Tom Campenni

Friends & Neighbors is designed to give you the information that is happening within our County. My goal is to inspire you to get involved and make a change to make Martin County the best it can be. There is lot’s to do! – Tom

News And Views











It is becoming harder to make sense of things.


Truths that we grew up believing are no longer true. By their very definition, facts should be absolute. They are now open to interpretation. As Bill Clinton famously said; “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. Private matters that would be quietly spoken about by families at home are now proclaimed to the world.


Much of the lessening of what we once called decorum is because of my generation’s “let it all hang out” ethic. The baby boomers needed to break down societal norms to be free. We were largely free of what our parents and grandparents had to endure economically. We were spoiled and it has always shown.


Our grandparents either were born somewhere else and emigrated to the U.S. or more than likely came from a rural farm. Many were from ethnic neighborhoods and large families that never had enough to go around. Our parents grew up in the Great Depression and fought in World War II. They built the booming economy that boomers inherited.


Two things happened during our formative years that changed this country forever… the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. Both left an indelible mark on how we viewed our place in the country. While World War II was every American’s war, Vietnam was quite different. If you came from an upper class connected family, you could easily get out of the draft.

National Archives

The three boomer presidents who would have been eligible to fight in Vietnam (Clinton, G.W. Bush, and Trump) never saw a day of combat or except Bush (Texas Air National Guard) even put on a uniform. Obama was too young, and Biden was already too old. The Greatest Generation (JFK, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter {attended Annapolis, graduated in 1946}, Reagan, and Bush) all signed up to fight in WW ll.


The civil rights era divided the country in a continuation of a North/South conflict that is still going on today. A once solid Democrat South turned into a Republican one all because of the civil rights legislation of the 1960s.  In the 1960s, New York had a Republican governor, attorney-general, and two U.S. Senators. Florida had all Democrats in those positions.


The political chaos also brought middle-class drug use and a more accepting attitude toward sex. Law and order, church and state, morals and music were different for us than for past generations. We became the first generation where anybody who had the grades could go to college. Maybe not Harvard but a good public university. Things, in general, were affordable.


The “Peace & Love” hippies of the sixties are now the “Grand Old Men” of today. The ones who went to Woodstock, praised Jimi Hendrix, and sang to the Beatles are likely to be at a Trump rally, want to make sure there is no “woke” going on, and maybe live in the Villages.


In some ways, we have squandered our inheritance. We have politically, socially, and morally inverted our views. We once called our parents fascists for upholding the status quo. Some of us may have become our parents or have we always been of their ilk?




In this edition we welcome Carl Frost and Anne Posey to our stable of columnists. Supervisor of Elections Vicki Davis has penned an article as well as something from the Martin County Taxpayers Association. Tom Hurley from Becker Farms brings us up to date on Discovery.


Sometimes I am asked why a columnist leaves Friends & Neighbors. Remember no one is paid for their column. Anyone that submits a piece is doing so to express their opinion and provide information to the readers. Writing is hard work and doing so even once a month requires time and effort.


Many times, people become tired and run out of steam. Life intrudes or they have said everything they wanted to say. All valid reasons to pack it in.


We will continue to publish twice a month and bring you the news of Martin County. If you think you want to try your hand at writing a column, send me an email. Perhaps you just want to get something off your chest, we will publish it in our letter session. You can send your email to here


You can check our Facebook page ( between editions for up to the minute new postings. Don’t forget to sign up your Friends & Neighbors to receive their copy.






Stopping the absurdity of the “Unclaimed Tunnel” has resulted in a needed bridge to somewhere.


If you remember in two earlier articles, I wrote about a private developer who had made a request for funds to build a tunnel connecting both sides of the Three Lakes Golf Course under Kanner Highway in western Martin County. That project stopped when Friends & Neighbors brought the proposal to light. Representative John Snyder with the help of his able aide, Sarah Craven, killed it once he knew what it really was all about.

Now we have some great news to report. Representative Snyder has been able to substitute an alternate appropriation for a needed bridge in Martin County.


The South County Line Road Bridge is the only road bridge in the county that has received a deficient rating by FDOT. The $3 million that Snyder has championed is half of the money needed for the project. I spoke with County Administrator Don Donaldson, and he was thrilled about this appropriation.


He told me they are seeking other grants, but the replacement will also be funded with county resources including franchise fees and gas taxes. The bridge has been on its last legs for a while. Its replacement is an important factor in maintaining the county’s infrastructure.


Part of the job of our state and federal representatives is to make sure that they secure funding for needed projects in their districts. On the state level, Representative Snyder, Senator Harrell, and Representative Overdorf have consistently brought funds back to Martin County. That is one of the reasons some people may disagree with their stands on different policies but support the elected officials overall.


This is a good outcome for us. Donaldson and his staff, while never completely free of commission politics, can be proud of this outcome. Snyder has brought the legislative appropriation process back to its intended purpose. And the citizens of Martin County can know that their taxes aren’t going to help billionaires play a round of golf.


What this episode should teach all of us is that constant vigilance is needed. Going forward, if a request is made that has listed a local government as the party to contact for information, it should only occur when the local government is the requester for the funds and has signed the attestation. I hope Snyder and for that matter the other legislators require some proof that the funding requests for projects come with a county commission approval attached.


The tunnel request was marked as a local government ask instead of what it was, a private for-profit one. I don’t know if marking it as such was illegal, but it surely wasn’t ethical. And I don’t know if there was any local political involvement in the ask and how it came about.


John Snyder has been on top of this from the moment I brought it to his attention. He could not have been more transparent. The same goes for Don Donaldson. Donaldson did not throw anyone under a bus, but he gave me all the paperwork from the very beginning to shed light on it. These guys were not trying to hide anything.


You can find the appropriation request here


As Published In Martin County Moments





John Snyder was able to place $3 million for the South County Bridge, which had been deemed deficient, in the state’s appropriations.

This came about after Friends & Neighbors was able to expose an appropriation for $6 million for a private golf course tunnel that was then cancelled. Now Congressman Brian Mast has also come to the rescue of Martin County by putting in an earmark for the other $3 million needed to replace the only road bridge in the county that had been rated deficient by FDOT.


Many of us take a dim view of the use of tax money for highway projects. Over the years earmarks have been given a bad name as if spending money on vital infrastructure is a boondoggle. And at times it has been, like the infamous “bridge to nowhere.”

For the most part, the only way that localities can afford infrastructure improvements is with funds from federal and state coffers. It isn’t as if county residents are not paying taxes to those entities. By working to have this $3 million allocated, Mast is performing a function of his job we sent him to Washington to do. I can’t speak about the other projects the congressman is championing, but this one is certainly worthwhile and needed.


Mast, though no longer a Martin County resident, is in this case helping to fix our crumbling infrastructure. Both Snyder and Mast are doing the most basic thing an elected official can do…help their constituents have a better life. Thanks to both.


You can see the paperwork for the appropriation here





As I write this, there has been another mass shooting in Atlanta. I don’t know who, why, nor how many were killed or wounded.


By tomorrow at this time, another mass shooting will likely have occurred somewhere in the U.S., and today’s Atlanta shooting will have faded to the recesses of my mind where many of these tragic incidents go.


Mass shootings are becoming so common that I seldom read or listen to more than a snippet about the most recent one. I react the same way to the latest news about violence between Israelis and Arabs. Since the 1967 War in the Middle East, the fighting has never really ended. I decided after the 1973 War not to crowd my mind with the inevitable conflicts that erupt. There is no solution nor end only unceasing conflict and war and hatred.


I have become just as cynical about one more guy killing a bunch of people with a semi-automatic weapon in America. Like the Mideast, the killing in America will never stop. There is no reason to learn the details of the latest mass shooting because there will be another one soon.


In the last edition, I wrote about how old White men had decided that it was open season on young people. Ring the wrong bell and bang your dead. You will see a letter below from a reader who said my article on guns was very slanted. He continued by mentioning an incident that occurred after I had written my piece. He cited the case of a young Black man who shot at a White kid and wounding her dad because a basketball went into his yard.


If the incident had occurred before I had written the article, I might have included it. The point of the piece was not to bemoan old White guys (I am one myself) but the idea that so many of them believe they have a right to shoot someone who has made them angry. However, there are plenty of non-White guys with the same attitude.

Last weekend in Texas, a 38-year-old Mexican was firing off rounds with his AR-15 in his front yard. His next-door neighbor, a guy from Honduras, asked him to stop so his kid could go to bed. The man with the AR-15 decided to go over to the neighbor’s house and teach him a lesson. He shot and killed five of the residents in the home including a 9-year-old.


This has nothing to do with old White guys, young Black men, Hispanics, or Asians. In some of these incidents, the shooters were born in another country. They were trying to assimilate by doing what Americans do…buy guns and blow the brains out of others. There is no one characteristic except the availability of a lethal weapon.


We have all been in situations where we get mad at someone and have an argument. In rare cases, it may come to blows. What has become uniquely American is the preponderance of men (and it is almost always men) who end the argument by shooting someone.


I have written about the 2nd Amendment right to own firearms. I believe in it. I own weapons. But I also wrote about the responsibility that accompanies gun ownership. It isn’t a toy or an accessory to show how manly you are.


I believe that “the people” have rights also. They can exercise those rights through their government. The people can bar certain guns from being sold…like assault-style weapons. The people can also keep arms out of the hands of the mentally ill and those who have been convicted of a violent crime.


Responsible gun ownership doesn’t give anyone the right to use a weapon indiscriminately. No one should shoot a gun in his front yard. It shouldn’t be used to shoot someone who knocked on a door or drove in a driveway in error or chased a ball that went into a yard. Those shootings are all crimes and should be treated as such.




Other Opinions





By Carol Houwaart-Diez

United Way of Martin County President-CEO



We have been anxiously awaiting the new ALICE Report that was released at the end of April.

ALICE stands for Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed.  The report provides calculations for actual costs of low-cost housing (a scarcity in Martin County), food, childcare, healthcare, transportation, and other necessities of daily life in various regions of the United States.  The report then provides the number of households with incomes that fall below that minimum threshold across America.  This is our ALICE population – the individuals and families that live paycheck to paycheck and are one disaster away from an overall crisis.


We were not sure what to expect from this report since the last ALICE report included data from 2018 (pre-covid) and the results in the current report reflect 2021 data, the beginning of post-covid.  For Martin County, the overall percentage of ALICE families – 44% – has not changed, but the makeup of that percentage has.  New data from 2021 shows that 12% of Martin County households are living below the Federal Poverty Line, an increase of 1% from the last report.  That is an additional 32%, a decrease of 1% from last report, are living below the ALICE threshold.  The inclusion of child tax credits received by families with children in 2021 softened the overall results.


In addition, the report looks at household types such as single and cohabitating, families with children, and those 65 years of age and older. Results show 47% of our Martin County seniors are considered ALICE population.  Personally, this makes me extremely sad knowing that most of this group are on fixed incomes with no hope of improving their financial picture. The reports also provided data by race/ethnicity showing only 36% of Martin County’s black population living above the ALICE income threshold.


Like most statistical reports, the ALICE report isn’t perfect and provides point-in-time data that may leave a curious reader with as many questions as answers.  It does, however, give communities across our nation statistics on their struggling populations and help non-profits align their work to serve those most in need in their communities.


You can find the ALICE reports for Martin County and the entire state of Florida on our website at


Carol Houwaart-Diez opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint



By Darlene VanRiper



It was a dry but important subject…the widening of Cove Road.


On March 30th the Florida Department of Transportation made a presentation of a Project Development and Environment Study to make Cove Road from US1 west to Kanner Hwy wider and safer.   Since there are 2 schools located on Cove and since it connects 2 highways, I’m not sure anyone can successfully argue against this 3.2-mile-long project.  I have no doubt some will try.

Cove Road will grow from 2 to 4 lanes complete with a sidewalk and “multiuse path,” which was explained to be a sort of extra wide bicycle lane.  A new drainage system, which we all learned with that infamous Memorial Day Weekend deluge a couple of years ago, is essential. Underground drainage pipes will allow for less widening of the corridor as FDOT is trying not to infringe on private property owners to keep land acquisition to a minimum.


Concrete noise walls will be considered in some areas.  Let’s not forget emergency evacuation.  God forbid we ever must evacuate this side of Florida again.  I remember when that was possible.  The Turnpike and 95 became all northbound and everyone scurried away.  I think you will be hearing a lot more “hunker down” going forward because we just don’t have the infrastructure to evacuate the population which has made us the 3rd largest state.


The western part of Cove Road, this short stretch of road, has seen 505 crashes since 2018.  That’s over 126 crashes per year!  Most of them were rear end collisions which are typically caused by traffic congestion.  Currently 17,500 vehicles travel on this road daily.


On this short span there are 12 intersections, 5 having signals.  By 2045 traffic is expected to increase approximately 11%.  The intersections will “break down” if something isn’t done.   The design phase of the project is scheduled to start in 2025.  That customarily takes 2 years.  We don’t know when construction will be scheduled.  But a project such as this usually takes 8 – 10 years from start to finish.


If you want to know, more go to


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




Nicki’s Place

By Nicki van Vonno





Nicki is off this edition.


Nicki van Vonno’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors’ viewpoint.





By David Hafner



I had the opportunity to speak at the April Luncheon of the Treasure Coast Women’s Republican Club. I ended my talk with a topic that gained a lot of attention- supporting domestic farmers against the unfair challenges presented by imported produce.


What is unfair about imported produce? Farmers in our country are regulated at a level far above what competing countries may face. For example, farm laborers in Mexico are rarely given the proper safety equipment that is required on American farms.


Safety is very important when you consider year after year farming is labeled as one of the most dangerous jobs. So, while American farmers are spending money on protective gear, safety features on equipment, and other safety measures, their foreign counterparts are often skipping that high expense.

The pay for farm laborers is not comparable either. In the United States the average wage of a farm worker is $32,277. The number is only $8,566 in Mexico. Not only do these issues, and the many more issues I have not listed, create cost disparities, they also are human rights issues.


Then there is the war on drugs. Produce is used by the Mexican cartels to smuggle drugs into our country. Produce shipments seized by border agents containing millions of dollars in meth have become something I am no longer shocked to see. I have seen it in onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, spinach, broccoli, strawberries… I could easily go on. Shipments of imported produce are being used as drug mules and border agents cannot detect them all. So, shipments of drugs are flooding our borders and Americans are paying the price.


You can help with both of these issues by simply putting a little more care into your food selection.


Let me tell you how to read your food labels. Look at this picture of the label on the blueberries I just purchased. #1 tells us right off the bat that this is a product of Georgia. Though Florida does have a blueberry season, our season is ending and Georgia’s is beginning.


Next will be the Carolinas and on up the coast. #2 tells us that this is a product of the USA. Always buy USA and support domestic farmers if you can. #3 tells you these berries come from Naturipe Farms in Alma, Georgia.


Often the brand of the berries is the name of the packer and not the farm. Often the packer will pack both domestic and imported produce; so, it is important to look at all of these things on the labels. #4 is something I have only seen on domestic produce. This QR code tells you the story of how your produce went from the field to the store and in between.


Whoever controls the food controls the people. Read the labels and with your purchases support domestic farmers from unfair competition and at the same time help with the war on drugs. If we do not, one day our farmers will be gone, and we will be reliant on other countries for our food. If that day comes the USA will no longer be sovereign and free.


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





By Joan Goodrich




We all know that “season” in Martin County has a defined start and stop time.


But even after Easter, there’s no off button on the local economy or in the business of economic development.


At 8:30 a.m. May 23, we’re hosting the BDB Economic Champions Breakfast at the Flagler Center in Stuart. Hope you can join us to hear from Jill Marasa, director of development for Ashley Capital. She’ll share more about the Sunrise Grove Commerce Center, which is based in Palm City and spans 1,600 acres—some 3 miles directly along I-95.


This is but one of the fun and fascinating events showcasing the engines large and small that make our economy roar.


In April, the BDB teamed up with the Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerce in putting on the Martin County State of Aviation & Aerospace. The speakers kicked off with Dewey Vinaya of the Stuart Air Show, followed by a panel discussion featuring Matt Chestnut of Space Florida, Mary Anne Cannon of Pratt & Whitney, John Justak of Advanced Technologies Group and Michael Cooney, director of International Trade & Development Aviation, Aerospace & Defense Industries for Enterprise Florida.


As you can imagine from the pedigree of the panel, the conversation took place at a (ahem) high level. Kudus to the speakers for keeping things from going over my head in sharing details about the aviation industry’s advances in jet engine operation to reduce noise, lower emissions and extend distance of travel. One example Mary Anne cited described an aircraft engineered to fly “nonstop from JFK to Ireland to London.”


We even learned that when it comes to exciting accomplishments in engineering, the past is quite often prologue.


“In 1958 when we came down to West Palm Beach,” says Mary Anne, “we actually developed for the miliary a hydrogen powered engine. We ran it on a West Palm Beach plane. So we did it. We can do it again. That’s what we’re working on—we’re working on hydroelectric.”


Speaking of impressive technologies, just this week, Pierre Taschereau, BDB team member and expert economic developer who specializes in foreign direct investment, attended the Xponential tradeshow in Denver.


The event premiers the latest technologies in robotics applications, including autonomous drones programmed to navigate electrical utilities and perform vital functions without imperiling human life. Demonstrating just how small the world is, one panel of experts featured an FPL representative who shared with the audience how impactful such drones proved in surveying the solar farm in Indiantown.


“This transformational tech wave,” Pierre told me, “Is redefining our future in ways similar to what the Industrial Revolution did in the 18th and 19th centuries.”


We can look for such technologies to soon make major inroads in, among other industries, aviation, marine, agriculture and tourism—all vital Hubs of Excellence that currently fortify Martin County’s economy.


Such an exciting time to be alive and such an exciting place to experience it all—whatever season we’re in.


Joan Goodrich’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors’ viewpoint.





By Tiffany Kincaid

Executive Director




It’s a “Giant Blob”! It’s a rotting mass of seaweed twice the width of the U.S. There are “enormous brown blobs of stinky seaweed” that smell really bad and are heading to a Florida beach near you!

Headlines about the 2023 seaweed bloom that is already beginning to impact shorelines throughout Florida, the Caribbean and South America sound more like promos for a sci-fi movie. But before we get caught up in the fiction part of it, let’s look at the science.


The “blob” of seaweed heading for our beaches this year is indeed huge—-5,000 miles wide, as recorded by NASA images, and about 10 million pounds in weight. It is more technically known as the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt, which sends brown algae to our shores on a yearly cycle. This year is different, not because it’s brown or it’s algae or it’s smelly, but because it’s so much more massive than we are used to.


What is it, really? Sargassum is a leafy brown seaweed festooned with what look like berries. It originates in the Sargasso Sea, which lies well off the southeast coast of the United States. The matted brown seaweed stretches for miles across the ocean and provides breeding grounds, food and habitat for fish, sea turtles and marine birds, according to the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA). Unlike other seaweed, it floats on the open ocean and reproduces on the water’s surface, helped by air-filled structures that give it buoyancy.


Scientists know what helps to create bigger blooms: nutrient-rich water running off land into rivers and out to the ocean, where it can fertilize the seaweed. But, according to Brian Lapointe, an oceanographer at Florida Atlantic University, understanding and addressing the problem of growing masses of seaweed “remains knotty.”


So here comes a lot of seaweed. More than we are accustomed to seeing on our Florida beaches. What should we do?

Keep Martin Beautiful is always encouraging residents to clean up the beaches and remove litter. But seaweed is not litter. It is part of a normal natural cycle and the same forces that bring it to our beaches also take it away. We never encourage people to gather seaweed off the beaches as though it’s the same as plastic or other litter that washes up.


We can’t just ignore this amount of seaweed, though. As it starts to decompose on the beach, sargassum seaweed releases hydrogen sulfide gas which has a very unpleasant putrid odor and smells like rotten eggs as it decays. In such massive amounts, the gas can cause headaches and irritate a person’s eyes, nose and throat. People with asthma or other breathing problems may be even more sensitive to those effects.


Rotting seaweed can also eventually harm coastal marine ecosystems and support the growth of fecal bacteria. We are especially concerned on the Treasure Coast about its harmful effects on sea turtles during nesting season, as turtles come ashore to lay eggs or baby turtles try to navigate through the seaweed as they make their way to the ocean.


If you are a beachgoer during the sargassum landings this summer, here are some practical recommendations:


  • Always supervise children at the beach.
  • Avoid touching or swimming near seaweed to avoid stinging by organisms that live in it.
  • Avoid hot spots where the seaweed has accumulated.
  • Close windows and doors if you live near the beach.
  • Avoid or limit your time on the beach if you have asthma or other respiratory problems.


DO NOT remove the seaweed!


Seaweed cleanup could be dangerous to your health. It requires a permit and needs to be done by people who know how to handle it. Local officials and organizations, in cooperation with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, need to take the lead in seaweed removal.


So, keep learning about the seaweed bloom, but leave its removal to the experts.


Here’s more news and info about the Seaweed Blob:

Massive bloom of seaweed in tropical Atlantic – NOAA

Here’s the Real Story behind the Massive ‘Blob’ of Seaweed Heading toward Florida – Scientific American

The 2023 Sargassum “blob:” dispelling myths – UF/IFAS Extension Miami-Dade County (


Tiffany Kincaid opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors’ viewpoint.




By Suzy Hutcheson

CEO Helping People Succeed




April was National Volunteer Month and while it’s now May, however, we wanted to give a shout out to all of the Volunteers in our communities and the incredible value they bring to the nonprofit, government and civic groups within our community. Nationally around 40% of public charities rely either entirely or heavily on volunteers to run their organization.

Americans volunteer almost nine billion hours annually and many vital services wouldn’t happen without people who donate their time. The Independent Sector’s research on volunteerism in the volunteer sector, as of April 2022, the estimated national value of each volunteer is currently $29.94—a significant amount of “free” labor to the organizations and the community!


So, if Americans volunteer almost nine billion hours annually, they’ve effectively donated $269.55 billion of their time! This is huge and marks the importance of making them feel appreciated. I would love to know how that translates to the counties we serve—Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Indian River!


Pablo Picasso once said: The meaning of life is to find your gift.  The purpose of life is to give it away.

Helping People Succeed’s message to our volunteers is–The fact that you choose to give your gifts to us makes us very blessed indeed. The donations of your time and your talents contribute to the success of our organization. We can tell you it’s working because we have been here 59 years and we are still growing every day.  This allows us to help more and more people each week, each month, each year and allows us to continue to touch the lives of the people of this community.


When we began to look at the names and number of volunteers we have, we wanted to find one word to describe them—here’s what we came up with. Our volunteers are passionate, reliable, team players, patient, creative, enthusiastic, energetic, positive, willing to help, compassionate and organized—not one word but all true!


Nelson Mandela said that History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children.  If that is true, and I believe it is, then each and every volunteer you will have a blessed place in history.  For each one of you have made a difference in the everyday lives of the children and people we serve.


A sincere thanks to all of the volunteers serving in Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Indian River counties—but, a special thanks to the volunteers who every day help people succeed—it’s an honor and privilege to work alongside of you.


Suzy Hutheson’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors’ viewpoint.





By Pastor Chad Fair

Immanuel Lutheran Church



Name That Tune    


Let’s play a game of finish the lyric.  “Stop in the name of ______”.  From Motown Diana Ross sang “Stop in the name of love.”  How about this one.  “All you need is _____”. The Beatles famously sang “All you need is love.”  Let’s try this one “_____ is a battlefield”.  That’s Pat Benatar’s “Love is a battlefield.”  Ok, last one; “They will know we are Christians by our ______”.  Maybe you caught on by now and knew the answer was love before you even read the lyrics.  But if you don’t know the song or if that was the first song I gave you would you still have answered love?

Sadly, these days love may not be the first word that comes to mind when you think of Christianity.  In fact, ask a young person who doesn’t know that song to fill in the blank.  Be prepared to cringe.  You’re likely to hear answers like hate, judgement, or hypocritical nature.


As a pastor, that’s heart breaking and not surprising.  The church in far too many cases has become what we are against and in some instances who to vote for rather than about Jesus and the gospel.  As Christians, and as a Church we need to decide if we are going to actually reflect Jesus or play politics.


Unfortunately, too many Christians are more interested in lifting up political figures and gaining political power than doing the things Jesus did, like feeding the hungry, healing the sick, returning the marginalized to society.  Not to mention, at every opportunity to engage in the political arena, Jesus rejected it.  Yet today Christianity has been fawning over those in power to try and gain power.


Jesus had every opportunity to seize power, yet he never once did.  Instead, Jesus sacrificed himself for the good of humanity.  Jesus was not about power and domination.


As Christians we need to decide if we want to be attenders of church or followers of Christ.  We need to decide if we are going to listen to the gospel or be doers of the gospel.  I’m not saying that people of faith must physically surrender their lives, but to be Christian is to sacrifice self for the love of neighbor.


And as a reminder, biblically your neighbor isn’t simply the person next door.  The question of loving your neighbor was in the context of the Samaritan.  Samaritans and Jews in the time of Jesus hated each other more than liberals and conservatives today.


As Christians let’s not simply sing the words, “they will know we are Christians by our love.”  Let’s love each other as Jesus did for the good of our neighbor not try to divide society for political power.


Chad Fair’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors’ viewpoint.





By Justin Beard, Executive Director

Marine Industries Association of the Treasure Coast



I joined the Marine Industries Association of the Treasure Coast as executive director in February of this year and have immersed myself in all sorts of local marine-related topics. From clean water issues and navigational hazards to legislative matters and workforce readiness challenges – the marine industry casts a wide net across the Treasure Coast and Okeechobee County.


Since coming aboard, I have been pleased to discover the MIATC has had a well-established presence within the maritime community since 1974, but there is a clear disconnect between the marine industry and the community at large. It is no surprise though, as the marine industry is generally known as one of Florida’s best kept secrets despite it being the boating capital of the world.


Locally, MIATC members range from family-run businesses and specialized tradespeople to yacht brokers and megayacht shipyards, who collectively help drive an annual regional economic impact of more than $1.3 billion. As proud owner of the Stuart Boat Show, MIATC is dedicated to promoting, protecting and growing all marine-related business and recreational boating interests.

A strong marine industry brings with it numerous benefits to the community and local businesses. Sharing important marine-related information, like the recent closure of the FEC/Brightline Railroad Draw Bridge and the partial closure of the boat ramps at Sandsprit Park, helps keep the public informed, allowing time for people to prepare for potential impacts. It remains to be seen how the railroad draw bridge rehabilitation project will affect local marine-related interests, but rest assured, the MIATC is monitoring the situation, with boater safety being our top priority.


Workforce readiness is another focus area for the MIATC. We’ve all heard the importance of priming the talent pipeline and nearly every industry is facing a shortage of qualified workers. The marine industry is in a unique position as the lack of workers is not necessarily due to a shortage of skilled labor – it is more due to the lack of knowledge about how one can pursue a career within the marine industry. Few industries compare to what the marine industry has to offer – excellent pay and ability to work on the water, as well as opportunities to work independently or travel abroad. It all starts with interest in learning trade and then putting in the time to master it.


The Treasure Coast is home to a vibrant marine industry and if you are a business owner or have marine-related interests, I invite you to join the MIATC as a member and get involved. Be sure to follow MIATC on social media and visit our website ( to sign up for our monthly Boatlines newsletter.


If you have any questions about the MIATC, please feel free to reach out to me at 772-692-7599 or


Justin Beard’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors’ viewpoint.





By Frank Valente, Pres. & CEO






The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast (HSTC) partners with various organizations for the betterment of the community as whole. HSTC believes that pets who are well cared for should be able to stay with the owners that love them. As different circumstances arise in a person’s life, the shelter strives to be there and offer support when it’s most needed.

SafeSpace is one of the organizations that Humane Society supports. SafeSpace’s mission is to empower adult victims of domestic violence and their children through intervention, prevention, and advocacy services.


Through this partnership, HSTC works with Safe Space to provide a shelter for pets of domestic violence survivors for as long as necessary.  The staff at the humane society provides daily enrichment and play time for these animals, while keeping the survivor’s information completely confidential and safe. The owner can get the help they need without a single worry about the well-being and care of their beloved pets. Shelter staff will even send the owner photo and video updates so that they can focus on getting help while resting easy that their pets are in good hands.

HSTC will also offer veterinary care for the animal if it is deemed medically necessary.  The shelter offers no-cost spay and neuter surgeries for the pets as well with permission of the owner. These surgeries include a rabies vaccine, nail trim and a microchip. During their stay, pets are also eligible to transfer into a qualified and discrete foster home.  These foster families are highly trained to provide the up-most care and protection.


Unfortunately, many survivors refuse to leave their abusers in fear that they will hurt their pet. Many also feel that they won’t have a safe place to flee that will allow them to bring their pets with them.  Sadly, 25% of survivors will return to their abuser because the abuser is using their pet to lure them back.  HSTC’s partnership with SafeSpace is meant to prevent these scenarios from happening. The program will help keep pets safe, healthy, and housed during times when they need it most.


SafeSpace is an incredible organization that transforms the lives of so many people in need each year. The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast is proud to partner with SafeSpace and offer these much needed resources to our community.


If you or someone you know needs help escaping domestic violence, needs emergency shelter or is simply looking for someone to talk to, please call the SafeSpace 24/7 Hotline at 772-288-7023.


To learn more how you can be involved in HSTC’s mission, please visit


Frank Valente’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors’ viewpoint.





By Walter Deemer

Co-Chair Environmental Committee

Martin County League of Women Voters




This month’s meeting of (a very frustrated) Rivers Coalition: “The LOSOM Delay – What Is Behind It?”

Some background.

The Lake Okeechobee System Operations Manual (LOSOM), which will manage discharges from Lake Okeechobee, has been in the development process for over three years. LOSOM will replace a manual from 2008 which has allowed disastrous discharges through the St. Lucie Canal. Thankfully, the new LOSOM is much, much more environmentally-friendly.

Watching LOSOM struggle its’ way through the bureaucratic process during these three long years has been a long, frustrating experience. But at long last the finish line was in sight, with final approval anticipated by June.

But wait! The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) threw a last-minute monkey-wrench into the process which pushed the final revision deadline back to October and final approval until December.

What happened?

St Lucie Lock Pinterest

Well, it seems that in March the NMFS looked at the final version of LOSOM and saw that, under certain conditions, discharges down the Caloosahatchee River might be a little higher than they had thought. They suddenly decided they needed to study if that might harm swimming turtles or create a greater red tide threat on the West Coast. That pushed them from the informal environmental impact review that they had been conducting for three years to a formal one. And that’s what put LOSOM on hold — for at least 135 days.

But why now? The NMFS, it was pointed out, has known that those were issues from the very beginning of the process.

The question couldn’t be answered.

Rep. Brian Mast charged that the NMFS move was “below board”. He was highly skeptical of its’ circumstances, wondering just who pushed them to delay LOSOM at the last minute – and why. The delay, it was noted, has a direct negative impact on our area; the Corps will be operating under the old, much less environmentally-favorable rules through yet another rainy season.

Other speakers were similarly puzzled.

And so the process of creating and adopting LOSOM, which appeared to be ready to cross the finish line this summer, has been delayed yet again – giving us yet another summer to face the threat of harmful discharges down the St. Lucie Canal.

The arduous and seemingly-endless struggle continues…

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, our environmental hero on the South Florida Water Management District’s Board, then reported that the Corps is now monitoring algae daily at the S-308 gate, where Lake O discharges enter the St. Lucie Canal. If they see algae, the discharges are supposed to be halted – which actually occurred three times earlier this year. The daily DEP review includes a picture of conditions at the S-308 gate; to join the mailing list, email .

Rep. Mast was also disturbed by the FEC bridge lockdown. The Coast Guard, he charged, threw out a 2017 agreement and is now following Brightline’s guidance. He minced no words: ”The Coast Guard in Washington has done some extremely dishonest things”.


Walter Deemer’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors’ viewpoint.




By Carl Frost





I attended the April Martin Co. Fair Advisory Board meeting.


It was more like a conversation than a committee or “board” as they call it. I never heard a roll call nor whether there was a quorum. Due to the casual seating arrangement, I could not distinguish between the board and public.

All right, this is simply an advisory gathering so we can dispense with the formalities, right? The night’s conversation focused primarily on three topics the first being the wireless network (or lack thereof) at the fairgrounds and the second being a disagreeable fund-raising campaign presentation and the third a rehash of the Agriplex “vision”. I will limit my comments to the Agriplex although there is plenty to talk about regarding money and the data network (or lack thereof).


I shall digress and remind you readers that the Martin County Fair is an independent self-funding non-profit entity governed by a Board of Directors. Which appears to me wholly dominated by Executive Director and Manager Jay Spicer. This entity operates like multiples of others in counties in that the local government can distance itself from the liabilities and outcomes associated with operating an amusement park with associated community activities.


The land is county owned and we’d all have to agree the existing airport location is no longer satisfactory. We are told that the Martin County Fair Association holds an option to lease about 100 acres of government land with some specific deed restrictions about recreation use at a site adjacent to Indiantown on Citrus Boulevard.


The Agriplex is not visionary as it replicates similar county amusement venues in The United States. Is the proposed mix of concert venue, motocross track, model farm, equestrian facility, and space for other non-profits like the Martin County Model Railroaders what our county wants or needs? It crosses over into services which could be offered by the private sector (echoes of our Parks & Rec department’s pool and golf enterprises).   More importantly is the present “owner” up to the task to pull it off? The Martin County Fair Board of Directors is recruiting new volunteers and except for Jay Spicer, the Agriplex lacks a project manager.


Furthermore, the Fair Association is desperate to fund raise $1-2 million or the whole thing expires. Private money support is elusive. Fundraising campaign ill conceived.


Should the Agriplex be built as proposed or should the fairgrounds in its present form relocate to Indiantown and be done with all the proposed accessory uses like concert venue, farm, motorcross, etc. Is Jay Spicer the man to manage an order of magnitude enterprise larger or is his role best suited to managing (only) the fair proper?


I want to close with this crucial point: Is the Agriplex another name for “Parks and Recreation West”. Our county could potentially have two entities doing similar things? Kevin Abbate may have his own desires about those 100 acres.


Lots of questions but who has the answers? Where is the leadership?


Carl Frost’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors’ viewpoint.




By Anne W. Posey, LMHC, NCC

Chief Executive Officer, Tykes & Teens


May is Mental Health Awareness Month


According to a new CDC analysis, more than a third of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health during the pandemic and 44% reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless during 2021. (Mental Health | DASH | CDC ).

Our youth are in crisis and ensuring they receive the services they deserve that need is vital.  Reducing the stigma that surrounds seeking mental health care is necessary.  Often there is a large gap of time (sometimes upward of 10 years) between onset of symptoms and seeking help for a mental health challenge.


Imagine living with the pain of a broken arm for 10 years before seeking help. We would never endure that pain for a decade and would, in fact, be encouraged to see a professional.  The pain those struggling with mental health challenges feel is often as serious as a broken bone. Yet those suffering may be discouraged from seeking help.  Our goal is to reduce this stigma so that our youth do not suffer needlessly.


Often all it takes is a friend or family member to acknowledge someone who may be struggling and a word of encouragement.  That could be enough to send the person to seek what is needed. The more we can talk openly about our feelings with our loved ones, the more likely it is that we are to get the help we need.


At Tykes and Teens, we encourage referral of those young people who may be struggling with their mental health.  We can see youth in a variety of settings, including the office, the school, and various after school programming.  We also can use telehealth to reach youth who might be struggling with access to an office.


May is Mental Health Awareness month and our focus at Tykes and Teens is in “Stigma Free, 2023!”  We want to spread the word that help is available, and recovery is not only possible, but also probable.  For a full complete list of activities designed for Mental Health Awareness month, please visit our website @ May Mental Health Awareness – Tykes & Teens, Inc. (


Anne Posey’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors’ viewpoint.




By Vicki Davis

Supervisor of Elections



Spring greetings to all!


With this new season, I am pleased to share that staff and I are diligently working in preparation for the 2024 presidential election cycle.


As your Supervisor of Elections, I encourage all registered Martin County voters to take this time to become familiar with our user-friendly website,  Please visit the “Access Your Voter Information” link and fill in the required prompts.  You can also access this link by using the QR code below.

From this link you can view, verify, and update your voter information, such as:


  • Where your Election Day precinct is located
  • Access your precinct-specific sample ballot
  • Know and calendar the 2024 election dates
  • Request a vote by mail ballot
  • Check the status of your vote by mail ballot
  • Review and update your voter registration information
  • View precinct statistics and current office holders


During this off-election cycle, it is my goal to provide you with accurate information as you prepare to make “Your Choice in 2024”.


If there is anything staff or I can do to better assist you, please call the office at 772-288-5637 or visit us online at for more information.








We at the MCTA will leave it to you to decide if this idea is government at its worst or not.


In 2013 the county contracted with a transportation provider to start the Marty bus system.   Ten years later, on March 29, 2023 the Metropolitan Planning Organization held an Open House to see among other things if they should “grow the transit system”.   The MCTA attended because we were incredulous that they were contemplating “growing” something that has never worked to begin with.

We met the Director of Transportation who explained that they don’t track the number of riders, but the number of rides.   MCTA was a bit skeptical since most of the comments directed to our organization refer to only 1 or 2 passengers riding the buses at any given time and many times no one at all.   The director explained that there were in fact 93,562 “unlinked” (no transfers) passenger trips last fiscal year.   We were directed to go to the National Transit Database’s annual reports for other information.  MCTA was also interested to know what the peak hours and most popular stops were here in the County.  We were not given a discernible answer other than “trip generators” are Walmart and the Treasure Coast Mall.


According to the 2021 budget figures, the Marty operating expense per passenger trip is $27.76.  The actual costs reported for 2021 were $3,359,927.  In a nutshell there is no way this system is or will pay for itself.  There is no public commuter system that does.   The argument becomes whether this system is needed in Martin County at all.  MCTA feels as most persons contacting us regarding the issue, that it would be more cost effective to “Uber” these passengers around on the county dime.  For now.


There has been a recent change in the mood of the state legislature. The state populace has been crying out for affordable housing and the legislature has answered them.  With the passage of the Live Local Act directly overriding some aspects of our COMP plan and our Board of County Commissioners, Martin County will likely develop the need for a mass transit system in the future.  No doubt there will be delays from lawsuits, but there will also be victorious developers.


It may take 5 years or more to noticeably change Martin County’s affordable housing map so why not opt out of these “big city” buses in the interim?  Perception may or may not be everything, but in a county that wants to remain small and wants to maintain a “small town feel”, why not employ smaller shuttles?  Less gas and maintenance costs certainly.   Most people wouldn’t notice a van running about the county carrying only one or two people.  They wouldn’t notice their tax dollars coming out the tailpipe.


The Metropolitan Planning Organization wants public feedback.  You can contact them and read more here:


You can read our initial article on MARTY here:


MCTA’s opinions are their own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors’ viewpoint





Other Government Notices



























Tax Collector




The 2023 Martin County Tax Certificate Sale will be available starting May 10, 2023

(You only need to make payment for a refundable security deposit and to pay the balance due for any certificate purchases.}

What is the auction process?
Certificates are sold in the order advertised. Bidding begins at 18 percent (the maximum rate) and bids down in decrements of one quarter of one percent. Each certificate is sold individually to the bidder offering the lowest interest rate. In the case of a tie at the lowest rate, the winner will be selected using a random number generator in the auction software. Items that receive no bids are “struck” to the county and become county-held certificates. Bids are accepted at 0.00% (zero), but certificates awarded at this rate WILL NOT accrue interest. Bids at 0.00% will not be treated as Proxy bids even in sales using Proxy Bidding.

What is a batch?
A batch is a subgroup of the list of auction items. The list is divided into batches to make the bidding process more efficient, and enable participants to manage their bids and budgets.

Do I have to bid on all the items in a batch?

No. Each tax certificate in each batch is auctioned independently of every other tax certificate.

What happens to my security deposit if I don’t win any certificates?
The Tax Collector will issue refunds approximately two weeks after the close of the sale. Refunds of ACH payments will be made electronically to the account you used to submit the deposit. Refunds of offline payments (if accepted by the Tax Collector) will be processed by check or wire transfer. You will receive an email confirmation when the refund is initiated.

How can I get a list of my certificates after the sale?
To review and download a list of your winning bids:
Log in to the auction web site:

  1. Enter the relevant tax certificate sale
  2. Click on the Results tab
  3. Select “All Certificates” from the Certificate Lists menu
  4. Select “All Batches” from the Batches menu
  5. Select your buyer number from the Bidder menu
  6. Select “Winning Bids” from the Results menu
  7. Check “Hide Removed Certificates”

After completing these steps you will see a list of your purchases. You can download the list in Excel, or comma-separated values format (CSV), by clicking the icons on the right-hand side of the page above the list of certificates.

Questions about how to use the web site, who do I contact?  email, or by phone at (866) 247-4370, between 8:00 a.m. and   5:00 p.m. EST on business days.

Martin County Tax Lien Auction: Auction Schedule


Tax Certificate Sale Schedule


All dates are determined by the seller and are subject to change.


The 2023 Martin County Tax Certificate Sale will be available starting on May 10, 2023.

List of properties with delinquent taxes available May 10, 2023 8:00 am EDT
Bidders can begin to submit W-9 forms, set Budget amounts and pay deposits May 10, 2023 8:00 am EDT
Bidders can begin to submit bids May 10, 2023 8:00 am EDT
Registration Deadline1 May 25, 2023 5:00 pm EDT
Deposit Deadline May 25, 2023 5:00 pm EDT
First batch closes June 1, 2023 9:00 am EDT
Last batch closes June 1, 2023 1:00 pm EDT
Clean-up Batch2 June 1, 2023 3:00 pm EDT
Bidders invoiced for balances due3 After close of last batch
Payment due for purchases June 5, 2023 1:00 pm EDT
Estimated date refunds of unused deposits will be issued June 15, 2023 1:00 pm EDT





























Healthy Start Celebrates Hollywood Glam and Healthy Babies


Stuart, Fla. – The glitter and glam of Old Hollywood took center stage in mid-April at the 2023 Hometown Hollywood Black-Tie Gala in support of the Martin County Healthy Start Coalition and its Madison’s Miracles program.


Guests were treated to a dazzling setting of glimmering gold and true red carpet style at the Elliott Museum, where great food and spirited dance music made the event memorable.


Madison’s Miracles, the newest member of the Martin County Healthy Start Coalition family of services, provides compassionate support to families who have been stricken with the unimaginable loss of a baby during pregnancy or during or after birth. “We were honored to welcome Madison’s Miracles into our family of services last year,” said Healthy Start CEO Samantha Suffich. “Healthy Start is dedicated to supporting families in the joys of childbearing, and now we are their resource in those heart-breaking moments of loss as well.”

Healthy Start Team and board members


The gala’s silent auction featured an electric guitar from Colorado Pawn & Jewelry, a custom hand-forged chef’s knife, and art by Omari Maynard. The live auction included a crawfish boil, and emerald and diamond necklace from Van’s Uniforms, and once in a lifetime trips. In addition to auction proceeds, sponsorships, and ticket sales, funds from a special call-out for support during the event will be used to sustain the Madison’s Miracles outreach efforts as well as the doula program, car seat program, and mental health services from Healthy Start.


Suffich gave the guests a quick summary of the past year’s achievements: “Between Healthy Start nurses and social workers visiting 178 families during the joys of pregnancy and issuing 145,000 diapers to growing babies, we have now filled the last gap in our continuum of care by serving over 70 families during the miracle of childbirth with our community doula program. We are revolutionizing maternity care by challenging healthcare providers to minimize maternal health disparities and support healthy, empowered births.”


Sponsors of the gala include: Remax of Stuart-Rosi Shepard, Spot On Strategies, John & Alex Carrigan, Paul J. Feinsinger CPA CFP, Loving Chiropractic of Stuart, Lucido & Associates, Marine Bank, PNC Bank, SJM Aerospace, SouthState Bank, Samantha & Knight Suffich, Van’s Uniforms, Vivify Solutions, Well Done Hospitality, White Glove Moving, Storage & Delivery, and Yates Funeral Home.


For more information, contact


Hibiscus Children’s Center Helps Children Heal

Through Mental Health Services


May is “Mental Health Awareness Month”.  Hibiscus Children’s Center provides Mental Health Services to children in our residential facilities and the community to help overcome the challenges they are facing.  Hibiscus specializes in the treatment of trauma-based disorders, behavioral health, infant mental health, and healing victims of sexual abuse.


Hibiscus provides these services to children residing at the Tilton Family Children’s Shelter in Jensen Beach and Hibiscus Village in Vero Beach and to children in our community. Professional outpatient counseling services are provided through the Hibiscus Community Mental Health Program which focuses on decreasing emotional and behavioral issues.  Our master-licensed therapists are trained in a variety of age appropriate and best practice treatment interventions and Hibiscus is the only Department of Health sanctioned Sexual Abuse Treatment Program on the Treasure Coast.  Hibiscus is working to help children heal and strengthen families in our community.


Seven-year old Nathan (name changed) displayed aggressive behavior at home and school.  The Hibiscus Community Mental Health Counselor worked closely with Nathan and guided his mom how to communicate and not just react to behaviors.  The Counselor and Nathan practiced roll playing appropriate vs. inappropriate behaviors and learning how emotions impact behaviors.  The Counselor began to see significant progress with a decrease in aggressive behaviors and better communication.  Nathan told his teachers, “I don’t want to get angry at this school again. I am going to be happy and not fight anymore.”  Nathan is doing great and continues to improve his behavior every day and is enjoying life as all children should!


Lacey Buxton, LMHC, Director of Outpatient Services/Sexual Abuse Treatment Program Coordinator, shared “Every day we witness youth, just like Nathan, whose lives are transformed through the love, care and Mental Health Services provided by Hibiscus Children’s Center.  Our goal is to help children develop the necessary coping skills, heal from the trauma they have endured and grow into their fullest potential.”


For more information, please visit us at or call Hibiscus Community Mental Health Program at (772) 340-5750.



House of Hope and Inner Truth Build Client Skills Through P.I.E. Lab Project


The P.I.E. Lab project is just as good as it sounds.


P.I.E., which stands for Positive Integrated Experiences, is a collaboration between House of Hope and The Inner Truth Project to help women build self-esteem and acquire marketable skills. And it results in good pies!


Clients from The Inner Truth Project, the Treasure Coast’s leader in providing therapeutic services to survivors of sexual trauma, have been working and learning in the kitchen at House of Hope’s Elizabeth Lahti Nutrition Center for several weeks under the direction of House of Hope’s Food Distribution Supervisor Andrew Funcke . Along with learning to make pies, they learned business management, customer service and marketing skills to prepare them for employment, and they graduated from the program with certification in Food Safety.

The P.I.E. Lab Project,

During the project, House of Hope clients were offered the day’s pies for dessert, but the ultimate goal is to turn pie-making skills into a self-sustaining business that can generate funds for the organizations and the pie-makers themselves.


“We’re so proud of these women,” said Mindi Fetterman, Executive Director of Inner Truth. “They accepted this challenge to find out how very capable they really are, and they succeeded. The benefits of this program go far beyond what can be measured in the pies they’ve learned to make.”


One of the pie-makers, Summer, talks about the new confidence she’s gained from the program after a very troubled time in her life. “I never made a pie or worked in a group, and I thought I couldn’t do it, but I did. It’s changed my life.”


The culinary class is free to Inner Truth clients thanks to grants awarded House of Hope and The Inner Truth Project, including support from private funders through The Community Foundation of Martin – St. Lucie.


“This project has all of the ingredients for a successful program. As an example of social entrepreneurship, it’s a perfect match with our mission to empower the people we serve to build better futures for themselves and their families,” according to House of Hope CEO Rob Ranieri. “We’ve developed great facilities for food preparation over the years, thanks to generous community donors, and we’re glad to share them with Inner Truth. Plus we all love the pies!”


Future classes will include a broader base of clients from both Inner Truth and House of Hope. Pie sales will eventually help generate revenue to sustain the program and provide a great gift to the community—delicious pies, baked with love.




Another Milestone Achieved in Ambitious Plan to Create Permanent Wildlife Corridor, Protect Hobe Sound Character


Hobe Sound, Fla. – An innovative and ambitious plan to create a permanently protected ecological corridor in south Martin County between the Loxahatchee and St. Lucie rivers is poised to grow with a second land acquisition along Bridge Road in Hobe Sound.


The Loxa-Lucie Headwaters Initiative has identified a 20-acre parcel and a willing seller for what is being called Loxa-Lucie Headwaters Acquisition #2. This piece of land is another key to the Loxa-Lucie vision for conserving a landscape spanning nearly 70,000 acres between and including Jonathan Dickinson State Park and the Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park.

The first parcel, a two-mile long stretch along the north side of Bridge Road was acquired in 2021. Acquisition #2, which is on the south side of Bridge Rd and is adjacent to county-owned lands, will further the Loxa-Lucie Initiative’s vision to bring undeveloped properties along the Bridge Road corridor into permanent conservation stewardship. This tract will protect another property on Bridge Road, help restore previously existing wetlands, and help re-establish the natural hydrological connection to the Loxahatchee River. It will also help connect a corridor for the wildlife that depend on these connected ecosystems of the Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park and Jonathan Dickinson State Park.


Historically, this land mass, called the Atlantic Ridge Ecosystem, was recognized by the state as the critical component in the preservation of the Loxahatchee Watershed and the South Fork of the St. Lucie River and was included in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program’s (CERP) Indian River Lagoon South Project.


The need to preserve the remaining lands that are part of these important watersheds is greater than ever. Saltwater intrusion issues in the Loxahatchee, higher demand for potable fresh water, increase in development pressure and rising real estate values are all driving this urgency.


As the Steering Committee for the Loxa-Lucie Initiative continues its campaign to generate funds from private donors for additional land acquisition, it has also taken its message to Tallahassee.  “We’re raising awareness about the project to garner funding through Florida Forever, a well-established state-wide program to buy land for conservation and recreation,” explained Matt Sexton, Senior Vice President and Southeast Regional Director for Conservation Acquisition for The Conservation Fund and Loxa-Lucie Steering Committee member. “We have an opportunity to preserve this precious ecosystem for future generations, and we need to take it.”


The Loxa-Lucie Headwaters Initiative is a collaboration among three non-profit 501(c)(3) environmental powerhouses, specifically the Guardians of Martin County, the Treasured Lands Foundation and The Conservation Fund. The Initiative has generated widespread and growing support among citizens, community groups, businesses and government entities, including the Town of Jupiter Island and the Martin County Board of County Commissioners.


Additionally, the Loxahatchee River Management Coordinating Council, Friends of Jonathan Dickinson State Park, the Rivers Coalition, the Martin County Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, the Hobe Sound Golf Club, Jupiter Island Residents Association, and landowners along the Bridge Road corridor have all expressed their support.


The Steering Committee urges all who care deeply about the Loxa-Lucie Initiative and its noble objectives to contribute generously to its on-going efforts to purchase adjacent and related properties in Martin County. To make a tax-deductible contribution, click here.

Education and outreach is also critical to this initiative. To schedule a presentation to your group, contact Greg Braun at 561.758.3417 or  For more information, visit


United Way of Martin County installs Born Learning Outdoor Trails at New Monrovia Park to promote early childhood learning and family fun


Stuart, FL – Learning happens everywhere a child goes, but parents, grandparents and caregivers may not always know how to support that learning.


That won’t be the case at New Monrovia Park, where over a dozen volunteers painted the town “read” to promote literacy.  United Way of Martin County in partnership with the Martin County Board of County Commissioners and the Martin County CRA created an outdoor interactive early learning trail to help parents and caregivers turn excursions into fun learning moments.

Naomi Holden

The Born Learning Trail is a fun, easy way for parents, grandparents and caregivers to use outings to build learning critical for school readiness. A series of signs offering educational games (approved by experts) guide adults on specific ways to create learning games outdoors and suggest tips to use at home.

Karen Emanuele

“The Born Learning Trail promotes fun and games – important components of early childhood learning,” said Carol G. Houwaart-Diez, President/CEO of United Way of Martin County. “Children are literally ‘born learning’ and we know that what happens in a children’s early years matters for success in life and for school readiness.”


According to the most recent data, only 51% of Martin County students are reading on level by third grade, lower than the state average of 53%.  Additionally, only 57% of Martin County children are considered ready for kindergarten. The Born Learning Trail is designed to help adults interact with children to boost language and literacy development.      

Last year, United Way of Martin County installed three Born Learning Trails in the City of Stuart at Flagler Park, Shepard Park and the Guy Davis Sports Complex.


For more information about the Born Learning Trails, visit or





































































































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


Letter from Zach Gazza




Just finished reading your most recent Friends & Nieghbors…saw this “Friends & Neighbors has no hidden agenda or side. We are unashamed of our pro property rights and good government stances. And we are under no illusions as to what will happen if both are ignored, or incidents swept under the rug.” and it made me laugh.


If your really are “pro property rights”, why don’t you educate your self on the 5th amendment violations being carried out by Martin County, SFWMD and FWC on Martin County land owners within Palmar in the form of their attempts to strip basic property rights including the rights to protect, use, enjoy your property by blocking vehicular access. These three government agencies have done nothing but trample on the private property rights of these owners, and you have applauded them for it in your newsletters.


You have NEVER taken a pro-property rights stance for property owners within Palmar. They are Martin County Land owners, and are afforded the same statutory and constitutional rights as everyone else, however inconvenient that may be to MCBOCC and it’s fair-weather reporters such as yourself. It’s comical that you have the audacity to write in your newsletter that you, of all people, are “pro property rights”. You have consistently ignored facts and fabricated un-truths.


Instead of listening to whatever nonsense comes out of one neighbor’s mouth, why don’t you try browsing some FL Statutes.


You can start with FL Statutes Ch. 70 ( which includes the “Property Owner Bill of Rights”


You should also look into Martin County deeding County Owned property to Assistant County Administrator George Stokus, in order for him to sit on the Palmar Board of Supervisors alongside County Commissioner Sarah Heard….talk about an ethical and Sunshine violation….She signs his paycheck! How is he supposed to vote in a non-biased fashion.


I also must have missed your newsletters that reported on Martin County suing Palmar (while there was a Martin County Commissioner sitting on both the MCBOCC and the Palmar Board of Supervisors) in order to starve Palmar of tax dollars and over-tax private land owners. Martin County lost, by the way, but not before dumping tons of taxpayer dollars down the drain in a superfluous lawsuit.


Get a clue, Tom.






Our second letter from Tom Prestonik:


I feel that your article about old white men with guns is very slanted. Please see the below article about a black man shooting a white girl. Please try to be more balanced in your reporting or you are going to lose readers. Tom Prestopnik





Next Letter from John Donovan:


Mr Campenni,

I found your intro to this week’s new letter to be quite obtuse. The US is at times and in places (regions & cities)  violent. It has nothing to do with guns.

However, calling today’s youth vibrant as a collective is troubling. Today’s youth 16-22, and 23-28…up to maybe 30 are  anything but vibrant, independent and respectful from a collective viewpoint.

Need I remind you of the “summer of love 2020” riots. The prior to 2020 and continuing senseless acts of teenage  involvement and perpetuation in robbery, rape, and murder throughout the US. I’d say that’s far more prevalent than older people shooting young people. A silly obtuse observation on your part. No such thing is happening and the data and statistics are the complete opposite of what you stated. Do your research!

The man in MO was a scared 84yr old living alone. I can’t speak for the Up state NYer. Two insignificant cases having nothing to do with gun violence. (Case study Chicago for the last two decades) There’s your flashpoint for gun violence.

In my view today’s youth does contain some outstanding individuals that have a work ethic, care about others and respect the laws of society. They are the exception!! They account for maybe ten percent. A sad state of affairs coming from my generation. I’m 60, the back end of the baby boomers.

The other 80 percent are apathetic about living in a civil society. They’re a collection of vapid, vacuous societal reprobates with no concern for anyone but themselves. I see this everywhere I travel  for business. And unfortunately sometimes I actually have to work with them. It’s abundantly clear that most are uneducated on civics, basic social etiquette and respectful communication to name a few faults






Last from an amused Audrey Taggart:


Yesterday I was at Costco buying a large bag of Purina dog chow for my loyal pet, Necco, the Wonder Dog, which weighs 191 lbs.  I was in the check-out line when a woman behind me asked if I had a dog.  What did she think I had…an elephant?


So, because I’m retired and have little to do, on impulse I told her that no, I didn’t have a dog, I was starting the Purina Diet again. I added that I probably shouldn’t, because I ended up in the hospital last time, but that I’d lost 50 pounds before I awakened in an intensive care ward with tubes coming out of most of my orifices and IVs in both arms. 


I told her that it was essentially a Perfect Diet and that the way that it works is, to load your jacket pockets with Purina Nuggets and simply eat one or two every time you feel hungry.  The food is nutritionally complete, so it works well and I was going to try it again. 


(Now I have to mention here that practically everyone in line was now enthralled with my story.) 


Horrified, she asked if I ended up in intensive care, because the dog food poisoned me. 


I told her no, I stopped to pee on a Fire Hydrant and a car hit me. 


Costco won’t let me shop there anymore.  Better watch what you ask retired people.




MartinCounty Friends-and-Neighbors-of-Martin-County-Commission



By Tom Hurley

Becker Companies, CEO



“Every man has the right to an opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts. Nor, above all, to persist in errors as facts.” (Bernard Baruch, 1948)


I recently received an email; within seconds of reading it, I felt the intended sense of dread and outrage.


“Time is running out!” the author warned, evoking vivid imagery of a terrifying transformation of Martin County’s bucolic western pastures, farmlands, and woodland preserves into asphalt, concrete, and gridlock.


Sounds awful, I thought, and it is something I strongly oppose. But wait for it- the writer, Donna Melzer, referred to the amendment my partners and I brought forward. The Rural Lifestyle amendment bears NO semblance to her characterizations. Most frustratingly, she knows this. We have discussed its details many times publicly and privately, as well as debated it in her ongoing legal challenge.


What is going on here??


I then read further down to the form letters included for its recipients to copy and paste into emails to Martin County commissioners.


Prepared responses claimed:

“The urban boundary will become meaningless because residential and who knows what commercial will be allowed ANYWHERE in the county, from the barrier islands all the way out to Lake Okeechobee.”


“Costly sewer and water extensions would be allowed anywhere outside the urban boundary.”


“More than triple the current density will be allowed outside the ‘urban boundary.’ How many thousands of units and malls will sprawl across the 130,000+ western agricultural acres.”


Some of these prewritten responses—in total or in excerpts—recently appeared in commissioner’s emails.




The amendment passed last September does none of these things. It does the exact opposite. Rural Lifestyle preserves the urban boundary, limits where services can be provided, and only affects a potential 12,000 acres—making her off by some 90 percent.


Rural Lifestyle requires a minimum 1,000-acre parcel adjacent to the county’s primary, secondary, or free-standing urban service district. Not a by-right entitlement, the amendment commands an extensive application process with multiple public hearings. Seventy percent of the 1,000-acre parcel must remain in permanent open-space conservation. Should the landowner seek zoning greater than one unit per 20 acres, the only option is one unit per 5 acres, mirroring the county’s existing Ag Ranchette zoning.


Even then, the hurdle gets higher. To receive such zoning, the landowner must set aside another Martin County property—a minimum of 500 acres or half the size of the property planned for development—for permanent agricultural or conservation preservation. The set aside must fall under the control of three parties—a government entity, a landowner, and an existing nonprofit dedicated to conservation. All three would have to agree to adjust its protected status—an outcome made remote-to-impossible by design.


The developer is obligated to pay the property maintenance costs for life. The parcel planned for development may seek water/sewer services—but must bear all associated costs. Services remain restricted to the approved site and cannot extend beyond its borders. Such safeguards help protect the rural character of the region where I grew up farming my family’s citrus groves.

By incentivizing the private sector to help permanently preserve land, the amendment seeks to take pressure off taxpayers to purchase conservation land, an increasingly challenging prospect as voters have rejected the past two proposed sales-tax referendums.


When our Atlantic Fields proposal was approved in September using the Rural Lifestyle amendment, we committed to placing our 800-acre tree farm into permanent agricultural conservation. Consisting of only 317 homes on 1,500 acres, this community by exclusive designer Discovery Land Company will generate nearly $30 million a year in tax revenue. We know this thanks to our economic study—which underwent third-party review—demonstrating as much.


This study is another requirement of the Rural Lifestyle amendment.


We included in the amendment findings from nearly 30 years’ worth of planning studies conducted by Martin County, 1000 Friends of Florida, and other esteemed organizations. We wanted the benefits of the best ideas to protect the rural nature of western Martin County.


Of course, we understand that reasonable people may disagree about how best to do so. During this process, we happily and repeatedly met with many people—including staunch critics, specifically Ms. Melzer—to gather insights. We listened intently, incorporated input, and operated in good faith. One often learns more from skeptics than supporters. But when you do ask someone to support your cause, you’re honor-bound to provide them with truthful information. Anything less is irresponsible and risks compromising your credibility and theirs.


In one of her canned letters, Ms. Melzer tells commissioners that “your reputation and legacy are hanging by a thread.”


Those are wise words for her to bear in mind.


Tom Hurley’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint




The Pal Mar board meeting was cancelled…yet again.


I don’t understand why this happens. Is it that the board members don’t care? When I spoke to one of the members, they did not know why the cancellation occurred. With all the problems going on there, you would think that having meetings to sort out disagreements and problems would be paramount.


Are the cancellations being done by the manager, Michael McElligott? During the meetings I have attended, he has been more of a hindrance than a help in resolving some of the issues. Since I have been following the district during the past few years, the support staff has not been very supportive in expeditiously carrying out board directives.

There have been numerous cancellations of meetings this year alone. Nothing is ever put on the website regarding the cancelled meetings. Poof they are just gone. McElligott works for a company specializing in managing Florida special districts.


Special District Services Inc. manages 70 plus such districts in 13 Florida counties. The company was founded in 1993. There is a staff of 22 people. Perhaps McElligott has too many other districts to look after to devote enough time to Pal Mar.


There are problems in Pal Mar. Could a more effective manager, engineer and legal firm do a better job for the district and alleviate some of the problems? I think it is worth exploring the possibilities by the board. One thing is for sure…not having meetings is not part of the solution.


The annual meeting of shareholders is coming up in June. The board will likely still be controlled by the government entities that own the majority of the lots. They need to have the district’s property protected from any more devastation. It is time they actually became serious about that.




During Commission comments, Zach Gazza addressed the commission regarding his lots in Pal Mar. The governing board majority and Mr. Gazza have opposing viewpoints about how the property should be managed. The county, together with the South Florida Water Management District and Palm Beach County, owns by far the largest number of lots.


Mr. Gazza stated that he will be returning to these meetings as many times as necessary to make the commission aware of his views and offers. You can read more from Mr. Gazza in his letter published in this week’s letter section.


It is time to begin preparation for the Evaluation and Appraisal Revue (EAR) to the Comprehensive Plan which is mandated by Florida Statute. The contract with the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council was pulled from the consent agenda by Commissioner Heard. She was right because it should be discussed by the commission.


Heard was a bit hyperbolic with her comments that they would take apart the comp plan. With the Live Local Act, the legislature has put local governments on notice that they can’t hide behind the comp plan or their LDRs, zoning or anything else. Housing will be built in the state. Florida has taken the position that if counties and cities want to continue to exist, then get on board with the state’s objective of more housing.

The EAR will allow the county to control some facets of development if it is done with the above in mind. I agree with Heard that two public meetings as called for in the contract are far from enough for public input. During this process, the public should let the county know what is on their mind, and the facilitators should give the public an education as to what is possible under the Live Local Act.


This is a great opportunity to inform the public about how much local government’s abilities have been curtailed by the state legislature. If I were the commission, I would be making sure that the message gets through loud and clear… “The next development you see, don’t blame us call your state representatives.”


The motion to sign the $83,600 contract was made by Smith seconded by Jenkins. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting. You can see the contract here


For some time now Tom Pine, a Martin County resident, has complained that putting the “warrant list” on the consent agenda is a way to conceal payments. It is not. The paying of the county’s bills is one of the most carefully monitored systems in local government.


The paying of bills is governed by Florida Statute 218.7. The framework is tightly controlled, and there are many checks and balances. Administrator Don Donaldson explained the procedure at this meeting.

In his presentation, Donaldson stated that the operating budget and/or the CIP have been approved by the commission in two budget hearings and a CIP agenda item before the budget year begins. The county’s warrant list is required by statute. That is similar to a check register. The invoice is matched up to an approved budget item and submitted to the county comptroller for review and payment. If the work was not authorized by the commission in the budget, a check is not going to be cut.


Any county check or bank payment is a public record and on the Martin County website for review. Commissioner Smith stated and Donaldson agreed that the county pays $10 million a week in bills. The consent agenda is the only way possible to provide a public record and be transparent.


There is, at times, some “good old boy” favoritism, but the commission, staff, and the clerk of the court are not all conspiring to have a slush fund and pay for things that have not been approved in the budget. Even when the money has been allocated to an individual vendor, if the contract is over a certain threshold, the commission approves the contract.


I hope Mr. Pine and anyone else who thought that the government was doing something slippery has been satisfied. I suspect that, if not Pine, someone else will make the same allegations again soon. You can find the presentation here


Government has its own language. This week’s agenda item with a special acronym was SPARC. Can anyone guess what that stands for?


I didn’t think so! It stands for Special Parking Alternatives for Redevelopment Centers. If you still don’t understand what it means, I can’t blame you.


The United States, and Martin County in particular, worries incessantly about parking. How much, where, what type of business, and many other factors are in the mix for a project to be approved or a business allowed to open. In this instance, we are speaking about the parking requirements within CRAs.


SPARC is a “Payment in Lieu Program.” For example, if someone wants to open a restaurant and is required to have 15 parking spaces but only have 12, he wouldn’t be able to open a restaurant. This program would allow him to buy parking from the CRA for those 3 needed spaces to open the business.


The restaurant operator is not purchasing or reserving spots in front of the business but contributing to a dedicated fund. The money could go to creating more on-street parking, or a municipal lot, or other street amenities depending on the CRA. How much is paid for this privilege?


There is a current program that pegs the cost of a spot at $7900. Since its inception in 2007, it has been used once in Jensen Beach. The new program pegs the pay-in at $24,600 which is the realistic cost of providing one parking space. How many small business owners can spend that amount of money on a phantom parking space?

The question should be asked why government should be involved in how a business’ customers park. The government dictates parking minimums and the results are empty parking lots (Treasure Coast Mall) or businesses not opening. We use parking requirements as an excuse to curtail development and businesses.


Elected officials like Stuart City Commissioner Chris Collins make no bones about his position of artificially high numbers of parking spots to stop new ventures. Other planners and elected officials believe it is their responsibility to run a nanny state and they know what is best.


After spending over 50 years in the private sector, I know what is best for my business…and if I am wrong, I will fail. That is the free market capitalistic system.


A motion was made by Jenkins and seconded by Hetherington to approve the SPARC plan. Both Heard and Smith voted no. Hetherington would also have been a no vote if it didn’t have a provision for the program to be re-evaluated after a year. Stacey, have your aide put it on the calendar so it is brought back.


I am a member of the LPA, and I voted yes to recommend adoption to the commission because of the re-evaluation provision. You can see the presentation of the program here








The city commission authorized the city manager to sign a contract to buy the Willie Gary Property on MLK for $1.6 million. The CRA (I am a member) authorized the city manager to spend up to $50,000 to perform due diligence on the site that includes an old gas station.


If the sale goes through, then the city is contracting with Indian River State College to build a Stuart Training and Entrepreneur Center which will include teaching trades to adults. Locating it in the East Stuart neighborhood, the center will be where many residents can walk to attend. The funds are being secured by a grant from the state.


That plaza has been an eyesore for more than a decade. Once the Speedy Mart closed, there was no economic activity though the NAACP has their local office located on the premises. The college is expected to sign a long-term lease.


The vote of the commission to authorize signing the contract was 5-0. The vote to expend the $50,000 in CRA funding for the due diligence was 6-0 with one member absent.




For well over a decade, the health of the St. Lucie River has periodically been the reason that has propelled the city to be in a crisis mode.


A column by TC Palm’s Ed Killer is the impetus this time along with the fact that if Mortell becomes the city manager, there will need to be a new city attorney. In addition, there are two new commissioners. Though there are currently no discharges spewing anything into the river, it doesn’t really matter. If you can stir the pot and new commissioners are eager to think they can be the hero that slew the dragon a/k/a The Army Corps of Engineers.

Relations with the Corps have come a long way, most of it due to former Commissioner Merritt Matheson, county employee, Ecosystem Restoration and Management Manager John Maehl and SFWMD Board Member Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch. They took the time to speak with patience and respect. While the Corps is not going to roll over and not do what they believe is best for carrying out their entire mission, at least they listen… for now.


When Matheson was first elected, he came under the spell of a handful of people that could only think of suing the Corps as if they could possibly win. But in a relatively short time, he saw that was an impossible approach given Stuart’s lack of standing to sue and the millions of dollars it would take to do so.


Campbell Rich at first was mesmerized by the siren call of the lawsuit but then speaking not only to staff but other environmental groups, he understood how fruitless that approach would be. Now he has taken up Matheson’s mantle and is working with the Corps, the county, environmental groups, and others to try and cut the best deals possible.


Unfortunately, Chris Collins has not learned that once elected, you need to govern and not continue the campaign. His desire to plunge Stuart into a war that is unwinnable doesn’t matter to him. Collins is rather naïve in his understanding of his responsibilities to the taxpayers of Stuart.


What he says at every meeting during comments is he wants to hire a city attorney who will pursue federal lawsuits against the Corps. Just believing this is a good strategy shows his naiveté. Not only doesn’t he understand the law…he doesn’t have any idea what a city attorney does.

Stuart’s City Attorney, Mike Mortell, happens to be a civil litigator. For the past decade while still doing most of Stuart’s litigation, he also had to render legal opinions on the day-to-day operation of government. He didn’t come unprepared for this task since he had been involved in Stuart for years as a board member, commissioner, and mayor.


Mortell further has acquired valuable expertise on land use, zoning, and codes. He would be the first to tell you that environmental law is not his specialty. An environmental lawyer could not, in all probability, perform most of the day-to-day functions of a city attorney.


Virtually any attorney who has ever tried a case would advise that Stuart does not have “standing” to even bring a lawsuit against the Corps. To have standing, Stuart would need to show that it suffered damages of some sort. What are Stuart’s damages that might have been caused by any discharges? Florida is the owner of the waters and riverbed. Regulation of the waterway by law rests with the EPA, SFWMD and the Corps. Even the land by the shore that people use to build docks is managed by the EPA’s Division of State Lands. Stuart owns nothing.


A lawsuit filed years ago by individual landowners was dismissed by the courts for timeliness and standing. The proof Stuart does not have standing (or for that matter can show any damages) is that no law firm of any sort has ever approached the city to take the case on a contingency basis. If the city is willing to pay a few million, then they could hire a firm to bring suit. Though any reputable firm would make sure that the client understood that it would be fruitless.


The idea that a single attorney (who if he were truly a top-notch environmental litigator would not be making a city attorney’s salary) and a paralegal could possibly take on the Corps and the thousands of lawyers they would have, is again naïve. And to think that court filings would get the Corps to sit down shows that those advocating such a position have never been slammed with subpoenas to produce millions of pages of records and requests for depositions.


Stuart has already been deprived of funding in the amount of $500,000 for sewer conversion because of impolitic Facebook posts. Now the same commissioner wants to show how tough he is by going toe to toe with the Feds.


In a 4-1 vote, the commission gave the city manager authorization to negotiate a lease with a car wash for the two-acre parcel on Federal Highway next to the Haney Creek Preserve. If a triple net lease is signed, the several million dollars in rent will be used to fund the upkeep of the preserve.


The 2011 referendum which was approved by 76% of the voters included the requirement that the parcel pay for the upkeep. All the commissioners want the 2011 outcome to stand, but Collins feels another referendum is warranted since Stuart has changed so much in the past decade as he mentioned repeatedly during the meeting.


He wouldn’t let other commissioners speak and kept interrupting them. Finally, Mayor McDonald suspended further discussion, and a vote was taken. The vote was 4-1 with Collins voting no.


Once each commissioner has expressed an opinion, it is time to take a vote and move on. As an example, at a CRA meeting last month I was against spending $40,000 on an enhanced parking enforcement tool. In this case, Collins and I agreed on the issue. I said what I thought and then cast my vote.


I knew I did not have the votes to prevail. You cannot change another board member’s mind by saying the same thing over and over. In fact, it usually just makes the other party dig in. In this instance Collins and I were outvoted 5-2 Commissioner Collins needs to learn when to move on.




It is no secret that the members of the city commission are not in synch with each other.


Since Commissioner Collins has been sworn in, the level of civility on the commission is different from what it had been previously. It isn’t about whether they agree on the issues, it is how they respect their fellow colleagues in the meeting. By that measurement, there has been a near total collapse.


Campbell Rich, who came on the commission the same time as Collins, agreed with Collins on many issues such as development, but Rich had a different way of assimilating as a member of that body. While Collins believes he can brow-beat his fellow commissioners to agreeing, Rich states his position and then moves on. It took Rich a couple of meetings to meld with the others, but he has.

Rich at the last meeting made remarks touching on this point. The following are those remarks:


I was both disappointed and encouraged over the last two weeks with

peoples’ response to the misconduct on display at our last meeting.

Disappointed that a clear lack of decorum took place, but encouraged

that so many people care and that they expect more of us. As well they



A little refresher on Roberts Rules of Order is called for. In the City’s

Ordinances, Sec 2-54 under Parliamentary Rules it states simply that,

The City Commission shall follow Roberts’ Rules of Order for the

conduct of its meeting.’ That’s it. No changes, accommodations or

amendments. I understand the desire to sometimes run a more informal

meeting, but that has led us to where we ended up last week. An inch has

been given, but a mile has been taken.


The number one rule is the Chair controls the floor. Not the one who

yells the loudest or is the pushiest, it is the Chair. And no member may

speak until recognized by the Chair.


Also, no member may speak more than twice to each motion. This rule

has been laxly enforced, but Mr. Mayor, I would suggest we adhere to

this more strictly going forward. Also, Commissioners should be

recognized in Order with no Commissioner allowed to speak twice on a

motion before all others who wish to speak on a matter have been heard



We are a deliberative body. We have to be concerned with the rights of

each member to be heard but also with the obligation of the Commission

to make a decision and move on. As the Mayor so eloquently put it, “you

win some, you lose some.” This can only be done if we all agree on a

procedure that maintains decorum and ensures courtesy for all.


But we shouldn’t view this as a means just to, ‘keep order’. Rather it is

an opportunity to demonstrate that our discussions can proceed

smoothly, fairly and respectfully even when decisions are contentious

ones. That we can provide all parties a full opportunity to present their

case. And that when the vote is cast, we must gracefully accept that

decision and recognize the action as that of the entire commission.

That’s the basis of any democracy. 


Very well put commissioner.


The meeting was nothing but presentations and one discussion item. One presentation was regarding the strategic plan. The commission spent a day giving their suggestions which were written on a whiteboard by the facilitator, Alex Karas. At this meeting, he informed them of the next steps.


I attended the strategic planning session for an hour and didn’t hear anything from the commission on concrete solutions to what should be part of their future planning. No one is in much agreement. The real problem is that no one has identified sources of money that could be tapped to fund any new initiatives.

During Karas’ presentation, he suggested that a charette would cost about $100,000. At an earlier meeting, Mortell told the commissioners that they didn’t have the funds to finish Memorial Park or Fire Station 3. Those are absolutes that need to be done. I am going to christen this commission the “Dream Commission.”


They are oblivious to what responsibilities they have in sitting on the dais. As an example, the commission authorized the city to spend $1600 to buy a table for a Main Street event. The motion was made by Clarke and seconded by Collins and passed 5-0. Now this is not the first time that commissioners, instead of paying for parties from their $20,000 plus salaries, decided to foist the bill on the taxpayers.


In this case, the commission subsidizes Main Street to the tune of $70,000 per year already plus allowing a much-reduced rent at the Flagler. That $1600 allocated is in addition to the hundreds already spent in this budget year for individual commissioners to go to other events. The “Dream Commission” reminds me of Marie Antoinette and the let them eat cake philosophy. Remember the people sent her out the door with her head in her hands.


We see this commission with all types of ideas to make our lives better. But a municipality exists to provide public safety, parks, and public works. In Stuart’s case, there are also utilities for water and trash that are billed separately. Overall, they do those core functions quite well. All the rest is fluff.


That is what your strategic plan and the budget should consist of. The commission needs to stop raiding the cookie jar for the money to have a good time and benefit themselves politically.


You can find the strategic plan presentation here


The discussion item was the Live Local Act which may profoundly affect how new developments are built in the city as well as the county. It eliminates the need for developers to come before boards and commissions for project approvals. This was passed by every Florida Senator and all but 6 House Members voted yes. That took the first day of the session to accomplish.


The very idea of stopping development is over. Because of this legislation, the role of commissioner took a big step toward irrelevance. If they believe they can tweak the LDRs to stop things, the legislature next year will make commissioners truly irrelevant.

There are some code mechanisms to explore to make sure that what is built and the tax breaks that were mandated are correctly interpreted and enforced. The staff will be bringing back those recommendations in the latter part of June.


The next time a four-story building goes up next to your home, there is a good chance that the commission will have no input into the project. If you think this forfeiture of local control was bad, please call your state senator and house representative to complain. You can see the presentation with a complete copy of the bill here








This meeting was called to formally select Michael Maine as superintendent and to determine when he will officially assume the role.


Chair Powers wanted to vote on the contract for Maine and name him acting superintendent. Though current superintendent, John Millay, cited June 30 as his last day of work in his resignation letter, Powers felt his last day should be May 22 which would be the 90 days’ notice required under Millay’s contract. Board Members Roberts and DiTerlizzi wanted Millay to stay through June 30.

But Powers argued that there cannot be two superintendents at the same time. Board Member Pritchett thought Maine should start as of the end of the school year. She said he is anxious to build his team and eager to go.


Millay piped up to say that he was happy to leave as of the end of May. He wanted to do what was best for the district. His goal was for a smooth and successful transition. He thought that Maine could build his team now regardless of the title.


Powers again said that you can only have one superintendent at a time. She wanted to name Maine acting superintendent which means he would stay at his current salary and benefits. Then on June 1st the new contract would begin with his $235,000 base salary and he would go from acting superintendent to superintendent.


It was decided that Dr. Millay would be paid through the end of May as a consultant. Maine is now acting superintendent. Millay clarified that he would help Maine during the transition. He would make himself available to the school board and to Maine, but he would no longer have a formal role. Millay would attend graduation ceremonies.


You can find both Millay’s and Maine’s contract here


Mr. Maine has received a bump of $65,000 over Dr. Millay’s contract. Millay’s contract was dated Oct 2020. In less than 3 years, the cost of a superintendent has risen by a third. It can’t be explained by inflation.


There is just a shortage of qualified people to step into that role in Florida today. There were already 8 superintendent vacancies out of 67 districts in the state. And it won’t get any better anytime soon.




The controversy over books is not going away anytime soon.


Many people spoke at the meeting. The majority spoke against current policy. Interestingly, I wonder how many of the speakers know what the current policy is.

After public comment Mary White, Director of Curriculum & Instruction, gave a presentation on the policy. Florida Statute 1006.28 is the law that the policy interprets. Books anywhere in a school must be vetted by a media specialist. The content cannot be pornographic or inappropriate in any way.


The Florida Department of Education’s training materials go on to state that materials that are neither pornographic or prohibited under section FS 847.012 (lewd materials to children) may still be inappropriate for students. It wants media specialists to error on the side of caution. The test for appropriateness is if the reader isn’t comfortable reading the material in a public meeting, then it shouldn’t be in the library.


All materials need to be on the school’s website so that parents can know what is available to their children. The materials include electronic, digital, periodicals, and videos available. Required reading lists are also there.


To object to something that is available to the students, any parent or county resident must make their objection to the material in writing to the principal. The principal will then review the objection and can meet with the resident and teacher to see if the matter can be resolved. If it is not resolved to the objector’s satisfaction, then it goes to the district curriculum supervisor for review. If the objector is still unsatisfied, then there will be a public hearing of the school board.


There are 15-calendar-day limits on both the school and district level. The board will have 45 calendar days to have a hearing. As of the meeting, 95 books in total have been removed. 9 of those were moved from elementary schools to middle schools.


The current book that is winding its way through the process is “Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaption” The objection made at Martin County High School was that there were illustrations of Frank walking among female nude statues and that it was not a true adaptation of the Holocaust.


The book was required reading when I was in High School. It was first published in English in 1952. Over the years, other material was found and included which was not in the original version I read. Anne Frank did write about having her first menstrual period, but I can’t see how that would be objectionable or inappropriate for any high school kid to read. As to illustrations of walking among female nude statues, I couldn’t find anything mentioned about it in my research. I asked my research assistant, Chat GPT, and Chat clearly stated that there were no illustrations of nude statues in the graphic novel.

But for argument’s sake, let’s say that Chat got it wrong and there were. Is the objector trying to claim that high school students should not see works of art that are nude? We should deprive students of a seminal book because of that.


As to not a true depiction of the Holocaust…what can be truer than a non-fiction account of a group of Jews that were in hiding from the Nazis for two years. Their fate was ending up in a concentration camp where the only survivor of the group of eight was Anne’s father, Otto. He was the one who published the diary.


Parents do have a right to be the ultimate decider about the materials their children will use, read, and hear. Placing the materials on the website is an excellent way for that to happen. A parent’s objection should be that their child can’t view the book. It shouldn’t be that they can stop everyone’s child from doing so.


This is a law that was written and passed for political reasons. It has nothing to do with appropriate learning. There is no good action that can come from a bad law.


You can find Dr. White’s presentation  here


The special meeting was called to try and fix the union president’s contract with the school board.


As reported in an earlier edition, the board was upset that an agreement was made by Dr. Millay and the school union president to allow her to keep her pay, pension, medical and other benefits yet work on only union matters from the union office. The union was to reimburse the district for everything including the millage approved bonus and a master’s degree bump.


The board is right that this was never a good idea. Perhaps it would work in a more pro-union environment. The board believes that she should have just been paid by the people she was working for. And in some sense, she was.


It was established that the union reimbursed the district for everything. The taxpayers have not lost a dime. So, to try and fix the problem in a manner that all parties can agree on has proven difficult. The current agreement ends in two months. After attempting to remedy the situation for several months, it was agreed to let everything remain the same until the new bargaining year on July 1st when this agreement expires.


School Board Members: Please speak into your mics. The only one who does it consistently is Amy Pritchett. Thanks Amy!



Town of Sewall's Point Friends-and-Neighbors-of-Martin-County-Sewalls-Point




It appeared Phase 3 of the South Sewall’s Point Road project has hit a snag. The project was estimated at $8,556,310 and the sole bid submitted came in at $12,273,237.


It is hard to comprehend how staff can be off by so much. Town Engineer Capra explained that costs have escalated dramatically. He also mentioned the abundance of work to explain why there was only one bid.


The project is estimated to take 520 days from start to finish. The contractor must determine what costs will be 18 months ahead of time. Commissioner Campo wants staff to meet with the county and solicit their suggestions in writing. But it is unlikely that they can pull any rabbits out of the proverbial hat.


Staff gave the board three alternatives:


  • Reject the bid and hope that rebidding will bring a cheaper price.
  • Continue negotiations with the contractor and see where savings can be found.
  • Authorize some of the work where grant money has been received as per the attached map while additional funding is pursued.


The staff is recommending Option 2, which the commission agreed to until the May meeting.


Town Manager Daniels received his performance review and, at a score of 4.8 out of 5, it is clear that the commission is pleased with his performance…a departure from recent reviews of past managers. It seems the commission has found a manager that they can work with. Daniels seems to be a good fit for this community.




There was very little on the agenda for this meeting.


The manager and finance director presented a more comprehensive travel policy. The town wants to adopt the GSA (federal) standards instead of the state for compensation. The commissioners made some minor comments, and a final draft will come back shortly.


The Heritage lot that is for sale had received no bids by the deadline of May 4th. Staff is preparing an RFQ to solicit a firm to help in the sale. It will be on a continuing services agreement for one year plus 3 one-year options. There are scheduled to be other properties that the town will sell.


Daniels stated that the gas company had sent out postcards to every resident inquiring who as to would want gas service. They received one back. Every commissioner and a resident in the audience claimed they had not received a postcard. Daniels was going to check.


Phase 3 negotiations for South Sewall’s Road are still proceeding. They may be able to piggyback on a county contract. For Phase 2, which interestingly is for work that was scheduled to be done after Phase 3, received a million-dollar grant from Tallahassee. Commissioner Campo went to Tallahassee and helped successfully obtain the money. 







During public comments, a group of Indiantown marine business owners asked the council to join in their lawsuit against the Coast Guard, Floride East Coast Railroad, Army Corps and Brightline over the amount of time that the bridge will be down for the Brightline trains. The council decided to have a special meeting on May 4th to consider the question.


There was then a presentation on gated communities by Mark Freeman of Kolter Homes. Currently gated communities, while not prohibited, are highly discouraged in Indiantown’s comprehensive plan and LDRs. Connectivity is decidedly prized as illustrated in Chapter 6 of the LDRs: “Streets in proposed subdivisions shall be connected to rights of ways in adjacent areas to allow proper inter-neighborhood traffic flow by means of a collector street. “


A big proponent of allowing gated communities is Council Member DiPaolo. He believes that by easing their acceptance, Indiantown will have more opportunity to attract residents. Other council members want to take a slower approach. It appears from the presentation the largest benefit to the village would be that the streets would be privately maintained, and the developer could build a park but without the ability of the public at large to access it.

The most forceful speaker against the idea was Barbara Clowdus. She said it goes against the very principles of connection and inclusivity that the village residents hold dear. Many sections of the LDRs and comp plan would have to be changed to accommodate the inclusion of gated communities. Besides if a PUD was used (currently the LDRs only allow them on 50 acres or more according to Clowdus), all the same benefits of roads and parks could be included.


I don’t see how you can place gated communities in the middle of a city. Cities, by their very nature, need to be connected. That way all residents can intermingle. I personally believe it is a terrible idea within the current confines of Indiantown.


However, Indiantown will be expanding. As land is annexed into the village, that could be where gated communities go. If it is primarily rural, then no connectivity is lost. So, leave “urban” Indiantown as a city. But in land being annexed for development in rural Martin County or even within existing Indiantown boundaries where there are no current neighborhoods, let gated communities be allowed.


The council has decided to give the village residents time to send comments about updating the LDRs regarding this and other matters. Staff will make it known to the residents to send their suggestions to the village. The council will discuss the LDRs again at their second meeting in May.




The council met in special session regarding a lawsuit that has been filed by a group of marine businesses against the schedule that will be instituted once the current repairs are completed to the Stuart draw bridge. The Stuart drawbridge will then be open for 15 minutes per hour. They are claiming that it will impede navigation.

The council was asked to become a party to the suit on behalf of the plaintiffs against FEC, Brightline, U.S. Coast Guard, and the Army Corps of Engineers. Dan Romence, president of Indiantown Marine Center, spoke to the council. I reached out to him, but he did not return my calls.


Village Attorney Wade Vose believed the case had legal merit. However, he also said that it was the staff’s recommendation not to become a plaintiff. As an alternative, he suggested that they pass a strong resolution supporting the plaintiffs’ claims.


When Romence spoke, he stated that the defendants were breaking a federal law by impeding navigation of the Okeechobee Waterway (St Lucie River). When the bridge is down the clearance is only 6 feet according to Mr. Romance precluding almost any boat from going underneath.


This is nothing new. We have known about the railroad’s plan to run 32 trains a day through Martin County for the past decade. Martin County settled a lawsuit against the railroad in 2018 after being defeated in court several times. While the facts are nothing new, these businesses are hoping that the courts will see the issue in a different light.


The council members all want to support the marine industries…as they should. They have often suggested that a billion dollars of business is generated, but I haven’t been able to verify it. It is still an important industry with great economic impact on Indiantown and Martin County.


A motion was made by Stone and seconded by Hernandez to adopt a resolution strongly endorsing the plaintiffs’ actions. It passed 5-0. You can find the resolution here




The council tackled the problem of whether to sell the site for the now-defunct municipal complex. It is located on Warfield Blvd right immediately over the bridge going into Indiantown. The village bought the property in 2020 for $1,450,000.


The appraisal update came in at $1,285,000 but because the deed restrictions which include no grocery store, gas station, or convenience store, the appraised value was revised to $1.1 million. Attorney Vose explained to the council that they could engage the services of a commercial broker or do it themselves through either a solicitation of offers such as a formal RFP or sealed bids.


Vice-Mayor Stone said that he didn’t want to sell the property because it would be a good place to have a new rescue station. Dipaolo believes it is worth $3.25 million at a minimum and would be good for a mixed-use development. Hernandez doesn’t want to sell it at all. She would like to use it for a community center.

Mayor Gibbs-Thomas wants to have a minimum price set. She said the money is needed for the water plant. Dipaolo made a motion for a minimum of $3.25 million using a real estate broker. It died for lack of a 2nd.


Hernandez then made a motion to sell and advertise with sealed bids, with a clause stating that the village could reject all offers. The motion was originally for a minimum at $1.45 million (the original sales price) but Stone, who would second the motion, said the minimum should be $1.65 million.


County Commissioner Jenkins spoke and said that the county needed an easement to place a MARTY stop with shelter. It was added to the amended motion. Then Vose said if it is the intention to have a bidding war, then sealed bids won’t encourage that since there is no matching of offers. At that point, Hernandez withdrew her motion.


During council discussion, Public Works & Utilities Director Patrick Nolan gave his opinion as to the value of the property. Why he stepped out of his role as staff and inserted himself into policy is beyond inappropriate. If I were the manager, I would have a talk with him and maybe even a letter of reprimand for his file.


Though the village may need the money for grant matches and a water plant, it still is not his place (nor for that matter his expertise) to express an opinion. If the village is ever going to professionalize, this type of staff conduct should not be tolerated.


In a highly unusual move and according to “Roberts” at the discretion of the chair, Dipaolo once again made his motion that had previously died for lack of a second to have a real estate broker hired and a minimum amount of $3.25 million as the price. This time Hernandez seconded, and it passed the council 5-0.


They then had a discussion that the broker be selected through the RFP process taking into consideration commission amount and marketing plan. That passed 5-0.


Could Dipaolo be a better appraiser than the professional? It would seem unlikely, but this is Indiantown where anything can happen. By the end of the summer, we should know if the village made more than twice their original investment.


Da Swamp’s application for the Memorial Day Weekend party has still not been deemed complete. According to staff, the sheriff’s detail has yet to be paid for.


The event sponsor said she had received the bill, but she had until May 17th to pay the $4,000 to the sheriff. The mayor and the sponsor seemed to be speaking past each other during what became a heated conversation. Special use permits are supposed to be submitted with everything no later than 60 days before the event. This gives time for staff review and the council’s approval.

Hernandez keeps bringing up that she puts on many events and doesn’t have to pay the sheriff ahead of time. She accused the mayor of being a micromanager and asked whether the organizer should bow down to her. The mayor was completely taken aback by Hernandez. Dipaolo said the outburst was embarrassing.


It certainly was. I was embarrassed watching it on video. The bottom line is the application should never have been accepted by village staff. It has nothing to do with customer friendly service. This entire episode has been a problem for the manager and her staff, the council, the sponsor, and the village. This could have all been avoided by just following the rules.




Town of Ocean Breeze   The Next Meeting Is October 10, 2022




There didn’t seem to be a need for this meeting.


The only thing of any interest was a complaint from a Sea Walk homeowner regarding a disagreement with the builder, D. R. Horton, because his sprinkler system had two zones watering the common area adjacent to his property. According to Terry O’Neill, the town consultant, this is a town problem because there is a PUD agreement forbidding watering in the right of way and something about the final close out of the project.


The person was complaining because he was paying more money for water than his neighbors and he wants the town to do something. I would be angry if that happened but the first action I would take, is go to my sprinkler system controller and shut the two zones down.


If for some reason the zones in a yard overlapped with the common area, the owner would then have a sprinkler repair company do it. If the owner couldn’t be reimbursed by Horton, the dispute could be resolved in small claims court. O’Neill said he is working on it with other matters regarding this close out. The town has a $1 million bond that can be used.


Apparently instead of relying on the town’s building official for signoffs, the company paid private companies to do so. This is permissible under Florida Statutes. Another example of unintended consequences by the state interfering in a local responsibility.


Attached is a study that the town commissioned by local land architect, Mike Flaugh. This was done for the Sea Walk project to assist in pointing out some of the problems.  You can find it here




Jupiter Island Jupiter Island Sky View




Mayor Townsend commented that she had a delightful time at the Mayor’s Coffee. She thought it was such fun that she suggested that they change the name to Commissioner’s Coffee and rotate different commissioners through the schedule. All the commissioners agreed.

Scott suggested that commissioners have individual town hall hours to meet constituents. This idea will be discussed at a subsequent meeting. Any commissioner at any time can have regular office hours.


The shade meeting to discuss current litigation strategy was put on hold until May 18th. A shade meeting is one where the commissioners, town manager, and attorney meet behind closed doors. There is a court recorder present to make a written record which is released once the litigation is over.


He There has been some uneasiness over the possibility of commissioners and board members being sued for their actions. Town Attorney Baird ran through how commissioners and volunteer board members are protected from being sued and litigation expense. The town has an insurance policy from the Florida Municipal Insurance Trust, an arm of the Florida League of Cities, that will defend the members if a suit is brought for one of the covered perils. It is similar to officers & directors’ insurance. The commission had a consensus that there may have to be a fund and more insurance coverage.


The commission passed a ZIP (Zoning In Progress) for pickle ball courts.


They also want to discuss nonresidents using the parking lot at Jupiter Island Town Hall to park when overflow is needed at the public beach. There currently is an interlocal agreement with the county to allow it at certain times and days. It appears some of the commissioners want to revisit this agreement.


Scott wanted to put aside the RFQ that had been requested at the last meeting concerning legal services. It can be revisited at a future date. Also at this meeting, the commission gave a proclamation to retiring attorney from the town to Skip Randolph. Tom Baird from the same law firm, Jones Foster, will apparently be filling his shoes.


After discussion, it was decided that a new task force would be created to examine the LDRs. They already have several volunteers, and they will be using a Palm Beach building official as a consultant. This has been an ongoing project with two past commissioners working on it. I hope that their work can be handed off to this new body.

Scott then brought up how their lobbyists had let them down by not informing them of pending bills in the legislature that would affect the commissioners. One of the bills will change the filing of financial information from the relatively easy Form 1 to the much more complicated and intrusive Form 6. That really will present an undue burden on many smaller municipalities like Jupiter Island. There are many other bills that will impact local government.


Town Manager Ventura stated that the lobbying firm was not charged with looking at how every bill will affect the town and commissioners. I don’t think any firm could possibly catch it all. But Jupiter Island, like every municipality in Florida, has lobbyists already that do this. It is the Florida League of Cities.


The League of Treasure Coast Cities is the local league which has a membership of 23 municipalities including Jupiter Island. For at least the past decade, the organization has been trying to encourage Jupiter Island’s involvement. Commissioner Scott mentioned that she had attended a town hall meeting at the Flagler which is where she learned about many of the things she brought up.


The League would welcome the town’s participation. It may do the commissioners some good to speak with other elected officials. The social cross pollination would be good for all parties.


There was discussion about hiring a clipping service to make sure the commission is aware when things about the town are written. It appears that some things written in this publication have precipitated the suggestion.


Two issues ago, I wrote that new Commissioners Smith and Field were not sworn in at the meeting and were participating remotely. Though not mentioned by anyone at the meeting, it was noted on the agenda that they had been sworn into office previously. The clerk wrote me an email pointing to the error. I printed the email and agenda in the next edition and gave my rationale for thinking why they had not been sworn in.


We will always admit when something we publish is amiss and correct it. In fact, we would love for the five commissioners of Jupiter Island to become regular subscribers. Then there would be no need for a clipping service because they could read it directly.


Further, I offer the opportunity for Mayor Townsend or Commissioner Scott to write a piece for us. Better yet, how about a monthly column with the town’s viewpoint on things? Come on and join the rest of Martin County and read Friends & Neighbors.




City Manager & Finance Director Michael Ventura is out after 13 years with the Town of Jupiter Island.

A special meeting was called by the mayor today. The objective was to see whether Ventura would resign or be terminated. There didn’t appear to be a third alternative.


Anne Scott wanted to terminate Ventura for cause. However, no cause was ever given except Resolution 376 was mentioned by her. I don’t understand unless Scott is claiming he didn’t follow it after the commission voted to adopt it.


Mayor Townsend pleaded with Scott not to go ahead with his leaving in this manner. Commissioner Smith claimed he doesn’t know enough. Commissioner Field stated that Ventura at first had not acted with adequate responsiveness though he was improving, He thought it was a premature decision. Smith thought the die was cast and the commission should get on with it.


Ventura had proposed a separation agreement with 20 weeks’ severance as per his contract. The insurance and benefits would also continue for that period. He agreed then to resign, and he would be willing to stay as a consultant on a per hour basis to unravel the town’s business at the pleasure of the new manager. This would be beneficial for the town.


Scott and several other commissioners wanted to see a separation agreement before agreeing. Since one had not been drafted yet, the meeting was adjourned to 1 pm for Ventura’s attorney and Town Attorney Baird to get together and draft a written agreement.


The board reconvened and a written agreement was presented with the terms outlined plus a release. Mr. Ventura can rescind the agreement in 7 days. However, that is to allow Mr. Ventura to be an employee through the end of the month for pay and benefits before the separation kicks in. The 20 weeks then goes through September 30th.


Ventura’s consultant offer was apparently rejected so it was stricken from the agreement. Michael Ventura will be gone as of 5 pm today.


The commission appointed Deputy Town Manager & Public Safety Director Bob Garlo as acting town manager. By statute, he will need to appoint someone else to act as Public Safety Director while he is Acting Town Manager. An exciting day on Jupiter Island.




Final Thoughts





It is time for common sense to prevail in the conversation about Brightline and the Stuart draw bridge.


Florida East Coast Railroad (FEC) is the owner of the bridge and the tracks that Brightline operates on. Much of the money for the upgrading to new railroad tracks has been government money or provided through government nontaxable interest bonds. While Brightline has claimed to be a private entity, they have fully been on board with taking billions in government subsidies including direct funds.

There have been plans to build a new bridge across the St. Lucie for at least the past five years. In a meeting with Brightline and local government officials that I attended; conceptual drawings had been completed. At the time of the meeting, the railroad’s consultant was going to Washington to meet with officials there.


Congressman Mast was asked five years ago by local officials to support by words and deeds Brightline’s obtaining the majority of the funding from the Federal Rail Administration to build a new bridge. As the local congressman, he needed to “walk” the appropriation through. The bridge being contemplated at that time would have allowed 80% of the current boat traffic to pass under the closed bridge.


For whatever reason, that didn’t come to pass. If the waterway had the new bridge, it would be under construction right now. So, is it too late? The answer is no.


Lawsuits against the Coast Guard and Army Corps will not result in a much better solution to the currently proposed schedule. And yes, Brightline is a private company so why should it receive such a big public subsidy. All things being equal, it shouldn’t. But we all know the world isn’t equal.


We subsidize trucking firms by building highways, shipping companies by dredging ports, and even passenger rail traffic. It is time the parties come to the table and figure out how we can fix the problem of a low old bridge. While standing on principle, our economy will suffer and the thousands of boaters who live west of the bridge will be stuck in a big “lake” never to access the ocean.






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:





Articles Tom wrote:


From Martin County Moment:


“A Deal In The Works”




“The Emperor Has No Clothes”




From Medium


“School Vouchers Can Prevent School Censorship”




“Christian Nationalism For America Is A Fallacy”




Other Articles:


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”




Trump’s Indictment




Florida Phoenix: “Statehouses debate who should build EV charging networks”




The Washington Post: “Tracing the power of Casey DeSantis”







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