Barefoot calls for a gathering of the “oppressed”

COMMENTARY

“In the simplest of terms, the plan by Shores leaders to interfere in Vero Beach’s municipal election by using their considerable wealth to finance their own slate of candidates is yet another case of the haves buying politicians and rigging the system so they can continue to take advantage of the have nots. What Shores leaders are really proposing is a revised “New Deal” – welfare for the wealthy.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Brian Barefoot
Brian Barefoot

Indian River Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot has called a “Town Hall meeting” for Sept. 22, where he plans to report on the status of the Shores’ litigation against Vero Beach, and to answer questions regarding “options going forward.”

If Barefoot can bring himself to speak the unvarnished truth, a skill which so far has alluded the mayor, he will admit to Town residents and taxpayers that the Town Council has spent more than $1 million in legal fees, and so far has nothing but setbacks to show for the efforts.

If Barefoot were to level with Town residents, he would also tell them their chance of winning an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court is close to nil, for the Indian River County Commission has already lost a similar appeal. If Barefoot really settled into a zone of truth telling, he would also admit that Town special utility counsel Bruce May’s threat to the Florida Public Service Commission to bring a Federal anti-trust lawsuit was perhaps the most absurd statement ever made before the PSC.

Given that the best predictor of future behavior and performance is past behavior and performance, Barefoot will likely shy away from truth telling, and will instead assure Town residents he “remains optimistic and hopeful” the “oppressed ” residents of Indian River Shores will one day prevail in their campaign for “rate relief.”  Imagining himself to be the incarnation of Moses, or perhaps Martin Luther King, Jr., Barefoot promises to lead his people to a promised land. “We shall overcome!”

In calling Town residents to gather next Thursday afternoon at 2, Barefoot indicated Town leaders are committed to continue the fight and to take “additional steps” going forward. Vero Beach residents and voters should be aware those steps, already being taken behind the scenes, include raising tens of thousands of dollars from wealthy Shores residents to support three Vero Beach City Council candidates – Laura Moss, Lange Sykes and Norman Wells.

Shores leaders believe Moss, Sykes and Wells will agree to sell off Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores infrastructure and customer base for $17 million less than a team of utility experts determined would be needed to ensure the City’s taxpayers and remaining electric customers are not stuck paying higher rates simply to benefit Shores residents. In the simplest of terms, the plan by Shores leaders to interfere in Vero Beach’s municipal election by using their considerable wealth to finance their own slate of candidates is yet another case of the haves buying politicians and rigging the system so they can continue to take advantage of the have nots. What Shores leaders are really proposing is a revised “New Deal” – welfare for the wealthy.

How ironic it is that political leaders and residents in the wealthiest community in Florida have managed to convince themselves they are being charged “oppressive” rates by the City of Vero Beach. Vero Electric’s rates, which continue to come down, are well below rates approved by the Florida Public Service Commission for several of the state’s investor owned utilities. (Meanwhile, FPL is seeking PSC approval for a $1.3 billion rate increase.)

Barefoot’s oft-repeated claim that Vero Beach is “abusing monopolistic privileges” is nothing short of an absurdity.  Vero Beach’s annual transfer to the General Fund from Vero Electric, amounts to just under 6 percent of revenues, which equates to a return on investment of approximately 4.5 percent. The PSC allows investor owned utilities a return on investment of 11 percent.

To be sure, Indian River Shores is not a sovereign principality. Though Shores leaders might wish it otherwise, the Town has no legal right to close its borders, or to prevent anyone from attending next Tuesday’s meeting. Barefoot has called a public meeting to be held in a public place, and any member of the public, regardless of where they live, may legally attend the meeting.  It would serve Barefoot right, if a group of Vero Beach residents show up next Thursday afternoon to demand that Shores leaders and residents not meddle in yet another Vero Beach municipal election.

 

 

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