Voters reject extending Council terms by a 2-to-1 margin
Riding a tidal wave of more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from Florida Power and Light and Indian River Shores residents, Vice Mayor Harry Howle today won re-election to the Vero Beach City Council. Surprisingly, thought he was running as an incumbent, Howle was bested by political newcomer, Val Zudans. Like Howle, Zudans was also supported by FPL, benefitting from the more than $100,000 in advertising placed by what was essentially FPL’s political action committee. Zudans won 1,508 votes, Howle 1424 votes.
FPL’s purchase of Vero Beach 2017 municipal election was a repeat performance. Last year, the utility giant, which has business before the City Council, invested $100,000 to elect Laura Moss and Lange Sykes. Now the state’s largest investor owned utility more or less owns four seats of the Council, making the Vero Beach City Council a wholly owned subsidiary of FPL.
Former vice mayor, Randy Old, came in third with 952 votes. Jay Kramer, a former mayor of Vero Beach, trailed Old with 809 votes. Political newcomer Megan Hoots received 576 votes, and perennial candidate, Brian Heady, tallied 155 votes.
Also on the ballot was a proposed amendment to the City Charter that would have increased Council terms from two years to three years. Voters rejected the measure 1,820 to 892. Perhaps if FPL has spent $100,000 pushing this referendum it would have passed as well. But that would not have been a wise investment for FPL, since the company only needs Howle and Zudans long enough to secure the sale of Vero Electric. After the deal is done, presumably by the end of 2018, their calls to the FPL customers service line will go in the queue along with everyone else’s. In a few years, FPL C.E.O. Eric Silagy may not even remember their names, for at that point FPL will have other fish to fry and other politicians to buy.
Emulating the sometimes adolescent behavior of President Donald Trump, a gloating Howle found time in the wee hours of Wednesday morning to fire off a mean-spirited, accusative attack on InsideVero. Below is the full text of Howle’s version of a TRUMP Tweet.
Howle claims “the people have spoken.” It is more accurate to say that big corporate money has spoken – specifically the $100,000 FPL spent to “buy” a Council seat for Mr. Zudans, and to “buy” Howle’s re-election. This unprecedented outside influence in Vero Beach’s electoral process has been virtually ignored by the Press Journal and the island weekly.
If anyone is beholden to special interests it is Howle, and Zudans, along with Laura Moss and Lange Sykes. Let us not forget that they, too, were elected with more than $100,000 in support from FPL. All this election proves is that corporate money has so corrupted the electoral process — from Vero Beach to Washington — that ours is now a broken, failed democracy.
When Howle put his head down early this morning, he presumably drifted off into a dream state where he is on the winning side. After the German armies occupied Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Holland, Belgium, and France, many a German leader, like Howle today, assumed they were on the winning side. Ultimately, events did not turn out well for them, or for anyone else.
With assistance from the Florida Municipal Power Agency’s new C.E.O., Jacob Williams — who is playing the role of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain as the great appeaser — FPL is now poised to plunder Vero Beach. The larger question for the member cities of the FMPA is which city will be the next to fall as FPL C.E.O. Eric Silagy pursues his lustful desire to grow FPL’s customer base by robbing many Florida cities of their most valuable asset.
History, they say, does not repeat itself; but it does have a way of echoing through the years.