we shouldn’t be funding any at all. 

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

Nicki's Place

Nicki van Vonno
van Vonno Consulting, Owner

Customer Service and Florida Dinosaurs

I visited a local store today. I got excellent customer service, and I didn’t buy a thing.

Armadillos are prehistoric dinosaurs. A tank of a creature. They, like most of us, migrated here from somewhere else. I love them. Years ago, I had one that lived under my deck. I loved to see it mosey down the path. It did its thing and did not stop for anything.  I hadn’t seen one in years. 

Armadillos are true Florida creatures. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Service  instructs us that they migrated here from southwestern United States beginning  in the 1920s. They thrive in our climate, and my loose textured soil allows them to dig easily. They eat many insects, other invertebrates, and plants. They are most active at night and have very poor eyesight. They bear four identical cubs that hatch from a single egg so that the cubs are either all male or all female. They are the only mammal that does this.  They also swim rivers and can inflate their body like a balloon so they can float across if the river is too deep. Armadillos can also carry diseases. Research on armadillos has been very useful in  developing leprosy treatments. The last question: Why do you see roadkill armadillos? Their normal reaction to danger is to leap into the air since their primary predators would attack from the ground.

Last week one was floating in my pool. I realize now I should have just gotten the dead corpse out of the pool. But it’s gross and I hate the pool and there is a heat advisory.  I was having gastric issues, sound familiar.

So, I texted the pool guy and sent him a picture. He came over and got it out, by now fly-laden and even grosser. He bagged it in a garbage bag. I offered him a second bag which he declined. He put it in the trash can for my next waste pick up.

But the smell continued. I googled what would kill the smell of it. Since google is now just an algorithm to sell us things, it referred me to various products. I did find advice to mix water and baking soda and spray it on the carcass. I decided to just dump a half box of baking soda on it.

I ran to Ace hardware to purchase something. I asked the helpful hardware man  about such a product. He was dubious. I explained how bad the can smelled as it sat along the side of the house waiting for trash day.

“Well move the can to the curb.”  It was one of those can’t see the forest for the trees moment. “Double bag it. Have them take the can.”

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

Members of Martin County 4-H are making a name for themselves and their program at the state and national levels. Through public speaking, equestrian events, robotics competitions, engaging in new opportunities, and running for state office, Martin County 4-H members have been reaching new heights!

4-H State Officer- Vera Howe is the president of both the Martin County Excellerators 4-H Club and the Martin County 4-H County Council. Following in her sister Evelyn’s footsteps, Vera has a drive to hold positions of leadership and she set a goal for herself to become a Florida 4-H State Officer. Running for the position of Reporter, Vera unfortunately came short of the necessary votes, but that did not stop her.

Vera gathered herself and entered an interview process that would hopefully see her appointed to one of three positions that are selected by the new state officers. Her determination and drive shined bright and the state officers wisely appointed Vera as our Florida 4-H State Historian. This is especially exciting because Vera is the first Florida 4-H State Officer from Martin County in 40 years!

State Competitive Events- Standing in front of a crowd can be unnerving at least, but that did not stop three of our Martin County 4-H members from competing in different speaking types at the county, district, and state levels. Ella Morey offered a demonstration on re-queening a beehive, Haylee Luning gave a public speech on the benefits of joining 4-H, and Vera Howe delivered an illustrated talk on judging and placing a cattle show. In the statewide competition Ella earned 1st place in her category and Haylee earned 3rd place in hers!

State and Regional 4-H Horse Shows- Averie, Mia, and Taylor of the 4-H Equine Riders of Palm City earned their way through the Southern Area and State 4-H Horse Shows to earn their spots at the Southern Regional 4-H Horse Championships in Perry, Georgia. All three competed well, but Averie and her horse Ryder won 3rd in Hunter Under Saddle out of 83 riders and 6th in Hunter Type Geldings out of 40 horses!

Robotics Competitions- The world renowned SPAM Robotics 4-H Club made their way through several qualifying competitions on the way to the FIRST Robotics Championship in Houston, Texas. Though they were eliminated in the semi-finals this year, we should all be proud of the level at which this team competes every year.

Hog and Ham- In February, fresh from completing their 4-H projects at the Martin County Fair, Bailey Beurrier and Vera Howe started a new adventure with the University of Florida Department of Animal Sciences Hog and Ham Project. The Hog and Ham Project is like the market projects 4-H members complete and sell at the fair, except instead of selling the pig the 4-H members process their pig at the UF Meat Lab and bring the meat home. It is a great learning experience in self-reliance and -sustainability. Members must apply and be selected to participate in this project.

Our community should be very proud of the accomplishments of our Martin County 4-H members from over the past year. With the new 4-H year beginning September 1st, we can all expect to see Martin County youth in the 4-H program reaching even higher as they set new goals “To Make the Best Better.”  

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 buzzing with excitement as we prepare to re-open the KinDoo Center for Enrichment in Indiantown.

The KinDoo Center was founded about nine years ago by Sister Mary Dooley and Sister Kate Kinnally. Upon their retirement, they and their Board of Directors asked House of Hope to bring the Center into our universe of services. We jumped at the opportunity to continue the incredible work of the Sisters, and will do our best to continue their legacy.

The foundational classes and trainings that have been a part of the KinDoo Center for years including sewing, nutrition education and cooking, computer classes, and English as a Second Language will all remain as part of the offerings. House of Hope will also survey the local residents, analyze our client data, look at community trends, and work with key partners to determine what classes and programs may be added to the Center in the near future. As past participants at the Center return on September 11th, they will also be greeted by the same dedicated and passionate team. We are grateful that the KinDoo staff have all joined the House of Hope team.

There will also be some valuable and positive changes at the Center. The computer room is receiving a full technology upgrade, with new computers and printers to make the learning experience more meaningful for the participants. The child care program will become more intentional as we add House of Hope’s successful Let’s Start Learning program to assist with kindergarten readiness and social and emotional development for early learners. House of Hope is also seeking funding support to upgrade the furnishings and hands on resources in the child care area. We also are seeking support to enhance the outside of the facility, including exterior painting, a play area for early learners, a nutrition education garden and more.

If you are interested in learning more about the KinDoo Center for enrichment at House of Hope, whether you are a participant, partner, or donor, please email us at To learn more about the many services and resources available through House of Hope, please visit our website at

Best wishes to all the children and families in our community for a successful and fun school year.

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

What is Heart Rate Variability?

Since we have entered a new era of wearable technology many people have become aware of a new marker of health called Heart Rate Variability.  What exactly is Heart Rate Variability and how is it linked to our health?

Heart rate variability is a measure of the variation in time between each heartbeat.  Most people are familiar with going to the doctor’s office and having their pulse checked, which is telling you how many times per minute your heart is beating.  In general, the more physically fit someone is, the lower their heart rate will be.   If your pulse rate is 60 that doesn’t actually mean that your heart is beating once every second… there may be 0.9 seconds between two beats and 1.15 seconds between two others.   This difference in time is the Heart Rate Variability and the greater this variability is the more prepared your body is to function at a high level. 

Heart rate variability is actually controlled by a primitive part of your nervous system called the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system allows our body to do things without us being aware of them like controlling our heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and digestion.  The autonomic nervous system is divided into two components... the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.  The sympathetic nervous system is known as the fight or flight response. In times of stress, it will cause your heart rate and blood pressure to increase.  The parasympathetic nervous system is known as the rest and digest nervous system. It handles inputs from your GI tract and helps your hair and fingernails grow.

Heart rate variability comes from these two competing systems sending signals to your heart.  If your nervous system is balanced your heart is being told to beat slower by your parasympathetic nervous system and to beat faster by your sympathetic system.  This causes a fluctuation in your heart rate... thus your heart rate variability.

When you have high HRV it is a sign that your nervous system is balanced, and your body can adapt to its environment and perform well. On the other hand, if you have low heart rate variability it means that usually the sympathetic nervous system is dominating and sending stronger signals to your heart. Sometimes this is a good thing if you are running a race and you want your body to focus on allocating resources to your legs as opposed to digesting food (parasympathetic).

However, if we have persistent stress, from a dysfunctional relationship, an unhealthy diet, poor sleep habits or lack of exercise this will cause your flight or fight nervous system to go into overdrive. 

HRV tends to decrease abruptly as we age.  On average 20–25-year-olds tend to have an HRV in the 55-105 range whereas those over 65 tend to be in the 25-45 range.  Your exact number is not as important as your HRV trend.   Some ways to improve your heart rate variability is not to overtrain.  You need to give your body time to recover after a hard workout.  Make sure you stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet.  Avoid alcohol… one night of drinking can adversely affect your HRV for up to 5 days!  Getting quality sleep means trying to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day and get an adequate amount of sleep each night.

Beyond measuring your fitness, Heart Rate Variability can help you gain a better understanding of your nutrition, your mental health, your stress levels, your sleep, warning signs of sickness, and risk of chronic disease. 

There are several devices currently on the market that measure your HRV such as Apple watches, Oura Rings and Whoop bands as well as Fit Bits.  

Now that you understand what this metric is telling you, you can work on improving it. 

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

Palm City Highlights

Missi Campbell
Palm City Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director

This is a “No judgment zone.”

How many times have you thought to yourself, “Why are there so many handicapped parking spaces? They’re always empty!” It could enter your mind on a hot afternoon or in the middle of a rainstorm. I admit that I have felt this way on occasion, but I have a whole new perspective on this now.

My significant other has had serious complications with a knee replacement, and we find ourselves in a position we never thought we’d be in; he is currently handicapped. He is now able to walk with crutches but not for long distances.

We didn’t get a handicapped placard for quite a while because I would drop him off and then go to park the truck. When we left the facility, I would go get the truck and pick him up. The problem was that while I was gone, he couldn’t comfortably wait if there wasn’t a seat.


It is time-consuming and often difficult for a handicapped person to get into or out of a vehicle. This is why there is the additional space next to the handicapped parking spots. Next time you park next to a handicap parking space, please be sure not to crowd the handicapped parking spaces to make certain access to and from any vehicle parked there remains accessible.

Many times, those that are handicapped don’t want your sympathy and they definitely don’t want your pity, they want to be able to be as independent as possible. Some conditions are not always visible, or they could be intermittent. It is not the responsibility of the general public to define who should get those parking spaces. That is decided by medical professionals, and we should trust their judgement. I believe that it is about respect and understanding. No one knows what another person is dealing with at any time, and we all need to be more cognizant of our actions or even just thoughts.

When my children were young and I was trying to get them out of their stroller and into their car seats, I always thought there should be parking spots for moms. I am happy to see that we now have some identified spots for expectant mothers and veterans, it’s the least we can do to honor our heroes.

If you can walk without any assistance, you should consider yourself fortunate. Take the time to enjoy your walk if you park your car a bit away from your destination. Check out the scenery and reflect on the positives in your life as you stroll through the parking area.

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

Fletch's Perspective

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

“But would you let them pack your parachute?”

We all know trust is inherent in every partnership, but when it comes to considering its strength, this thought exercise is usually worth pondering.

After all, could there be a greater mix of exhilaration and uncertainty than the moment while skydiving before pulling the ripcord to release the parachute?

As a seasoned skydiver I can attest that it’s a welcome rush of both relief and adrenaline. Very different from experiencing—as I did recently—that free-fall feeling of facing important expectations amid an unwelcome surprise.  

In the waning days of summer before the start of the new school year, Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County (BGCMC) learned that fewer nonprofits were able to support the annual supply drive for Title 1 students—the designation granted to children of low-income families who qualify for federal assistance. Of the thousands of children who make up our membership, more than 600 meet this qualification.

Thankfully, we were able to call upon our business partners. Instead of packing parachutes they stuffed backpacks—600 of them, in fact—giving generously to ensure children in need received essential school supplies.

With the right partners, almost anything is possible. No matter the scope of need, the shortage of time or the uncertainty of success.

Special shout-outs to O’Donnell Impact Windows & Storm Protection, Patty D Photography, Capstone IT, Blazin Amazin Treatz, Hotwire Communications, Ignite Sports, and Guaranteed Garage Doors & Repair for helping equip the kids.

Such equipping takes on many forms. It started as early as last school year thanks to our AmeriCorps members. The mentors with this BGCMC program deploy into schools whose students most need assistance in literacy, math, and science. Last school year AmeriCorps members served:

  • 530 elementary students, with 92 percent showing significant improvements on literacy assessments.
  • 770 middle-school students, with 96 percent maintaining or increasing their attendance, 80 percent making notable progress in math and English and 85 percent improving their classroom behavior.
  • Hundreds more students by involving them in community partnership efforts with the Red Cross, City of Stuart, Mattamy Homes at Newfield, SafeSpace, Operation Merry & Bright and local food programs.

While our AmeriCorps mentors invested their time, our supporters—ranging from retired philanthropists to small-business owners to community leaders to individuals like yourself—made it all possible through their treasure, time, and talent.

Thanks to you, they could start the first day of school feeling prepared, proud to reach in their new backpacks for that notebook their teacher asked them to open up. Whether you did so yourself or through your gift, you packed their parachutes, and made it possible for them to leap with boldness, savor the view, land safely—and look forward to doing it all over again.

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

Fishing Tips

Paul Sperco

It is August 14 and the weather we are experiencing here in South Florida is pretty tough.

Excessive heat warnings have been the order of the day for the past couple of weeks and this current situation has carried over to fishing the surf. Participation has been very light along our local beaches and usually by 11 or 12 noon the beaches are not holding our normal number of beach goers. The whiting and the croaker that we caught last month have all but disappeared along with the palometa and majorra.

Even the catch and release snook fishing that is so popular in the summer has become a tough proposition and the ability to get one of those to bite has become a real effort. The biggest change we have experienced is the lack of bait. Pilchards, glass minnows, small croakers, and majorra are nowhere to be found.

The good news is the fall mullet run is just around the corner and I received some intel in the past couple of days telling me there are some big schools of finger mullet showing in the New Smyrna Beach and Daytona Beach area. When the mullet show, the first schools of pompano are usually right on their heels. It’s been a crazy year weather wise and we still have to get through the heart of the hurricane season but to be honest with you a wind shift from the south and southeast will help our local fishing.

I am hoping to be talking about mullet schools invading our local beaches next month and predators like snook, tarpon, big jacks, bluefish, and ladyfish tearing up the bait pods. Until then keep the faith, clean your heavier 8 foot surf rods and 5000 and 6000 sized spinning reels, put some fresh line on those spools and get ready for the start of our great fall and early winter surf fishing.

Stay cool and pay attention to our late afternoon thunderstorms to stay safe. 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

How will the education voucher system affect public schools?

Let’s Be Clear

Scholarship, Grant, Voucher

Tuition terminology brings confusion to any reader unfamiliar with the doings of Florida’s legislature’s last decade of changes to our education system.  

Terms such as grants or scholarships disguise the truth about vouchers.  Vouchers are a tax credit scheme set up with a profiting third party.   They clearly divert taxpayer money away from public schools.  Because the program is called a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and Family Empowerment Scholarship, it leads people to believe it is a scholarship and not taxpayer money.  This is misleading.  Here’s how.

Vouchers are provided using taxpayer money and tax credits provided by donations.  In Florida, the primary voucher management organization is Step Up For Students.  The vouchers are worth an average of $7,700 and are available to all K-12 Florida residents, without restrictions for household income.  Monies, given as an education savings account (ESAs) using a debit card, can be used for tuition and other related expenses.  When House Bill 1 became law on July 1, 2023, available funds increased to be used similarly for homeschooling materials. 

Education establishments that receive these vouchers are far less regulated compared to public schools.  Course requirements, teacher certifications, individualized education plans, testing, and budgetary restrictions are not regulated in private schools or homeschools.  Charter schools, mostly for profit, also have fewer regulations.  Too often public school teachers get students with large learning gaps after leaving a private, charter, or homeschooled establishment, causing an increase in use of their restricted funds.  

Why are we spending money on an unproven, unregulated voucher program rather than providing much needed resources for our public schools?  Step Up For Students takes a 2.5-3% administration fee on every contribution and has a well-financed lobbyist for school choice in Florida.  In some cases, elected officials profit from voucher and charter school monies by using their own company for services within these schools.  There is no law against this blatant conflict of interest. 

In cases where the voucher doesn’t cover a private school, parents supplement the total tuition with their own funds.  It is a fact that failing public schools taken over by charter school chains have failed, wasting taxpayer monies.  Private schools do not have reporting requirements, so the accountability and transparency factor are unavailable to taxpayers.  

Let’s be clear, this is a re-routing of public tax dollars to private and for-profit charter schools and now, homeschools.  

Florida’s education system is crumbling as we face extraordinary shifts in funds, put restrictions on what resources teachers may use (or face a third-degree felony), uncompetitive teacher salaries, teacher disrespect, spread of misinformation, and a severe teacher shortage.  

This is not about school choice.  We have ‘choice’ in our existing magnet and career training programs.  Follow the money.  That’s where the “WHY” finds true “CHOICE.”

Much of the research and readings for the article come from the NPE, FPI, ELC and Education Week.  

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

3 Ways to Prep for Multigenerational Living

1. Start on the same page:  Before you share space, have an open talk about your expectations.  Moving in with family members that you have not lived with for years is a big adjustment. Being open about privacy concerns, household chores, financial responsibilities, and family rules can get family members on the same page. Whether you are a senior moving in with adult children or an adult moving mom or dad in with you, here are some questions to discuss with your family before you move in together:

• Which spaces are shared? Which are private?

• Will the family member moving in pay rent, buy groceries, or contribute financially to the household?

• Will new move-ins need access to a vehicle?

• How will household chores be divided, including laundry, shopping, and food preparation?

• Do we need house rules including quiet hours or curfews?

• What is each family member hoping to gain from the new situation?

2. Check-in regularly: Checking in regularly with your adult child or senior parent gives each person in the household a chance to voice their thoughts. Make plans to meet to discuss what is and is not working. Likely, you will need to check in more at the beginning of the transition, and then less often as initial kinks get smoothed out. For example, you might want to meet after a couple of days, then a week, then after two weeks until you are ready to

only check in once a month.

3. Come up with an end game:  If living together is not a permanent solution, work together to make an “exit plan” that everyone in the home understands. Plans change and you may decide to live together for more or less time, but having a blueprint gives everybody an idea of what to expect. In situations where aging parents move in with their adult children, it is helpful to decide.

what will happen if the arrangement does not work. Having a backup plan can preserve relationships when difficult circumstances arise. Whether you are taking care of an older parent, moving into your child’s home, or sheltering your adult children, these strategies can help you navigate your multi-generational living with added success. The number of parents and adult children choosing to live under one roof is on the rise. Multigenerational living comes with many benefits for families, but also can create some challenges.

 You can contact Arati Hammond at 772-342-5599 or

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

Mindful Meditation

Jessica Miranda Roberts
Mindfullness and Moving Meditation Instructor

The Right Yoga Practice

Embarking on a yoga journey is like stepping into a vast field of wildflowers, each one representing a different possibility. It's a journey that can be as beautiful as it is overwhelming. Finding the ideal yoga practice requires patience and a bit of know-how.

Whether you're a newcomer, returning from a hiatus, or seeking a class that’s a better fit, here are some insights to help you choose the right steps on your yoga journey.

Align Your Path with Your Intentions

If relaxation, recovery and gentle movement are what appeal to you, opt for styles like Hatha, Gentle, or Restorative. For an invigorating workout, explore Power Yoga, Hot Yoga or Ashtanga. If you know you do not want to get down and up off the floor, choose Chair Yoga. Usually, classes and teachers offer some description of their style. Take time to research in advance.

Remember to communicate with your teacher. Their insights and modifications can help transform your practice into a more rewarding one for you. Remember, your practice is a collaboration between you and your teacher. If a class isn’t meeting your needs, ask the instructor to recommend modifications or a more suitable class.

“Know Thyself”

Take your time to explore and give yourself permission to not be perfect. At the heart of yoga lies self-awareness. Tune into your body, mind and heart before, during, and after class. Pace yourself and take breaks to reconnect with your breath. If you leave a session feeling looser, stronger, and less stressed, you're on the right path. Yoga should relieve, not exacerbate, stress. If you experience discomfort during class, play it safe, take a break, slow it down or modify.

The Guru Within

While teachers provide guidance, remember that you're the true guru of your practice. Your body's responses and experiences hold the key to your journey. A teacher's wisdom complements your own experiences, but only you can understand how the practice affects you.

The word yoga means “to yoke” or to bring your mind, body and heart into unison. Learn to listen to your body. Yoga should be a source of well-being, not pain. If you're feeling discomfort during or after class, it's time to reevaluate. Be honest with yourself – your practice is an opportunity for growth, not a battle with your body. Use props or slow your pace if needed to allow you to focus more on your breathing, and if you are still not doing well consider trying a different style.

Embracing Change

As life evolves, so does your yoga practice. Your needs and preferences may change over time. It's perfectly acceptable to transition from one style to another as you grow and learn more about yourself.

In the realm of yoga, finding the right practice is a journey that evolves as you do. Just as a field of wildflowers offers a range of colors and fragrances, the world of yoga provides an array of styles, approaches, and teachers to explore. Online and in person, classes, private lessons and self-study are all valid approaches. Trust yourself as you navigate this landscape, let the practice of yoga guide you toward a brighter, healthier future.

Where to Go from Here

If you still have questions, I would be happy to assist you in choosing a path or finding a teacher. I offer a free Community Chair Yoga Class on Fridays at 10:30 a.m. in Stuart and teach private lessons.

Your Input Matters

Do you have a question related to Mindfulness, Movement and Breathing? Or is there a particular topic you would like to see in the Column? Please, send questions and requests to

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

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Boating Accidents?

Many people in Florida assume that if they get in an accident on their boat, they’ll be covered by their homeowner’s insurance. But homeowner’s coverage is often very limited, and it is not likely to include coverage for liability.

If you own a boat or if you enjoy outings in boats owned by others, you need to understand the realities of insurance and how to protect yourself in case of accidents.

Every Policy is Unique

To know what is covered by homeowner’s insurance, you need to read the details of the policy coverage, and you may need an expert to translate the language into terms that make sense to someone who does not work with insurance policies on a regular basis. If you own a boat, you can ask your insurance agent specifically what is covered. Often a homeowner’s policy might pay for damage that occurs to the boat while it is sitting on a trailer on your property. It might cover damage while your boat is docked at your property. It may not cover damage that occurs while you are out on the water, and it may not cover your liability for any injuries that occur while you are using the boat.

If you are injured by someone else in a boating accident, your personal injury lawyer should check to see what coverage is available to provide for your medical bills, pain, and other losses.

Liability Insurance is Crucial

Insurance generally covers two types of claims. There are damage claims when your boat or other property suffers damage, such as storm damage or vandalism. And there are liability claims when you or someone using your boat causes injuries to others. If you are found to be responsible for the injuries to others, then liability coverage could cover those costs. If you don’t have liability coverage, then those injured in the accident would seek recovery from your personal assets.

Everyone who owns a boat should ensure that they have liability coverage to cover accidents on the water. You don’t want to lose your house or your life savings due to a boating accident.

Boat Insurance is Not Required in Florida

Despite the popularity of boating for residents and tourists in Florida, our state does not require any type of insurance for boats used recreationally. That puts the burden on you, if you are a boat owner, to either ensure that your homeowners policy covers accidents with your boat, which it likely does not, or to buy additional insurance that will cover boat accidents.

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


A Bad Precedent

Under Chair Ed Ciampi, the BOCC set a very bad precedent at the August 8, 2023, meeting.

About 150 residents of Palm City, organized with some assistance by Ciampi, were there to protest a “by right” development which they found unacceptable. Many reasons were articulated during the public comment section.  “It’s too close to the road." “It’s too close to schools." “It would add to the traffic problem." 

The reason that was voiced by many speakers was “I moved here to escape the congestion of Boca, Lauderdale, Miami, NY." Several other places were named. At least two speakers said they had moved to Danforth three years ago to find peace and serenity.

The developer, who has every right by law to build this project but sensing the public’s ire, offered a compromise. He suggested that the county could purchase the parcel for $4 million. Chair Ciampi has decided to do just that. 

Though no public use was designated for the property, using it for a park seemed preferred. Martin County currently has 72 parks plus acres of conservation land not counting the recently 1000 acres plus in Newfield in Palm City.

We applaud citizens for attending a public meeting to voice their concerns. We understand that some may believe this is not the appropriate place for that development for reasons we will explore. However, one statement that brought this home to MCTA was made by Commissioner Heard when she suggested that this is a regulatory problem.

In our opinion, the two reasons that so many found this project objectionable were the density (90 units) and how, because of the CRA code, the building needed to be close to the sidewalk. The latter requirement is because of what CRAs are supposed to be. They are meant to be in a much more urban setting. This clearly is not that. The allowable density is also more attuned to a downtown setting.

Chair Ciampi went through the explanation of how the entire section where the property is located was added to the Old Palm City CRA. We are assuming he gave all correct information including adding the shopping center that was built to house the now defunct Stuart Fine Foods. That should have never been why the CRA boundary was adjusted by current and past commissioners which has now resulted in this property being given the zoning and property rights it has.

In most instances, it is the developer that is asking for something, but in this case, he needs nothing because of the CRA status. The property allows 90 units to be built and dictates that it be done in a manner more fitting for Mapp Road than Martin Highway.

Now Commissioner Ciampi has proposed that the taxpayers (though at this point it could be the ones that are in the Palm City CRA only) bail out the mistakes of the commission. That is why Sarah Heard’s statement regarding a regulatory problem is so on the mark.

No matter how the deal for the county to buy this property is structured, MCTA cannot support it. There is something seriously wrong with using limited tax money to appease the few over the many. We wonder if anyone was at the recent budget hearings...including the commissioners. 

Where were they when the budget was being arduously scrutinized?  Every item was sliced by some amount. The BOCC agonized to keep the increase in ad valorum taxes to a palatable 2.46%. They postponed capital improvement projects, including those for parks and now want to add another that will be inadequately maintained if current practices are followed.

Now the same commission is arguing to borrow up to $4 million to buy 6 acres of land because their administrative decisions resulted in angering some residents and voters. This property, if built as currently designed would add in our estimation about $150,000 to Martin County’s tax rolls not to mention the increased utility and impact fees. If the county buys the property, then nothing will be collected.

It was also mentioned that ad valorum tax collection would increase by $21 million next year. $16 million additionally will go to the Sheriff over this year. Millions more will go to Fire/Rescue. Those two departments alone will consume much more than any increase in revenue from this year to next. That is why there were so many cuts to the budgets of other departments.

To cast this as a growth problem is also not correct. The county has, in fact, only grown by less than 2% per year. If we continue to buy land to take off the tax rolls, few of the protestors in that room will be able to afford the increased taxes they will incur to live here. Perhaps the county could give the developer some incentive to change the project such as setting it back from the street so it would be more palatable to the neighbors.  

Before the county buys the property under Florida Statute 125.355(b), there will need to be two appraisals according to County Attorney Sarah Woods. The two appraisals will be averaged to come to a value the county should pay. If the value is less that the $4 million price suggested by the developer (and we assume it will be), then the county will need a super majority vote for the purchase.

Like Pandora’s Box, this precedent will be mind boggling. There are several projects which will have just as many protesting residents in the commission chambers. Projects that are much more expensive to buy. Are we going to mortgage our futures each time?

Mr. Ciampi said he will be using his district MSTU and the Palm City CRA funds to pay for the bank loan for this purchase. He will need a short-term loan from the county’s reserves. If there is a hurricane, then the county may not have the liquid funds necessary for the clean-up and rebuilding. Once again, this use while legal is not the purpose of CRA taxes. Those funds should be used to construct and maintain the needed infrastructure in the district.

A 1/2 cent sales tax was brought up during discussion by Commissioner Smith. A group of citizens had been urging a sales tax to buy sensitive conservation lands in Pal Mar, IRL South, and other areas. Those are lands that currently are paying little or no taxes and most of which cannot be developed. Commissioners Smith and Ciampi wanted to include property like this also.

MCTA has just begun analyzing what this sales tax could accomplish and whether we believe it is in the Martin County taxpayers’ interest. We have already concluded that if the commission includes the buying of non-sensitive lands that will be used to take property off the tax rolls to appease a few constituents, then we could not support it.

A ½ cent sales tax would bring in $18.3 million per year. To use any amount of it to solve a political problem is not in the interest of the taxpayer. Tallahassee has already pre-empted the commission in many aspects. It seems that for the sake of the taxpaying public more preemption may be necessary.  

Hope in Our Community 2

Rob Ranieri
House of Hope, CEO

Editorial Note: House of Hope is competing for an award so I thought I would let Rob take a moment and give it a plug.


House of Hope achieved an incredible score of 99% from Charity Navigator, a national organization that spotlights charities that resonate with people’s passions and make a difference in their communities. The 4-Star award puts House of Hope in the running for a Community Choice Award. We are one of only 60 nonprofits of a similar size across the nation to earn this opportunity.

So please vote! It’s not just for bragging rights. It’s a chance to make House of Hope better known and connect us with potential new donors who are inspired by our mission. That translates directly into more services for more of our friends and neighbors in need. And reaching this kind of recognition nationwide will keep us at the top of our game.

Voting is now open now. Go to the House of Hope website at to cast your vote.

Voting runs through August 27. The top three vote-earning charities in each category will advance to the next round of voting between August 30 and September 8, with winners announced on September 27. Please share this information and encourage your family and friends to vote.

Charity Navigator evaluates nonprofit organizations for Impact & Results, Accountability & Finance, Leadership & Adaptability, and Culture & Community. House of Hope’s rating at 99% is the highest score that House of Hope has ever received.

The whole community can be proud of what our organization has achieved. It takes a lot of dedication and perseverance to score so well.  The evaluation is a tremendous validation for our staff, volunteers, supporters, donors, and partners who help us to empower residents to overcome hunger and hardship.

Our thanks go out to our community for the wonderful support. To learn more about House of Hope please visit our website at

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

Commentary On A New Bridge Schedule

By Dan Romence

President Of Indiantown Marine Center

Upon receiving the latest U.S. Coast Guard test schedule for the St. Lucie rail bridge clarifying when boaters can navigate the Okeechobee Waterway amid Brightline’s passenger-rail expansion, two words rushed to mind….

“Thank you.” (Did you expect a different word pairing?)

Quite honestly, that gratitude goes out to you—members of the community—for your outpouring of input in response to our request that you flood the USCG’s database for public comment. Nearly 400 of you weighed in. That’s especially notable considering you were asked to opine on the proposed test schedule that was never actually enacted because upon its release Brightline immediately objected and refused to participate.

Please continue to raise your voice as the public comment was reopened—just as together we requested—till Oct. 15.

When it comes to the latest schedule, there is much to appreciate, more to fight for and a parallel initiative—which will shape the foreseeable future and beyond for safe, unobstructed navigation of the waterway—that we must prioritize.

What’s right with the schedule

The recently announced schedule—which went into effect this week—requires the bridge to remain open at least 50 percent of the time from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Boaters gain the benefit of reliability thanks to a provision that the bridge stay in the open position during fixed 15-minute intervals. Those include:

  • Monday through Friday: 8:55 a.m. to 9:10 a.m.
  • Saturdays and Sundays: 8:55 a.m. to 9:10 a.m., 9:55 a.m. to 10:10 a.m., 12:55 a.m. to 1:10 p.m. and 4:55 p.m. to 5:10 p.m.

Even when closures are deemed necessary for repairs, the bridge cannot remain in the downward position for more than 50 minutes per hour. There’s also a 24-hour number (772-403-1005) as well as VHF channels 9 and 16 to receive updated bridge information.

What’s missing from the schedule

A feature in the previous proposal that we’d like to see reintegrated here include a bridgetender onsite 24/7.

What will work best for the long-term

We also believe a new bridge is vital. We’re realistic, however, about the timeline (eight to 10 years), the cost (very pricey) and the political challenges (thorny to say the least).

The current rail bridge has its share of shortcomings: Mere 6-foot clearance; insufficient 40-foot width of passage; nearly 20-minute timeframe to fully reach the upright position. And yet, it’s accommodated maritime, motorist and rail travel adequately for nearly 100 years.

Then Brightline proposed passenger rail expansion.

This simple fact makes it vital that the next bridge meets both our modern-day and future needs.

Previously, Brightline performed an engineering study supporting a new, doubletracked bridge with higher vertical and horizontal clearance to accommodate a larger percentage of boats. Yet most of the marine businesses west of the tracks serve vessels with widths and masts that command even greater clearance.

Building a rail bridge with the necessary elevations would prove impossible for freight trains to climb. What would work, however, is a fixed span dedicated exclusively to passenger rail. At a height of 54 feet (below the 65-foot-high Roosevelt Bridge) it would accommodate all anticipated marine traffic without functioning as a draw bridge.

This moment presents a once-in-a-century opportunity to engineer and construct the span that will fully serve all our community’s interests for another 100 years. Now is the time to stand together, speak with one voice, and recognize that settling for anything less is a bridge too far.

Dan Romence’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Constitutional Corner & Non Profit Notices


Supervisor of Elections



Property Appraiser


Other Government Notices



Martin County

Non Profit Notices


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.”




Stuart, FL. – Alexander Haigh is the owner of The Haigh Group at eXp Realty. He has been a broker for 20 years selling homes from Fort Pierce to the Palm Beaches as well as land and commercial properties on the Treasure Coast of Florida. His properties range from $165K to $3.7M.

This ARC of the Treasure Coast Board Member, now in his second term, announced that he plans to donate 10% of his commissions to ARC of the Treasure Coast when anyone mentions ARC to him at the listing presentation.

“Since becoming a board member with ARC, I have witnessed firsthand the enormous need of this organization that helps so many children and adults with disabilities,” said Haigh. “I am blessed in my life and I’m grateful to be able to give back in some way.”

With inflation touching all of us, especially non-profits, this donation is a substantial gift in these difficult financial times. As we know, the miracle of giving has a ripple effect and one small gesture can benefit hundreds.

Keith Muniz, President, and CEO of the ARC of the Treasure Coast, is floored by Haigh’s gesture of generosity.

“Alex has been a friend to ARC of the Treasure Coast and has served on our board providing good advice and business counsel,” said Muniz. “We are grateful to him and others who continue to support our efforts.”

To find out how you can help ARC of the Treasure Coast, please visit


Nominations now open for Martin County’s highly anticipated annual business awards

STUART— Impressed by a local employer? Inspired by a top entrepreneur? Moved by the mission of a nonprofit? Then shine the spotlight on their efforts by nominating them for the 2023 Martin County Business Awards.

But hurry! The nomination period closes Sept. 1.

Taking place Dec. 9, the prestigious and highly anticipated 2023 Martin County Business Awards—sponsored by Bank of America—has recognized local job creators, innovators, and change makers in Martin County for more than 20 years.

The Business Development Board of Martin County organizes and oversees the annual awards event. Nominations are accepted at

“Each year we aim to create an incredible celebration of the people who power our economy,” says Joan Goodrich, executive director of the BDB. “The consistent caliber of our winners is due first and foremost to the depth of leadership and talent across Martin County’s business sector and the excellent nominations sent in by the public.”

In recognizing the best of Martin County businesses, their innovations, entrepreneurism, leadership, impact, and economic contributions to the community, the Martin County’s Business Awards event is widely recognized among the most esteemed local honors in business achievement and economic excellence.

Sold out for three years in a row, the 2022 event at Hutchinson Shores Resort and Spa attracted more than 60 nominators in a total of nine categories, including:

·       Business of the Year

·       Company to Watch

·       Headquarters of the Year

·       Newcomer of the Year

·       Non-profit of the Year

·       Entrepreneur of the Year

·       Youth Entrepreneur of the Year

·       Charlene Hoag Leadership Award

What: 2023 Martin County Business Awards presented by Bank of America Ceremony and Luncheon

When: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Dec. 9

Where: Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa, 3793 N.E. Ocean Blvd., Jensen Beach

For sponsorship opportunities, please visit or contact 772-221-1380.

About the Business Development Board of Martin County

Strengthening and championing Martin County’s economy is the Business Development Board’s primary mission. Organized as a 501(c)6 not-for-profit public-private partnership, the BDB provides confidential, complimentary, professional services to job creators, investors and their representatives with designs to launch and grow in Martin County.  Touting Martin County is open for business; fostering leading industries and good jobs; growing our own businesses, entrepreneurs and talent; and promoting strategic economic development areas are regular activities we’re engaged in with the support of our executive leaders, investors and partners.  To learn more, call 772.221.1380, visit or follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn.  



Tis the Season! Martin Artisans Guild is Ready!

By Jackie Holfelder

“The Season” is right around the corner and Martin Artisans Guild is gearing up for its Fall into Art exhibit, which runs from September 6-October 28.

The not-to-be-missed opening night soiree takes place from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on September 6 at the Palm Room Art Gallery & Artisans Boutique.  As always, you can expect fabulous new artwork from Guild members as well as live music, delish nibbles and a cash bar.

Jane Baldridge

Currently, 13 Martin Artisans Guild members have signed up to exhibit. They are:

·        Caryl Pomales

·        Dominique Italiano

·        Doreen E. Lepore

·        Dot Galfond

·        Glen Allen

·        James J. DeMartis

·        Jane Lawton Baldridge

·        Kim Beltrame

·        Linda Reymore

·        Lynn Morgan

·        Mallo Bisset

·        Michaelann Bellerjeau

·        Mickey Rudolph

The always delightful and well-attended Meet the Artists evening will take place at the Palm Room on October 4 from 4-6 p.m.

Running concurrently with Fall into Art will be the annual fundraiser, Chances for Art, which raises funds for artists needing scholarships to take part in the Martin County Open Studio Tour (MCOST).


Artists who are Guild members each donate a specific work of art to be raffled at Chances for Art. Raffle tickets are $20 each and available both at the Palm Room and on the website at

Donated works can be seen at both the gallery and online. A drawing for winners will take place October 28 and winners will be announced online.

The Palm Room Art Gallery & Artisans Boutique is located in Harbour Bay Plaza, 3746 SE Ocean Blvd. Stuart. Gallery hours are noon-6 p.m., Tuesdays-Saturdays.


Photos provided by Martin Artisans Guild


House of Hope Earns 4 Stars from Charity Navigator

STUART, Fla. – House of Hope achieved an incredible score of 99% from Charity Navigator, a national organization that spotlights charities that resonate with people’s passions and make a difference in their communities.

Charity Navigator evaluates nonprofit organizations for Impact & Results, Accountability & Finance, Leadership & Adaptability, and Culture & Community. House of Hope’s rating at 99% is the highest score that House of Hope has ever received.

“The whole community can be proud of what our organization has achieved,” House of Hope CEO Rob Ranieri said. “It takes a lot of dedication and perseverance to score so well.  The evaluation is a tremendous validation for our staff, volunteers, supporters, donors, and partners.”

The 4-Star award puts House of Hope in the running for a Community Choice Award in one of four size-based categories. House of Hope is in the category of large-sized organizations. It is one of only 60 nonprofits of a similar size across the nation to earn this opportunity.

Individuals across the country are able to vote beginning on August 17, National Nonprofit Date. Voting runs through August 27. The top three vote-earning charities in each category will advance to the next round of voting between August 30 and September 8, with winners announced on September 27.

“So please vote!” Ranieri urged. “It’s not just for bragging rights. It’s a chance to make House of Hope better known and connect us with potential new donors who are inspired by our mission. That translates directly into more services for more of our friends and neighbors in need. And reaching this kind of recognition nationwide will keep us at the top of our game.”

Voting is now open now. Go to the House of Hope website at to cast your vote.

About House of Hope

Founded in 1984, House of Hope is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers Martin County residents to overcome hunger and hardship. House of Hope touches the lives of more than 7,000 people each month helping with basic needs such as food, clothing, furniture, financial assistance, as well as longer-term case management services that help build life skills for a more self-sufficient future. The organization has service centers in Stuart, Hobe Sound, Indiantown, and Jensen Beach, and Thrift Shops in South Stuart, Hobe Sound and Indiantown. House of Hope’s Enrichment Centers in Stuart, Jensen Beach and Indiantown offer free programs, technology, and workshops designed to enhance life skills, earning potential, health, and overall well-being. House of Hope also operates the Growing Hope Farm in Palm City and several nutrition gardens that provide sustainable sources of fresh produce for clients as well as nutrition education and vocational opportunities to the community. For more information, visit or call 772-286-4673. Updates and announcements can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

About Charity Navigator

Founded in 2002, Charity Navigator is a 501(c)(3) organization that guides intelligent giving with the nation's largest, most comprehensive charity evaluation tool. The organization helps donors easily identify U.S.-registered charities making a difference on the issues they care about most while helping charities better understand their donors, deliver on impact, and increase awareness and funding. Learn more at


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.

John Donnelly

What's with the Roosevelt Bridge?

Ever since our bridge broke 2-3 years ago I've noticed the  underside of the north landing of the bridge has been fenced off and a scaffolding there leading up to a couple of scuttle holes in the bottom of the bridge. There are frequently workers up inside the bridge I assume, because there are vehicles parked there frequently.

I'm curious because I frequent the under-pass there and I've noticed what appears to be patches throughout the bridge. Patches of various shapes and sizes in all different locations throughout whats visible from standing underneath.     

Are there still structural repairs being made on the bridge? Are those actual patches throughout the bridge? If those are patches, how do those patches affect the integrity of the bridge?

I'm asking because I figure if anyone knows or can find out, you can Tom.

Thank you for Friends and Neighbors!!! 

I then wrote to Jim Gorton, Martin County Public Works Director:


I hope all is well.

I had a reader write and ask a question regarding the Roosevelt Bridge. I was wondering if you can shed any light. I know it is FDOT in control but just wondering if you could share any light as to his question as Martin's Public Works person.


His answer:


I have reached out to FDOT to get clarification about the specific repairs in question.  Publicly maintained bridges are inspected every other year in Martin County, and concrete spalls are one of the most common findings in the resultant reports from the structural engineers.  The repairs that the reader described sounds like spall repairs, but I will take a look myself and get FDOT confirmation as well. Spall repairs are important because the reinforcing steel in the bridge can be exposed and degrade if the spall is not repaired in a timely manner.      

When is your deadline for publication so I can make sure to get you a formal response in advance of that?

Jim Gorton

The answer to the question:

Good morning Tom-

Please find below the response from FDOT regarding the repairs to the Roosevelt bridge that reader inquired about.  He confirmed that the referenced repairs are spall repairs.   I copied Kris on this email, who is the Operations Engineer for FDOT Treasure Coast and is a great resource for all things FDOT in our area.  Please let me know if you have further questions in this regard. 

Jim Gorton

Public Works Director


The Department’s response is below. Will you be sending this over to his attention so that you close your loop, or should I just send it over?

Hello Mr. Campenni,

Thanks for your email and questions about the Roosevelt Bridge. The bridge is structurally sound and there is no need for concern. When the repairs were completed three years ago (2020) we installed an acoustic monitoring system inside the bridge to monitor the structure and confirm the repairs. The acoustic system monitors the bridge continuously. Our maintenance crews visit the bridge often to service the system and to ensure all is in good order. This includes regular preventive maintenance and cosmetic fixes to minor concrete spalling (patches). The cosmetic repairs have no effect on the structural integrity of the bridge, and the bridge is approved for vehicle traffic of all legal weights. The scaffolding you see at the base of the bridge is just to facilitate access to the inside of the bridge for inspections, maintenance, and servicing the acoustic system. The fencing is there just to protect our equipment and to prevent unauthorized access. Public safety is the Florida Department of Transportation’s top priority and I hope this satisfies your concerns. Please feel free to call us at your convenience if you have additional questions.

Thank you,

Kris Kehres, PE, CPM

Operations Engineer

If you have a question let me know and I will see if we can have it answered.



Daniel Grant

I read your news but now that you criticize Ciampi’s plan to purchase that lot in Palm City I don’t think I can any more. The majority of people in Martin County, especially Palm City, are anti-development. We have a nice community that hasn’t been bastardized by gross overdevelopment. Green space is what makes this area unique, and a nice place for families.  Stop trying to change that. If you want more development, perhaps you’d be happier further south. 


Jennifer Dotson

On June 20, 2023, the community of New Monrovia and Port Salerno spoke out against the assessment being voted on by the Martin County Board of Commissioners that would create a significant financial burden on the community.  During that meeting, the public was able to delay the vote for 60 days for the BOCC to try and uncover additional funding to help ease the burden.  I am pleased to announce that after the 60-day delay, the project has received a boost with the acquisition of an additional $2,000,000 in grant funding from the FDEP as an amendment to the existing $8,000,000 Grant for a total of $10,000,000. This achievement has led to a reduction in assessable costs to property owners, showcasing the county's dedication to balancing environmental enhancement with responsible financial management.

Originally, property owners were facing assessable costs of $11,924 as a lump sum payment or $749.17 per year. Thanks to the successful efforts of the Martin County Staff and the community involvement, this burden has been reduced to $9,877 as a lump sum or $620.56 per year. This remarkable achievement not only eases the financial impact on the community but also underscores the county's tireless pursuit of avenues to improve water quality while ensuring the well-being of its residents.

One of the key highlights of this funding endeavor is the uncovering of an additional $200,000,000 Water Quality Improvement grant from Protecting Florida Together. The Martin County Staff engaged in a productive conference call with Mrs. Angela Knecht, Director of the FDEP Water Restoration Assistance Program, along with her esteemed team, according to Phil Keathley, Chief Project Manager. The insights and outcomes of this dialogue will be presented in detail at the upcoming Martin County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) Public Hearing, scheduled for August 8, 2023 at 9am. The anticipation surrounding the results of this meeting is palpable as stakeholders eagerly await news on whether the application for further funding has been submitted.

"The dedication and perseverance exhibited by the Martin County Staff and community leaders, in securing the additional grant and exploring avenues for additional funding exemplify our commitment to the well-being of our community and the preservation of our natural resources," stated Jennifer Dotson Cody Kemp, land owner and community activist. "While the goal was an additional $5,000,000 in funding, we hope the Protecting Florida Together grant will give us an opportunity to get there.  We eagerly anticipate the insights to be shared at the upcoming BOCC Public Hearing and look forward to continued effort to get additional funding."

This achievement is a testament to community involvement and Martin County's BOCC willingness to listen and collaborate. By harnessing the power of partnerships and diligently seeking funding opportunities, the county is taking meaningful strides toward a cleaner and more sustainable future while preserving the legacy of founding members of our community.


Richard Hoffman

Love your new format. It is clean and easy to read.

Let us not forget the content, thought provoking as always.


Martin County


Commissioner Ciampi called the meeting to order…and public comment took up the morning.

Most of the comments were in reference to a “By Right” project on Martin Highway by JAMSZ Properties Inc. “By Right” means that the proposed project meets everything necessary to proceed as defined by the applicable codes and needs no permission from the commission to do so. However, it still comes before the commission because it is a major site plan. They just cannot vote no without a lawsuit ensuing and the developer winning.

This parcel is in the Old Palm City CRA. Since it is within a CRA, the applicable codes are different than in other parts of unincorporated Martin County. And there are reasons why actions have unintended consequences.

There were approximately 150 people in the chamber and standing room only in the hallway. The main complaint was that the project was too dense for the location. Most complained about increased traffic, the project being built too close to the street (a requirement under the CRA) and all the complaints that a new project generally has.

Commissioner Ciampi gave a brief history lesson describing why this parcel is located within Old Palm City CRA. According to him and I have no reason to doubt it, the CRA was expanded to build the former Stuart Fine Foods Supermarket. It was based on bringing jobs. Why other methods such as zoning waivers and variances were not used was never explained.

A parcel cannot just be carved out and somehow connected to an existing CRA. All the parcels from Mapp Road through this one in question were designated for intense development because they were within the CRA. Oops!

A CRA is supposed to be created or expanded in a more urban setting. Mapp Road is a perfect example. Martin Highway is not. It is a suburban area. Ciampi even said that if it were town homes, there would not be the opposition that this created.

Commissioner Heard called it a regulatory problem…and she is right. Though I disagree with Heard on development matters because of the need for more housing, this would be an example of a situation needing a regulatory solution. Ciampi and the rest of the commission have concluded that the solution is to buy the property, so it won’t be developed.

Ciampi mentioned a letter from the developer who is ready to sell for a net $4 million. Ciampi explained that JAMSZ paid $2.1 million and probably has at least another $500,000 in the project. The offer letter is attached here 

Ciampi wants to use a bank loan financed by CRA funding and his district MSTU to service the debt. Over the short term, he will need to borrow the money from the county’s reserve fund to close the deal. This is the money that would be used after a hurricane to perform restoration and clean up.

Commissioners brought up the many projects that are in the pipeline that also have opposition. Is the solution to buy those owners out too? Apparently yes because, except for Heard, they all went along with this idea of spending tax dollars to appease constituents who are unhappy with a land development code and zoning that the commission passed.

Commissioner Smith raised the possibility of piggy backing on the idea of a ½ cent sales tax to fund more of these type purchases in the future. There was a group of citizens who were exploring the idea of instituting a ½ cent sales tax to buy land in places like Pal Mar. If they add the idea of buying productive development parcels to appease constituents who are unhappy, the proposal will have fewer supporters.

The Board authorized staff to negotiate and sign a purchase and sale agreement contingent upon Board approval at a future meeting, approved obtaining two appraisals of the property that are needed under state law to determine the purchase price, and authorized staff to return with funding options.

Believe it or not, after shooting down the building of housing, the commission then had an update on affordable housing. It is almost laughable to waste any time on this item with a commission that can spend $4 million to take land out of housing production. There is less than $2 million in State dollars coming to Martin County to help with rental and ownership possibilities for low-income residents. Hypocrisy at its finest wrapped up in democracy.

You can see the presentation here 

Tom Lanahan from the Treasure Coast Planning Council gave a presentation on the Live Local Act. You can see that presentation here 

The commission decided not to go ahead with the New Monrovia/Port Salerno septic to low gravity sewer project. Staff had found $14 million in grant and government funding. The entire amount to build the project would be $24 million. That would leave a little less than $10 million to be paid by the property owners or $9,837 per ERU.

The last two septic to sewer projects were in Golden Gate and North River Shores. Golden Gate which can also be categorized as a poorer part of the county was charged about $2,000 more because of the available grants at the time. North River Shores a more upscale neighborhood also paid close to $12,000 for their hook up.

This neighborhood also came out complaining that it was too expensive. Individual parcel owners could pay it off at $620 per year for 20 years. The board had already postponed deciding earlier this year. The contractor had extended the time to accept his bid.

Commissioner Heard could have used her district funds to buy down the amount New Monrovia/Port Slaerno paid. That is a good use of the funds as opposed to the Palm City hypocracy with Ciampi's expenditure. She didn't and that is a question her constiuents should be asking.  

The commission decided to search for new grants to see if the cost would come down. Staff stated that the $100 million IRL state money from the DEP required mandatory hook up within 12 months. That is something the commission did not want to do. You can see the presentation here 



As I watched the last county commission meeting, all I could think of was the word hypocrisy.

I listened as all five commissioners refused to go ahead with a septic-to-sewer project in Port Salerno/New Monrovia that they deemed too expensive because the residents complained. The commissioners and residents of Martin County are all supposed to be huge supporters of cleaning the lagoon and our waterways. There is even a study by Harbor Branch that the commission wanted, which showed the septic systems of that area contributing high volumes of nitrogen and phosphorus to the Indian River Lagoon.

Grants that staff had already obtained were going to pay more than half of the cost. Now on the commission’s instructions the grants will be returned if more money is not somehow found quickly. If the funds are returned, the money will go elsewhere in the state. Does that make sense?

Martin County’s policy is to design the appropriate system for the area, obtain prices, and then go for grants and other ways to pay. The remainder of the money needed for the project is derived by dividing the unfunded costs by the number of ERC (Equivalent Residential Connections), usually one per homeowner parcel and then bill the parcels benefiting from the improvement.

In some places like Golden Gate, it was about $12,000. Here it would be a little less than $10,000. I think it is a fair system. And the property owners can pay it off over 20 years. The state also has a program to assist low-income residents.

The governor is supposedly giving $100 million per year for five years to the five counties of the Indian River Lagoon. The first-year closes on August 31, 2023. However, the hook up must occur within one year. The county’s current policy does not require it.

But true chutzpa only was achieved when the commission voted to spend $4 million to buy a piece of property in Palm City to stop an “As Right” development from occurring. The reason this development could go forward is because the commission had added parcels into the Palm City CRA years ago that should never have been incorporated.

Because of their poor decision, a property owner relied on the rules they laid down to invest in the parcel. The owner, sensing the mood of the community against him and seeking a quick profit, is willing to sell the land to the county for $4 million net of closing expenses. The commission is going along.

At the same meeting they discussed housing where only about $2 million of state money will be available to help homeowners afford repairs and rental subsidies. They acknowledged the problem without one of them thinking perhaps a better use to spending $4 million to stop housing would be to give the money for those needing assistance.

It looks like the silly season of election is upon us even though we are a year away. Expect to see more pandering. Leadership in Martin County, and in the country in general, has devolved into being an artful follower of the mob.

The only thing that will save local government (county and municipal) is by limiting local politicians through term limits. If the benefits are taken away and the pay is reduced substantially, there will likely be citizens who serve a term or at most two for the good of the community instead of themselves. Eight years is enough for Florida state officials and enough for the United States president. But in local government, decades go by in office and decades will never be enough for most of them.    

City of Stuart


Stuart’s projected revenues for 2023/24 are $94,349,586.

By cutting some capital improvements and eliminating the COLA for nonunion employees the city manager kept expenditures to that amount. While the union contracts for fire and police are not yet finished, it seems the manager is confident that these will be the final numbers.

The tentative millage rate is 5.25, which is up from 5.0 where it had been for several years. The additional millage generates $760,000 more per year. $112,000 must be transferred to the CRA fund by law, leaving $674,000 for general fund expenses.

This is reflected as reserve funding and capital sinking. This leaves certain capital and operating reductions in place plus cuts to the COLA for the nonunion employees.


The average home taxable value after exemptions in the city is $247,743. With the increase of .25, taxes for the average home will go up by $61.94.

It should be noted that by not providing the COLA increase to the non-union employees but providing it to the uniformed services, a message is being sent about how the city values the non-union workforce. What if they join the Teamsters and then not only get their raise, but also other working conditions become subject to collective bargaining? Not a very smart move by the city manager and commission.

As a city taxpayer, I know I could accept a little tax increase to make sure our lower paid employees at least keep up with inflation. How about a little sacrifice by the commission with their $23,000 salaries plus benefits. If nothing else, it would show solidarity with their employees who they can’t wait to give praise to at each meeting then stiff in their pay envelope.

The presentation can be found here 


The 50th annual Stuart Boat Show asked for street closings once again this year.

They would like the closing of Dixie Highway from Poinsettia Street to just south of the bridge. It will be from January 9th to January 15th. The show itself will be located north of the bridge.

Last year the show went off with minimal traffic disruptions. For many years it was a nightmare for residents when roads like Federal Highway were backed up because of the show. Many more off duty police officers were hired to ensure the smooth flow of traffic and the organizers are doing the same thing this year.

If it works as well as it did last year, then the boat show will be a welcomed event for years to come in Stuart.

Martin County School Board


The board passed 20 policy changes at this meeting.

It seemed each one of them was in reaction to a state law that gave the board no choice but to change policy. I am sure the majority of the board is in agreement with most of the policies that Tallahassee has required. So, implementing their orders is as if they were implementing their own.

The changes approved yesterday will allow for advertising so that people will know about the changes and be able to give their thoughts before they come up for a vote at a school board meeting. But if you disagree…then what. They will be made because it is state law.


Which makes me draw a couple of conclusions. The first being why do we have a school board anymore? It seems Tallahassee has really taken away most educational decisions from them. The board is more of a pass through than a decision-making body. Keeping them is an expensive exercise in what was once a necessary body.

The second was even more startling to me. The legislature and the DeSantis administration have pushed and succeeded in making “school choice” open for every student. But much of the curriculum is still controlled in Tallahassee. Then what is the point? It is still one size that fits all approach that negates much of what would make selecting a school so important.

Dictatorial mandates, even if many people agree with the mandates, are still not education by choice. It is far from the libertarian principles that DeSantis had been pushing for Florida with his “Free State” symbolism. Those who agree on today’s policies can find themselves on the other side in the future.


Believing in choice means more than choosing at which physical location your child is schooled. It means allowing the curriculum to be chosen by the school, parents, and teachers including subjects that some outside the school may find irrelevant and even offensive. That is the point of choice, isn’t it?

Again, during public comment there was a fair share of pros and cons regarding books and what should and shouldn’t be allowed. Someone was proud that the district had removed Jaycee Dugard’s autobiography from the high schools’ libraries.

She was an 11-year-old middle school student who was abducted at her bus stop and held as a prisoner by a couple for the next 18 years. While in captivity Dugard was repeatedly raped by her captors and had two children, the first at 14. She prepared for her daughter’s birth by watching television programs. No one can say it wasn’t horrific.

Yet the book about a girl abducted from middle school and repeatedly raped over the next 18 years was removed because it was too graphic. To me it sends a powerful message about human trafficking more effectively than any movie or brochure could ever do. But those are my thoughts.

I also understand that some parents would want to keep their high school adolescent away from the sex contained in the book. That would be their choice while mine would be different. The word “choice” keeps coming up except there really is no choice.

I guess a parent could buy the book and have their child read it. But let’s not say it is a choice when a book can be removed from all to read because of an objection of the many or the few.

There has been a proliferation of children in middle school and high school leaving to pursue classes and activities such as dance or sports throughout the day. It has become so common that the district has no idea where the kids are. Last year it cost the district $2 million in lost funding because of absences.

Mr. Maine has begun cracking down on what are not legitimate reasons for the breaks. Parents can still request them, but the rules will be followed. That seems reasonable.

It is ironic that the district is spending millions on security to protect students and they can be gone for several periods in the middle of the day roaming around. Last year, as many as 200 middle school students were pursuing some form of what are called “off blocks.”

Town of Sewalls Point


The Memorandum of Understanding with the county over the proposed South Sewall’s Point drainage and water main replacement was on the consent agenda. It was pulled for discussion.

The agreement was proposed by the county and described which parties were responsible for what. Town Manager Daniels inserted a 20% fee for the town since they would be the ones supervising including the county’s portion of the work. It will be interesting if the county agrees to the fee. You can find the agreement here

The commission then passed 3 ordinances regarding building heights and floor elevations on second reading. At the first reading of the ordinances, the commission agreed to raise building heights from 27 feet to 32 feet. The purpose is to provide for roof pitches that will allow rainwater to flow off without having the 2nd floor have ceilings that are low.

Both Commissioners Fender and Mayfield didn’t think it was enough time for people to be aware of the change. Though, like everything else, it is an advertised meeting.

It passed 3-2 on first reading at an earlier meeting. The maximum height was then dropped to 30 feet at this reading and Mayfield could go along with it. It passed 4-1 with Fender voting no. For comparison, the City of Stuart is 35 feet for a single-family residence. You can find a summary of the changes here 

The town manager had his first year’s performance review by the commission, and his rating was 4.86 out of 5. He also met most of the performance goals the commission had identified at the beginning of this performance period.

Everyone could agree that he would receive the 5% increase that the other non-uniformed employees received in the new budget year beginning in October. That would bring him to $115,500 from his present salary of $110,000.


Mayor Tompeck said that Daniels had met the performance goals except for one which was tied to grant funding. Tompeck was thinking of adding another 3.5% or 4% as a one-time bonus. The town attorney then interpreted the contract to mean that though the added amount that the commission gave was discretionary with the contract stating it could be any amount up to 5%, any increase would be part of the base going forward.

Manager Daniels, who was not privy to any commission discussions, interpreted his contract the way the attorney did. Fender remembered it like Tompeck which was a one-time bonus. Mayfield had just the opposite memory. Kurzman thought he did an outstanding job and saved the town money as did Campo.

Campo made the motion to give Daniels 5% when the other employees receive their raise in October and 5% as of his anniversary date of this past August 8th. It passed 5-0. You can see the reviews here 

Finance Director Maria Pierce gave the 2023/24 budget presentation. The taxable value of the town property has increased to $907,300,000. Staff are proposing the same tax rates of 2.87 mills for the general fund and .4 mills for capital projects reserve.

There doesn’t seem to be any surprises. The revenue from the general fund will be $2,473,753 and from the capital portion $344,764. 60% of the budget is for public safety. As part of the safety portion, fire/rescue is provided by the City of Stuart on a long-term contract. This year the payment will be $548,767.

If the town was part of the Martin County MSTU for fire services, this year town residents would be paying $2,450,000. ($907,300,000 * 2.7 Mills which is the fire rescue MSTU). Of course, the town could reduce taxes to the residents by $548,767. But the residents would be paying 4.5 times more to the county as part of their county bill.

Village of Indiantown



The council approved a five-year continuation of the grant incentive plan with FPL. The company has hundreds of millions of dollars in equipment stored within the village’s boundary. The amount of taxes they are required to pay is based on the value of the inventory.

FPL receives a rebate of 55% of the amount paid. This deal keeps the company in Indiantown. As Indiantown’s biggest taxpayer by far, it is beneficial to both sides.

The council approved 5-0.

There was a mobility fee presentation. After the last meeting, the county came back to the village with a 50% reduction of their road impact fees. It is based on the Stuart deal.

At first, it looked like the council members thought 30% was fair. It quickly became a race to the bottom for the council members with Dipaolo suggested 10% for the county and a 90% for the village was the optimum. Most others were at 20%.

What came out in the presentation was that 40% of the roads in Indiantown were owned by the village. The rest were either county or FDOT owned and maintained. A fact reiterated by County Commissioner Jenkins when he spoke.

The difference between a mobility fee and road impact fee is that the former can be used for sidewalks, bus structures, bike routes, and a variety of other intermodal means. Road fees are for new roads only, not even maintenance.

Impact fees are collected for new construction on previously not built land. There needs to be a rational nexus between the new project’s impacts and where and how the money is spent. Until there is something applied for, it could be a week or years before the money flows to the government.

Dipaolo still wants to have face-to-face negotiations between the boards. This probably will not happen. The 50% reduction proposed by the county and the interlocal agreement I speculate occurred because Administrator Donaldson was listening to the last meeting and brought the matter up with his commissioners in individual meetings.

Even though Jenkins said he would advocate for them, I don’t think he could persuade his colleagues to go to 10 or 20%. Perhaps even 30% is a stretch. And what is the alternative to no deal?

Indiantown could take the county to court. So far, that hasn’t proven to be a financial winner for any municipality. It probably wouldn’t be one here either.

An entity the size of Martin County isn't going to be scared by threats considering the village’s size. Gibbs-Thomas has the right idea with compromise over bravado. Settling for a 60-40 split is not a bad idea either.

You can see the presentation here 

Town of Ocean Breeze

The next meeting will be September 11th

Town of Jupiter Island


It was a long day for the commissioners.

They had many deliberations and discussions. What they and apparently other residents who serve on their boards were most concerned with was having indemnification in case they are sued. There was a draft ordinance that went out to every town resident. 21 people commented, 16 of whom were in favor of indemnification.

Yet it was decided that they hadn’t had time to read the comments so postponed proceeding until the next meeting. Mayor Townsend, who is a defendant in a lawsuit, is not participating in the deliberations. Commissioner Scott thought those who had already incurred legal fees, such as former Commissioners Heck and Brooks, should be encouraged to submit their legal bills for reimbursement.

There was also a discussion about transparency. All agreed that it was very important. Commissioner Scott was very vocal in her support of the concept. It has become easier to now find backup on agenda items without having to ask for it. That is a positive step.

As someone who listens to the meetings online, there is still a way to go in being able to decipher what the commissioners are saying. I believe there is a new audio system, but any system needs the participants to speak into the microphones. Whoever is recording needs to remind the commissioners to speak right into their microphones. Someone at this meeting called into the clerk and asked that the commissioners do just that. (It wasn’t me)

At the end of the meeting, Commissioner Scott said that a “flak” who previously worked for the town was in the audience, and she had asked him why he was there. He said none of her business. Scott then said it was her business, but she should not have asked.


This is an open government meeting. It is intimidating for a government official to ask a citizen (though the gentleman is not a resident of the town) why he wanted to be in the audience. It is the right of any member of the public to be at any government meeting with only a few exceptions such as to discuss pending litigation.

Scott then said something even more bizarre. She (I hope jokingly) said that metal detectors should be used because he could go postal. Scott then must have caught herself because she then said laughingly that she could go postal.

Is there any wonder why indemnification by the town for board members is so important?

Final Thoughts


Going out to eat was once reserved as special occasions for most Americans. Now some of us eat out 3, 4, or more times per week. Others like my wife and I usually go out once a week, but there is no guarantee we will even do that.

So, when we do eat out, we want it to be a nice experience. And having grown up in the restaurant world, I know it is a tough way to make a living. But, as a customer, I have a few pet peeves.

The first is service and just plain good manners. Anyone who is going to be a server needs to embrace that their occupation is service. A couple of rules to follow are fill the water glasses and take drink orders within the first five minutes. Once drinks have been served then customers know they will be taken care of and don’t mind waiting for a reasonable period.

As a customer if I am having more than one course, I want clean and appropriate silverware with each course. If I do this at home, why would I want less when I am being professionally served. Last, don’t clear plates from the table until everyone is finished with their meal. It is just etiquette 101.

The check should not be brought to the table until the customer asks for it. “No rush, I will just leave it here until you are ready.” To me, that means pay up and get out. Not very hospitable.

The owner needs to make sure those basic things are being adhered to by the staff if you want to keep me as a customer.

Now to management, I don’t want a “service charge” for ice in my drink or butter for my bread. I don’t want to be billed extra for using a credit card. In today’s world when cash was supposed to be obsolete, now there is another 3% tacked on. How would the server or manager like it if I paid my check with a stack of $1 bills or better yet pennies. Absorbing the credit card fee is all the cost of doing business and does have advantages.

And finally, I will determine the tip. If there needs to be an added charge for staff, just raise the menu prices and have a no tipping policy. Don’t nickel and dime me so the restaurant can keep menu prices down and then sock it to me when presenting the bill.

I would welcome a no tipping policy even if prices were raised by 25%, at least I know what I am paying up front. Cooks, servers, and bartenders are not independent contractors—they are the restaurant’s employees. It is up to the restaurant to pay them and provide benefits, not me.

I know that the money to do all that comes from the customer. Yet if the menu says the dish costs $40 but then after the service charges suddenly cost $55 (no matter what the print on the menu shows), I feel the restaurant is putting something over on me. And am less likely to come back



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:


Tom’s Articles

From Medium

"Even An Immigrant Bishop Is Not Wanted By Some"


"When Are We Going To Woke Up"


From Martin County Moments

"Is Florida Still Hospitable To New Residents"



Other Articles

The Washington Post: “Why the Trump trial should be televised”


The New York Times: “New Florida Immigration Rules Start To Strain Some Businesses”


The Washington Post: “One of America’s most famous streets is getting its favorite makeover since 1974”


The Washington Post: “In the decade before crime rose, ‘broken windows’ policing stopped”


The Conversation: Re-imagining democracy for the 21st century, possibly without the trappings of the 18th century”


Bloomberg: “First American City to Tame Inflation Owes Its Success to Affordable Housing”


Florida Phoenix: “DeSantis ousts another Democratic prosecutor — Monique Worrell of Orange County”


Grist: “Did plastic straw bans work? Yes, but not in the way you’d think.”


Bankrate: “The Best And Worst States To Retire”


Join Our Mailing List