It seems many people were caught by surprise after the Civic Association of Indian River County filed an appeal to the Public Service Commission regarding FPL’s purchase of Vero Electric. While the eight-page appeal raises a number of legitimate complaints it has only the slimmest chance of affecting what is a foregone conclusion – the sale of Vero Electric to FPL will be completed. So what’s the problem?
The problem is our last election gave us the Council majority that is now seeking to monetize City assets. In this November’s election three Council seats out of five are up for change. The only solution to this heavy-handed City Council is to elect a new one that represents the wishes and values of voters, namely to preserve our vibrant community and not leave it a shell of what it once was.
One reason it took ten years to complete the sale of Vero Electric was because if and when it happened, residents feared it would be a first step in ripping apart the very fabric of our community, sell off City assets and leave Vero’s City government unable to function.
Well, guess what? Those fears are being realized. With leadership from Mayor Harry Howle, Vice Mayor Lange Sykes and Councilman Val Zudans, City Council has advocated leasing the publicly owned River House to a brewery in MacWilliam Park.
They also propose removing City Charter protection from the last remaining public waterfront property (electric and sewer tracts) so the public cannot have a say in how it is developed.
To make this publicly owned riverfront property available for development, they also propose moving the popular Youth Sailing Foundation from where it now operates just south of the Alma Lee Loy Bridge to property in a less workable location.
They have already signed a contract to sell off the downtown anchor post office building, they are eliminating essential legal services, and, perhaps most alarmingly, mishandled the City’s budgeting process.
Residents had heard enough and packed Council chambers last week to discuss these issues; however neither Mayor Howle nor Vice-Mayor Sykes were present to hear the public’s concerns. Howle and Sykes claim they were on vacation. Well, if that is true, their absence is even less excusable, for the Council’s meeting schedule is set well in advance.
But suddenly, several well-meaning citizens filed an appeal with the PSC after it approved finalizing the Vero Electric-FPL merger. This has set alarm bells off in the corridors of power (i.e. FPL and Indian River Shores) suggesting they may need to buy this election too. That will lead to creating a disingenuous fear that electing any pro-City candidate will threaten the sale of Vero Electric.
The effort to discredit pro-City candidates has already begun with a Facebook post by Mayor Howle. In his post, Howle tore into the people who wrote the appeal, calling them “idiotic,” “single celled, parasitic, eukaryotes,” and “cave dwelling zygotes.”
Aside from proving to us that he took high school biology, Howle’s comments are terribly offensive from any elected official, much less the mayor. But then he went on to name a candidate for City Council, Linda Hillman, throwing her under the bus in his Facebook post. He is equating any candidate who doesn’t agree with his slash and burn view of City government as someone opposed to the sale of Vero Electric. This election has nothing to do with the electric sale – it has everything to do with the future of Vero Beach.
Hopefully, voters are not confused by Howle’s misplaced, offensive and inappropriate rhetoric and are genuinely concerned that our way of life is threatened.
And to the FPL and Indian River Shores folks, please don’t interfere any more in our local politics. You have accomplished your goal of eliminating Vero Electric, so let us have our City so we can run it as the fine city created by those before us. You have everything you wanted. Or do you?
This isn’t the first time Mayor Howle has used his schoolyard name calling when referring to his constituents, the citizens and voters of Vero Beach. On the June 13 Bob Soos Morning Show, he reacted to concerns voiced the previous day at City Council by his constituents over his (and Zudans’) plan to lease River House to a brewery. Referring to local daily columnist, Larry Reisman, who opposed the idea, Howle said “He got on the crazy train.” Howle then proceeded to talk about the “small and trite group of people” who were opposed to the brewery, namely people representing the nearby dog park and ball field. Howle expressed anger that the public was concerned there would be a vote that night, “which was idiotic.” (Actually, Councilman Zudans later admitted his intention was to call for a vote on his proposal despite City Charter requirement for public approval of such a move.) Howle went on with his knee-capping of the public by saying about their concerns, “It was a complete waste of my time and the Council’s.” He referred to them as “heretics in hysterics.” For his part, Soos shared Howle’s offensive Facebook posts, commenting that those named should pack their bags and leave town. So much for impartial journalism.