“When Vero Beach voters cast their ballots, either in early voting or on Nov. 7, they will have to decide whether they want their local government controlled from City Hall, or from FPL’s corporate offices in Juno Beach.”
Former Vero Beach Mayor Jay Kramer resigned from the Vero Beach City Council last summer to run for a seat on the Indian River County Commission. Kramer lost to incumbent Bob Solari in the Republican primary, and is now seeking to return to the City Council.
Through a political action committee to which it gave at least $50,000, Florida Power and Light is trying to stop Kramer, as well as former Councilman Randy Old, from returning to the Council and having any say in how the company takes over Vero Electric.
Yesterday, a mailer attacking Kramer went out under the name of Clean Sweep for a Brighter Tomorrow. Clean Sweep is a political action committee wholly funded by FPL. Because the FPL-funded PAC is artfully dodging requirements to report its contributions and expenditures to the City Clerk’s Office, it is not known how much more money FPL may have given Clean Sweep since its initial contribution of $50,000 in late September.
If the contract between the City and FPL is to be signed before the Nov. 7 municipal election, as FPL-sponsored Council members Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes have pledged to do, then why is FPL spending big money to control the outcome of yet another Vero Beach municipal election?
The answer may be found in looking back to the spring of 2013, when FPL asked the Council to agree to changes to the previous purchase and sale agreement. By FPL’s own admission, those contract changes would have cost the public $26 million. Perhaps what FPL is driving for is a solid Council majority that will follow their every directive as the utility giant takes over Vero Electric.
Lost in the debate about which candidates for the City Council can best serve FPL’s interests is the question of which of them has the track record and the commitment to look out for the interests of Vero Beach.
Yesterday, the “FPL/Press Journal,” a newspaper whose publisher is married to a key FPL executive involved in the company’s acquisition of Vero Electric, endorsed — surprise — Harry Howle and Val Zudans. Howle and Zudans happen to be the same two candidates supported by FPL. Just as Howle and Zudans are single-issue candidates with little if any knowledge and interest in the other issues facing Vero Beach, the “FPL/Press Journal’s” editorial endorsing them addressed a single issue – insuring FPL’s takeover of Vero Electric goes as smoothly for the company as possible.
Lost on the “FPL/Press Journal” brain trust is the question of which Council candidates can best help the City adjust for the consequences of the sale, namely a loss of some $7 million a year in revenue to the General Fund.
Zudans has shown little interest in actually rolling up his sleeves and working for the City. Earlier this year Zudans was appointed by Laura Moss to the Planning and Zoning Board. Since mid May he has been absent from all four of four scheduled meeting of the P&Z Board. At a recent candidate forum, Zudans attempted to explain away his absences by arguing that the Board has additional members designated as alternates to ensure there is always a quorum.
For his part, Howle seems to lack the interest, aptitude or attention span for comprehending details. Further, other than his servile compliance with FPL, his tenure on the Council has amounted to little more than broken promises.
Howle’s initial campaign platform was to “eliminate waste, fraud and abuse,” though as a candidate he was unwilling or unable to specify where “waste, fraud and abuse” could be found in City government. Rather than cutting expenses, Howle has shared in presiding over budget increases.
In refusing to support the formation of a stormwater utility to help address the Lagoon crisis, Howle promised to adequately fund stormwater projects through the General Fund. When this 2017-2018 budget was passed, this proved to be another one of Howle’s broken promises.
At a recent candidate forum, Howle was asked on what basis he supports a partial sale of Vero Electric Indian River Shore customers to FPL, given that the Finance Commission has raised serious concerns about how carving up Vero Electric could negatively impact the remaining customers. Howle said Indian River Shores Councilman Robert Auwaerter has already concluded the partial sale would be good for Vero Beach. Apparently, taking Auwaerter’s lead is Howle’s idea of due diligence. In an obvious dig to members of the Finance Commission, Howle said he would rather trust Auwaerter than listen to “a used car salesman.”
When Vero Beach voters cast their ballots, either in early voting or on Nov. 7, they will have to decide whether they want their local government controlled from City Hall, or from FPL’s corporate offices in Juno Beach.