Is this what the citizens of Vero Beach wanted?

COMMENTARY

The pavilion at Leisure Square was built in 2015, paid for with private funds to provide shade around the public pool. Will private funds again be needed to prevent destruction of this pavilion, the pool and Leisure Square itself?

MILT THOMAS

Mayor Zudans doesn’t believe our city should be in the pool business anymore. He also didn’t feel we should be in the post office business. Or the marina business. And he saw nothing wrong with trying to sell Dodgertown Golf Course to developers, or having a brewery operate in MacWilliam Park, or wanting to let developers decide what we should do with the Three Corners properties that he has already renamed a big city-sounding “Centennial Place.” He also doesn’t seem to mind trashing those who disagree with him.

But there is a reason he consistently takes positions in conflict with the wishes of his constituents. He believes his most important job is to do away with City assets that do not turn a profit or at least break even.

He believed that from the beginning, but voters bought in to his approach when the issue was how much they paid for their electricity.

When the electric sale was completed, he only saw that as the first step. It was like letting an electrician in the front door to repair a circuit panel who then proceeds to sell the contents of your home.

But that is not his primary job. His primary job is to carry out the will of voters who elected him.

He acts like voters elected him to create a fire sale of City assets. If that was true, most citizens would be his supporters and admirers. But that is clearly not what the citizens of Vero Beach want, as is evident with every fire sale proposal he makes and the negative reaction he receives from them with each proposal.

Now it’s Leisure Square. Sell the only public swimming pool in Vero Beach, used regularly by his constituents, and suggest replacing it with a skate park. There’s plenty of property behind Leisure Square available for a skate park without destroying the public’s only swimming pool.

And do you really believe a skate park will end up being built? Based on past experience with this mayor, there’s probably a developer lurking in the shadows and salivating over the prospect of redeveloping this public asset into something much more profitable and out of reach to the citizens who fail to prevent it from happening.

6 comments

  1. Essentially, what the majority of the people of Vero Beach seem to want is the same thing the people of the nation want, and that is more government than they are willing to pay for. If anyone who opposes the Council’s slash-and-burn approach to budgeting now claims they were unaware the sale of Vero Electric would mean a significant loss in revenue to the City, then one an only conclude such persons were not paying even the slightest bit of attention to what was at the time extensive reporting on the issue.

    To anyone who cared to know the pertinent facts, it was well reported that as a result of the sale of Vero Electric to FPL the City would lose more than $5 million transferred annually from the Utility Fund to the General Fund. That money, as reported, was used to help pay for municipal services, such as police protection, and recreation programs – including maintaining the pool at Leisure Square.

    At the national level, Republicans and Democrats alike continue to engage in, even demand, deficit spending. Well, municipalities cannot get away with such fiscal irresponsibility. In exchange for lower electric rates, the people of Vero Beach either need to accept fewer municipal services, or they need to be willing to pay more in taxes to the City.

    The answer to the Leisure Square issue is not to launch a private funding campaign each year. Rather, concerned residents need to step forward – in mass – and let their leaders know they are willing to pay more in taxes to enable the City to continue to provide the municipal services they say the do not want to see cut. After all, those same people are now enjoying lower electric rates. Does anyone really believe you can get something for nothing?

    Here is a quote from George Will’s “The Conservative Sensibility,” that is, I think, descriptive of the thinking prevalent, not only in Vero Beach, but across the nation. “Today’s political discord is less durable and dangerous than an obvious consensus, one that unites the political class more than ideology divides it. The consensus is that, year in and year out, in good times and bad, Americans should be given substantially more government goods and services than they should be asked to pay for.” (pg. 143)

  2. I’m curious to know just how much lower the average electric bill is. For a 2300 sf house, I’ve seen only $15-$20 savings per month.

  3. I paid $132 in City Tax for 2018. Though I haven’t saved anything from the FPL switch, I’d be fine with bumping up the city tax rate so we can keep our services as is or make them better.

  4. Two commenters here say they are not receiving the savings on their electric rate promised by FPL. At the time FPL was building support for the sale, then editorial page editor Larry Reisman, along with then columnist Russ Lemon, and the Press Journal editorial Board, dutifully repeated FPL’s claim that the average Vero Beach Electric customers would receive a 20 percent savings on their electric bill. How could this have turned out not to be true? One just cannot imagine that FPL, along with their local enablers, would have overpromised.

  5. I’m not seeing any savings on my electric bill. Wish the city hadn’t sold. I didn’t think we should sell beforehand either. However, we can’t cry over spilt milk. We will need to find a way to pay for the community resources that we treasure. If that means raising taxes, so be it.

  6. Those of us who can “crunch” numbers knew what would happen,and it has. This is just the beginning of Vero’s fiscal problems. Prepare to open your wallets.

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