Buried in the seventeenth paragraph of an eighteen paragraph story, the Press Journal’s City Hall reporter, Colleen Wilxon, finally today reported that Florida Power and Light has contributed $50,000 in the current electing to support candidates Harry Howle and Val Zudans. (Still unreported by the Press Journal is the $50,000 FPL gave to support Laura Moss and Lange Sykes last year, or the more than $100,000 Indian River Shores residents contributed to support the same two candidates.)
This is not the first time outside money has been used to dominate a local election. Last fall, nearly all of the campaign contributions received by Laura Moss and Lange Sykes came Indian River Shores residents. Moss and Sykes were introduced last year by Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot as members of what he called “the Shores team.” Moss and Sykes were also supported by a political action committee, Clean Sweep for a Brighter Tomorrow, that received all of its more than $100,000 in contribution from Florida Power and Light and from Shores Residents.
The Press Journal’s “analysis” of the timing of the Council’s approval of a contract for the sale of Vero Electric offers different perspectives, but, typically, lacks analysis. The central question Wixon’s story leaves unasked and unanswered is why it was necessary for the Council to approve a 500-page contract before that highly complex document could be read and thoroughly reviewed by the members of the Council, by the City Attorney, and by the Finance and Utilities Commissions.
Candidate Randy Old is quoted in Wixon’s story as saying that he would have preferred a more thorough public review of the specific terms of the agreement, but that he did not object to the rushed approval of the contract.
Apparently Old’s rational for turning a blind eye to what may well border on malfeasance on the part of the Council is his assumption that the power sale is now less of an issue in the Nov. 7 election.
It is hard to accept that Old really believes the power sale is not still the central, dominant issue candidates are addressing ahead of the Nov. 7 election. The Press Journal and the island weekly both made their endorsements based solely on where their editors believe the candidates stand the power sale. FPL, of course, is pouring no less than $50,000 into making the election all about the power sale, even though the contract to turn over ownership of the power system was signed last week.
Anyone who thinks this election is not still about the power sale is missing the point, or is missing in action. Sure, all of the major candidates support a sale of the full system. And all of them have caved to pressure from the Shores to allow for a partial sale, if the full sale proves undoable. Whether they realize it or not, the real question Vero Beach voters are being asked to settle is which candidates will be making the decisions about if and how to move the City forward beyond the power sale.
These long-term concerns for the City are not, of course, what motivates FPL’s support of Howle and Zudans. FPL is simply looking for Council members who will comply with its ever wish and cave to its every demand as the sale moves forward. Apparently, Howle and Zudans fit that bill.
But which candidates have a vision for Vero Beach, and which have demonstrated a commitment to preserving the quality of municipal services, and thus maintaining, and hopefully improving quality of life? There are other choices besides FPL’s favored sones, including Brian Heady, Megan Hoots, Jay Kramer, and Randy Old, all of whom have shown far more heart for the City and its people than FPL quislings Howle and Zudans.