Recap of top local stories in July

COMMENTARY

MILT THOMAS

Following is a recap of local news and commentary topics covered in this publication over the past few weeks:

The past month began where June ended, with the public and mainstream local media in an uproar over Vero Beach City Council’s apparent decision to lease the City-owned River House to a brewery. Councilman Val Zudans placed the subject on the May 15 agenda as a “discussion,” but Councilmen Harry Howle and Lange Sykes voted with Zudans directing City Staff to work out a lease/concession with Orchid Island Brewery for use of the River House site. This ignored long term City Council practices. Read more…

That story resulted in a barrage of comments on our Facebook page. Read more…

On June 20, former Vero Beach Mayor and three-term City Councilman, Richard Winger, circulated a petition opposing Council’s plans to lease the River House in MacWilliam Park to a brewery as well as the encroachment of commercial development into our parks system. Read more…

Winger further wrote a commentary on July 1 about subsequent City Council efforts to sell the marina, privatize Leisure Square and sell the downtown post office building. He implored citizens to express anger and concern about Vero Beach’s future by writing to City Council. Read more…

On July 10, City resident and community advocate, Linda Hillman, filed to run for City Council in the November 6 election, in which three seats will be open. Read more…

On July 14, the Indian River Guardian wrote about City Council’s efforts to move the Youth Sailing Foundation away from its current location near the City’s waste water treatment site to a less desirable space in Riverside Park. This would keep the current publicly-owned electric and waste water riverfront sites open for commercial development. City-owned properties are protected by City Charter from sale without voter approval, so Council called for a referendum to remove those two important sites from City Charter protection. Read more…

Former Mayor Winger then wrote a Guest Commentary about the upcoming July 17 City Council meeting where Council was to ask for voter approval on removing those properties from City Charter. At the same meeting, Council was to propose discontinuing the City’s Legal Staff, continue seeking to turn the River House into a brewery, give final approval on a sale of the downtown post office property and other considerations. Read more…

That meeting was attended by an overflow crowd of upset residents. Unfortunately, two of the three Council members responsible for the community’s ire – Mayor Howle and Vice Mayor Sykes – were not in attendance. Read more…

Unrelated to this controversy (although nothing is ever unrelated), the Civic Association of Indian River County filed a protest with the Public Service Commission on July 19 regarding FPL’s purchase of Vero Electric. Mayor Howle then tried to paint City Council candidate, Linda Hillman, as against the sale, rather than her stated position as being against the Council majority’s attempt to sell off Vero Beach assets. Read more about it here…

Since then, three other protests have been filed, including one from the Florida Industrial Power Users Group. However, since the electric sale closing will most likely be postponed beyond the November election, the City Council majority – and possibly FPL and Indian River Shores residents – will attempt to pigeon-hole any candidate opposing them as threatening the sale itself. Read more…

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