Harry G. Howle III
In the past, Vero Communiqué has submitted questions to candidates running for local offices, such as Vero Beach City Council and the Indian River County Hospital District. Once again, we have submitted ten questions to the six candidates running for Vero Beach City Council. All candidates agreed to participate, except Jay Kramer, who indicated he “had not decided” to do so. We are pleased to share answers from the other five candidates to our ten questions.
1. The sale of the Vero Beach electric utility to Florida Power and Light is top of mind. Are you for the full sale and under what circumstances? Also, would you support a partial sale if the total sale does not go through? Do you believe a partial sale would result in the South Beach and other customers subsidizing Indian River Shores customers?
“I’m for the full sale under the current circumstances, but truth be told, if FPL wasn’t offering us a dime in cash I’d still be for this deal just to get out of the FMPA, out of OUC, pay off our bonds, and satisfy our pension liabilities. The $30,000,000 is gravy. As far as the partial sale goes, we have already voted in favor of that back in December. Anybody who is against it has amnesia and doesn’t remember our vote less than a year ago.”
2. In order to sell the Vero Beach electric utility, Vero Beach would have to exit its’ contract the Florida Municipal Power Agency. All of the remaining 19 cities would have to agree to allow Vero Beach to exit. Do you think all 19 members would allow Vero Beach to do so?
“I believe that Vero Beach would allow the another member city to leave, so I would hope that the other 19 cities would see the value in creating an exit path from the FMPA should any of them want to exit.”
3. From 2010 to 2016 the Vero Beach City Council budgeted $ 3,639,660 for various storm water projects and expended $ 2,683,239, a $ 956,421 short fall. According to a 12/11/15 article in Florida Today, Jim Waymer wrote that “Storm water is the No. 1 problem” facing the Indian River Lagoon. While Brevard County, FL residents voted overwhelmingly for a half-cent sales tax to fund Indian River Lagoon clean-up projects, the Vero Beach City Council voted not to give any further consideration on charging City residents a $ 5.00 monthly fee to protect the Lagoon. Should this $ 5.00 fee be reconsidered and if not, why not? If reconsideration resulted in enacting the fee, what projects do you feel should be undertaken?
“No. We don’t need another layer of government. The proposed storm water utility is just another attempt by the quickly fading special interest group that previously owned our city council to try and create another tax and spend body. There’s no scientific evidence that points solely or even primarily at storm water as a culprit of our sick lagoon. There are a number of contributing factors and to create another governmental body in an attempt to solve the problem is misguided.”
4. What is your position on the Comprehensive Land Use 2035 POLICY Plan? And what is your position on the role of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council in our City planning?
“I just want to see a version of the document that details the changes that were made between the previous plan and the newly proposed plan. I don’t want to weed through 400 pages of document to decipher what has been changed. We need a red-lined document with all of the changes.”
5. Inspired by Coral Gables, FL becoming the first city in Florida to ban the use of single use carry out plastic bags by retailers, there is a movement afoot to ban plastic bags in Vero Beach’s 32960 and 32963 zip codes. The goal of the movement is to get enough signatures of support to bring a proposal before the Vero Beach City Council to have the Council follow along and adopt Coral Gables’ ban. Would you support such a ban and why?
“I’m all for businesses voluntarily deciding to not use plastic bags. I’m philosophically opposed to government unilaterally banning a practice that the marketplace should accept or reject on its own.”
6. At a recent South Beach Property Owners Eminent Speakers Series Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss suggested that Indian River County’s South Beach property owners enter into a conversation as to whether they should be annexed by Vero Beach. Should they desire to be annexed, do you support having the City Council enact an ordinance to annex South Beach, which would lead to two public meetings, followed by a vote of the registered electors of the annexed property?
“I support the will of the people. If they want to be annexed, we should allow and facilitate their attempts.”
7. In the late 1970’s the City of Vero Beach enacted an ordinance outlawing vacation rentals for less than 30 days. In the last legislative session Florida State Representative Mike Larose and State Senator Greg Steube introduced companion bills that “A local law, ordinance or regulation may not …prohibit…vacation rentals.” Originally, the bills “did not apply to any local law, ordinance or regulation adopted on or before June 1, 2011.” However, Senator Steube subsequently filed an amendment to his bill that would delete the June 1, 2011 provision except to extent the rental is offered by a “person who is currently serving on active duty in a branch of the United States Armed Forces or owned by a disabled veteran with a service-connected evaluation of such disability of 30% or more, according to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.” It is likely that Representative Larose and Senator Steube will be back with similar companion bills, that if passed, would nullify Vero Beach’s 30-day rental ordinance except to the to the extent of the exception above, which would place the City in a position to monitor who or who doesn’t fall into that category. Are you aware of this threat and what action should the City Council be taking to address it?
“I’m aware of the threat. There’s a reason for the rules that the hotel and lodging industry operates under. Public safety. I err on the side of safety and so the vacation rentals should be required to adhere to code and the same rules as hotels and long term rentals.”
8. Once Vero Beach’s Big Blue power station is removed, what would you like to see the City do with that property?
“Sell the property to the private sector, get them paying taxes, and then allow them to build to their vision under the confines of our zoning.”
9. What would you propose to improve the parking in Vero Beach, particularly on the Island in the proximity of Ocean Drive? Are you in favor or metered parking?
“I’m not in favor of metered parking. There are several parts in the solution. Requiring hotels to find places for their employees to park, private garage, etc. There’s a private industry solution.”
10. If Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss were to run for reelection, would you support her?
“Absolutely. She and Councilman Sykes were the last pieces in this pro-sale process.”