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IN THIS EDITION OF THE NEWSLETTER
We are now halfway through the first month of 2023.
The coming year’s lists of predictions have all been made and published. I didn’t do that in the newsletter because predictions by most of us turn out to be wrong. Of course, individual prognosticators only remember when they are right. And they seldom forget to tell you how right they were.
Like last year, the year before, and every year I can remember, there will be political differences between us. If they would only stay differences and not hatreds, then it would be healthy for society. That has not been the case for the past few years.
“Own the libs” or “Neanderthal conservatives” are not helpful to ironing out our differences. It seems highly unlikely that any of those invectives will change minds. But in today’s world, changing minds isn’t the point, is it?
It is all about holding onto that small minority who want to be spectators in the coliseum watching the blood sport of incendiary politics continue. With the Republicans now in control of the House, there could be some chance of accomplishing more conservative legislation. That would mean both sides would have to do some horse trading. Are Democrats and Republicans able to do that or just throw pointed verbal barbs at each other?
No one can argue that our immigration system isn’t broken. If everyone wants to change it, then it is eminently doable. Most agree on the “Dreamers” being granted at least green card status and a way to become citizens. Most know that there are not enough judges to hear asylum cases which again would be another easy fix. More immediate adjudication would not allow most of these claimants to remain in limbo (and in the country) indefinitely. Republicans and most Democrats believe that enhanced border security is important. So right here is the start of a fix on immigration.
One thing that no one is predicting is that Congress will come together to fix immigration. Or for that matter will anyone give our government any chance of tackling any of our problems. No legislator sees an upside to that.
Congress can show the American people that problems can be solved rather than just point out flaws. Just like everyone else, I am waiting for a better outcome than the current chaos being offered. I predict my wait will be a long one.
A SMALL MIRACLE FOR 10TH STREET
On December 17th Stuart PD participated in the annual “Miracle On 10th Street” celebration. They handed out toys to the East Stuart community kids. On Thursday December 22nd Stuart PD formally arrested Lonnie Bee Smalls for the first-degree murder of senior citizen Mattie Lou Jones who was sitting in her living room on that same block of 10th Street on Thanksgiving evening when a stray bullet found her.
He was also charged with the attempted first-degree murders of three others which occurred at the same time. Two victims were shot and one escaped injury. Within an hour and half of the incident, Smalls was a suspect and was arrested on a violation of probation six hours after the incident. He was held in jail without bond.
The investigation is ongoing, and there will probably be more charges filed perhaps against Smalls but probably several others as well. I spoke with Chief Tumminelli this morning. He gave me no additional information than what was in his press release. I would suspect by reading between the lines of that press release, there are multiple law enforcement agencies involved not just Martin County’s. This can turn out to be a large, involved case.
Thanksgiving weekend saw a raft of shootings in the city…most of it outside of the East Stuart neighborhood. Most of them had to do with the perpetrator being mad at the victim and having access to a gun.
Age is no predictor of rage. Two senior citizens were shot and killed by another senior during a dispute in a condo. Another was shot by a high school student who unlocked his parent’s gun box and shot his friend. And a convicted felon shot someone at an apartment complex for a still undetermined reason on my part.
Smalls turned 19 while he was sitting in jail. He was born on Dec 10th 2003. He had been arrested and convicted of crimes numerous times. Lonnie Smalls couldn’t care less about taking a human life…even a grandma sitting in her living room watching tv. If convicted, he will likely face the death penalty but will, at the very least, spend the rest of his life in prison.
Within less than 2 hours, Tumminelli and the rest of the department knew who the culprit was and 6 hours later had him behind bars. It is obvious that they are on the job to serve and protect. Justice, in most cases, turns slowly and even with everything proceeding expeditiously in this case, it took a month to formally charge Smalls.
In his statement, the chief said that he hoped the arrest brings “some closure for the Jones family.” And if it does, that would be the small miracle on 10th Street. A real miracle would be if 10th Street stopped being a shooting gallery.
That miracle on 10th Street has more to do with what the people of that block, the rest of East Stuart, and all the citizens of Stuart are willing to tolerate. The present level of violence especially with guns should be unacceptable to our community.
As Appeared In Martin County Moment December 24, 2022
GOVERNMENT ACTING AS BUSINESS
Just a little over a year ago, TCPalm had an article about a $595 million development which will have a Wavegarden facility.
It will initially be a simulated surfing park in Phase 1. It will also have 28 vacation rentals and maintenance building. The Fort Pierce City Commission approved the development at the beginning of 2022. There is no comparison with Martin County’s much smaller Splash Water Park.
However, unlike Martin County’s Splash Water Park which is government owned and operated, the Fort Pierce endeavor is privately owned and financed. The article claimed that Wavegarden has numerous projects throughout the world. Besides surfing and a wave pool, there will be a rock-climbing wall, cliff diving, and a TopGolf.
This shouldn’t take away from Martin County’s water park or new TopGolf facility at the county golf course. Both are very well done, and if someone is looking for that type of entertainment, little old Martin has it here. Yet compared to what will be offered to our north, how do we compete?
The question is not how we compete, but should we ever have been in that business? This is not to say Martin County’s staff didn’t give us bang for our buck but maybe our buck should have never been spent for that purpose. The staff was following commission direction, and they did a good job with the resources they had.
What we in Martin County have never answered is what should government do? Is the responsibility of the Parks and Recreation Department to build and operate with tax dollars what clearly belongs in the sphere of private enterprise? Or should those funds be used for more mundane things such as ball fields and community pools?
Years and years ago there, were small family-owned amusement parks throughout the country. Once places like Disneyworld opened, those “mom & pop” parks closed because they could not compete. They didn’t have the resources to go up against the big boys.
It is much harder for government to close shop and sell the land for new apartment projects as many of those smaller businesses did because the water park has a pool used for community events. TopGolf is at the new county golf course, it is not like we shouldn’t have a place for people to play old fashion golf.
In the end, our county needs to determine what the role of government is. Not only for things like golf and amusement parks but also for everything our government currently provides. There is one thing I know for sure… government competing with private industry is a losing proposition.
THERE STILL IS A LONG WAY TO GO IN MARTIN COUNTY
Martin Luther King Day is tomorrow. Martin County still has a long way to go before his dream of the color of a person’s skin not mattering is achieved.
The most recent example of this occurred at the Martin Downs Golf Club in Palm City on New Year’s Day. Graffiti appeared in a tunnel on the course that disparaged not only Blacks but Jews. The owner of the course is Stanley Campbell who is Black. The members of the Yahoo brotherhood once again are front and center in Palm City.
A column by Blake Fontenay in TCPalm featured an interview with Campbell who stated this is not the first time that vandalism has occurred. Racism, anti-Semitism, and the animosity towards the gay community is nothing new. These are certainly not the values that King taught nor are they Christian or family values either.
We should welcome people like Stanley Campbell regardless of the color of their skin. He is everything we claim to want in a citizen. A veteran, entrepreneur, and family man. Being black is not a disqualifying attribute nor is being gay or a Jew.
Martin County needs to fight against prejudice of every kind. It isn’t brave to spray paint racist symbols and tropes on walls. This was probably done by young people. Children are empty vessels that see nothing but equality. It is the adults that teach them prejudice and hatred. Oscar Hammerstein wrote the lyrics in “South Pacific” for a song entitled “You Have To Be Carefully Taught How To Hate.” That is something adults need to keep in mind.
So, as we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, let’s remember inclusion not the rhetoric of exclusion. Some are searching for how to pull us apart instead of bringing us together. Nothing is more reprehensible than using the freedom that we possess to limit someone else’s.
There is always a period when it seems we are falling into the past. Fear of those we do not know can be very frightening. Dr. King knew this and that is why his message was of hope and not despair. Stanley Campbell is our hope and those who vandalized his property are our despair. Thankfully, hope inevitably overcomes despair.
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By Carol Houwaart-Diez
United Way of Martin County President-CEO
For those who don’t know, I’m from Western New York, specifically a small town called Lewiston in Niagara County.
When you’re from that area, there are a few things that stick with you no matter where you go, and one of them is being a fan of the Buffalo Bills and Sabres. Last week, we all watched in shock on national television as Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin collapsed during a routine tackle and went into cardiac arrest. At that moment, the game became secondary, and we were reminded of how fragile life is.
It was humbling to see professional athletes weep and hug at the gravity of the situation. What was even more moving, though, was seeing the circle of protection that these men formed around the paramedics and medical personnel working on Hamlin to shield them from the cameras.
Regardless of your faith, it was truly amazing to see sports broadcasters, fans, players, coaches, and the media rallying around this player with prayers and openly asking others to pray for him. This young man’s tragedy touched and united so many people. To date, the foundation set up in his name, which supports young people in the town where he grew up by providing them with toys, has raised over $8 million.
Again, this shows the power of people coming together to support each other. Mr. Hamlin’s health has improved, and things are looking brighter. We continue to send our thoughts and prayers to him, his family, and all members of the Bills Nation.
This incident got me thinking about human nature and the kindness that comes out in people when we are united. Can you imagine if we came together in Martin County and rallied around the needs in our community? There are already a number of non-profits in our community that you can support, and millions of dollars are invested annually in Martin County to improve the quality of life for those who need services. Imagine what could be achieved if we stopped seeing it as “us against them” and instead looked at our community as a united whole. We would all benefit.
My hope for the world is that everyone will join forces to work on issues, but the reality is that this doesn’t happen very often. I don’t understand why, but it’s frustrating when so much good could come from working together. But then I see what happens when one tragic incident occurs while we’re watching our favorite sports team, and we all come together. It should not take a tragedy for us to unite, support each other, and work toward a better future.
As we begin the year 2023, I’m asking each of us to consider coming together, not just in the wake of a tragedy, but simply as humans who want a better future for everyone in our community. My motto is and will always be #LiveUnited.
Carol Houwaart-Diez opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint
By Darlene VanRiper
MAY I SEE YOUR RESUME PLEASE
May I see your resume, please?
What does it take to become a Presidential Cabinet Member? Evidently not much. I began wondering because of the Southwest Airlines debacle. Some are placing blame on Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. I don’t know how much blame to accredit him.
But it did make me curious as to his qualifications. Common sense would suggest that one must have some background in oh, I don’t know…transportation, maybe? This guy takes home $221,400 per year of our tax dollars and nowhere, that I can find, is there proof that he knows anything that would make him up to the task of Secretary of Transportation.
According to his official government website “His work on transportation as mayor was nationally recognized, including an award for innovative streetscape design” which made the streets more “walkable”. He was mayor of a city with 101,000 inhabitants. For perspective, Martin County has 158,000 citizens and Southwest provided flights for 123.3 million passengers in 2021.
In 2000, Buttigieg won an award for an essay…on Bernie Sanders. His degree is in philosophy, politics, and economics…not urban planning. From 2009 to 2017, he was an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserve. I’m still waiting to see any hardcore transportation experience.
Buttigieg’s own campaign defended his record, saying he “devoted resources to a variety of programs to create affordable housing, fund home repairs and increase shelter capacity for homeless residents”. See anything about transportation? What is in this guy’s resume that would make anyone jump to appoint him Transportation Secretary?
In February 2021, the new secretary tweeted that he would be “working to ensure safety and make transportation more equitable while fighting climate change and creating jobs”. Certainly, there was an equitable chance of getting stranded. Certainly, all those planes NOT flying went miles toward saving the planet. Certainly, more janitors were needed to clean up after all the stranded people in the airport. Whew, next challenge, please.
I don’t care if the airline chaos was Buttigieg’s fault or not. My point is that our elected officials are supposed to be hiring people who are up to the task. TASKS TO BE PERFORMED FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. Not just political payoff for suspending a campaign and endorsing their future boss.
Let’s think about how we can fix this, because it has become painfully clear to “thousands” (I can’t find a real count) of stranded passengers, that it needs fixing. Perhaps the new House should come up with standards. Yes, I know Cabinet members must be confirmed by the Senate, but this tends to become more political theater than anything else.
I’d like to see some boxes and backgrounds checked as well as some real experience going forward. Perhaps suspending a campaign should DISqualify Cabinet contenders. Afterall, right there is a failure. Should we, the people, reward that?
Darlene VanRiper’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
By Nicki van Vonno
I am a shark.
I simply cannot read just one book.
I am reading a memoir of an elderly couple; the first in a series of books on Joan of Arc, Regine Pernoud’s “Joan of Arc By Herself and Her Witnesses;” and “Attack at Daylight and Whip Them: The Battle of Shiloh” by George A. Mertz. I am still chugging along on the “The Great American Railroad War” by Dennis Drabelle; one of the protagonists is the founder of my hometown. I just finished “George Washington’s Secret Six,” by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger for a Book Club I lead.
My daughter told her boyfriend that I obsess over a topic until I move on. I listened to a wonderful webinar on Joan done for Smithsonian Associates. I was searching for some of the movies that have been made about Joan. Who would not follow Ingrid Bergman or Leelee Sobieski into battle to crown her king? Since confession is good for the soul, I confess I love movies like I love books.
It’s a family tradition. Our entertainment was family trips to a drive-in. My sister took me and a friend to see West Side Story when it came out. I was a film showing member of the Student Activities Film Committee in college! Ask me about the film breaking during the climax of two movies one year!
“Joan of Mongolia” for example, is a film I want to see. I haven’t found it on a streaming service yet, but it led to Regine’s work. I am finishing Regine’s translation and transcription of Joan’s trial, and true to form, I also have her biography of Joan. Finally, I have Mark Twain’s novel “Joan of Arc,” which Twain declared the best of all his books. Twain was, as I am, fixated by Joan; Twain spent years researching her life and the lands she trod.
My best gift was my daughter’s visit. We went through her art history books from college. Some will get shipped to her, some will go the Book Depot run by the Martin Friends of the Library and some will go the arts center planned at Stuart High School. Then there is my pile. Last night I picked up Craig Harrison’s “The Mirror of the Artist” and Denis’s Dutton’s “The Art Instinct,” but fell asleep after watching “She Said” and “The Menu.” Talk about swimming with sharks…
Nicki van Vonno’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
By David Hafner
Happy New Year! As I am writing I am sitting poolside in San Juan, Puerto Rico enjoying some Tacos Al Pastor and a sunny, breezy day that is very much like what we experience in Martin County.
Though I am in a paradise tropical location this is not a vacation. I am here attending the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention. Farmers and ranchers from nearly every state are here to share ideas, stories, and a feeling of camaraderie. Farm support companies are here to better understand the needs of their customers and to gain new customers.
I am here to continue my never-ending pursuit to understand broader agricultural topics and find ways to share that knowledge with the non-farming community. As part of that goal, I am joining a panel discussion with farmers from Arizona and North Carolina in giving a workshop on “Bringing Everyone to the Table” in agriculture so all feel like they are part of the bigger picture no matter the size of the farm.
The conference will wrap up on Wednesday and I will begin a 3-day tour of PR’s agricultural lands. The tour includes stops at Bayer Crop Science’s facility, the University of Puerto Rico’s agricultural experiment station, the farm of Asociación de Agricultores de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Farm Bureau) with President Héctor I. Cordero Toledo, and an environmental segment that involves the island’s mangroves and experiencing bioluminescence.
The way food is grown from one region to another is often very different, so these learning experiences are very important to expanding my agricultural knowledge. It is also important that I from time to time check back on how a region is growing because as science advances, so does the way food is grown.
Just as I need to refresh what I know about farming so must you. When is the last time you challenged the thoughts, you carry about farming? Are they based on something you heard 10, 20, 30 years ago? If so, there is a very good chance what you know about farming is very outdated.
Farmers care very much about being sustainable for the environment and for the next generation who will one day take over their farm. Farmers have taken to all social media platforms which makes it very easy to find them. Just enter “farming” in the search bar.
To conclude this article, I listened to a session with Jenniffer González-Colon, Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico’s Congressional Representative) as she spoke about PR’s agriculture and rural priorities. As her session wrapped up, she said something that took me by surprise. In our country I see a lot that I think is wrong in our politics and it’s almost enough to make me
want to give up on our political system. Even with all that going on here, González-Colon ended by saying Puerto Rican’s are holding strong to the hope that they will be voted in as the 51st state and be added to the Union. As bad as we perceive it to be here, we still live in a great nation and others dream to be a part of what we have.
David Hafner’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT BOARD BENT
By Joan Goodrich
Movies and books have popularized the imagine of a vigilant spotter stationed in the ship crow’s nest scanning the horizon with a telescope before shouting, “Land, ho!”
In Martin County, any search for the Land of Opportunity begins by looking at the water. After all, our regional marine economy generates more than $305.3 million a year and provides more than 3,300 industry jobs to area families.
Those job numbers will grow even greater thanks to the recent unanimous approval by the Martin County Board of County Commissioners on an expansion proposed by Willis Custom Yachts.
Since purchasing American Custom Yachts in 2021, Willis Custom Yachts—created by Mark Willis and Brooks Smith—has sought to boost its position in the marine industry.
Occupying a 35-acre operation just west of I-95 with plans to add 30 more acres—in addition to its 2-acre waterfront site in Stuart—the approval enables the creation of a 130,000-square-foot expansion. That breaks downs to 90,000 square feet of manufacturing space and a 40,000-square-foot facility dedicated to marine services.
As an expanding member of the essential marine industry—which we list among other local economic pillars such as aviation, agriculture, healthcare, information technology and clean energy as “Hubs of Excellence”—the Business Development Board worked to assist the company early on. In addition to business advocacy, our role included availing Willis Custom Yachts to one of the key items in our updated Jobs Toolkit—expedited review.
Having already grown its workforce by nearly 50 percent, Willis Custom Yachts will continue to add talent to its 140-plus workforce. The company is recruiting technicians for mechanical, fiberglass, electrical work and more.
Helping fill those jobs—an aspect of our Talent Advancement initiative—is a team effort enjoined by our partners in economic development, including the Marine Industries Association of the Treasure Coast, Economic Council, Stuart Martin County Chamber, Martin County School District and others.
Thankfully, key business and elected leaders realized years earlier the need to cultivate a local workforce for our core industries. Even as we focus resources and concentrate efforts, the demand—which currently outplaces supply—will soon offer some remarkable and rewarding opportunities for those fortunate individuals savvy enough to realize that their ship, literally and figuratively, is indeed coming in.
Martin County Commercial Real Estate event
Is any topic more talked about around town—or across the state—than real estate? We’re excited to lend something meaningful to the conversion with an expert panel at our 2023 Martin County Commercial Real Estate Forum.
Held from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Jan. 26 at IRSC’s Chastain campus in Stuart, the forum will feature local and state experts as they share their outlooks and insights on trends to watch as well as opportunities to anticipate.
Kenneth Krasnow, Vice Chairman, Institutional Investor Services Florida, Colliers
- Joe Kulenovic, Vice President, International, Enterprise Florida
Cathy Chambers, Economic Development Director, FPL
Doug West, President-General Manager, Willis Custom Yachts
For more information and to reserve your seat at the CRE Forum, please visit BDBMC.org or call (772) 221-1380.
Joan Goodrich’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint
KEEP MARTIN BEAUTIFUL
By Tiffany Kincaid
Keep Martin Beautiful Invites You to Take a Shot at Healing the Planet
How can we solve our environmental challenges and help our planet heal? Each year, the Earthshot Prize Council, a global team of influencers, asks this question of innovators and environmentalists around the world, discovers the best of the best and brings them to an award ceremony.
This year’s winners came up with truly world-changing projects.
One team developed a cookstove widely used in Africa that uses less charcoal and produces 70% less pollution than traditional charcoal stoves.
Another team is using a natural process to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and capture it in peridotite, an abundant rock found around the world.
A team from India created a Greenhouse-in-a-Box to help small farmers increase their plant yields using less water and fewer pesticides.
The 2022 grand prize winner is a team that is developing a sustainable way to use seaweed and plant-based materials as an alternative to the plastic that is clogging our seas and endangering our environment.
These are amazing projects. They show what human ingenuity can do when faced with a task as monumental as saving the planet.
Not many of us are in a position to create global solutions and scale them up to where they affect the entire planet, but Keep Martin Beautiful knows the power of local efforts to protect our environment and an “act locally, think globally” attitude.
At our Environmental Stewardship Awards ceremony last year, for example, we honored local efforts like the House of Hope Traveling Nutrition Garden that teaches adults and children where their food comes from and how to grow it. The City of Stuart won an award for installing a canopy of native trees in Shepherd’s Park. Project LIFT got the judges’ attention for using recycled vehicles to teach young people a useful trade and keep unwanted vehicles out of the landfill.
Every week in Martin County, residents pick up litter along our roadsides in our Adopt-A-Road program. And we’re already gearing up for the annual Great American Cleanup, which is set to take place over three months from March 20 through June 20.
We each have a shot at taking actions that make a difference. Keep Martin Beautiful urges you to be aware, look for opportunities to protect the environment, and work together to heal our planet.
To learn more about the Earthshot Prize projects, visit earthshotprize
To learn more about Keep Martin Beautiful and how you can get involved in the Great American Cleanup and other volunteer opportunities please go to keepmartinbeautiful.org,
or call 772-781-1222.
Tiffany Kincaid’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint
By Suzy Hutcheson
CEO Helping People Succeed
Many people believe that individuals with disabilities are not able to save for their future and are totally caught in a system that discourages them from any options.
However, in December of 2014 The Stephen Beck, Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) was passed. ABLE is a program that allowed each state to offer tax-free savings and investment options to encourage individuals with a disability and their families to save private funds to support health, independence, and quality of life.
Florida’s legislature passed the Florida Achieving a better Life Experience Act on May 21, 2015. This state law established ABLE United to oversee Florida’s qualified ABLE program. Money contributed to an ABLE account is generally disregarded with determining eligibility for federal benefit programs such as Supplemental Security (SSI) and Medicaid.
The mission of ABLE United is to encourage and assist the saving of private funds to help persons with disabilities cover costs that support their health, independency, and quality of life—just like everyone else.
The ABLE savings program coupled with the Employment First Initiative enables and encourages individuals with disabilities to live everyday lives—employed and enjoying the resources available in the community. Employment First has the purpose that all individuals including those individuals with the most significant disabilities are capable of full participation in the workforce.
Through Helping People Succeed, individuals with disabilities can chart their path to employment and community involvement. By determining what the individual would like to do and what their abilities are, employment options are considered, and placements are accomplished.
Over the past two decades employment for people with disabilities has become a reality for many on the Treasure Coast and Okeechobee. If you have a disability or know someone who does, please refer them to Helping People Succeed. Call Shannon Wilson at 772.320.0770 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Between the ABLE Act and Employment First, Helping People Succeed can assist individuals with disabilities imagine and succeed with their dreams.
For additional information on ABLE United, look at their website: ableunited
For additional information on Employment First, look at dol.gov/
For additional information on Helping People Succeed HPSFL
Suzy Hutheson’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint
By Pastor Chad Fair
Immanuel Lutheran Church
That’s What it Should Look Like
By now you’ve all heard about Damar Hamlin, the safety from the Buffalo Bills.
After a routine tackle he got up, adjusted his face mask, and promptly collapsed to the ground. Frantic players waived medical staff to him. Damar’s heart stopped beating but Bills athletic trainer Denny Kellington quickly initiated CPR and was able to revive him.
A few days later Damar was able to talk with his teammates and even watched their last game. The miraculous story was being talked about by everyone from sports fans too little old ladies at Panera Bread. As fascinating as this story is it’s not the medical or even the sports side of the story that is so captivating to me, although they both are. It’s the faith side of the story.
While Damar was motionless on the field a huge huddle of players and staff took a knee to pray. If you’ve been to an NFL game or watched the telecast at the end of the game you’ve likely seen a group of players gather together to pray on the field. It’s common. But never before have I seen so many people take a knee and pray.
After too long of a wait the game was cancelled. While exiting the stadium, fans from both teams joined hands in prayer. For the next few days, every single caller I heard phoning into sports talk radio offered a prayer before they made their comments. One sports commentator actually prayed during a TV show, not a moment of silence but a spoke a prayer.
As a pastor, this was pretty amazing to see. People were openly displaying their faith all over the place.
Sadly, public Christianity has been largely about hate, judgement, and condemnation, rather than love, hope, forgiveness, and inclusion. But here it was right before my eyes, people of faith coming together for a positive cause, praying for healing. While I don’t know for certain, I’m willing to bet they didn’t stop to first check denominational allegiance, gender, sexuality, race, or ethnicity. They simply directed their prayers and the power of their faith toward one thing, healing Damar Hamlin.
It didn’t stop there, donors flocked to Damar’s charity and last time I heard had donated over $6,000,000 to his charity for kids. What a profound, real-life lesson of what faith can and should be in the world. People of faith joining together to make a positive difference with no hate or judgement or condemnation.
In my study of Jesus, that’s what I believe we are called to be, a community of believers working to spread a positive message of hope and love and compassion.
It may not last, but I can’t help but dream of a world where what we got a glimpse of can be a reality for longer than a week. Too bad it takes a tragedy for us to see it.
Chad Fair’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint
By Micah Hartawoski
Florida Power and Light has this shiny tech: Solar Trees
This incredible technology harnesses the power of the sun and converts that energy into something useful for humans (electricity) and provides a bit of shade where sun-weary Floridians can park their card, or post up and sit for a break.
A solar tree costs between $22,000 and $32,000 depending on the type of tree it is. That does not include the installation. But when you think of the benefit, FREE ENERGY, that feels like almost a steal; an incredible new tool to add resiliency to our infrastructure. What an incredible day and age to be living in; where we have a structure that can provide so many benefits in its immediate location (shade) while also providing an energy benefit. A testament to man’s technology and the power of human innovation!
But what if I told you we already have a structure like this, that is in some ways even more powerful…
What I mean to say is, we should all be planting actual trees.
It sounds simple and straight out of the 1970s to say it, but it remains true. I don’t mean to say that tree planting is a panacea for global warming- particularly when considering planting trees in ecosystems that should not have trees like deserts, arctic tundra, etc.
I also believe that solar energy will be a critical path forward in a resilient energy grid (really, I just resent FPL’s gimmicky “Solar Trees™”). Yet trees remain an incredible and underutilized tool in our infrastructure, particularly in South Florida.
Yes, trees convert CO2 into oxygen and sequester carbon in their roots and trunks. They provide habitat for beautiful birds living in or migrating through our area. The right tree planted well provides a wind block and protection from severe storms and hurricanes (a counterintuitive idea for many).
They provide beauty and a sense of tranquility and refuge. Most importantly perhaps (in my mind), they provide deep and relief-giving shade and cooling via evapotranspiration
A tree planted in the right place can block the sun and reduce a homeowners electricity bill. The difference in temperature on a summer day between a tree-shaded area and one without can be in excess of 25 degrees. That is incredible.
Yet, to look at the way FPL and lawn crews hat rack trees
in our area, you would think that they’re enemy number one. People raise concerns about power lines, shedding leaves, bumpy sidewalks, and driveways (never mind the fact that sidewalks in South Florida are awful to use without shade). Some folks would have you rip out all trees in favor of 2-inch Bahama grass and the occasional palm.
With FPL’s approach to trees and solar power, I imagine they’ve floated the idea to start a program where the customer pays them to take down any real trees and install one of these new Solar Trees™ which will basically create the energy the customer would have saved had the real tree grown and continued to provide shade.
Trees do need to be managed and maintained, and that challenge is why many municipalities, businesses, and homeowners are wary of them. Concerns regarding the costs of arborists, or the loss of the sacred American front lawn lead people to favor shrubs and grass over a sturdy live oak.
Yet that mindset is pennywise and pound foolish. Consider the potential savings on energy use in the home, the relief provided by a well-established tree, and the net benefit in creating municipal infrastructure (flexible sidewalks, buried power lines, etc.) that support trees as a critical component of that infrastructure.
Those maintenance dollars would yield cooler cities and cooler homes, public areas that are more beautiful, and a municipality that’s more resilient. Now that’s a pretty good investment; I’d almost call it a steal.
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
I hope you made it to our 49th Annual Stuart Boat Show!
One more day, Sunday January 15. Come see us at the show today!
As president of the Marine Industries Association of the Treasure Coast, owner of the Stuart Boat Show, I want to share the impact our local boat show has on our Happiest Seaside Town.
Thank you, City of Stuart and all the counties, towns, and residents of the Treasure Coast. This show helps your community.
For 49 years, this “small town” boat show has brought both economic value and a seaside flair to Stuart, Florida. Revenue from the show realized by the MIATC is returned to our community every year.
During this past year alone, we supported:
- Project Lift’s Workforce Bootcamps
- Chapman School of Seamanship’s Yamaha Training Center
- Advocacy for Vessel Access and Safety at St. Lucie railroad bridge
- Treasure Coast Waterway Cleanup
- Treasure Coast Christmas Boat Parades
- Competitive Health Insurance solutions for our association members
The Stuart Boat Show is ranked as one of the Top 20 events in the Southeast United States by the Southeast Tourism Society and is the largest boat show on the Treasure Coast. More than 200 local, national and international exhibitors will be at this year’s show displaying the latest models of motor yachts, including a 106-foot Burger, cruisers, center consoles, fishing and pontoon boats as well as personal watercraft, electronics, engines, boat lifts, fishing gear, and all the accessories that go with the boating lifestyle.
Festivities include a variety of music, food, and beverages as attendees mull over what to outfit their boat with next.
The Stuart Boat Show is produced by family owned and operated Allsports Productions, which sees attendance reach 22,000 over the Friday through Sunday weekend.
The show is staged along NW Dixie Highway with entrances at NW Fern Street at the North end and just over the causeway from SW Albany Avenue at the South end. Dixie Highway will be closed to traffic during the weekend show.
There’s plenty of parking with shuttle bus service both North and South of the show.
Witham Airport off Monterey Road and the grass lot on the corner of Dixie Highway and NW Wright Blvd.) Parking is only $5 and the free shuttle bus service will take you directly to the show entrance.
Take advantage of the online ticket sale prior to the show when the adult ticket price is $14. Showtime ticket prices are $17 for adults and $8 for children 12 and under. Infants are free. A special $14 entry fee is available for veterans. Sorry, but no pets are allowed in the show.
The MIATC wants to thank the City of Stuart and Martin County along with many sponsors for your continuing support.
For three days in January, the Stuart Boat Show is a festival of boating that brings together those who love the lifestyle no matter what age or experience level.
It’s fun for everyone. Please don’t miss it!
Tom Whittington’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
With websites now replacing business store fronts, the Martin County Property Appraiser’s Office is keenly aware that a comprehensive and innovative website significantly impacts the office and level of public service.
Do you want to learn about the tools and resources available to you on our award-winning website?
Please watch this educational video – WEBSITE TOOLS & RESOURCES
NON PROFIT NOTICES
Stuart/ Martin County Chamber of Commerce News
Earn and Learn Career Training Program is a ‘Win-Win’ Deal
MARTIN COUNTY – With an unemployment rate of only 2.4 percent, labor participation looks strong for Martin’s economy. Unfortunately, the truth is more painful to hear. Although residents are earning an income, families can’t afford to survive, let alone thrive here. A whopping 44 percent of households are living paycheck to paycheck. Residents are underemployed and left wondering how they will cover the 12% increase on their grocery bill.
Career Connect Martin is the Stuart/Martin Chamber’s free, workforce development program addressing underemployment and striking ‘win-win’ arrangements for jobseekers and employers. For jobseekers hoping to expand their resumes—and their bank accounts—Career Connect offers paid training positions with great local companies, professional coaching, and one-on-one skill building. Such positions—called Trial Employment Opportunities—are available across multiple industry sectors and provide pathways to sustainable careers. For employers, the program helps with labor recruitment, retention, and supports in-house training programs. Employers have salary and other related expenses covered during the Trial Employment period—mitigating some of the costs of hiring and training new people.
Obstacles such as the cost of childcare, transportation or to purchase required supplies, tools, and attire, can limit a person’s ability to secure a good job. “Career Connect Martin allows us to embrace the individual goals of a career-seeker,” says Angela Hoffman, the Stuart/Martin County Chamber’s director of workforce development. “This helps them overcome barriers that have held them down for years.”
Collaboration with the area’s human services partners is one way the Career Connect model meets the unique needs of each jobseeker. With a strong family and clear mind, participants start a new career.
It worked for Kentura, who came to Career Connect after being unemployed for several months. Kentura and her young son carpooled with a relative each day. Unreliable transportation was a huge strain and led to her unemployment. Knowing she needed help, she came to Career Connect and was placed with The UPS Store of Hobe Sound, an employer close to home and committed to her development. As a customer service representative, she was earning, learning, and was eventually promoted to a new role. Thanks to her new salary helping to cover insurance, and a partnership with United Way of Martin County and Project Lift, Kentura was gifted a reliable vehicle. The car was donated to Project Lift and refurbished by the non-profit’s students.
Kentura’s success story solidifies that how we reconnect the available labor force to the businesses that so desperately need employees has changed forever. With the support of partners. Career Connect Martin has uncovered a “win-win” formula.
To join Career Connect Martin as an employer or a jobseeker, visit careerconnectmartin or call 772-287-1088 x 103.
I am writing this memo on behalf of the Stuart Corvette Club “SCC” to thank our sponsors Dyer Chevrolet and Zen Auto, our partners Keiser University PSL the Elliott Museum, and our club members who so generously helped SCC raise funds to accomplish our mission of donating to our local charities.
The Stuart Corvette Club was formed in 1988 as a Florida not for profit corporation exclusively for charitable purposes within the meaning of Section 501 c of the IRS code. A social club made up of Corvette enthusiasts dedicated with a mission of friendship and support for various local charities. Generous support from our sponsors, partners, and club members hard work at fund raising car shows allowed SCC to give more to our charities this year than ever.
SCC a club of only 90 members donated a total of $10,825.00, 592 pounds of food and lots of toys to local charities we support … Treasure Coast Hospice, Treasure Coast Food Bank, Martin County Council on Aging, Children of Ukraine, Martin County Toys for Tots, and the SLC Sheriff’s Canine Unit.
My deepest appreciation to all the hard work from our members, sponsor and partners.
President, Stuart Corvette Club
The first letter is from Bobbie & Walter Deemer LWVMC Environmental Issues Co-Chairs asking that I print this appeal from Diane Goldberg::
It is not enough to say you support the ‘Right to Clean Water’
amendment. We need volunteers to go to different events and get
signatures. Florida Audubon’s reason for not supporting the measure
is not lawsuits. They don’t think the Florida Supreme Court will put
it on the ballot, but St Lucie Audubon does support it and I have
personally gotten hundreds of signatures and brought them to the
Supervisor of Elections (you need a form for authorization for the
SOE). I can’t do this alone in Martin, St Lucie and Indian River
Counties. I’ve attended DEP zoom meeting where they said they don’t
have the funding for staff and supplies to monitor and fine
polluters. BMAPs and TMDL are not being adhered to. I expect this
initiative to get our legislators to provide more funds to the DEP,
WMDs, and FWC.
Please help me get volunteers in these counties to help me. I can be
reached at email@example.com & 772-343-8666. See more info at
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The next letter is from Zach Gazza:
I write in order to correct an article you published in your December 8th, 2022 newsletter from Kyla Shay, Trailside HOA President “TRAILSIDE A SPECEAL REPORT”. I understand that Ms. Shay is frustrated that she (and other trailside residents) are recently inconvenienced by their Palmar neighbors using their privately owned property, however, I have to correct some very important misinformation that she wrote, and you published.
Ms. Shay wrote “Most of the lots that were sold within Pal-Mar on a title search show there is no ingress and egress on the lot….There is no legal recorded easement for ingress and egress…” This is not true. I have actually emailed these easements to her to try and help her understand that every lot in Palmar has legal access via recorded easement.
I have included a snap shot of one of the plat pages, which shows the dotted line ingress egress and utility easements connecting every property (the Pal-Mar drainage easements are shown in dark blue).
In addition to the recorded Plat, the ingress egress easements (along with drainage and utility easements) are available for anyone to see online. By visiting the Martin County Clerk’s Office Official Records Search Page, one can search for Book 220 Page 457. This particular recorded ingress egress easement gives Pal-Mar landowners the right to use the easement that runs along Trailside’s southerly border. Language includes: “….. An easement for ingress, egress, utilities, and drainage 50.00 feet in width, the North line of which is the North line of the Northeast ¼ of Section 12, Township 40 South, Range 40 East.” It is also important to note that both Martin County and South Florida Water Management District own lots in Palmar, and enjoy use of these very same easements in order to access and maintain their properties.
Thank you for the opportunity to make this correction.
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The next from Lynn Macauley
Thank you for including news of the Pet Store Ordinance in your last newsletter. I am so glad the ban on pet sales was kept in place. I noticed in the text of the Commissioners’ meeting that in December 2021 they were asked by an animal rescue organization to draft an ordinance banning retail sale of dogs and cats. Do you know what animal rescue organization that was?
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ZIP WORKSHOP JANUARY 5, 2023
The most interesting part of this workshop was the presentation made by Manager Dyess. Unfortunately, the commissioners didn’t seem very interested.
There was no discussion about the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) which was Dyess’ presentation. And yet that is the crux of where and what the city can still develop. A startling fact is that there are no multi-family parcels available at all. The Special Neighborhood District zoning classification has 3 parcels consisting of 4 acres total. Low Density Residential zoning classification (basically single family) has 48 parcels in 15.69 acres. The city’s 6 sq. miles of land is closed for residential development under current zoning. What we still have are 37 parcels on 138.7 total acres for commercial.
This is the vacant inventory in those classifications. The reason why landowners choose to change a land use is because the zoned use is no longer practical. The state has said that local governments must give landowners a mechanism to do just that.
Commercial has a disproportionate amount of the available vacant space within the City of Stuart boundaries. Much of it has been sitting idle for years. In the past two decades, the need for office and retail use has been drastically reduced because of changes in society. A good part of that commercial classified space should be zoned for residential use.
The commercial land is situated along major arteries. It would be fine for multi-family, but it is far from ideal for any single-family use. Rezoning or whether it should be done did not seem to interest the commissioners at all.
Then came the discussion about affordable housing. If there is no land currently zoned for multi-family residential, where would any new housing go except by changing land use? Commissioner Clarke suggested creating another city board or task force to explore possibilities but then said there wasn’t much in the way of possibilities. It was decided that the current private non-profit already established for this purpose where the city has a board seat would give a presentation regarding their plans.
The FLUM presentation can be found here
Dr. Collins made his own presentation on housing. Most of his desires would be very orthodox if this were 1960, but it is not. He used his Facebook page to solicit responses to this post:
City of Stuart residents!
Please comment with a few words, phrases or photos that describe what you think makes Stuart special.
What kind of development, look and feel best characterizes our charming seaside town?
I am working on a presentation for our next Zoning In Progress workshop in January.
There were 27 comments with most expressing support for that small town feel. Who could say no to that? The first comment was from someone who doesn’t live in Stuart. I don’t know how many others of those who liked, shared, or commented are residents.
Dr. Collins is using his Facebook page as a way to inform, solicit, and communicate with voters, constituents, and residents. As such it becomes a public record. Where is it being preserved?
His presentation had three points:
- Fair Share Parking
- Remove ½ Unit Calculation
- Develop Maximum Buildout
Fair Share Parking: In his opinion there should be no deviation from the current parking standards. Twenty-five years ago, the Stuart codes were written to make it almost impossible for any multi-residential property to build as of right. The prevailing sentiment was that all such development should come to the commission to be haggled over. Therefore, things like parking were made more severe so that a commissioner could extract something from the developer in return for an exception. It is idiotic but that is the system.
Dr. Collins may like it because it would stop projects. At some point because of setbacks, wetlands, height restrictions and requiring too much parking, developments don’t move forward because the restrictions create too many obstacles for many developers.
Collins would like to see the developer pay into a fund to build a parking garage. When I first heard it, I was against the proposal because unless the building is close to the garage the supposed problem hasn’t been solved. We have just made the project more expensive.
That only works if we have development which the FLUM would tell us is not possible when you have zero land available for apartments. If you have more reasonable parking requirements and the developer still cannot meet code, paying into a fund is a public benefit for the entire city.
But, if the reason we have parking requirements is for each development to be self-parked so that overflow does not happen, then this does not solve the problem. In my mind if there is a problem with a resident not being able to park his car, the apartments won’t be easily rented. That is letting the free market decide. Using parking as a determinant is an outdated planning concept.
Remove ½ Unit Calculation: That is terrible terminology. Why we even count units to tell us about density is absurd. We should do away with units per acre. Any building with setbacks, wetlands, uplands, and a maximum of 4 stories already has limitations on maximum capacity.
The tiny units should be for either a single person or a couple just starting out. Therefore, encouraging the use by giving a bonus to the developer makes sense. Except for the ½ unit all current units over 900 square feet are counted as one. If the city limits the square footage to no more than 500 square feet, there would be validity for the bonus and to help make apartments more affordable to our younger citizens.
Once over the 500 feet it no longer is a tiny apartment. It doesn’t matter whether it is a one-, two-, three- or four-bedroom apartment it is counted as one unit in the density calculation. Obviously, the more bedrooms the more people will live in the apartment usually. That is the absurdity of units equating to density.
Develop Maximum Buildout: That too is dependent on what our FLUM looks like. It just doesn’t seem possible that given height, setback, and other restrictions within the approximately 6 square miles of dry land in Stuart that much can be built. However, given our current population of less than 17,000 and, even for argument’s sake, to agree with Collins that if everything planned is built, the result would increase Stuart’s population by 10,000. Stuart would then still be considered a small city by the state and would be half the size of Fort Pierce today.
Collins mentioned 30,000 people as a maximum buildout number. If it is the right number, Stuart should plan for it going forward.
Some of his conclusions are illogical. For example, Collins suggested we should only have high end homes being constructed because our median home price is low. The mean sales price today is 2.5 times higher than the mean price used by the property appraiser. The difference is $250,000 (mean price used by property appraiser) and over $600,000 (current sales price). Those who have been in their home longest are assessed lowest. That has nothing to do with how much it costs someone to buy a home today.
Collins came to skewed conclusions on road use by taking random numbers from FDOT counts. He claims that the increase in traffic is caused by Stuart residents. The numbers he cites are before any project approved has even been built. If the premises are wrong, the conclusions drawn will be wrong. His presentation can be found here
After his long presentation was over, the other commissioners went onto the next item without comment. The subject was the half unit or, as I prefer to call it, a tiny unit.
I agree with Mayor McDonald and to a lesser extent Dr. Collins that there is a bit of the disingenuousness in calling 900 sq. feet a ½ unit. The commission instructed staff to come back with making tiny units no more than 500 square feet with 1.25 parking spaces and restricting where they should be in the CRA.
The only thing I would disagree with is the parking at 1.25. According to a developer I spoke with who was in the audience, that will add about $100 a month to the rent. This would be our affordable housing. Why make it artificially more expensive?
Mayor McDonald, to an extent, let the meeting get away from him. Collins kept interrupting the others and challenging what they said. Dr. Collins champions small town virtue and then acts in a way that would make New Yorkers blush. But many New Yorkers would tell him where to go. The other Stuart commissioners are maybe too “small town” and polite for that.
What has come out of the two ZIPs is that the tiny unit classification will be a maximum of 500 feet. Couldn’t have this been accomplished without the commission making the city spend thousands of dollars for hundreds of man hours resulting in unproductive meetings? What a waste.
STUART COMMISSION MEETING JANUARY 9, 2023
Dr. Collins promised to fill the chamber with his prayer supporters, and he did.
During public comment, speaker after speaker described the reasons to have an invocation. They read from scripture, invoked the name of God, and had personal testimony as to the power of prayer. After 2 hours, was it enough to change any other commissioner’s mind?
From the beginning, I had no problem with having an invocation. Prayer in this setting in my opinion is not giving it the sanctity it deserves. It just is not worth the political capital and disruption trying to prevent it entails. Prayer should be a unifying element not one that leads to disunion.
History is replete with supposed followers of Christ killing in his name. Dr. Collins and his fellow followers have not threatened death to heathens but will brook no dissent in this area. Like so many things in the culture wars of today, it is more important to have the show than the substance.
And ultimately that is what this is for most people who attend meetings. They are sincere words uttered by a preacher at a podium for most people not paying much attention. Yet for some it gives comfort.
Mayor McDonald did his best to chair a meeting and give every speaker his 3 minutes uninterrupted. McDonald tried to do the same for each commissioner, but Dr. Collins was incapable of allowing anyone else to speak without his constant interruptions. Collins is a warrior Christian more like the Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition Tomas de Torquemada than Jesus.
Collins made his motion to bring back the prayer ordinance at the next commission meeting which was seconded by Bruner. It passed 5-0. I wonder if the “rack” of public comment persuaded two other commissioners.
One of the ZIPs came to an end when the commissioners voted 4-1 with Collins dissenting to end the ZIP having to do with PUDs. Collins couldn’t believe that his fellow commissioners didn’t agree with his rather inaccurate presentation at the workshop. Once again, he believes berating commissioners is the best way to win. Where is Dale Carnegie?
The city was awarded a grant for $4.8 million to buy and rehabilitate the Gary property on Martin Luther King Blvd. It will become a business incubator and vocational center. The property will cost $1.6 million and cost another $2 million for renovation. The city would then lease it to another entity for the programming. The grant calls for creating 50 new jobs during the 5 years after completion. Both Boys and Girls Club and IRSC have expressed an interest.
McDonald believes it would be great for spurring economic development on M.L.K. There is definitely a public benefit. Rich wholeheartedly agreed with him. Dr. Collins wanted to know why the city should be involved and what is the economic benefit. “What is the ROI,” he asked.
Commissioner Clarke quoted Dr. King that “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Collins brand of helping people is apparently different than the rest of the commission. East Stuart as well as other young people in the city would benefit from a career training center. Isn’t that the function of government to do the things that are needed and not being done?
There is no downside for Stuart since all the expenses are covered by grant money. It is being awarded to help a blighted area, and the Gary property is certainly blighted. The residents and our businesses can use trained trades people. The ROI can be immense.
The consensus was to make this an agenda item.
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SCHOOL BOARD WORKSHOP JANUARY 10, 2023
The board discussed open enrollment for the following schools:
- Jensen Beach Elementary
- Palm City Elementary
- Hobe Sound Elementary
- J D Parker
- Crystal Lake
- Sea Wind
- Indiantown Middle
- Stuart Middle
- Murray Middle
Each of those schools were recommended by staff because they are at 75% or less of their capacity. Beginning on March 1st through March 31st a parent may enter a computer lottery system for their child to attend any of those schools instead of their designated school. No transportation is provided. If all the slots are not filled, children from other districts will be chosen.
During the discussion, the board further decided to allow a total of 65 students to apply to Hidden Oaks Middle. Also added were Jensen Beach High School with 100 students at any grade level and South Fork with 90 students. Again, no transportation is provided.
We constantly hear from people who are resistant to development that schools are over capacity so no new development should be built. This is obviously incorrect. Children cannot be jammed into overcrowded classrooms because class size is determined by the state for every grade. There is true over capacity in the system.
The board continued with their update of policies. The only one that was a bit contentious was who should set dress code policies. Should uniforms be allowed? One thing the board was adamant about is that what is acceptable should be universal throughout the system.
Board Members Pritchett and Chair Powers spoke about a girl’s collar bone showing. I don’t know whether they were for or against, but it was a “bone” of contention. Another matter was who should have final say over a school’s code. Powers and Roberts want the final say to be by the board. Pritchett and Russell agree.
The School Advisory Committees can propose changes, but the board must have the ultimate decision. It sounds like a good policy to me.
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COMMISSION MEETING JANUARY 11, 2023
This meeting started with 2nd readings of several ordinances.
The first one was to make 6 pm the start time of all regular meetings. The next three were to change the LDRs for accessory dwelling units, lot splits and mergers, and major land divisions. The votes were 5-0 for all.
Then the manager was seeking approval for a grant that had been submitted to the state. The application needed to be in by December 31st. The grant was for $2.5 million for Part 1 of the South Sewall’s Point sewer project. Town staff became aware of the grant opportunity on December 12. They did not have the time to prepare and submit to the commission for the December 13th meeting which was the last meeting until today.
Mayor Tompek and the commission were upset that they didn’t see the final draft prior to submission even though at the December 13th meeting they gave permission to Manager Daniels to file the application.
I am perplexed why the commission wants to micromanage the grant process. Most other governments on the Treasure Coast authorize the manager to apply for grants without looking at the submission. Then the grant is awarded, the commission decides whether to accept or not.
Since this is an ongoing problem, if I were the manager, I would decline any grant opportunities that cannot have extensive commission involvement. Sadly, the town needs the money to complete the work the commission has authorized and could miss opportunities to procure the funding. Daniels and Town Engineer Capra shouldn’t have their heads handed to them every meeting for trying to procure grant funding.
In a small town with a small administrative staff, not all grants fall neatly into the commission’s meeting cycle. A little trust of staff’s judgement is in order. You can find the grant application here
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COUNCIL MEETING JANUARY 12, 2023
Picking a new manager, even an interim one, is probably the most consequential act that a local government council performs. Doing so in the Village of Indiantown is even more important.
With the abrupt resignation of Howard Brown (though his leaving was anticipated because of the results of the last election), it became more critical to find someone to guide the government. It was apparent from the outset that Susan Owens could not be that interim person. Her failure with securing Brown’s laptop (more on that later) and the chaotic non-process of how to go about picking an interim manager disqualified her in some council members’ minds.
The chaotic non-process of picking an interim was evident in the fact that each council member was left to their own devices on scheduling interviews with candidates, formulating questions to ask them, what criteria to apply, how to check references and resumes, and in general the orderly and necessary steps for completing a recruitment process. They could not possible have selected anyone last night unless that person was a known entity.
At the last meeting, old Martin County hands Paul Nicoletti and Dan Hudson were either not available or chose not to come in unless all council members agreed. If nothing else, they could have assisted in defining the orderly process for choosing an interim or a permanent manager.
There were 14 resumes including Taryn Kryzda, the longest serving retired Martin County Administrator. Her application was filed late after the December 29th deadline because she had to wait until January 1st due to pension rules. Including her as an applicant was the first test of the evening.
Both Stone and Hernandez spoke of transparency and fairness. They believed that Kryzda being in the mix was wrong. Dipaolo thought the interim would be important because of the tax agreement with FPL and coming to terms with the county over the mobility fee.
A motion was made by Dipaolo and seconded by Perez to include Kryzda as a possible interim manager. It passed 3-2 with Stone and Hernandez voting no.
Dipaolo then thanked all the other applicants for applying. He said they should apply for the permanent position in the future. He then went on to nominate Kryzda as the interim manager and it was seconded by Perez.
County Commissioner Jenkins then spoke and stated that the past four years had been a wasted opportunity to work with Martin County. He was waiting to be their liaison with the county. Jenkins went on to say that Kryzda knows everything about government.
Stone once again stated that there was a lack of transparency. Unfortunately, a heckler from the audience made a remark that was inappropriate. Stone claimed that he was intimidated by him and asked the deputies to remove him.
Mayor Gibbs-Thomas smartly and correctly called a ten-minute recess. The audience member’s outburst hardly rose to the extent necessary to be removed. It would be better if audience members kept their comments to the appropriate place in meetings.
When the meeting resumed Hernandez reiterated Stone’s transparency arguments. She ended her reasons by saying that she didn’t have the words to express herself regarding the inclusion of Kryzda because she was so upset. Then Angelina Perez asked Stone how many applicants he had interviewed. He said it didn’t matter. Transparency was his watchword.
Gibbs-Thomas then echoed the views of Dipaolo and Perez. Dipaolo stated there was an election and he and Perez had won, and Gibbs-Thomas was returned to office because the voters wanted a different direction. He again promised to deliver.
The vote to make Kryzda manager was 3-2 with Hernandez and Stone voting in dissent.
There was a brief questioning period with Kryzda. Hernandez brought up that she hoped Kryzda would treat all equally during staff evaluations. You could hear the room groan because once again she was playing the race card.
I have known Kryzda for more than a decade and she is color blind. Her husband grew up in Mexico City. This constant harping on race and ethnicity does not serve Hernandez well. The last election was not a repudiation of incumbents because of race and ethnicity but rather because of competency and direction. She again fails to see that Perez, another Hispanic, was elected as one of those game changers.
Kryzda will start immediately at $12,500 per month…the same as Brown with other terms to be fleshed out with the village attorney. The vote for that was thankfully 5-0.
Then came what should be dubbed “computergate.”
Upon Howard Brown’s resignation, the clerk collected his keys, badge, cell phone, and laptop. Almost immediately the laptop was turned over to Blue Stream by Susan Owens, the clerk. Blue Stream, which acts as the village’s IT consultant, was told to “wipe” the computer clean which they did. It was not backed up nor did anyone look at the data on the device.
DiPaola had representatives from Blue Stream at the meeting and asked questions about who told them to do it. He also interrogated the clerk. As the keeper of public records and as a certified clerk, Owens should have known better. Public records laws could have been broken.
Though the contents were restored to some extent, Blue Stream can’t state that it was 100% of the data. Was anything automatically backed up to the village? What is the policy for doing so?
Council Member Stone lost his laptop while on a Delta Flight. He refused to answer DiPaolo’s questions as to the date this occurred and when it was reported to the village. Did he lose it on purpose because of documents it contained? Why are computers given to council members if they are not backed up?
Ms. Owens does not appear to have maintained records according to the law. In general, it appears that the village during Brown’s tenure was a free-flowing affair without benefit of any checks or internal controls. I hope that Kryzda will immediately begin instituting more formal policies.
She also will need to make sure that elected officials and staff understand their roles. What each should be doing is not always adhered to presently.
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The Next Meeting Is October 10, 2022
OCEAN BREEZE TOWN COUNCIL MEETING JANUARY 9, 2023
This was supposed to be the day that the council voted on whether to move their meetings from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Instead, it became a time for more discussion on the subject.
Council Member Docherty stated that moving the time was something that he has wanted to do for the past 2 years. This would give the newer residents of Sea Walk the opportunity to participate since most of those residents are still working. Mayor Ostrand also made an impassioned plea for the time change for the same reasons.
However, the 3 council members from Sea Walk (Kent, Kelley, and Reese) stated that people would like only the budget meetings moved to the evenings.
Ostrand also said the commercial folks from the shopping center could come and address the council if they had a complaint about the center owner if it were in the evening. Council Member Reese then made a motion to have 2 meetings a year (May and October) in the evening. After further discussion by Docherty and Ostrand who again provided the group with their perceived benefits of evening meetings, the decision was made to have 4 evening meetings (January, April, July, and September).
A survey of sorts was suggested by staff, but the council concluded that most people will ignore it. Staff will come back with a new draft ordinance.
This is going to be very confusing. The public will not know when the meeting is. It should be one time and be the same. Since the clear majority would prefer the time be in the morning, then it should stay there with the budget meetings in the evening. By statute, budget meetings must be after 5 pm.
As Mayor Ostrand said, the town has no roads or other services to maintain, so the least they can do is listen to their constituents. Mayor Ostrand also said that the town is continuing to grow. Unfortunately, Ocean Breeze is built out. This is as large as it will ever be unless unincorporated Jensen Beach requests to be annexed into the town.
Thanks to the council for making a real effort to speak into their mics. Now if only the attorney and town consultant would do the same, then perhaps a complete recorded meeting would be at town hall for people to listen to.
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COMMISSION MEETING DECEMBER 19, 2022
There is no secret that Mayor Whit Pidot and former town and county commissioner, Anne Scott, do not like each other.
She has attacked the “Mayor’s Coffee” with particular ire. The “coffee” takes place a few days before the regular commission meeting and is a prelude to it. Residents can informally speak to Pidot and town staff about what is on their minds.
Ms. Scott believes that they are a waste of money and staff time. She claims they act as a Bully Pulpit for Pidot. It may not be a function that all residents want to attend, but for some it seems a nice touch that they enjoy. The expense that Scott harps on is inconsequential.
In a few months, the seats of all five commissioners will be up for election. Pidot has indicated that he will not run again. I don’t know how many of the current commissioner, if any, will. Scott seems like she is teeing up her campaign.
It appears she does have a few points that should be addressed. The main one is development which has been exacerbated with the move of the waterfront setback line. This is valuable oceanfront property and owners want to build on lots they own.
Scott brought up some problems with the way meetings are conducted. One is she would like to see public comment at the beginning of the meetings. She is right that every other jurisdiction opens the floor to anyone for usually 3 minutes to speak about anything.
She has also complained about the terrible audio of the meetings and the static picture. At this meeting, most of the commissioners spoke into their microphones, but that is not always the case. Generally, it is difficult to hear them, and most of the time, no one reminds the commissioners to speak directly into their microphones.
Scott also claims, with justification, that the agenda does not contain any backup material online. The only ones who receive it ahead of time are the commissioners. It is not acceptable. Scott claims that she can’t get these public records which is not true. Everything is available from the clerk by sending a simple email. However, they should be readily available with the agenda online.
Another one of her pet peeves is the examination of the LDRs by Commissioner Tucker Johnson. She states that he is not an attorney or planner. LDRs are highly technical, and it is highly unusual that a member of a commission is tasked with this function. It should be done by someone who is not on the commission and is a professional in this discipline. This is all contained in her emails that can be looked at here
When Pidot asked Scott, who was attending the meeting, to make public comment on what she had written, she refused. That was the moment when she should have made her case without rancor. By refusing to speak Scott, seemed petty and bitter. Too bad because some of what she was complaining about has merit.
The Taylor Subdivision at 374 South Beach Road was approved 5-0.
The lot split mirrors the unity of title that occurred twenty years ago when one person acquired both properties. It is being done so that each of the owner’s children can have a lot. The lots are from the ocean to the intercoastal.
You can see the presentation here
COMMISSION MEETING JANUARY 9, 2023
The makeup of the current commission is coming to an end.
With the March 21st election, all 5 commission seats will be up for grabs. Mayor Pidot, who has been a stabilizing force, is not running for re-election. He has served at least a decade and is ready to retire from being a commissioner.
In the last few years, there has been much more animosity as to how the town settles differences. Political differences end up in court instead of respecting commission action. This is politics by lawsuit which becomes very expensive for everyone concerned.
Most of the descension is regarding the right to build on one’s property. A small minority believe that unbuilt parcels should remain unbuilt. Green space should be maintained even if the parcel is owned by individuals. It is NIMBYism from a wealthier perspective.
Should there be rules and setbacks? Sure, there should be, but they must be reasonable and ultimately respect the rights of those who own the property. If individuals want to keep open space, then they should purchase it and place it in conservation. Just because a piece of land doesn’t have a building on it now doesn’t mean there should never be one built there.
Two commissioners resigned last year which highlights the danger of trying to circumvent the rules when it comes to open government. There are currently two commissioners, Johnson and McChristian, who were appointed members to the board by the other remaining commissioners. Will they seek elected terms of their own, I don’t know. Will Commissioners Townsend and Collins run again? The qualifying period for the March 21st election will be February 16th through March 1st.
It is likely that others not currently on the commission will run because they disagree with a policy or two that the current board has championed. The ballot box is the appropriate place to settle political differences…not in the courts.
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In The Spotlight
by Jackie Holfelder
Jackie is always looking for a good story…you may reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
When Tom asked me to do this column in 2021, I didn’t hesitate to say yes, even though there would be no remuneration involved. I knew the number of resources was shrinking for my friends in the nonprofit and advertising/marketing/PR fields and figured this would be a great place to share their news in Martin County.
I decided the only area I wouldn’t cover was events, because the list is too long and it would frankly be too repetitive to just rehash what everyone was putting on their own Facebook pages.
Besides, what I kept hearing was that there were few places to thank sponsors, name new staff and board members, announce new programs and share similar news.
Although I’m told the column is popular and well-received, I am getting zero input from any of the people I was hoping to serve and doing just what I didn’t want to do: scouring other people’s social media pages and copying and pasting their posts.
From day one, I created an email address specific to the column – email@example.com – so you could add me to your distribution email lists and get me in your loop for shareable information. I’m hoping you will jot it down now and start sending me emails, photos, and other info about the Martin County (or Treasure Coast-wide if it includes Martin County) nonprofit world for consideration and inclusion. Please bear in mind that these columns run semi-monthly – the other week, my interview with a local luminary runs instead.
I hope to see some indication that this is a helpful resource for you before deciding whether I continue doing it. Thanks!
Launch of Go Getter Girls Network – Treasure Coast Chapter
A national organization, GGG Network (Go Getter Girls), is holding its inaugural meeting on January 17 from 12-2 p.m. at The Saints of Port St. Lucie Golf Course.
GGG Network is a powerhouse of women who come together to collaborate, generate business, share resources and create opportunities for each other.
The formula is simple: Opportunity + Passion = Success and the mission is to empower every woman in the network to achieve greatness in their personal and professional lives.
The day will offer:
For information, visit gogettergirlsnetwork.com.
Leading the Way at the TC Chapter of AFP
The Treasure Coast Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) installed its 2023 Board of Directors at their Annual Meeting and Holiday Party on December 14 at Florida Oceanographic Society.
Martin County Board of County Commissioners Chair Ed Ciampi installed the new leadership team:
Michelle King, CFRE, Hibiscus Children’s Center – President
Abigail Flood, Florida Oceanographic Society – President Elect
Elisabeth Glynn, CFRE, United Way of Martin County – Immediate Past President
Renee Booth, CFRE, The Honor Foundation – Treasurer
Michele Jacobs, CFRE, Council on Aging of Martin County, Inc. at the Kane Center – Secretary
Agnes Palmer, CFRE, TreasureCoastHospice Foundation – VP of Education
Katelyn Anne Johnson, MartinArts – VP of Communications
Keith “Fletch” Fletcher, Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County – Member At Large
Taylor Gilmour, MPP, CFRE, Cleveland Clinic Martin Health – Member At Large
Kenya Reinhardt, 4KIDS of the Treasure Coast – Member At Large
Jessica Bright, Inner Truth Project – Member At Large
MCHS Tiger Trot Will Benefit Elev8Hope
I usually don’t cover events in this column, but I’m breaking my own rule to tell you about the Second Annual Charity TIGER TROT which will be presented by Martin County High School on January 28 to benefit Elev8Hope and Mrs. Rina’s House of Blessings. The 5K event starts at 7 a.m. and you can walk it, run it or push your youngster’s stroller through it on the flat and manageable path at Halpatiokee Park in Stuart. Entry is $25 each for students and teachers and $35 for adults. For information, visit www.martinschools.org/o/mchs/article/941958.
Jackie is always looking for a good story…you may reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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THE LAND OF NO…OR JOBS AND RESIDENTS
At the next Governor’s Council meeting on January 17th, there should be a decision on whether the Kanner PUD moves forward or not.
I am always amazed that some believe that the government can forbid a parcel of land from being developed. There are tweaks that can occur, especially when the PUD process is involved, but no local government can put a stop to private property rights.
The developer in this case has gone out of his way to give the city and its residents amenities like roads and lakes that are not required. Most of the beauty of the project (and yes, it is beautifully designed) was the hard work of then commissioners Merritt Matheson and Mike Meier along with current commissioners Troy McDonald, Becky Bruner, and Eula Clarke. They worked with one of the most accommodating developer’s and now owner ever.
I have also read hundreds of emails from city residents stating emphatically that they support this project. The minority of those who believe the development is incongruent with our city and county are many fewer in number. Most of their objections are from ill-informed views of the project or outright misconceptions.
Then there are the other more insidious few that would be against anything anywhere. They would have been called the Levelers during the English Civil War or Luddites during the early Industrial Revolution. Today they are the NIMBYISTS wanting all change to go away.
They fear change because they can only envision their way of life for everyone continuing decade after decade regardless of changes in society. They don’t care about jobs. Rather than embracing diversity, they fear people’s differences. They don’t believe there is a place for everyone but rather feel there is no place for anyone who disagrees with them.
NIMBYISTS fear people who want to live in apartments over what they see as the American dream of owning a single-family home with plenty of perfect green grass. Everyone should have a car. They believe that busses, walking, and bicycles are only for those who can’t afford a car…the poor people.
The truth is their view is neither sustainable nor good for the city or county. Costco was supposed to be in Palm City. The NIMBY crowd chased them to Stuart and now there is a hideous collection of retail development on the Palm City site originally planned for Costco. The jobs created are few and pay much less than those of Costco. There are large parking lots instead of greenery. There will be no new tax-paying residents resulting from this development because no housing of any sort has been built. This is not better.
As mentioned earlier, there are hundreds of emails in support of the project. Everyday people who need to make a living are in favor of it. Groups as diverse as the NAACP and the Chambers of Commerce want to see it happen. In this instance, Stuart has its own Rainbow Coalition speaking in favor. This response is much preferred over the drab sullen insular opposition in the land of no.
As It Appeared In Martin County Moment
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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: email@example.com
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)
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Business Development Board (BDB)
Capital Improvement Plan (CIP)
Career & Technical Education (CTE)
Center For Disease Control (CDC)
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World Health Organization (WHO)