“If Latvala can tap into the tremendous wealth in Indian River Shores, the state’s most affluent community, then the senator from Clearwater will have even more money to spend supporting his ‘friends’ and increasing his power base across the state.”
In an email released Wednesday afternoon, Indian River Shores Town Clerk Laura Aldrich announced that Sen. Jack Latvala, Clearwater, has cancelled his planned appearance at the Shores Town Hall scheduled for tomorrow afternoon at 4:30. Aldrich gave not indication if, or when a meeting between Shores residents and Latvala might be rescheduled.
Making a number of inaccurate and unfounded charges against Vero Beach and Vero Electric, Latvala has been encouraging, if not pressuring the Florida Public Service Commission to turn its long-standing rational for service territory agreements upside down by reassigning Vero Electric’s Shores service territory to Florida Power & Light. Ironically, Latvala is not also asking the PSC to reassign his home county of Pinellas from Duke Energy to Florida Power & Light. The switch would lead to savings of some 18 percent for the residents and businesses of one of the state’s most populus counties.
In describing Vero Electric’s rates as excessive, Latvala joins Mayfield in demonstrating a fundamental ignorance of how rates are established by municipal utilities and by the PSC. The Vero Beach City Council establishes Vero Electric’s rates based on costs plus six percent of projected revenue. The PSC, which has approved rates higher than Vero Electric’s for three of the state’s investor owned utilities, allows a return on equity of 10 to 11 percent. Vero Beach’s return on equity is 4.8 percent.
Other than Shores leaders, and a few off-the-wall utility activists, no one seriously argues that the PSC would disallow Vero Electric power costs and operating costs in establishing rates. In fact, were Vero Electric regulated by the PSC, the likely result could well be permissible increases in rates.
Latvala, showing an ignorance of the facts and a heavy handedness rivaled only by Mafyield, recently wrote to PSC Chairman Julie Brown, “I am confident that the Public Service Commission will make the right decision in this matter and amend the territorial boundaries in order to end the abusive practices that have befallen the citizens of the Town of Indian River Shores.”
Latvala is one of the state’s most powerful and influential legislators. According to FloridaPolitics.com, Latvala’s political action committee, Florida Leadership Committee, had on hand as of March $1.9 million. In a story about his PAC activities, Lavtala was quoted as saying, “I work hard. I’ve got a number of friends running for the Legislature that I want to see elected, and people that I think will be good for the state, so I want to be prepared to help them.”
Latvala’s unwillingness to prescribe the same solution for the customers of Duke Energy as he is advocating for “abused” Shores residents, namely for them to be taken from their current electric provider and reassigned to FPL, may have something to do with money, and how it seemingly buys access, if not influence. In the current election cycle, Latvala’s PAC received three contributions from Duke Energy totaling $14,828.
Latvala, incoming Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is one of five Florida Senate candidates who have raised more than $500,000 for their own campaigns. Described by the Tampa Bay Times as “one of the Legislature’s most colorful characters know for his blunt and often volatile temperament,” Latvala lost a bitter, three-year struggle with Sen. Joe Negron, Stuart, for the Senate presidency in 2017.
If Latvala can tap into the tremendous wealth in Indian River Shores, the state’s most affluent community, then the senator from Clearwater will have even more money to spend supporting his “friends” and increasing his power base across the state. Latvala’s PAC has contributed $2,000 to Debbie Mayfield in her bid for a seat in the Senate.
By jointly signing with Mayfield a letter to the PSC, and by contributing to Mayfield’s senate campaign, perhaps Latvala’s real priority is not securing lower electric rates and fair treatment for Shores residents. Perhaps what he is really focused on is building allies across the state. With more money to help “friends” win election to the Legislature, the Senate presidency may eventually be within Latvala’s reach.