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IN THIS EDITION OF THE NEWSLETTER
Friends & Neighbors is ever closer to our new format being introduced. It will allow for better viewing on mobile devices. Content will be more easily accessible. And, in general, you will find it a much better reading experience.
Besides the newsletter, Friends & Neighbors publishes much longer and in-depth pieces on Medium. You can read our different stories at https://thomasfcampenni.medium.com/ or through our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/martincountyfriends. For quick and easy access, follow me on both.
Lastly, some have been trying to get in touch with me using snail mail, Apple messaging, or through the current website. While I appreciate the time readers take to write, sending me things in the mail makes it impossible to publish them since they aren’t in electronic form. The same is true for any messaging app such as Apple or Facebook.
The current website has had a problem with sending your information to me. What you want to say must be important because you took the time to write and send it.
I am going to ask that you contact me via my email at firstname.lastname@example.org for now. What you want to tell me is important and I want to hear it. But the best way to do so is by the above email.
Last week in conjunction with working on our new website, a survey link was sent to everyone. I am very pleased by how many of you took the time to answer the survey questions. It will be helpful knowing what our readers want to see in the newsletter as we move forward with our new format and other enhancements.
We are still gathering information, so if you haven’t responded yet please help the newsletter to become better. We charge the reader nothing for access to Friends & Neighbors. We provide information that you cannot get anywhere else.
The survey link can be found here https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FNMCSurvey
In the coming editions, we will be sharing some of what you told us about Friends & Neighbors.
It is hard to believe that we are into political campaign season for 2024 already.
Perhaps as far as the presidency is concerned, we have been in election mode since the 2020 election. Congress has started their re-election bids with the end of the 2022 elections. If you listen closely, you can hear the whisper of the 2026 Florida gubernatorial posturing. If DeSantis runs for president under current Florida law, he must resign from the governorship. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Florida Politburo a/k/a Legislature doesn’t repeal that law this session.
Even here in Martin County, there is jockeying to see which incumbents will be running again. Someone told me a while back that he saw a current commissioner cleaning and organizing his old campaign signs for another tour in 2024. It is very hard for any elected official to step down.
Even the most level-headed person becomes enthralled by being in elected office. Some seem to believe it is a lifetime appointment. They come to believe that the county, city, or constitutional office couldn’t survive without their steady hand.
A bill has been introduced in the legislature for term limits on local offices. I support it. I also support doing away with medical insurance, retirement, and salaries for officeholders. A small stipend or spending account to pay for necessary travel and to attend events is all that is needed.
Local elected office should be comparable to serving on a board of a nonprofit. It is a civic duty and then time to go.
WHERE IS THE WORKING MIDDLE-CLASS?
Can the working class still be called middle class as it has been in the past?
People who belonged to a union were the working class. If they lived and worked in the north, having a union card meant they were part of the middle class. They would have medical benefits, a pension, job security, and a decent wage.
Belonging to a union could get them out of a crowded apartment and into their own little house. In the 1950s and 1960s, there was a hierarchy of unions. Plumbers, electricians, and other construction trades would be the top. Unions also represented cops, firefighters, teachers, and other municipal workers, and that is where unions are still the strongest today.
Going back to the beginnings of the 20th century, conditions in factories, mills, and mines were deplorable. My grandmother’s and grandfather’s families came from Calabria in Italy to work in the coal mines of Pennsylvania. They were recruited to take the place of the unionized Irish immigrants who had come a generation before but had become too expensive to employ in those mines. I guess my grandparents were called scabs by some. Yet to them, even the poor conditions in the mines were better than the subsistence farming and fishing they did in the old country.
I first had to join a union in 1969 to work in a catering hall. Then in 1972 I became a member of the Hotel Workers Union when I was employed by the now long-gone Dorset Hotel in New York. By that time job classifications were rigidly defined.
I was in the steward’s department and assigned to taking room service orders and checking that the food orders leaving the kitchen matched what was on the tickets. Sometimes if the room service waiters were backed up, I would help them set and load their carts. That was frowned on by the union rep. Everyone had a job, and no one needed to help anyone else in the kitchen.
It became stifling to me to not be allowed to learn and do other things. So, I left and found another job. Throughout the country, the union attitude that had brought so much success in raising the wages of the working class began to now have employers looking for ways to break unions.
The South never was a union stronghold. It had a more individualistic outlook. Factories began shifting from the Northeast and Mid-West to the South. Even that didn’t last as manufacturing went offshore for even cheaper labor.
Most people who worked with their hands 60 years ago would call themselves middle class. Much of that was due to unions having lifted their members from a poverty wage. But, unions also killed the goose that they had helped to conceive which included the good life for their members as business owners working in partnership with them for the well-being of both.
Today workers of entire industries are no longer in the income middle. Where once they could afford their own homes now, they can’t afford the rent of an apartment. That is the sad truth. They still may be working class but no longer are middle class.
HISTORY IS THE STORY OF TRUTH, FACT & PAIN
I was reading something the other day about how in Fairfax County Virginia, Blacks could not enter, use, or even borrow books from the public library as late as the 1950s.
In 1956, President Eisenhower’s sister-in-law hired Samuel & Josie Murray who were husband and wife interior decorators. They also happened to be African Americans. They went to the Purcellville library to find some information about window treatments for the job. The librarian told them that because of their skin color they couldn’t check out any books because it was a “whites” only public library.
I don’t know if the library in Martin County was segregated but I suspect just like schools, restaurants, and hotels here, it probably was. I did not attend Martin County schools but given my age, I probably would have been in an all-white school for at least most of my education. Coming to visit my grandparents first in then fairly rural west Hollywood and later in Lake City, I do remember seeing the signs of segregation which came as a shock to someone from New York City.
As late as 1970 Mississippi educational television banned a new program named “Sesame Street” because kids of all colors were shown playing together. That was sixteen years after the Brown decision supposedly integrated schools. Anyone uncomfortable yet with any of these facts being taught in the schools? Segregation is not ancient history, but it may be forgotten history if we allow the new political correctness to dictate.
My father’s family immigrated to the U.S. years after slavery ended. My mom, who grew up in Florida as did her father, his father, and undoubtedly earlier generations as well, were poor dirt farmers at best. I doubt they ever owned their own horse let alone another human. Yet they at the very least condoned segregation.
It is undeniable that race is a defining characteristic of our history. I am not a big fan of the “1619 Project,” but one thing is for sure…slavery and all it represents is an integral part of who we are as a people. You can’t “whitewash” what happened and how the majority treated the minority during and after emancipation.
Slavery was endemic to the entire New World. Africans were brought here to do hard labor from South America to Canada. They were kept in bondage by brutal acts of suppression by their white overseers. I adore “Gone With The Wind” as a work of fiction, but Mamie and Prissy were not carefree spirits hanging around the plantation without at least the threat of force always being present.
That is our history. You cannot make believe it is something else. The same goes for the 160 years since full legal emancipation. All of it should be taught in our schools, and we should not shy away from any part of it or attempt to pretend that it did not exist.
I do believe that slavery is society’s original sin. The United States will deal with the stain of the institution forever. How we get past the horror is by shining a light on all our faults and never repeating any of that past again.
I am old enough to have witnessed the ends of the legal segregation system. My children and grandchildren have no idea about what it took unless they learn about it in books or by people who remember it. The idea that we should not teach something that is fact because it may make students uncomfortable is ridiculous.
Teaching history is the same as teaching arithmetic or spelling. The facts would dictate that 3+2=5, C-A-T is how you spell the word cat, and Africans came over in chains, entire Indigenous tribes were annihilated, and Catholics were not considered real Americans. Learning prevents repeating. That is the important lesson.
MAST BRINGS HOME THE BACON
Congratulations to Congressman Brian Mast for being the top member of the House for earmarks at $471 million according to The New York Times.
I think it is great that he could bring back so much for our district. It appears that those dollars will be going to the Everglades and other water projects. In my opinion, that is exactly what our local guy in Washington is supposed to do.
It looks like the money is going into truly needed projects that have been underfunded for years. Restoration of our waters should be South Florida’s top priority in Washington and Tallahassee. If national dollars are to be collected from taxpayers, these projects are the ones where those dollars should be spent.
The only enumerated individual expenditures listed were for Everglades’ restoration even on Mast’s website. Nonetheless, even at the $100 million for that alone, it is impressive. So, thanks Brian for bringing home the bacon.
There is one more project requiring funding for Stuart and Martin County. The railroad bridge over the St. Lucie needs lots of dollars because it needs to be replaced. It is a private company that owns the railroad and the tracks and other infrastructure belong to them. Yet Congressman Mast should think about it as a public-private partnership and pursue its replacement.
Florida East Coast Railway is moving people and freight from one end of Florida to the other. The Stuart bridge is crossing a vital water highway that connects the east and west coasts. Look at it as not just helping a private company but keeping open an important choke point to our infrastructure.
There are thousands of boaters in Martin County who will be severely impacted by a bridge failure. Even if the bridge operates as intended, once Brightline passenger rail transport begins, Congressman Mast’s constituents will suffer delays, billions of dollars in lost time and tourism, not to mention potential safety issues are at stake.
The Stuart rail bridge deserves some pork too. As our local guy, Mast is the only one who can bring home the funds to support this extremely important project. This bridge is not the infamous bridge to nowhere but a vital transportation link that goes not only north south but also affects east west boating movement.
F YOU ARE NOT A SUBSCRIBER DO SO FOR FREE HERE
By Carol Houwaart-Diez
United Way of Martin County President-CEO
Last February, I wrote about the amazing opportunity our nonprofit partners in Martin County had to benefit from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds from the Board of County Commissioners. This February, I would like to highlight some of the accomplishments that have come from those funds.
As you drive through Hobe Sound, you’ll notice a significant renovation and expansion of services for preschool children at the Hobe Sound Early Learning Center. An additional classroom, playground equipment, and overall campus renovations are all partially funded by ARPA dollars.
Keep driving in Hobe Sound and you’ll pass the Banner Lake Academy and Early Learning Center. ARPA dollars provided upgrades to the Early Learning Center by providing a ZONO sanitizing cabinet. This machine sanitizes almost anything (pacifiers, bottles, toys and blankets) in 35 minutes. This mobile cart system eliminates cross-contamination, requires minimal staff attention, and ensures maximum load capacity.
99.99% Disinfecting Kill Rate and 99.9% Sanitizing Kill Rate. In addition, the kitchen and reception areas will be updated, plus so much more. The Banner Lake Academy will have a new teen center added to its campus to ensure teens have a safe place to go.
Computer classes are being offered to low-income residents in Hobe Sound through the grant awarded to Hobe Sound Community Chest. Culinary classes for youth and adults are being offered by the Boys & Girls Clubs to improve our workforce.
In Indiantown, the Treasure Coast YMCA is offering early learning certification for workers in the childcare arena to enhance their skills. Project Lift is offering trades training to young adults and has had the capacity to increase its services in the mental health arena. House of Hope has expanded its farm to include the machinery needed for the packing house and its food services program. In addition, House of Hope is assisting with workforce development and placement.
Little Lights Dentistry has expanded its capacity to help more low-income families with services. Martin County Healthy Start has purchased a MOM Mobile, which, once it arrives (supply chain issues), will provide mobile health care screening for our low-income residents. Salvation Army has been able to purchase a generator that will allow the agency to provide its services in times of disaster with no interruptions.
Helping People Succeed has increased their workforce program and mental health services and Career Connect Martin – Stuart Martin Chamber has been able to assist employers and potential employees with job attainment. Treasure Coast ABA has provided services to 15 children who otherwise would have fallen through the cracks. Finally, ARC of Martin County was able to serve in Adult and Youth Project Search programs, assisting them with training and job placement.
Above are just some of the highlights from this past year, with more to come as each of the nonprofit organizations work to complete the programs that were granted.
Overall, this past year has provided many opportunities for expanded services and capital improvements for our nonprofit organizations in Martin County. The United Way has played the role of convener and supporter and provided oversight for these projects. Next time you see one of our Martin County Commissioners, please thank them for their support of these worthwhile projects that positively impact residents here in Martin County.
Carol Houwaart-Diez opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint
By Darlene VanRiper
I recently met a hometown hero. Leeahna Grier reminds me of a mamma bear protecting her cubs. She appears to be that nice middle-aged woman who would gladly bake cookies for a bake sale or welcome a new neighbor with a casserole. As she explains what she has gone through to save her Babe Ruth baseball initiative, she transforms into a fierce warrior.
Leeahna has real ties to Martin County. Back in the 1960s when one had to take a ferry from Palm City to Stuart, her grandmother was one of the first zoning officials of the county. Leeahna grew up playing in Wojcieszak Park in Pt. Salerno. She personally knows the Wojcieszak family. Leeahna informed me that Ika Mae, the wife of the late Joe Wojcieszak (the original trailblazer for parks in Martin County and the park’s namesake) just turned 90.
Spanning 11 acres, Wojcieszak Park lies amid the old fishing village community. The park is used nearly every night for soccer and baseball among other activities. It has been woefully neglected for many, many years.
According to Leeahna, the last time it had any significant improvement since it was named in 1978 was in 2004. Since the County has ignored the park while spending millions on the glamorous Sailfish Sands and Sailfish Waterpark, the Pt. Salerno community and baseball fans have invested their own time and money to maintain and repair the original baseball diamonds and the scoreboard which was a private donation 30 years ago! Unlike other county parks, Wojcieszak Park remains unlocked 24/7. The bathrooms remain available at all hours. There is never graffiti or litter. This community is proud and respectful of their recreational area.
The importance of this park becomes evident when baseball in Martin County is explained. Leeahna informed me that the Babe Ruth league of which she “finds” herself President, fills a gap between Little League which ages kids out at around 12 years old and the expensive Travel Teams which cost a parent $1,200 a year plus hotel and meal expenses.
Other teams have only 12 spots available on a team leaving many kids out. Babe Ruth is a recreational team allowing 4–17-year-old kids to well…just play baseball. Their fees are only $150 a year. They recycle used cleats to low-income kids and “T-ballers” playing for the first time. They have the incredible expense of $4,000 a season just for baseballs! (It’s a rule that every game must start with a new baseball).
Leeahna had no idea how to approach county government regarding the appalling disrepair of the park. The demographics of the park users did not lend itself to government activism. Many of these residents work out on boats and are not available or are too intimidated to approach the dais at county commission meetings held during their workday.
Few can maneuver through the bureaucracy or know how to do the research necessary to build a case for the park. Leeahna read the minutes of every Parks & Rec Advisory Committee meeting since 2007 to see if there was a mention of Wojcieszak Park. She pulled EVERY permit from 1978 forward for 7 different parks to prove the discrepancy in maintaining and updating them.
The County staff got to know Leeahna Grier. And, to cheer her on! Armed with data, last June she sent multiple emails to county staff. She was advised to attend the Parks & Rec Advisory Board meetings. She did, but some were cancelled. Realizing that the County budget was soon to be presented for approval to the Board of County Commissioners and time was suddenly of the essence, Leeahna met with Parks & Rec staff in December to ask if Wojcieszak Park could be added to that budget. At the next PRAB meeting, incensed at hearing NO mention of Wojcieszak Park in the budget, she interrupted the process.
She was advised that there was $1.7 million of federal money available for the park. She knew it was only a drop in the bucket for a park which after being neglected for so long, needed major improvements…a second bathroom so a parent didn’t have to sprint 5 acres with “a kid holding his crotch”. A second concession stand, new score boards to replace the 30-year-old donated ones.
The list was endless. She visited every ballpark in the county and took pictures, she compiled a poster board for comparison. She sent packets to every county commissioner. She invited every commissioner on a personally guided tour of the park. That we know of Commissioners Jenkins, Hetherington, and Ciampi took her up on it.
In January Leeahna approached the dais at the County Commissioner Board Meeting. She got attention. Chairman Ciampi promised an agenda item to act at the next meeting. At the next meeting, the director of Parks and Rec, Kevin Abatte was directed to take immediate action to correct any safety hazards presented by the aging infrastructure. And he was told to come up with a plan…immediately.
According to Leeahna, Mr. Abatte is taking his instructions very seriously. She has personally guided him through the park and Mr. Abatte who is nothing if not a gifted and creative parks director, came up with many helpful suggestions.
Looks like Leeahna can exhale. In the meantime, the rest of us will probably never know what took so long. One thing for certain though is don’t mess with Leeahna’s cubs!
If you are as impressed with Ms. Grier’s efforts as I am, you may donate to this Babe Ruth league by writing a check to Martin County Mavericks and mailing it to PO Box 214 SE Dixie Hwy. Pt. Salerno, FL 34992.
Darlene VanRiper’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
By Nicki van Vonno
I’ve been abiding, like The Dude from the 1998 movie “The Big Lebowski” played by Jeff Bridges. His comfortable clothing choices are now the dress of a pandemic ravaged time, filled with bombs and mass starvation, crazy weather, storms, rains, and slides. Planes fall from the sky, and angry people act out. Is it any wonder we all wear bathrobes and velour p.j.s?
I have a bath robe. I love it. I live in it. I’m wearing it now. I am cold even when it’s 85 degrees outside. Blue fuzzy robe keeps me snug, my security blanket. I putter around, following my routine: the newspaper, the coffee, the news-watching, and the volunteer or work tasks of the day. But now I abide.
Anything Jeff Bridges does is OK, especially when he is wearing a bathrobe. I grew up with him and his older brother Beau watching “Sea Hunt”, a tv show that ran in syndication for years.
Why does The Dude abide? I turn to books: the Bible, the I-Ching, Shakespeare, and Civil War quote books. You know the quote business is bad when neither Lincoln nor Twain has a quote I can cite. Alas only The Dude and the earth abidith. Ecclesiastes chapter one verse four.
The Stranger, played by Sam Elliott says of The Dude: “He’s the man for the times that we need.”
The filmmakers lead us on a madcap stolen money mystery with crazy rich people, Nazis, porn industry players, nihilists and bowlers. The cops function as a Greek Chorus, commenting on the ongoing mayhem and government bureaucracy. The movie characters discuss politics, war, great literature, modern art, pop culture and every other topic under the sun due to the running mouth of the war traumatized veteran played by John Goodman.
President Biden has been around for years. He won election to the Senate when he was 29, one of the youngest persons to become a Senator. He remained a Senator for 36 years, before becoming Vice President and now President. He’s everybody’s “Pull my finger” uncle, while suffering grievous loss and heartache.
While he may live in Delaware, his abode is Washington, D.C. He’s trod every path and trail and been in the room where it happened many, many times over his career.
I could argue that Biden was the man for the times that we needed, in 2020. This is where the Democratic Party is. Are they going to abide with Biden? All the tv chatterboxes clatter about the 2024 election. Will Biden run? Isn’t he too old? Good question to ask. My 50 something nephew is tired of 80-year-olds running the government. I am too. From the chatterbox predictions regarding his State of the Union address and his scheduled Superbowl Night interview sounds like he is throwing his hat in the ring.
I want Biden to be Biden, working the aisles and the phones to reach out to the other centralists in the D.C. power structure. Biden can work with Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy so that both parties can demonstrate they can work together to help all of us. That is what this country needs.
Joe, please. Keep doing what you do. You are the Dude. But soon, announce that you are not running again. Pass the White Russian to the next generation.
Congress, please. Work together. That is what your constituents want. Do your smack down BS on the media shows when you are not fundraising or legislating.
You are our elected bodies. We depend upon you. Demonstrate your competence.
Nicki van Vonno’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
By David Hafner
The four Hs of the 4-H Youth Development Program are Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. In reciting the 4-H Pledge, youth members pledge their “Head to clearer thinking, heart to greater loyalty, hands to larger service, and health to better living.”
Martin County 4-H has 252 members in our community clubs in addition to the children who participate in our school and after-school programs. Of these many caring and giving individuals I would like to take the time to highlight one of them who, even as you read this, is exhibiting “hands to larger service.”
Olivia Lockwood is a member of the Martin Grade Rustlers 4-H Club. The club is based out of Indiantown and Olivia’s mother, Melody, is the club’s leader. Dorrie Krabec was a Martin County 4-H club leader who had a great influence on Olivia’s life, as well as on many people’s lives in Martin County 4-H and the Martin County equine world. Unfortunately, Dorrie passed away very unexpectedly on September 8, 2022.
Upon hearing this news, Olivia, at only 8 years old, decided she was going to do something in Dorrie’s memory. This fun, energetic, yet shy in large groups, young lady decided she would complete a 4-H Swine Project and sell her pig during the Martin County Fair’s Youth Livestock Show. Her purpose is to make Ms. Dorrie proud of her and to help Dorrie’s family with a financial contribution. You see, while many 4-H members take the profits from their projects and put them towards good purposes like purchasing their first vehicle or funding their college tuition, Olivia has pledged to give her profits to the Krabec family in Dorrie’s honor.
As the Martin County 4-H agent I cannot tell you how proud I am of the actions and selflessness behind Olivia completing this 4-H project. She has shown that she has the true purpose of 4-H in her heart.
Right now, Olivia’s Hampshire pig is at the Martin County Fair. Olivia and her pig will enter the show ring on Monday, February 13 at 7pm and on Wednesday, February 15 at 7pm. Then on Saturday, February 18 Olivia’s pig will be sold to the highest bidder. The livestock auction will begin at 5pm.
Those who would like to bid on Olivia’s pig need to sign up as a buyer through the Martin County Fair. Bidders can form a group and pool money together so that the financial burden is not so high. Remember, there is plenty of bacon, sausage, and pork chops from one pig to share. People who want to support Olivia’s cause but do not want to participate in the livestock auction can simply contribute by giving an add-on to Olivia in any amount. You can find more information on being a buyer or giving add-ons HERE.
Both Martin County 4-H and the Martin County Fair are 501(c)(3) charitable organizations.
David Hafner’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT BOARD BENT
By Joan Goodrich
It’s a good time to rent, buy, invest. That’s referring especially to commercial spaces.
Our Commercial Real Estate Forum played to a packed room at Indian River State College. Local, regional, and state experts in real estate, economic development, economics and the marine industry provided attendees with invaluable insights into the strengths, challenges and trends affecting the area and creating exciting opportunities throughout Martin County.
Amid the demand for office space, Kenneth Krasnow, vice chairman of institutional investor services for Colliers, underscored how the search for high-quality, modern, and well-positioned assets is attracting top-level—or Class A—tenants to the area. This trend is advancing even as employers navigate the persistence of hybrid work patterns, which is not only remaking office dynamics but promoting widespread assessments on how best to reimagine existing commercial spaces for increased efficiency.
Cathy Chambers, economic development director for FPL, cited the mass migration of commercial opportunities to the southern regions of the country post-pandemic. Prior to 2020, the total commercial activity nationwide comprised 20 million square feet. It’s since ballooned to 60 million.
“A lot of that activity,” says Chambers, “is taking place in the Southeast US.”
When it comes to overall location, we all appreciate Martin County for its comfortable distance yet convenient proximity to large metro areas such as Orlando and Miami. It’s also ideal for commerce and foreign direct investment, said Z. Joe Kulenovic, vice president of international operations for Enterprise Florida.
“You’re close enough to the larger South Florida market,” he says, “but not so close that you have its higher prices.”
It was exciting to hear from Doug West of Willis Custom Yachts. The Business Development Board was privileged to play a part in supporting the company’s successful expansion request. Martin County Commissioners recently unanimously approved its plans to expand by 180,000 square feet.
An amazing operation, Willis Custom Yachts has expanded its workforce by nearly 50 percent since 2021 and seeks to increase its 145-person staff by another 50 percent. With 65 percent of its business dedicated to service and the remaining to construction new custom yachts, that’s a lot of great career opportunities for dedicated professionals and skilled craftsmen.
With so many partners—including our chambers, Economic Council, nonprofits and more joining the BDB in prioritizing talent development—we’re poised to grow this workforce locally.
We all love the local weather, especially this time of year. But there’s another climate in Martin County that’s inviting—the business climate. West—a veteran of the marine industry who’s worked in multiple municipalities and counties—praised the professionalism of Martin County’s staff and elected officials for its analysis and review of their expansion plans.
“I can tell you that Martin County was the best to go through the approval process,” he says. “It’s a great place to do business.”
Prime location. Competitive and quality commercial spaces. Burgeoning talent pool. And a great business climate. It’s true—Now’s the Time to Make Business Moves in Martin County.
Joan Goodrich’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint
KEEP MARTIN BEAUTIFUL
By Jessica Levy
LARGEST COMMUNITY IMPROVEMENT EVENT IN AMERICA
Get your work gloves, shovels, and paintbrushes or your pickup sticks and trash bags ready! It’s time for the annual Great American Cleanup (GAC). Each spring, from March 20 to June 20, volunteers throughout Martin County come together as part of the largest community improvement event in the nation.
For the GAC in Martin County, Keep Martin Beautiful encourages everyone to green up and clean up, especially in neighborhoods most in need of some extra care and attention. Places such as Banner Lake, Pettway, New Monrovia, Golden Gate, East Stuart, Rio and Booker Park.
In past years, we’ve:
- Worked with partners to make improvements to the Gomez Cemetery in Hobe Sound.
- Coordinated with The Keepers in Banner Lake on litter removal.
- Helped elderly homeowners in Golden Gate and Booker Park repair roofs, paint homes, plant trees and spruce up landscaping.
- Given the Gertrude Walden Center in East Stuart a makeover.
And so much more!
Anyone can participate. Civic and school groups, scout troops, families and businesses can volunteer – for a single day if it’s a smaller project or multiple days for a bigger undertaking.
Typical GAC projects include:
making simple home repairs, painting, and other house renovation and neighborhood revitalization improvements.
picking up litter from streets, parks, neighborhoods, shorelines, and waterways.
planting trees and ﬂowers and removing exotic vegetation.
spring cleaning to collect household hazardous waste and large appliances (called “white goods”) and disposing of them properly.
Partnering with us is easy. If you have a project in mind, we can help you find others who may be interested in working with you. Or we can brainstorm with you about what needs in your community can be tended to. Keep Martin Beautiful serves as a clearinghouse and a cheerleader for GAC activities, providing logistical support and supplies, volunteer recruitment, and promotion through digital and social media.
The Great American Cleanup is a perfect example of how lasting, positive change happens when people work together for the common good.
Can we count on you to join us for the largest community improvement event in America? Please reach out and share your ideas with us. For more info, visit our website, call us at 772-781-1222 or email us at email@example.com. To sponsor the Great American Cleanup click here.
Jessica Levy’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint
By Suzy Hutcheson
CEO Helping People Succeed
ROB LORD RECEIVES THE TOM WARNER ADVOCACY AWARD
At a recent board meeting of Helping People Succeed we had the honor of recognizing Rob Lord with a very special award, The Tom Warner Advocacy Award.
In 2019 the Tom Warner Advocacy Award was created by Helping People Succeed to recognize the memory and lifetime achievements of Tom Warner. Helping People Succeed was honored to work with Tom from the early 1970s until he passed away in 2019. He was always there for us in all ways—serving as a board member and friend.
For those of you who did not know Tom personally he was a dedicated advocate working to ensure that all people with disabilities had the opportunity to be a part of not apart from their community.
In 1984, as the movement began for people with disabilities to be recognized for their worth and value, he along with his partner Lanning Fox, took a chance and hired Ruth Lamb to work at their prestigious law firm. Ruth had been placed in an institution at birth with multiple disabilities both cognitive and mobility wise—that didn’t make any difference to Tom.
During Ruth’s tenure at Warner, Fox, et al., Tom provided a scooter for Ruth so she could get around, he provided a tutor so she could learn to read at a first-grade level and included her in the firm’s events—she was a valued employee in every sense. She retired a few years ago with a pension and her own home with a roommate who also has disabilities. She has experienced a full life because of Tom’s efforts.
In his terms as a Florida Legislator, Tom was determined to make sure that the Florida Legislature was aware of and supported the inclusion of all of Florida citizens. Every morning a different person led the Legislature in the Pledge of Allegiance—he brought Ruth to the Legislature to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. She was thrilled and he let them know how important it was to hire those with different abilities.
A little bit about Rob Lord. Rob is a lifelong resident of Martin County and has been active in community organizations including Friends of the Blake Library, St. Lucie County Community Board, Martin County Community Board, Hibiscus Children’s Center, United Way of Martin County, and the chambers of commerce for both St. Lucie and Martin counties.
Rob Lord’s impact on the community has been incredible—his leadership with Martin Health Systems, now Cleveland Clinic, the many nonprofit boards he has gifted his time, knowledge, and efforts as well as for Helping People Succeed’s Project Search—a collaborative internship program for students with various disabilities.
We were proud to present the Tom Warner Advocacy Award to Rob Lord!
Suzy Hutheson’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint
By Pastor Chad Fair
Immanuel Lutheran Church
Be an Ostrich
You’ve heard the saying, “Don’t be an ostrich and bury your head in the sand, hoping your problems will disappear?”
Did you know this popular saying is a myth? Ostriches do not stick their heads in the sand out of fear, they stick their heads in the sand to rotate and care for their eggs which are buried in the sand. I’m becoming more and more convinced that it’s people who stick their heads in the sand, not ostriches.
We pretend if we ignore something it will go away. If we pretend it doesn’t exist, it doesn’t exist. Wouldn’t that be nice? I’d love to pretend my student loans, or my mortgage didn’t exist…and have them just go away. Too bad I can’t get the banks to agree.
In society today, there is a movement to swan dive so deep into the sands of delusion to pretend racism doesn’t exist or isn’t a problem or people of color should just get over it. I’ll be honest, I lived my formative years with my head in that sand…very white sand.
The community I was raised in was severely lacking in diversity. It wasn’t until well after college my world became more diverse. As my interactions with people of different races and cultures increased my worldview began to change.
I realized how much my upbringing and education limited my understanding of people who were different than me. The more time I spent with people of different cultures, sexual orientations, economic classes, and abilities the more I realized we are all people who care about and want the same things. I simply lacked the exposure, the experiences, and the understanding.
Over the last decade or so my high school friends and I have talked about all the ways in which our education had failed us. Yes, we had strong math, reading, and science, but things like slavery, Jim Crow, Black Wall Street, red lining, and other pieces of African American history were glossed over at best. We never delved into the waters of racism even though racism and the KKK was very present. Heads were firmly planted in the sand.
Fast-forward to my years of seminary in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Yes, that Gettysburg, The Battle of Seminary Ridge took place on seminary grounds. Walking those hallowed grounds to and from classes on a daily basis had a profound impact on my faith and worldview. Wrestling with how we are called to live out our faith in tangible ways, while at the same time deeply digging into theology awakened my passion for what some negatively call social justice.
Social justice has become a negative phrase in society today. I don’t see it as anything other than living out the gospel. In fact, both my baptismal and ordination vows require me “to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.”
I don’t know how to do that without both acknowledging racism exists and working to eradicate it. If we don’t acknowledge its existence (admitting it is the first step) and learn from it, we can’t possibly move past it. This isn’t political, or academic, or social it’s deeply Biblical.
The Greek word we translate as repentance, is metanoia and it occurs more than 50 times in the New Testament. Repentance is the recognition that the living God has made humanity to reflect God’s image into the world and we have yet to do so. To be more blunt, racism is sin and as church the way we deal with sin is through confession, forgiveness and repentance. I’m not sure we’ve really confessed the sin of racism and I know we haven’t repented from it.
Maybe we need to be more like ostriches and stick our heads in the sand to care for our future rather than try to pretend the sin of racism isn’t a thing.
Chad Fair’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint
By Micah Hartowski
I used to sell a lot of turmeric and ginger tea at the restaurant I owned.
The turmeric helps with inflammation, and people are all inflamed and aflame these days. It isn’t just our over-sweetened American diets that are the culprit (although it doesn’t help, let’s be honest). It’s our state of being- what we consume socially, mentally, and spiritually.
Indignation, fear, outrage – these emotions are stimulating and addictive. They’re also incredibly lucrative for social media companies and news outlets.
Leveraging our human social networks and impulses, misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories proliferate online. The saying goes, “A lie travels halfway ‘round the world before the truth has got its boots on.” And there’s no place this is on display more than on social media.
We know this – if you pause and observe your own experience on social media, you can see it yourself. You may feel the compulsion to continue to “doomscroll” (guilty, personally); or perhaps you’ve seen a friend or family member swept up by conspiracy theories; or, almost certainly you have experienced maddiction. The first rush of blood to your head followed by the flood of adrenaline and heart rate increase as you read some snappy headline, “You’ll Never Believe What They’re Not Telling You…” You’re enraged; incensed. You vow to take on the righteous mantle of truth and spread this information, shouting it out far and wide. You do this over and over again each time you see the next thing to be outraged about.
Sharing these kinds of outrage-inducing posts feels like you’re doing good, or at least doing something. The feeling of righteousness and purity overtakes and soothes some of the anger becoming a temporary balm to your soul until the next indignation catches your attention, starting the cycle over again.
But let’s pause for a moment, mid-cycle and consider: what is actually happening here? What is the ultimate outcome?
“I’m raising awareness,” you may answer. But are you spreading awareness or also stoking fear, or worse, lies? Are you building an active coalition of people to seriously tackle a problem- People who are willing to show up, dig in, and do the long, hard work of getting things done? Or are you contributing to raising the temperature of our societal atmosphere with your shouted (online) voice?
It’s easy and cathartic to share a hot take, or a gotcha point; to smugly take the upper hand in an online discussion that’s turned into an argument (as they often do). The perceived anonymity of the internet allows folks a platform to stew in their echo chamber, spin themselves up, and air their grievances without having to interact with a person face to face (she states as she types out her missive on her laptop). We set up straw men to argue with so we may feel self-righteous, but this allows us to avoid the hard work of truly understanding each other.
Actually, talking with people when they have a different opinion than you is challenging and uncomfortable. It’s much easier to vent from the privacy of your home, where you can delete comments, you don’t like, ignore facts that are inconvenient, and fan the inflammatory rhetoric from a safe distance. Participating in our society is a messy and challenging thing. It is inherently difficult work. And here’s the challenge: we have a lot of work to do.
Our planet is heating up because of us and we refuse to make significant changes (some may find that statement controversial, but if you trust the scientific method and principles best for your cancer treatment, why not also listen to its best understanding on climate change?). In the US, about 13% of our population is Black, but that population represents 38% of incarcerated people. The US healthcare system is failing us. In Martin County we can’t find teachers for our kids and our river languishes despite decades of half-starts, empty words, and changing administrations. These are just a few examples of grave and very real challenges we are facing. We’ve got problems, no doubt. Knowing about them is important.
I don’t have a clear solution on the balance between online engagement and access to information, versus unhealthy polarization and fearmongering. I know I’m certainly guilty of my own fair-share of these behaviors. I also know it’s better when I can look someone in the eye and have a conversation.
When I remember that my neighbor isn’t actually my enemy and that most people in this world want clean air, clean water, food, and a place to call home. Inflammatory language that turns my neighbor into a demon or boogeyman erases what we share, and the common ground we work from. I know outcomes are better when we give full faith and credit to each other for both wanting to create something better, even if we disagree about how to go about doing that.
I suppose that my takeaway here is that the next time you feel the hackles on your back rising because of a headline or post that caught your eye, give time for pause. Don’t just get caught up in the raging fire online. Ask yourself, “Do they want my click for ad revenue? What is the motivation for the source? Is this true / half-true / entirely fabricated? Am I being swept up in a friend’s maddiction cycle? What are they trying to provoke in me? Are they trying to make me angry?”
It’s easy to get people’s attention and incite discord, it’s harder to come up with solutions.
Micah Hartowski’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint
MARTIN’S MARINE INDUSTRIES
By Tom Whittington, President
Marine Industries Association of the Treasure Coast
Yes, it was a great 49th Stuart Boat Show!
No, the weather was not a problem.
We had record attendance and sold out all land space. A successful show is critical for the association to advocate for our mission.
The Marine Industries Association of the Treasure Coast thanks the City of Stuart, Martin County Government, MIATC members, and boat show exhibitors and visitors from all over. We also want to thank the continuing efforts of the show producer AllSports!
We are pleased to report on the activities of the MIATC and to confirm to our association members we are always looking to add value to your businesses.
The association has partnered with T. Samuels Insurance in bringing to our members competitive health insurance and human resource solutions. Several members are already taking advantage of this opportunity. We trust many more will investigate this value.
Assisted by a grant from the MIATC, the Charles F. Chapman School of Seamanship held their grand opening January 26, 2023, for their Marine Technician Training Center to teach Yamaha engine repair. The MIATC is dedicated to growing training opportunities for the marine trades.
Members of the Board of Directors of MIATC are continuing to monitor the plans for Brightline on the Treasure Coast. and specifically plans for the possible closure of the St. Lucie River FEC Railroad drawbridge (Bridge 7.4). While Brightline has informed us of their submission to the Coast Guard, the Coast Guard has not yet responded.
Brightline submitted plans to begin work from April 19th to April 30th, when the FEC Railroad drawbridge will be closed from 8:00pm to 6:00am. Starting at 6:00am on Monday, May 1st, the bridge would be closed for 21 consecutive days to rehabilitate the bascule span.
According to the Brightline representatives, the significant nature of the bascule rehabilitation will not allow any other option other than closure of the span, and they have assured us that their contractor will work 24 hours a day to complete the work within the scheduled closure period. Due to the amount of machining required on all four of the trunnions, which must be done in place, the bascule leaf must be fully removed and placed on falsework which makes the bridge span fully inoperable. Additional work to be completed includes renewal of all mechanical drive machinery and installation of a new control system.
The MIATC encourages all its members whose businesses may be affected to begin preparing for the closure period. Additional information will be forthcoming as available, including the response from the Coast Guard.
Brightline is expected to begin a public communication and outreach program to include engagement of stakeholders, including emergency responders, as well as signage and electronic message boards and social media.
Members of the association will be meeting soon with the Coast Guard to discuss many of the issues affecting our waterway access including the possible closure of Bridge 7.4, operations of the lock system and coordination of resources prior to and during hurricanes. We will report back to our members and the community as we learn more from our meeting.
We have expanded our efforts to serve our association members and our industry and have made the decision to hire a full-time executive director. We look forward to an announcement this month.
The association is advocating for the following:
- Clean water with our Waterway Cleanup and other initiatives
- Safe boating
- Water access especially at the bridge
- Value to our members such as competitive health insurance
- Growing training opportunities for the marine trades including the program at Chapman School of Seamanship and other initiatives
Tom Whittington’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint
HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE TREASURE COAST
By Frank Valente, Pres. & CEO
Humane Society of the Treasure Coast (HSTC) is the only shelter in Martin County that provides free Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return (TNVR) services to free-roaming cats.
The ordinance was passed in 2017, which allows healthy, free-roaming cats to be returned to their natural outdoor homes after sterilization and basic medical and preventative care. Nearly 100% of free-roaming cats entering shelters in jurisdictions without TNVR programs are euthanized because they cannot be adopted into homes due to behavior issues. Thankfully, this ordinance in Martin County provides a pathway forward for cats in the community and is critical for stabilizing the outdoor population.
This past fiscal year, HSTC provided these services to over 700 community cats. TNVR cats are spayed or neutered, microchipped, vaccinated (rabies and FVRCP), evaluated by a veterinarian, treated with flea prevention and ear tipped to identify them as having participated in the TNVR program.
Removing free-roaming cats from their territory without TNVR is just a temporary solution. A single female cat can have more than 100 kittens during her reproductive life. Each of those female kittens can have their own kittens, starting as young as 5-months-old. Numbers stay the same or increase, removed cats are eventually replaced with new ones – and the cycle goes on.
TNVR results in fewer to no births, reduces nuisance complaints by residents, alleviates public health concerns and ultimately improves cats’ lives. Free-roaming cats are initially brought to HSTC to be evaluated by the shelter’s veterinary team. Cats that display behaviors that are unsuitable for placement in a home, will be considered for TNVR. Eligible cats must be thriving and physically able to maintain a high-quality life outdoors.
The lifesaving program continues to expand, as more volunteers are eager to take control of the free-roaming cat population in Martin County communities. HSTC has traps available for loan, and the staff will readily train volunteers to utilize the traps the proper way.
TNVR services are available by appointment only. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please email MartinCountyTNVR@hstc1.org or call (772) 600-3222. To learn more about TNVR, please visit the humane society’s website at https://hstc1.org/Community-TNVR.
Frank Valente’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint
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CONSTITUTIONAL CORNER AND OTHER GOVERNMENT NOTICES
And from our Supervisor of Elections:
From the Property Appraiser
As a property owner in Florida, homestead exemption is one way to reduce the amount of real estate taxes you pay on your residential property. In this educational video, we highlight the benefits of filing for homestead exemption and how you may be entitled to additional tax savings! Please watch this Homestead Exemption video on our YouTube Channel: HERE
CLERK OF THE COURT
NON PROFIT NOTICES
Alan Morris of Driftwood Homes writing regarding the a story on Sewall’s Point:
Hope you and Polly are having a great start to the new year.
Your sharing of the circumstances in regards to the tree removal on Oakwood Drive in Sewalls Point was spot on, except for one item. NO tress were removed that were outside of the permit, that would be something that I would not be a part of. In fact 5 oaks that the arborist had designated for removal due to disease or safety concerns were left standing to leave some canopy on the southwest corner of the property. As with all new homes in the town, complete mitigation of all required caliper must be, and will be performed.
On Friday evening at 4pm Robert Daniels, the town commissioner invited the residents of Sewall’s Point to a meeting on the site so that questions could be posed to the owner, myself, and Michael Flaugh, our landscape architect. It was well attended by approximately thirty residents, Mr. Daniels, and three of the town commissioners. Great questions were posed, many excellent comments were shared concerning the process, and I believe it was an extremely positive meeting.
As a result of this misunderstanding, Mr. Daniels who has been extremely helpful during the process, came away with a wise change in policy. He has determined that in the future tree mitigation plans must be a part of the initial tree removal permit and not something provided at the end of the project. This made perfect sense to all. Hopefully it will assist in avoiding the misunderstandings that can so easily occur.
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The next letter from Caryn Hall Yost-Rudge
Thank you for your newsletter but I feel you should not use “government reporter” although it was superior to “government watchdog”
You have ignored me since you were elected as a commissioner, the latest being a question to this newsletter about the code violations on 1701 SW Palm City Road, since you live in that area.
Why is the property allowed to violate our city code so blatantly with a boarded up house and 8 foot weeds?
Aren’t you even curious?
Why do you print nothing about the pending litigation that the city is still involved in regarding that property?
You have been a witness of my 3 minutes of comment at city hall regarding these issues too many times to count.
Do you deem it unimportant to the residents/your readers?
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From Dan Deighan
another great job! I don’t know how you can keep up with so much stuff!
Can you send this on to Kyla?
the typical owner of a single quarter-acre lot has no legal access, and no ability to put anything on it. the website ” be a man buy the land” says you [the buyer] can use it for riding atvs, hunting, agriculture, and camping. none of that is true.
Also, the Martin County requirement for a building requires 20 acres. not likely to ever change.
also, the majority of the people trespass from a main road which could cheaply be fenced off with a key at the sheriff’s office.
It was passed on
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COMMISSION MEETING FEBRUARY 7, 2023
The Elliott Museum is a Martin County success story.
Bob Steele, the CEO, has brought that institution to the next level. It has become a showcase for exhibits, now concerts, and he has made sure that local artists have a place to exhibit their works. The museum has quite simply run out of room.
Next to the museum, which is on county property, is the soon to be de-commissioned fire house. Steele proposes to build a new two-story 20,000 sq foot building on the site that would be entered through the existing museum. 10,000 feet would be for exhibition space and 10,000 feet for storage. There would also be a new 54 space parking lot as part of the project.
In a 5-0 vote, the commission directed staff to come back with an agreement on the terms for the expansion of the museum. You can view the presentation here
How do you get anything you want from the Martin County Commission? Be Martin County Fire/Rescue.
Back in October 2019, the board approved $8,800,000 for a new fire training facility including $577,000 for design. Lo and behold an item was presented for an additional $457,680 for more design work for a total of $1,034,628. Apparently, the site chosen was inadequate. Further the Burn Tower needs to be redesigned because the original one that was spec’d was not right for Martin County. The new price tag for the training facility is now more than $15 million dollars. OOPS.
This is very reminiscent of the new golf course which has far exceeded planned costs. Similarly, the commission was all in favor of the grand vision without regard to the taxpayer. The golf course is fluff. The fire training center is anything but that.
Currently, Martin County trains in Fort Pierce. That means for an entire day several times a year stations are closed, and others need to pick up the slack. This results in overtime. And it does make some sense to have a training facility here. I would imagine that Stuart would pay to train its fire staff locally, and it would benefit all residents since both departments at times answer calls in each other’s jurisdictions.
There is no need to go into all the excuses the commissioners except Heard came up with for this almost 100% over run in costs. It was reminiscent of courtiers prostrating themselves before some royal potentate in the Middle Ages. (And, of note is the fact that they do need the campaign funds and manpower the union provides.)
But why should we be taken for suckers? This is one of the reasons why the public looks askance at the BOCC and does not trust them. The vote was 4-1 with Heard dissenting.
You can find the backup information here
The final item was a discussion on “Western Lands Planning Study.”
This goes back to the rural lifestyle amendment’s passing when Hetherington stated she would vote yes if the rest of the commission would agree to have at least this discussion. Where the price tag of $400,000 for the study came from is anyone’s guess. Jenkins asked where staff comes up with these names. Could you think of something that sounds more controversial? And emails poured into the commission.
Staff is supposed to be apolitical. But apolitical does not mean staff should be tone deaf to what things are called. Almost immediately, the pro, slow, and no growth factions began their finger pointing. Smith wanted the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council to take the lead. Jenkins demanded that 1000 Friends of Florida be included.
Ciampi wanted to have a non-Martin County agency involved. The Guardians spoke and wanted to be involved. Heard mentioned that the comprehensive plan is the guiding document. No one agreed with anyone else on how this should be done. The only sort of agreement I gleaned was that all were interested in having some sort of plan and method for the county to buy sensitive lands.
It was also said by everyone but Heard that if there isn’t a reasonable way to move forward, either the courts or Tallahassee would do it for Martin County. It is true that when the no-growth commission was in charge, the county paid out millions in settlements to developers, and the laws have only become more developer friendly in the ensuing years. While the comp plan is good, it isn’t the Ten Commandments set in stone. There must be a way for property owners to use their land.
It was agreed that staff should look at the 2020 Plan that was done at the turn of the century to see what has been accomplished. That, at least, is a starting point. Not only should we take advantage of acquiring land, but we also need a better plan to prevent sprawl.
As Jenkins said, right now, someone with a large ranch can break it up into 20-acre parcels and from the banks of Okeechobee going east, we would have nothing but sprawl.
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DYESS IS NEW MANAGER OF JUNO BEACH
Stuart City Manager David Dyess has been chosen to be the new manager of tony Juno Beach, home to FPL.
Dyess has spent the last 33 years working for the City of Stuart. He climbed the ranks from patrol officer to chief of police and then city manager five years ago. He took the helm at a chaotic point in the city’s history with the termination of David Ross, an outside hire, six months earlier.
Dyess came at a time when department heads had left, and there were other claims of employment irregularities. He immediately went to work restoring confidence in the city’s government. His tenure has been marked with a professionalism in the day-to-day operations of Stuart.
Dave could have spent the rest of his career at Stuart. Because of the quirky rules of the Florida Retirement System, he could take home almost as much pay as a retired employee as he would have if he continued working. This brought on his leaving. The same thing was true of County Administrator Taryn Kryzda’ s early retirement at the county. After a six-month period, she was eligible to go back to work within the FRS system, which she did and is now working for Indiantown.
Juno is not a member of the Florida Retirement System. Dyess can work there and collect his pension at the same time without interruption.
Dyess now will negotiate a contract with Juno. I have been told that their current manager can stay until June 1st, so there will be no mad rushes for the door.
In my opinion, David Dyess will be a hard act to follow. The hometown boy that grew up on Manor Drive in Stuart, attended the Methodist Church, local public schools, and Florida colleges is irreplaceable. As a police officer, he saw the worst but also the best in people. The years at SPD made him a known commodity to most residents of the city. I have even seen people he had arrested come up to him and say thanks for straightening out their lives.
Stuart, like Martin County, is unique. Florida laws can be daunting and a trap for the uninitiated especially when it comes to public records and “sunshine.” I believe that the next manager should be a local who knows and understands the city, county, and Florida. And it will be helpful if the residents, taxpayers, and business owners know the proposed manager. I hope my commissioners agree.
As a friend of both David and his wife, Karen, I am very happy as David embarks on a new adventure. As a resident and taxpayer, I am sad to see him go. Thank you for everything.
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SCHOOL BOARD WORKSHOP FEBRUARY 7, 2023
Apparently even to some board members, the arrangement between the district and the union allowing MCEA President Karen Resciniti to remain as a paid employee on the district payroll with all benefits while working exclusively in the union’s offices was a surprise. The union is reimbursing the district for her pay plus benefits.
On first look, it appears that the district is not being harmed (at least financially). However, there is more to it than just that. Board Member Amy Pritchett brought this to the surface. Anthony George, the board’s attorney, wrote a memo laying out the facts uncovered by him and related below.
This possibility has been in the contract since 2007/2008 but it was only requested by the union in mid-2022. There was a proposed MOU sent by MCEA to the district’s negotiation team on May 25th. The district employs Michael Spellman of the firm Sniffen and Spellman as their chief negotiator. He was not copied. Neither was Anthony George, the school board’s attorney.
Mr. Spellman received the proposed MOU from a member of the district’s negotiating team. Spellman had concerns about the language and that it had to be presented at a collective bargaining session. Superintendent Millay and Spellman discussed the matter, but Spellman was not asked to review anything. It was never brought up in a collective bargaining session nor does he remember it being presented in an executive session with the board.
In July, the district and union did come to an understanding regarding Resciniti remaining a fulltime district employee who would work from the union office and report to Tyson Villwock, the Director of Professional Standards. All pay and benefits would be reimbursed by the union. The agreement was signed by Resciniti and Millay on August 16th retroactive to August 1st.
According to the George memo, on September 30th Board Consent Item 4.02 approved Resciniti’s appointment as a teacher on assignment but no contract or other documents were attached to the item. Neither George nor Spellman were given a copy of the draft prior to execution.
The union has reimbursed the district for all wages and benefits but there has been no verification of reimbursement of any of the millage payment that every teacher received including Resciniti. The collective bargaining contract calls for a leave of absence to be granted not continuation of employee status.
While Item 4.02, which was approved on consent, calls for her to work under the supervision of a deputy superintendent. Millay has assigned her to work under Villwock, the senior administrator for collective bargaining. He also would do any investigations of any member of her union on disciplinary matters. According to George, this leads to the perception of a conflict.
There is no doubt that there must be agenda consent items in order not to have meetings that run for hours and hours. Yet how is the school board member supposed to know what they are voting on if there are no attachments explaining the item?
For some time, I have written about the lack of agenda items having any sort of backup. At the meeting where this memo and the entire Resciniti affair was being discussed, there was no way the public had any idea what was going on. The George memo and other back up material were not attached. This is a situation that happens all too frequently with the district and the board. It needs to stop now. Obviously not only is the public not informed but apparently neither is the board on matters coming before it.
Ms. Pritchett was the one that dug most deeply into this matter. She should be given credit for actively bringing it to the attention of the public and all the board members. There are also complaints from rank-and-file union members regarding being stonewalled by union leadership. This is not a matter for the board. If there are unfair practices by union leadership, then union members need to take it up with the state union organization, the appropriate state or federal agencies or the courts.
The consensus of the board was to have Chair Powers, Dr. Millay, Mr. George, and Mr. Spellman work with the union to come to some understanding through the end of the contract period. There was some talk by Millay that other districts have these types of agreements but, as of this meeting, no one could name any.
Ms. Resciniti is the union president and cannot adequately perform her teaching assignment and union representation at the same time. She should choose one or the other. The school board should recognize and preserve her seniority, but they need do nothing else. She can take COBRA for health insurance and any compensation should come directly from the union. One thing is for sure…she can’t adequately represent her members and at the same time report to Mr. Villwock who she is sitting across from in negotiations and union matters.
You can see the George memo here
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The Next Meeting Is October 10, 2022
The next meeting is February 13, 2023
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COMMISSION MEETING FEBRUARY 7, 2023
When I watch the Ocean Breeze or Stuart commission meetings, I sometimes think how underexposed the commissioners are to the entire world. The same thing happens when I look at Jupiter Island.
Obviously in the first two examples, the elected officials are from working class communities and just have not had the opportunities that the more rarefied Jupiter Island folks have had. If you live in Stuart or Ocean Breeze, you probably didn’t attend Choate, Exeter, or any other of the elite boarding schools. JD Parker, Stuart Middle, and Martin County were where you matriculated.
Jupiter Island residents are just as myopic wrapped in their cocoons. While the elected officials from Stuart or Ocean Breeze mingle with their peers and take part in organizations like the MPO, Florida League of Cities, and even the Airport Noise Advisory Committee, the commissioners on Jupiter Island never are seen at any of these organizations.
They are oblivious to what other municipalities are doing and have done. This is why when things like adding a property rights element to the comprehensive plan is required, they appear to mimic a “deer in the headlight.” Under Florida law passed last year, Tallahassee has mandated that a property rights element should be in every comprehensive plan.
There are four mandated provisions. They all really say the same thing which is to recognize the rights of a property owner. Those rights are already enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, Florida Constitution, federal and state law, court decisions, and even the town’s own ordinances. In other words, what is the big deal?
To help municipalities, the Florida League of Cities came up with a draft element to incorporate. The Florida Association of Counties has a similar one for county plans. It mimics the state statute. There is no choice and must be added to each comp plan and approved by the state by 2025.
Former county and town commissioner, Anne Scott, loves to throw up roadblocks to the simplest of items. It was telling when she asked how could they be sure that the Florida League of Cities represents Jupiter Island’s interests? In all the hundreds of meetings and events I have attended during my decade-long involvement with FLC, I remember seeing only one commissioner from Jupiter Island…Whit Pidot.
I can see that there is not much in common between Pidot and perhaps a commissioner from Port St. Lucie. As an example, during a luncheon I was seated next to Pidot and a Port St. Lucie Commissioner where the commissioner kept mistaking Jupiter Island for the Town of Jupiter. These two clearly spoke different languages and translation was hard.
But Pidot is out in the wider world, while Scott and frankly the other commissioners never venture to reach out to their colleagues from the rest of the state. It is unfortunate because I believe the threat to home rule will only get worse. Imagine how helpful it would be if a JI commissioner went with the Treasure Coast League’s delegation to Tallahassee to lobby on cities’ behalf. Their sophistication and, quite frankly wealth and political clout, would be an asset.
Because they do not take part in these efforts that the other municipalities do, Jupiter Island has no idea what is befalling them as a municipality. Things like this element to the plan are trivial. There are many other matters that are not. Could they stop legislation that is harmful to cities? In some cases, I believe so. You must be in the game to do that.
Anne Scott, who may be elected to the town commission next month, is the antithesis of Pidot, who is not running. Her approach is that her opinion is the best and it should carry through even if lawsuits ensue. This comp plan element was a no brainer and, frankly, there is no choice. What the town is proposing to do with their LDR rewrites is where much discussion should occur.
After much ado, the motion to include the element as written was approved unanimously on first reading.
The element and other backup can be found here
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In The Spotlight
by Jackie Holfelder
Jackie has begun a new column for 32963/St Lucie Voice. She is going to be busy with that for a time. Once the dust has settled she may once again become a regular contributor here. She told me that she will be contributing a new profile in our next edition.
We wish her great success in the St. Lucie County endeavor. In the meantime if you are a nonprofit send us your press release preferably in word or a PDF with photos separately and we will include it.
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Tallahassee is moving very fast when it comes to changing the state’s education practices. Yet is it all about education?
We are looking at vouchers, culture wars, free speech, higher ed, teacher pay, curriculum, book banning, and much more. Is it too much to comprehend so fast? Is DeSantis mixing too much politics into policy to boost his brand?
Florida House Speaker Paul Renner has unveiled a massive voucher plan to spur on school choice. There are more than 650 charters in Florida which offer an alternative education to the public schools run by the 67 school boards in the state. Renner’s plans include school choice vouchers, educational savings accounts, and funds for special needs scholarships.
Unfortunately, nowhere in the governor’s budget is there a mention of the Renner plan. It is true that the legislature will make its own budget in the coming months and some piece of Governor DeSantis’s plan will be part of it. Does the governor take credit, or does he decide to veto that measure?
Teachers are removing books from their classrooms to forestall possible trouble about whether books in their classroom libraries conform to the new laws. Censorship has never gone over well in America. Book banning may do so with the Republican base, but I can’t see most upper middle-class moms liking the idea in the northern and midwestern suburbs. This is a key group if DeSantis or any Republican nominee hopes to be our next president.
In his budget, the governor is giving teachers raises…an idea even Democrats will like. But if a few teachers are fired for violating censorship laws and/or at the same time there is a modern “Scopes Monkey Trial” going on while the governor is trying to be elected president it won’t play well outside of Maga Land. Imagine Mrs. Smith, the school librarian for 30 years, behind bars. That can wipe out any gains by passing these laws in the first place.
In his first 4 years as governor, DeSantis spoke incessantly about how Florida’s public colleges and universities had become nationwide leaders in higher education. However, the current trend to change the curriculum to do away with diversity and a range of educational free speech imperatives could make those same colleges an unattractive higher education choice for many residents and non-state students alike. Going after tenured professors does nothing to broaden your coalition.
Some of these moves may make educational, if not political, sense. The idea of tenure has long been criticized as adding costs to schools. The very idea of tenure has morphed into a job guarantee rather than a system to encourage academic freedom. There are ways of eliminating tenure without alienating so many of your present and future constituents.
I believe the governor has now placed state policy second to politics. DeSantis, the governor, has 4 years to initiate his policies. DeSantis, the presidential candidate, has one. Through his insistence of seeing everything through the prism of politics, he could be ruining his chances to bring about educational reform.
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GET THE WORD OUT
Friends and Neighbors of Martin County is your eyes and ears so that you know what is going on in Martin County’s municipal and county governments. I attempt to be informative and timely so that you may understand how your tax money is being spent. Though I go to the meetings and report back, I am no substitute for your attending meetings. Your elected officials should know what is on your mind.
Tom Campenni 772-341-7455 (c) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
ARTICLES OF INTEREST
Articles Tom wrote:
From Martin County Moment:
“A Deal In The Works”
“The Emperor Has No Clothes”
“School Vouchers Can Prevent School Censorship”
“Christian Nationalism For America Is A Fallacy”
The Capitolist: “Jeff Brandes’ think tank: Live Local Bill will help, but bigger changes needed to fix affordable housing crisis”
The New York Times: “How To Clear 500,000 Ferel Cats From New York Streets”
Florida Phoenix: “Statehouses debate who should build EV charging networks”
The Washington Post: “Tracing the power of Casey DeSantis”
American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)
Annual Medium Income (AMI)
Basin Action Management Plan (BMAP)
Best Management Practices (BMP)
Board of County Commissioners (BOCC)
Business Development Board (BDB)
Capital Improvement Plan (CIP)
Career & Technical Education (CTE)
Center For Disease Control (CDC)
Centum Cubic Feet (CCF)
Children’s Services Council (CSS)
Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)
Community Development District (CDD)
Community Redevelopment Board (CRB)
Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA)
Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR)
Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP)
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
Emergency Operation Center (EOC)
Equivalent Residential Connection (ERC)
Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU)
Evaluation & Appraisal Report (EAR)
Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA)
Fixed Asset Replacement Budget (FARB)
Federal Rail Administration (FRA)
Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)
Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND)
Full Time Equivalents (FTE)
Future Land Use Maps (FLUM)
Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)
High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)
Hobe Sound Local (HSL)
Indian River Lagoon (IRL)
Land Development Code (LDR)
Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS)
Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSUM)
Local Agency Program Certification (LAP)
Local Planning Agency (LPA)
Martin County Fire/Rescue (MCFR)
Martin County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO)
Martin County Taxpayers Association (MCTA)
Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU)
Municipal Service Taxing Unit (MSTU)
Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY)
Organization For Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD)
Parks & Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB)
Planned Unit Development (PUD)
Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)
Preserve Action Management Plan (PAMP)
Request for Proposal (RFP)
Residential Planned Unit Development (RPUD)
Right of Way (ROW)
Secondary Urban Services District (SUSD)
South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD)
South Martin Regional Utility (SMRU)
State Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP)
Storm Water Treatment Areas (STA)
Tax Increment Financing (TIF)
Urban Planned Unit Development (UPUD)
Urban Services Boundary (USB)
World Health Organization (WHO)