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.
1a. 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?
“I am for the full sale on the terms as I understand them in the Letter of Intent between FPL and the City, as they represent a transaction that is imminently better than those described in the past, gets the City beyond this toxic issue and relieves the city of managing a large difficult business.”
1b. Also, would you support a partial sale if the total sale does not go through?
“As I understand it, the two sale options are tied together in one contract, and there is no exit clause, so if the full sale does not go through the partial sale happens, not giving anyone a chance to stop it. I do not like the partial sale, as it prefers a small group of our wealthier residents over all other rate payers, who I presume would not be able to enter into a similar partial sale agreement due to FMPA limits, which would serve to continue the toxic electric debate, and probably increase rates for the remaining customers.”
1c. Do you believe a partial sale would result in the South Beach and other customers subsidizing Indian River Shores customers?
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 expect that all 19 will agree, and I suspect that there has been discussion about this for some time, and feel that FMPA would not have started this process without a pretty strong feeling of success.”
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?
“I am strongly in favor of the storm water utility, and feel the $5.00 monthly fee is reasonable, and have received loud support from those who would be asked to pay it. I am not comfortable at this time prioritizing projects, but the general idea is to prevent debris and pollutants from entering the lagoon as a result of water from rain storms.”
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?
“The planning department came up with a Comp Plan which should be passed now, but if the council has concerns those concerns can be extracted in order to make the council feel better about passing it, but the idea that the UN and the regional planning council has some scheme to do away with height restrictions and density limits is absurd, and should be ignored. I sat on the planning council for a year, and looked for possible regional policies I might be against but found none, with the exception of the fast train, which was supported by some members of the region and fought by others, obviously.”
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?
“Yes, I would, for our ocean, turtles, and general recycle policy.”
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 would support the annexation of South Beach.”
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 was not aware of this action, and feel the city council should hold firm on our law and not let it be amended.”
8. Once Vero Beach’s Big Blue power station is removed, what would you like to see the City do with that property?
“I would like to have the community be engaged in offering ideas for the site, have it voted on by the community, and I would prefer that it be mixed use, part recreational and part commercial so it creates income for the city. This is a very special piece of property, and great care has to be taken to reach this decision.”
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?
“The solution to parking on Ocean Drive is difficult, emotional, not agreed upon, plus it is seasonal, and it will not go away. There are two or three loud camps, and until a majority can agree on a solution, it will not go ahead. Parking meters are not an obvious solution.”
10. If Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss were to run for reelection, would you support her?