Council members admit publicly they don’t know what they’re doing

NEWS ANALYSIS
Sykes

Never mind extending their terms from two years to three years. Given that Howle, Moss and Sykes are essentially FPL’s quislings, it would make more sense for Vero Beach voters to shorten their terms and give them their pink slips now.

MARK SCHUMANN

Arguing for voter approval of a proposal to extend City Council terms from two years to three years, several Council members were quoted in a recent press report essentially admitting that, with less than two years of service on the Council, they don’t know what they’re doing.

Ironically, their admitted ignorance of many aspects of the City’s government, specifically of its budget and finances, did not keep these Council members from voting to approve the sale of Vero Electric.

Last week, Harry Howle, Laura Moss, Lange Sykes and Tony Young all voted to approve a contract handing Vero Electric over to Florida Power and Light. (Dick Winger was the lone vote calling for more careful review of the fine print in the complicated agreement.) The fact that pages of the some 500 page documents were arriving at City Hall just days before the vote, gave Howle, Moss, Sykes and Young no pause, and they seemed unconcerned that the complicated agreement had not be reviewed by the Utilities and Finance Commission.

Worst of all, the “fantastic four” inked an agreement that commits the City to carve up Vero Electric and hand just the Indian River Shores portion of the system over to FPL. This so-called partial sale clause can be invoked by FPL, if state leaders and FPL representatives are unsuccessful in strong arming 19 Florida Municipal Power Agency member cities into approving the deal.

A partial sale would surely lead to higher electric rates for the remaining customers, and higher taxes for the residents of Vero Beach.  The “fantastic four’s” approval of the deal, then, may well amount to a breach of their fiduciary responsibility to the City, especially given recent admission that they have not been on the Council long enough to know what they are doing.

If all 19 FMPA cities being asked to approve the deal go along with allowing FPL to begin its long-planned conquest of municipal utilities, they will somehow have to convince themselves that by assuming the risk of Vero Beach’s existing FMPA liabilities they will not as a result see future rate increase. It is a stretch, but with FPL now calling in its chips on hundreds of thousands of dollars of political contributions, even the totally irrational and irresponsible seems possible. Politics is what it is.

With the exception of Young, three members of the “fantastic four,” all admittedly newcomers to the Council, were elected with the vast majority of their financial support coming from FPL and from Indian River Shores residents. Never mind extending their terms from two years to three years. Given that Howle, Moss and Sykes are essentially FPL’s quislings, it would make more sense for Vero Beach voters to shorten their terms and give them their pink slips now.

If history is any predictor, voters are not likely to fall for this latest proposed power grab. In 1987, voters by a margin of 3 to 1 rejected a referendum that would have extended Council terms from two years to four years. As recently at 2003, voters turned down a proposal to extend Council terms, again by nearly a 3 to 1 margin.

Related story:

From 2018 through 2025, the proposed change in the City Charter would save the City a total of approximately $27,500, or an average of $3,437 per year. This, some say, is a small savings to gain in exchange for rendering Council members less accountable, or for essentially reducing voters participation.

MARK SCHUMANN

When Vero Beach voters go to the polls Nov. 7 to choose among six candidates to fill two Council seats, they will also be asked to extend the term of office for Council members from two years to three years. If approved, the change in the City Charter will take effect in 2018.

One argument in favor of extending Council terms is that it will save the City money. From 2018 through 2025, for example, there would be six municipal elections rather than eight. In a year when other races are on the ballot, Council elections cost the City approximately $5,500, compared to the $22,000 is costs to hold an off-year municipal election when there are no county, state, or federal elections on the ballot.

From 2018 through 2025, the proposed change in the City Charter would save the City a total of approximately $27,500, or an average of $3,437 per year. This, some say, is a small savings to gain in exchange for rendering Council members less accountable, or for essentially reducing voters participation.

Another downside of the proposal is that some of the years when the City would not be holding Council elections will be Presidential or Gubernatorial election years, when voter turnout tends to be significantly higher. For example, between 2018 and 2025 one of the two years when the City voters would not be choosing Council members would be 2020, when voter turnout will likely be 60% or more, compared to turnout of 20% or less for a typical municipal election.

Supporters of extending Council terms say that two years is not enough time to both come up to speed on the job and to then make a difference. Opponents of the proposal contend that if two-year terms are long enough for members of Congress and of the Florida House of Representatives, then two-year terms should be sufficient for members of the Vero Beach City Council.

Opponents also say that over the years certain Council persons have revealed a truly negatives side of themselves once in office.  Voters should have the right to turn those people out of office after two years.  The good Council members will successfully stand for re-election, say opponents of the proposed extension in Council terms.

If voters approve the proposed change in the City Charter, the following would be the City’s election calendar from 2018 through 2025.

2018 Elect three for three years
2019 Elect two for three years
2020 No election
2021 Elect three for three years
2022 Elect two for three years
2023 No election
2024 Elect three for three years
2025 Elect two for three years

3 comments

  1. This is so sad that people who don’t know much about finance or government just made a deal involving millions of dollars, plus the contract apparently has a clause stating if the contract does not go through COVB will forfeit our Indian River Shores customers for $30 million. That the clause is in the contract makes it a joke but only I.R.S. and FPL will be laughing. WE, on the other hand, will be the laughingstock of the state–and deservedly so.

  2. They all did not win. Hate, money, power and ignorance won.

    “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention” – Heather Heyer

  3. Someday in the near future , city residents will regret the sale to FP&L.Why? Once the city is swallowed up by FP&L,Vero will become a very small fish in a very ,very large pond. Electric rates will rise as sure as the sun comes up each morning. And when all the emotion settles down, people will ask.”why did we allow this to happen.”

Comment - Please use your first and last name. Comments of up to 350 words are welcome.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s