FPL funds attacks on Kramer

Florida Power and Light’s political action committee, Clean Sweep for a Brighter Tomorrow, recently sent out this mailer attacking Jay Kramer.
COMMENTARY

“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.”

MARK SCHUMANN

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.

 

 

5 comments

  1. So lashing out at Mr. Kramer and Mr. Old is where it has gotten? FPL must really be wanting all of Indian River County and will do anything and back anybody who’ll sink to FPL’s level.

  2. Mr Kramer must be a very strong candidate for council. The low blow mailer recently mailed to city residents must be an indication of Kramer’s strength when non city groups resort to these negative attacks on him . I noticed the mailer came from outside the city. Once again the same old story ,outsiders trying to influence the city election.

  3. Apparatchiks have corrupted the political process to get their way at any cost, and in the process have turned the City of Vero Beach into a stinking cesspool of political discontent and discord.

    The Real People of Vero Beach are sick and tired of this “Utilities War” sucking all the oxygen out of the room, as it has for a decade.

    Thank goodness it’s over. The Real People of this City have long since moved on, focusing their energies on trying to improve their communities.

    Meanwhile, however, the “Generals” continue to “fight the last war.” It’s the only thing they know how to do, and their careers depend on it continuing.

    The Real People of the city ought to be asking which of these candidates has what it takes to deal with all the problems that have accumulated in the intervening ten years.

    The next Council will have to restructure the city’s finances, deal with under-performing assets like the Marina, figure out how to pay for replacement of badly crumbling infrastructure– particularly stormwater dumping right into the Lagoon, help kick-start initiatives to redevelop neighborhoods, and generally try to bind up and heal all the wounds that have been opened up.

    These issues have been badly neglected and must urgently be addressed.

  4. Even the Press Journal is fighting the last war. With clear and negligent disregard for the real issues facing Vero Beach, the “newspaper’s” editorial board based its endorsements solely on its assessment of which candidates it believes will agree to any future changes FPL may request to the purchase and sale agreement to be signed within the next week or so.

    Without question, Jay Kramer and Randy Old are the two candidates with the most knowledge, intelligence, and the requisite attention span, to address the City’s serious and complex challenges. These considerations matter not to the Press Journal, a newspaper whose publisher is married to a FPL executive involved in the company’s acquisition of Vero Electric.

    Though campaign contributions are public record, the Press Journal remains silent on the fact that FPL is funding a political action committee now attacking Kramer in support of Harry Howle and Val Zudans. ONE-HUNDRED PRECENT of this PAC’s funds have come directly from FPL. This is news the public has a right to know, and yet the Press Journal has failed to report it.

    Similarly, last year the Press Journal failed to report that FPL and Indian River Shores residents funded to the tune of $100,000 a political action committee supporting Laura Moss and Lange Sykes.

    The “newspaper” has also remained silent on the unprecedented level of contributions Moss and Sykes received last year from outside Vero Beach. NINTY PERCENT of Sykes’ campaign funds came from Indian River Shores residents. Moss took in SEVENTY PERCENT of her campaign cash from the Shores. Is it any wonder, then, that they are willing to commit the City to a partial sale of Vero Electric’s Shores customers, if a sale of the full system is ultimately blocked by one or more member Cities of the FMPA?

    Sadly, the Press Journal, founded by my great grandfather and grandfather, and presided over by my father for decades with true distinction, is now a pitiful excuse for a community newspaper.

  5. I’m tired of the same old names on the council, arguing over an issue that the voters have already spoken on. There needs to be new leadership on the City Council, and that person is Megan Hoots.

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