With overwhelming support from FPL, Howle, Zudans win big in Vero Beach municipal election

Voters reject extending Council terms by a 2-to-1 margin

COMMENTARY

MARK SCHUMANN

Howle – Team FPL

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.

Vero Beach is merely a pawn in FPL’s state-wide chess game.

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.

Harry Howle III says:

Mark, I’ve never commented on your blog in the past. It’s hardly worth my time. The whole thing is infantile to say the least. I’ve always wondered why someone in Santa Fe, NM, or wherever you live today, has any interest in what happens here. You must have an income from some special interest group; otherwise, why bother?

Let’s get down to brass tax (sic) though. A vote was taken tonight. This vote was so overwhelmingly in favor of Val Zudans and me, one can’t help but understand it is a mandate to carry out the sale you have so “honorably and without bias” opposed for so long. My guess is that you will be living in a far off State with no backing in very short order. Perhaps in a small cardboard box?

Clearly this is a “sign” you should find another means of income. The people have spoken. You, on the other hand, will only sound as though you are maligned in some way henceforth. Do us all a favor. Shut down your ridiculous, nonsense, blog and go find a “ray of hope”. We will be fine without you. That is a certainty.

While you’re at it, say hello to John and Kathy for me. I’ve known them for many years. They are upstanding individuals. One cannot say so much for you.

 

8 comments

  1. Had Mr. Howle been the misquoted, misrepresented and maligned subject of the of the deluge of post cards that filled our mailboxes that the FPL PAC paid for in 2016 and 2017, perhaps his attitude would be more appreciative of his success. It disturbs me that the “new norm” for the Vero Beach City Council seems to be denigrating to the volunteer Boards and Commissions that serve to advise them on issues of importance to our City. The City Council members are elected to serve the City of Vero Beach and its residents, not their benefactors. Hopefully, they will remember that.

  2. Sharon, you are probably being unrealistically hopeful. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, and in the past they have had no interest in input from the commissions.

  3. Mr. Howle is obviously an infantile, angry boy in a mans skin.

    It is with great sadness that we will soon see the dismemberment of the city we call Vero Beach. As a boy I remember councilmen like Mr. Mac, Harry Offutt et. al. These were men with vision and sights set on a better Vero Beach and county. The majority on the council can see no farther than selling the electric utility. I live in the same high-rise, high-density building where the Mayor rents her apartment. I recently asked what her plan was for sustaining our city following the sale. She inferred she has none by suggesting I contact the finance committee chairman for that information. The next two years are going to be heartbreaking as we watch our town deteriorate before our very eyes while the remaining assets of the city are sold or given to the county. Disincorporation will likely soon follow.

    What is saddest of all is the state of journalism in our community resulting in the seeming apathy of our uninformed citizens who failed to vote in impressively large numbers. If downtown residents had any hope of an arts district, it went down the tubes with this election. We all know that the United Nations has its Plan 21 to impose its will on our community via the arts district and the supporting comprehensive plan. The new majority on the council will assure that those things will likely not come to pass during their tenure.

  4. Mr. Neville, If Mayor Moss directed you to the Finance Commission for an answer to your question about how the City will adjust for the sale of Vero Electric, that is indeed ironic. Moss, along with Harry Howle and Lange Sykes, forbade the Finance Commission from developing just such a plan.

  5. Citizens get the government they deserve. VOTE PEOPLE!!!!!! Not that anyone who doesn’t vote will actually bother to read this article..

  6. This is truly pathetic. John Little and my father would never of allowed this to happen. This is what you get when you have a City Manager who is more interested in keeping his job then making a stand for what’s best for the citizens of Vero Beach. He knew this deal stunk, was full of incompetence and rife with shady dealings from the Council and did nothing. Nor did O’Connor (or anybody else in City Hall, for that matter) challenge the disinformation propaganda spewed from FPL. Makes me sick that this is what the City turned into.

  7. Bruce, At least it is fair to say your father and Mr. Little would not have allowed this sale to go forward without helping the Council and the public understand all the considerations. Jim O’Connor, to be sure, is a different kind of city manager. More than anything, he seems to be managing his was to a secure retirement.

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