And who is looking out for Vero Beach?
“Certainly a majority of Vero Beach voters have more than once expressed support for selling Vero Electric. What voters have never approved, however, is the kind of determination Howle, Moss and Sykes are showing to hand over the City’s largest asset on terms that are not carefully reviewed, and that might be terribly unfair to the City, its residents and taxpayers.”
At the Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, May 9, representatives of Florida Power and Light are expected to present a letter of intent to acquire Vero Beach’s municipal electric utility. Except perhaps for Councilwoman Laura Moss, who has been in direct discussions with FPL representatives, no one knows exactly what terms FPL will offer.
When Richard Winger first ran for a seat on the Council in 2011, his campaign theme was “A Fair Deal” for Vero Beach. Winger’s concern at the time was that the Council not simply cave to FPL’s terms, but instead negotiate terms that would be fair to the City. As it turned out, the Council majority of Tracy Carroll, Craig Fletcher and Pilar Turner approved a fatally flawed, unworkable contract that expired last December.
Now the new council majority of Harry Howle, Moss and Lange Sykes, all of whom were elected with significant financial support from FPL, seem set to swallow hook, line and sinker the utility giant’s new offer. So determined are Howle, Moss and Sykes of concluding the sale on FPL’s terms that they have, over the objections of Winger and Councilman Tony Young, muzzled the Finance Commission by instructing it not to discuss the proposed deal.
Yesterday, Moss, who in the most recent election benefited from a $50,000 contribution FPL made to a political action committee supporting her, wrote a letter to Finance Commission Chairman Glen Brovont reminding him that she, along with Howle and Sykes, voted at the April 18 Council meeting to forbid any City Commission to discuss “the sale of Vero Electric or any related matters” prior to May 9.
In February, when Moss, Howle and Sykes were still pushing for a partial sale of Vero Electric’s Indian River Shores customers to FPL, Moss sought to unilaterally cancel a Finance Commission meeting to prevent any discussion or review of the financial impacts of the proposed deal. Now FPL’s three representatives of the Council seem set to forge ahead, absent a review by the City’s citizen advisory commissions. It also seems likely FPL’s Council majority will try to conclude the sale without giving voters an opportunity to approve the terms in a new referendum. (Speaking in opposition to holding the first referendum on the sale, FPL spokesperson, Amy Brunjes, said a deal as complex as the sale of a utility “is not a decision you want to leave to Joe Sixpack.”)
Certainly a majority of Vero Beach voters have more than once expressed support for selling Vero Electric. What voters have never approved, however, is the kind of determination Howle, Moss and Sykes are showing to hand over the City’s largest asset on terms that are not carefully reviewed, and that might be terribly unfair to the City, its residents and taxpayers.
Residents who want this deal negotiated in the open, and not behind closed doors, might do well to consider expressing their views at the May 2, or May 9 Council meetings.