“If by spending $100,000, Shores leaders and FPL executives can elect Moss, Sykes and Wells, and thus take control of the Vero Beach City Council, they will save themselves $17 million. No wonder the rich keep getting richer.”
“The Shores-FPL attempt to take over Vero Beach’s City Council is troubling, and should give all voters reason to wonder if and how Moss, Sykes and Wells could possibly be expected to represents the interests of the people of Vero Beach.”
Perhaps never before in the history of local politics has so much money been given by outside interests seeking to influence, if not control the outcome of a neighboring community’s municipal election.
Through October 7, Laura Moss, Lange Sykes, Norman Wells, and Operation Flip Switch, a political action committee working to elect the three “Shores” candidates to the Vero Beach City Council, have received $107,500 in contributions.
Ninety-one percent (91%) of the money given to help Moss, Sykes and Wells take control of the Vero Beach City Council has been given by a few dozen wealthy John’s Island residents and by Florida Power and Light, with $40,000 coming from the Juno based utility giant.
Consider that Operation Flip Switch relied exclusively on wealthy Shores residents and FPL for its contributions. If this political action committee supporting Moss, Sykes and Wells were actually working to further the interests of the people of Vero Beach, then why was it not able to raise money among Vero Beach residents?
Further, the amount of money given by FPL and a few dozen wealthy John’s Island residents to Moss, Sykes, Wells and Operation Flip Switch is nearly double all the campaign contributions made by Vero Beach residents to all six candidates combined.
This flood of outside, special interest money pouring into Vero Beach’s municipal election is staggering and unprecedented. No one can remember a time when a giant corporation joined with residents in a wealthy enclave like John’s Island in a coordinated effort to essentially hijacking the democratic process. Make no mistake about it. Shores and FPL leaders seek nothing short of control of the Vero Beach City Council.
Since the Orlando Utilities Commission backed away from its offer to assume Vero Beach’s position in three Florida Municipal Power Agency project support contracts and power purchase agreements, FPL’s attempt to expand its customer base by acquiring municipal utilities, starting with Vero Beach, has been stalled.
This lack of progress does not look good for FPL, especially not for company President and C.E.O. Eric Silagy. Several years ago, Silagy told a group of investors FPL was poised to grow its customer base through acquisition of municipal utilities, such as Vero Electric.
As a fallback position, FPL is making a play for Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customer base. Going along to get along, Vero Beach officials have said they will consider a partial sale, so long as the downsizing of Vero Electric does not lead to higher rates for the utility’s remaining customers.
A team of five utility experts advised it will require $47 million to carve up Vero Electric without risking higher rates. FPL has offered $30 million, with $3 million of that to come from the Shores. Vero Beach City Councilman Randy Old, who is running for re-election, has said it would be a breach of his fiduciary responsibility to the people of Vero Beach to accept FPL’s offer of $30 million. He has, though, said he will consider selling at $47 million.
Two things are at stake for the Shores and FPL – ego and $17 million dollars.
Having already told investors he can increase FPL’s market share by acquiring municipal utilities, Silagy needs to deliver, even if only in a small way. In addition, for FPL and the Shores there is $17 million to be saved, if they can successfully elect to the Vero Beach City Council three members supportive of their goal.
If by spending $100,000, Shores leaders and FPL executives can elect Moss, Sykes and Wells, and thus take control of the Vero Beach City Council, they will save themselves $17 million. No wonder the rich keep getting richer.
A few weeks ago, Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot introduced Moss, Sykes and Wells as members of what he described as “the Shores team.” All three were in attendance at a community meeting held at the Shores Town Hall to discuss strategy. Moss, Sykes and Wells, “the Shores three,” have all said they support selling off Vero Electric’s Shores customers for $30 million, and none of them denies being part of Barefoot’s “Shores team.”
While there are a number of other issues of concern to the people of Vero Beach, such addressing All Aboard Florida, restoring the Lagoon, and planning for the best possible use of riverfront property now occupied by the power plant and the waste water treatment plant, no issue is more important than preserving the integrity and independence of Vero Beach’s municipal government.
The Shores-FPL attempt to take over Vero Beach’s City Council is troubling, and should give all voters reason to wonder if and how Moss, Sykes and Wells, “the Shores three,” could possibly be expected to represents the interests of the people of Vero Beach.
Despite a connection by marriage with an FPL executive, and in a break from its obvious affinity for all things FPL, the members of the Press Journal editorial board could not bring themselves to commit the act of endorsing the Shores-FPL slate of candidates.
Bowing to reason, the Press Journal endorsed Tony Young and incumbent Randy Old. Old, a retired banker with extensive experience in finance, has served the people of Vero Beach well in his first two years on the Council. Young, whose grandfather was Vero Beach’s first mayor, is a retired Army colonel, with 30 years of military service, as well a long record of community service.
Given its support for Old and Young, why the newspaper also endorsed Laura Moss is a mystery. Moss, a contrarian to the bone, is cantankerous, self-serving, and fully committed to shafting the people of Vero Beach to benefit her patrons, namely wealthy Shores contributors and FPL. Perhaps its endorsement of Moss was a way for the Press Journal to throw FPL boss Eric Silagy a bone.
As a third vote, Sharon Gorry is by far a better choice than Moss. Unlike Moss, Gorry has met with every department head within the City, and, unlike Moss, she sees the larger picture. Gorry may have some learning still to do, but unlike Moss, who is often wrong but never in doubt, Gorry is willing to learn and is open to reason.
Unlike Moss, Gorry understands the community. She also supports continuing effort to find a way to sell the full electric system to FPL, and, in contrast to “the Shores three,” she clearly cares about preserving quality of life in Vero Beach.
Voters inclined to stand up for Vero Beach and resisting the efforts of wealthy Shores interests and FPL to buy this election, should consider supporting Sharon Gorry, Randy Old and Tony Young.