Decency. Diligence. Democracy. 

Where are you? 

COMMENTARY

RICHARD WINGER

Richard Winger

There seems to be a reluctance on the part of a Council majority to examine the details of FP&L’s offer for our Electric utility.  This is difficult to accept.

The last contract was blindly signed by Council members who were not diligent about the terms, specifically to standing contractual obligations. After millions of our ratepayer dollars were later spent on legal actions, the courts confirmed those legally binding contracts.  The result was having a contract with FP&L which could not be executed.  We are supposed to learn by mistakes and not repeat them.

I have been working for 7 years to complete this sale and I am not stopping now. But it has become problematic.

When I bring up challenges to the successful completion of the sale my comments are routinely interrupted by Mayor Laura Moss who attempts to silence me. Vice Mayor Harry Howle then raises his voice, leans forward, turns towards me and proceeds with accusations that have no basis in fact.  Silence. The agenda moves on.

There is also the multiple attempts by Mayor Moss to prevent the Advisory Finance and Utility Commissions from meeting and evaluating the initial offer from FP&L.  This is contradictory to her role as a member of the Utility Commission last year when the prior sale contract was in force and when the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) contract was re-negotiated to favorably shorten its duration.  She repeatedly affirmed the positive role played by our Utility Commission to advance both the sale and the re-negotiated contractual terms with OUC.

Council does not discuss.  Commissions have been prevented from discussing. What is going on here?  The worst part of all of this is the fact I even have to ask that question. 

It is my intent to see that this sale to FP&L is finally completed and I cannot just sit still when we have no one negotiating on the City’s behalf, no one performing due diligence, and no one addressing a financial impact to the City when this asset is gone. If this sale is to go through with benefit to all parties, we must be negotiating and performing due diligence.

Does not everyone on Council want to pursue the same goals? Sell this Electric Utility and provide for the City’s stable future? 
 
Certainly, as sitting Council Members we are capable of discussing this matter.  Our Finance and Utility Commissions are equally capable of fulfilling their advisory roles. All of us are here to serve our City and the ratepayers of the Electric Utility.

It is time for all of us, in concert with each other, to bring this matter forward and start our due diligence.

Editor’s note: Richard Winger is a member of the Vero Beach City Council. At the Council’s most recent meeting, Councilman Harry Howle, accused Winger of having “a hidden agenda.” When it comes to hidden agenda’s, Howle certainly never mentions that he, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes were all heavily supported in their campaigns by Indian River Shores residents and by FPL.  

In fact, in the most recent election Moss received 70 percent of her campaign funds from Shores residents. Sykes took in 90 percent of his campaign contributions from the Shores. Both were supported by a political action committee that raised and spend more than $100,000, all of it given by FPL and by Shores residents.

The Shores is pushing for a partial sale of Vero Electric’s Shores customers to FPL.  FPL is pressing for either a partial sale, or a full sale of the system. FPL CEO Eric Silagy has made it clear to investors that the company’s chances for growth at least partially hinge on successful acquisitions of some of Florida’s municipal utilities, starting with Vero Beach. 

If anyone is working with hidden, conflicted agendas, it is Howle, Moss and Sykes. Ironically, Moss began her term as mayor insisting, literally demanding civility. She has since gone on to use time at nearly every Council meeting to attack Winger. With an eye toward the next Council election, Moss is using time during publicly televised Council meetings to politick against Winger. 

6 comments

  1. Why won’t the three Council people listen? Don’t they even care if Vero Beach survives? Maybe they have been told not to worry–they will be handsomely rewarded no matter what? I hope this is not the case. I trust Mr. Winger. He wants this transaction to go through without harm to the people who live here now, those who may choose to live here in the future, and the community as a whole.

  2. I understand Mr. Winger’s concern for the financial stability of the city. However, as someone who paid higher costs for electric for the past 23 years as a resident of Indian River Shores, I would hope he would understand why the residents there would want the sale of the IRS service to go through. I also suggest that he and his fellow council members over the years should have managed the budget of the city so that they weren’t reliant on our electric usage to fund a portion of their operating budget. I doubt Mr. Winger would like having city residents held hostage by a utility that they have no say in the management of and no form of recourse through a utility commission, no recourse to address problems….basically taxation without representation.

    Now IRS residents are criticized for wanting to stop supporting a town other than the one they live in. We pay taxes to the town and, in essence, taxes to the city. Had there been better long-range planning, and I dare say, better management of the consultants who got them into this mess, then they wouldn’t be stuck attacking the goose that’s been laying the golden egg.

    How long has Mr. Winger been on the council? How long has IRS been trying to leave? How much money and time have been spent trying to enforce an expired contract? How many times have voters voted in favor of a sale? I don’t believe there’s been a way because there’s been no will for a very long time.

  3. Susan, Are your suggesting the time for decency, diligence and democracy has past? Are you condoning the Shores having essentially bought seats on the Vero Beach City Council, and are you condoning Laura Moss’s use of time during Council meetings to campaign against Mr. Winger in advance of the next election? Also, you seem to be conflating your desire to see the Indian River Shores portion of the Vero Electric system sold with the reasonably concerns among Vero Beach residents that the system be sold at least at its fair market value. Finally, with Vero Beach’s rates continually declining as FPL’s rates steadily rise, just how much to you expect to save, if you should become so “fortunate” to become a customers of FPL?

  4. If the council had used every avenue to fulfill the will of the people and sell the system years ago, we wouldn’t be here today debating the death of democracy. Money doesn’t always mean a victory…just look at the last presidential election. The voters still have to pull the lever, so to speak. In a small market like ours with a controlled media market, if the voters can’t decide who is best for the job and are that enfluenced by campaign money, then shame on them.

  5. And just how do you expect voters to know that the candidates they are voting on are supported by outside interests? Vero Beach does, indeed, suffer from a controlled media market. Certainly the island “weakly” and the Press Journal never reported the extent to which the Moss and Sykes campaigns were fueled with money from Indian River Shores residents and from FPL. Fully 90 percent of Sykes money came from outside interests. Seventy percent of Moss’s campaign money came from Shores residents. A political action committee that attacked Randy Old and that spread outrageously false claims about the supposed benefits of a partial sale spent more than $100,000, all of it given by Shores residents and by FPL. Make no mistake about it. Moss and Sykes are beholden to outside interests, and they are proceeding in a way that confirms their priorities are not in protecting the best interests of the people of Vero Beach.

    When it comes to a partial sale, neither you nor anyone else can rightly claim to know the will of the people. A referendum on a partial sale has never been held. Further, Laura Moss wants everyone to believe any apparent progress in pursuing completion of the full sale is her doing. In truth, any increased potential for the sale is the result of changes at the FMPA, not because of anything Moss has said or done. The FMPA has new leadership, and those officials received from leaders of the Florida Legislature a direct threat to solve the Vero Beach problem before the Legislature solves it for them.

  6. What I am reading is that the Mayor is muzzling the Finance and Utility Commissions and “mouthing off” to the MPO so maybe it is time to MUZZLE THE MOUTHY MAYOR MOSS. Good luck my Vero Beach friends – it looks like you have your hands full with the new Troika on City Council.

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