“If the general belief is that electric rates are going to come down 20% to 30%, and if the widespread assumption is that the sale will not results in tax increases, and/or cuts in municipal services, then pressing ahead with the sale amounts to malicious obedience.”
This past weekend, I took exception to a commenter’s assertion that, despite the unprecedented level of outside money that poured into last fall’s municipal election, the results were a fine example of democracy in action. In truth, the election of Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes to the Vero Beach City Council is a sad example of how money can buy power, especially when the press fails to do its job.
Last fall, more than $100,000, half of it given by Florida Power and Light and half contributed by Indian River Shores residents, funded a political action committee supporting Moss and Sykes. The committee used the money to carry out an extensive disinformation campaign of truly outlandish claims and promises. Further, Sykes received 90 percent of his financial support from Shores residents. Moss took in 70 percent of her campaign contributions from outside Vero Beach. Without question, outside money bought their seats on the Council.
The commenter wrote, “Their paths to office are in accordance with their constitutional rights, and now the City’s decisions rest in their hands.”
In a response titled “A failure of the fourth estate,” I wrote:
For our democracy to work, especially in this era of big money politics, the voting public must be informed. In this case, neither the island weekly nor the Press Journal made any effort to inform Vero Beach voters that three of the persons running in the most recent Vero Beach municipal election were essentially Shores-FPL-sponsored candidates. Increasingly, ours is a dysfunctional democracy. This is especially true when the press fails to do its job. The island weekly and the Press Journal may not be failing financially, but they are failing in every other way that matters. The island weekly only reports the news that serves Milton Benjamin’s business and political interests and those of his backers. In the case of the Press Journal, let’s not forget that the newspaper’s publisher is the husband of a key executive at FPL.
At this point, it seems important to consider exactly what the average Vero Beach resident believes will be the benefits and consequences from selling the electric system. If the general expectation is that electric rates are going to come down 20% to 30%, and if the widespread assumption is that the sale will not results in tax increases, and/or cuts in municipal services, then pressing ahead with the sale amounts to malicious obedience.
Several recent comments posted on InsideVero’s Facebook page reveal the extent to which many people are misinformed about the proposed power sale.
One confusion seems to be about exactly what is being sold. Some mistake the power plant for the larger utility, which includes the City’s base of 35,000 customers and its extensive and well-maintained system of substations, transmission and distribution lines.