“Despite Barefoot’s objections, we will continue writing about the important issues facing Vero Beach, our objective is not to make friends, but to report the truth.”
At the invitation of Indian River Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot, approximately 40 Shores “friends” and residents met at the Shores Town Hall today to commiserate over the fact that some of the wealthiest people in the country, if not the world, are stuck paying electric rates within the statewide average. All would be well in the barrier island paradise, except that Shores residents north of Winter Beach Road are paying lower electric rates as customers of Florida Power & Light.
Discontentment rises out of comparison, which is why, despite their privileges, many Shores residents believe they have the great “misfortune” of paying Vero Electric’s clearly justifiable rates. To listen to Vero Beach City Councilman, and Shores ally, Harry Howle, Vero Electric’s rates are causing some Shores residents to buy fewer Christmas gifts than they would otherwise. Please!
In the name of economic justice, in defense of the Shores’ “sovereign” rights, and presumably to free up more of his constituents’ money for Christmas toy purchases, Barefoot and his fellow Town Councilmen have spent some $1 million in taxpayer money on a lawsuit and a petition to the Florida Public Service Commission. So far, the Shores’ seven-figure investment in attorneys has come to nothing, at least nothing positive. Prior to today’s public “whine” tasting, the Town’s five wise men held a shade meeting with their high-priced attorneys. Based on comments made following the meeting, it appears they discussed appealing the Shores’ case to the Florida Supreme Court.
At the public meeting that followed, Barefoot made it clear that Shores leaders hope to secure control of the Vero Beach City Council by supporting three candidates (Laura Moss, Lange Sykes and Norman Wells), whom they believe will cave to their demands. Prompted by a comment from a member of the public, Barefoot also admitted that public scrutiny of campaign contributions complicates the task of influencing a neighboring municipality’s election.
Barefoot, who has already once been summoned before a judge on charges he violated Florida’s open government laws, seems to believe the publication of campaign contributions constitutes undue scrutiny. Anyone who believes in the importance of transparency in government, and who understands the vital roll of a free press in our democracy, should realize that Barefoot is criticizing one of the very foundations of our democracy.
Apparently seeking to limit the flow of information to the public, one civic activist and Shores ally urged Barefoot to lodge a formal complaint against InsideVero over our plans to publish an annual Vero Beach municipal election print edition. All candidates, along with local organizations that typically endorse candidates, have all been invited to advertise. Whether or not they chose to advertise, all candidates have been invited to submit answers to our questionnaire, and to write guest columns of up to 1000 words. The election print edition will also present a number of news analysis stories on the City’s budget, the electric issue, the lagoon, and All Aboard Florida. This print edition will be mailed to 12,000 addresses in Vero Beach.
There is no denying the fact that money buys access, if not influence, which is why the voters of Vero Beach have a right to know who is giving financial support to their city council candidates. So, whether Barefoot and his fellow Shores residents like it or not, InsideVero will also publish an accounting of all outside money contributed to all six Vero Beach City Council candidates.
Barefoot also seems not to welcome our continued efforts to help inform InsideVero readers. Now that I no longer live in Vero Beach, the Shores mayor seems to think I should not care about what happens to my hometown and the community I called home for some 50 years. Well, I do care about Vero Beach, and more than Barefoot ever has or ever will. Further, I lament the decline of community journalism across the country, but especially in Vero Beach, where, either for a lack of resources or a lack of integrity, the island weekly and the Press Journal regularly fail to report the full story.
Despite Barefoot’s objections, we will continue writing about the important issues facing Vero Beach, our objective is not to make friends, but to report the truth.