In endorsing Bob Solari for re-election to the Indian River County Commission, the Press Journal’s editorial board seems as much out of touch with reality as is the divisive, combative candidate it supports.
It is as if the Press Journal editorial board, most of its members cloistered in Martin County, is unaware that Solari persuaded his fellow Commissioners to join him in squandering more than $1 million in taxpayer money in a dubious and so-far unsuccessful legal challenge to All Aboard Florida. Yet, Solari continues to pretend he can single-handedly turn back the trains.
The Press Journal editorial board, which surely appreciates Solari’s dogged support of Florida Power & Light’s efforts to take over Vero Electric, continues to give the commissioner a pass. (Press Journal publisher, Bob Brunjes, is married to a key FPL vice president involved in the utility giant’s initiatives to expand its customer base.)
For example, in a recent campaign mailer, Solari used a disturbing picture of the deadliest train crash in Amtrak history. The accident happened Sept. 22, 1993 on a rail bridge over a bayou in Alabama. Forty-seven people were killed. If the use of this image isn’t fear mongering, then what is? (Note that the mailer was printed by the Press Journal’s parent company, Treasure Coast Newspapers.)
All Aboard Florida is coming. The question is what can and will be done to mitigate the impact of the trains. By fixating on a futile effort to stop the project, Solari is, as usual, missing an opportunity to be a part of whatever solution is possible.
The Press Journal’s Indian River County opinion columnist, Larry Reisman, recently appointed himself judge and jury over local campaign mailers. In his latest commentary, Reisman took County Commission candidate, and Vero Beach Mayor, Jay Kramer to task for using a file photo of algae in the Indian River Lagoon. Reisman, who is often given to missing the forest for the trees, suggested Kramer’s mailer was misleading because the picture was not taken in Indian River County. How did Reisman know? Because, he said, algae in Martin County is green. In Indian River County, according to Reisman, algae in the Lagoon is brown – a point without a point, to which most people would say, “So what!”
If Reisman truly believes Kramer’s use of a picture of green algae is worthy a “wacky” rating in his column, then why has he remained silent about Solari’s attempt to sew seeds of fear by using a picture on his campaign mailer of the worst train wreck in the history of Amtrack? Could it be that Reisman wants to use his column to aid candidates endorsed by the Press Journal’s editorial board? If this is so, then the Press Journal isn’t just reporting on the election. It is attempting to affect the outcome.
Solari’s commitment to spend more than $1 million on a dubious legal challenge to AAF is not his only poor decision as an elected official. When it comes to failed projects and expensive decisions, Solari’s fingerprints can be found nearly everywhere.
As a member of the Vero Beach City Council in 2005, Solari participated in the decision to pay $10 million dollars for the old, nine-hole Dodgertown Golf Course. To cover the extravagant purchase price, Solari and his fellow councilmen committed gas tax revenue to the tune of $660,000 a year through 2025. That money is now sorely needed to help pay the cost of cleaing up the City’s stormwater runoff. Not only did Solari and his fellow council members at the time participate in the collective insanity that was the real estate bubble of 2005, they also handcuffed future City Councils by unilaterally placing deed restrictions on the property limiting its use to a golf course or green space, thus reducing its value.
Though Solari has recently been dancing a shuffle on the issue of the proposed Oslo Road boat ramp expansion, he has, in fact, been a staunch supporter of the controversial project. And though Solari claims to be a champion of the Lagoon, he persuaded his fellow commissioners to refuse to participate in regional efforts to address what is fast becoming a ecological crisis. At every chance he gets, Solari’s demonstrates that he does not play well with others.
Solari also pushed for and supported the County’s expensive and failed legal challenge to Vero Beach’s electric service territory. Hell-bent on having his way, and incapable of accepting the possibility that he could be wrong about anything, Solari pushed the case all the way to the Florida Supreme Court. Essentially, the Justices said to the Indian River County Commission, “You guys are crazy.”
Perhaps worst of all, Solari is the champion of champions of short-term rentals. Under his leadership, the County Commission has opened the floodgates to transient rentals, thus risking the domestic tranquility of the county’s residential neighborhoods. Facing re-election, Solari recently supported measures designed to mitigate the negative effective of his tragic decision to allow such rental in the first place. For sure, Solari can do the shuffle.
For all of these failures, Solari somehow earned the Press Journal’s endorsement. When it comes to the Press Journal’s editorial positions, there is one consolation. Fewer and fewer people are paying attention to the Stuart-based newspaper.