County Commissioners and Shores Councilmen continue to repeat a clever lie
Editor’s note: The following commentary was first published in October, 2014. Sadly, somethings never change.
In a joint meeting between the Indian River Shores Town Council, the Indian River County Commission and the Vero Beach City Council, the ten privileged, sometimes self-righteous “gentlemen” who serve on the County Commission and the Shores Town Council had a lot to say about morality. But for all their self-congratulating talk about serving the public and seeking the high ground, these so-called public servants continue to repeat a cleaver lie intended to convince the customers of Vero Electric they are being taking advantage of by the City of Vero Beach.
When it comes to hypocrisy, Commissioner Bob Solari stands above the rest. While a member of the Vero Beach City Council, Solari shared in presiding over a city government at least partially funded by earnings from the municipal electric utility. Today, Solari called those six percent transfers “immoral,” but he voices no objection to Florida Power & Light’s guaranteed 11-12 percent rate of return and he expressed no indignation over the $14-million a year compensation package FPL gives its top executive. Solari and his fellow commissioners also have no apologies for their practice of annually tacking on six percent to Vero Electric’s bills for the benefit of the County’s budget.
In an epistle released yesterday, Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot call Vero Beach’s 6 percent annual return on its electric utility, “an unjust practice of syphoning off utility revenue from non-resident customers to fund City operations…”
Let’s be clear about something: FPL and every investor owned utility “syphons” off 11-12 percent of its revenue to fund generous executive compensation packages, shareholder dividends and capital investments from which the company is guaranteed still further returns. In comparison, Vero Electric returns 6 percent of its utility revenue to the City’s general fund. That money goes, not to pay for multi-million dollar compensation packages or dividends, but to help pay for basic services, such a police protection.
The residents and taxpayers of Very Beach should be clear about something else. As an independent, incorporated municipality, Vero Beach is under attack by the Indian River County Commission and the Indian River Shores Town Council. In their efforts to force Vero Beach out of the electric business, the elected representatives of both governing bodies continue to repeat the lie that Vero Beach’s electric rates and its 6 percent return to the general fund is unreasonable and unjustified.
In truth, Vero Electric’s rate is below the statewide average for investor owned utilities, and is close to the statewide average for municipal utilities. Steps the City is taking now to lower rates will almost surely bring Vero Electric’s rates below the statewide average in every relevant measure.
When the ten County Commissioners and Shores Councilmen squared off against the Vero Beach City Council this morning, the mismatch turned into a circus. Councilman Craig Fletcher was no-show. Like Judas, Pilar Turner has already aligned herself with the Temple Authorities. That left Mayor Richard Winger, Vice Mayor Jay Kramer and Councilwoman Amelia Graves to stand up for the residents and taxpayers of Vero Beach. This they did with grace and grit.
Vero Beach voters have a decision to make. Will they fall for all the pro-sale propaganda, some of it funded by FPL, or will the people of Vero Beach come together and stand up for their city.
By next Tuesday, we will know if Vero Beach has a future, or if the keys to the city are to be turned over to Pilar Turner, Harry Howle, III and Charlie Wilson. As a reincarnation of the Carroll-Fletcher-Turner troika, Howle, Turner and Wilson can be counted on to run Vero Beach into disincorporation.