Sunday, June 28, 2009

Indian River Report

State and National

Legislature passed a seat belt law which means that anyone can now be stopped for any reason. How can you prove you had your seat belt on? Raised cigarette tax, and passed a budget. Not much to write home about.

City of Vero Beach

Red Light Cameras the real story:

The Indian River Report has written a series of articles on the subject of red light cameras. The original contract would have allowed for hundreds of tickets including speeding, tag expired and more. Because of the Indian River Report bringing this to their attention, the Vero Beach City removed all except red light violations from the contract.

Running red lights is not acceptable and violators should be prosecuted. However there are other ways to prevent red light accidents. Adding red in all directions for three seconds for example.

City police chief Don Dappen said his reasons were public safety but Councilwoman Debra Fromang realized that revenue had a great deal to do with it. Here are the only studies I know of that answers the question, Is it public safety or another case of “follow the money”.

Government Clinic

A new report may not show such a rosy picture for the new Government Clinic proposed for city workers. The savings promised are not as sure as City employees are leading council to believe.

There has been no attempt to compare these new benefits to benefits available to rank and file low life taxpayers like you and me.Bad idea…getting worse.

Increase after Increase

First it was an 18% increase in electric rates. Now consultants are telling council that a 30% increase in water and sewer rates is required. Some council members expressed surprise at the news and that they were not informed. We are too.


The Indian River Report attended the Sebastian City Council meeting on Wednesday to try to give some insight into the billboard business and save Sebastian Taxpayers thousands of dollars. Council was presented with a recommendation from its selection committee that may not have been the best deal available. But as usual no good deed goes unpunished.

Council member Jim Hill served as spokesperson for the local Chamber of Commerce. The Indian River Report had warned the council not to be suckers ( see last weeks report). Council member Hill took offence to the Report . He accused the Report of criticizing the Council and its staff particularly City Manager Al Minner.

This report has nothing but praise for the efforts of the Council and have the highest respect for City Manager Al Minner and his staff but the truth is Mr. Minner and his assistant who wrote the staff report are not in the billboard business and input from experts just might help.

So here is the bottom line:

The selection committee was made up of three people. Two staff members who were not familiar with the billboard business and a representative of the Chamber of Commerce. They were to spend $40,000 to promote Sebastian.

The committee recommended a billboard lease including one location for $2,400 per month, at least $750 per month overpriced or $9,000 a year wasted. A $3,000 contract to Parris productions for design work that normally costs $300 was also included. The total project had two instead of three locations and was still 15% over budget. Total wasted, at least $11,700.

Mr. Hill read the Indian River Report and questioned why the Indian River Report should be allowed to give input into the billboard campaign after being critical of the proposal. I guess anyone who has questions has anything positive to offer. I tried to be polite but apparently polite is not allowed in Sebastian Council meetings. In fairness Mayor Gillmor and others tried to keep things civil.

Mr Hill seems to be a nice enough guy and may truly want to represent the citizens well so here are some questions Mr. Hill may want to investigate.

1. How was the firm of Parris Productions selected? Were there Bids, Call for entries, or simply selected?

2. Did anyone check to see what billboard production generally cost? I have talked to several advertising agencies who first laughed and then said how do I get a deal like that?

3. I don’t know because I haven’t looked it up but I will bet that Parris Productions is a member of the Sebastian Chamber of Commerce. Is it a coincidence that they were selected without bid and charge 10 times the going rate and just happen to be a Sebastian Chamber favorite?

I applaud the efforts of the City of Sebastian for trying to bring business to the City. I am also thankful to Mayor Gillmor, Council member Simchick, and council member Eugene Wolff for their efforts to find the best deal for Sebastian taxpayers.

My quarrel is not with City Council staff or Council members. My point is that whenever the Chamber gets involved with government contracts, money seems to go from taxpayers to the Chambers pocket.


No meeting this week. Last week the big issue was the Commissions ability to override staff on issues that affect business getting into business and hiring local job seekers. Commissioner Wesley Davis sponsored a proposal which would add common sense to the process. Commissioner Peter O’Bryan opposed the measure which was designed to help get businesses started but keep current landscape regulations in place.

O’Bryan was joined by the Indian River Neighborhood Association. The IRNA opposed the Common Sense proposal and dismissed the idea that IRNA policies added to the areas soaring unemployment.

So what is the IRNA plan to help ease unemployment? Their last plan, to have everyone make rain barrels, has not been very successful. The IRNA supported an increase in gas taxes, supported higher impact fees, opposed manufacturing and mining concerns, and now joins Peter O’Bryan in opposition to reform of the permitting process.

So let’s hear it from the IRNA. I invite you to tell us your plan either here in the Indian River Report or on the radio on the Rhett Palmer show. The Indian River Neighborhood Associations Executive Director addressed the County Commission and said “ these rules (LDR’s) do not cause unemployment so we won’t talk about that..just get rid of that.” With all due respect sir, yes they do and so does the IRNA!


Speaking of unemployment, Indian River’s unemployment now stands at 13%. It is possible that unemployment could run as high as 18% by September. Indian River County has been in the top ten unemployment counties for ten straight years. (OK Indian River was 11th in 2006.). We are now tied for fourth.
So do we know why Indian River has been chronically unemployed for ten years in good times and bad? I don’t. Don’t you think we should try to find out? Before we can find a cure maybe we should try to find the cause. In 2001 we were 42nd. Now we are 4th.

Oh, by the way, the Indian River Neighborhood Association started winning elections in 2001 but I am sure that it is just a coincidence…”we won’t talk about that…just get rid of that”.

People keep asking me where I get my figures. Here it is.


So where can you borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars at 10% interest in these times of tight credit?

Answer: Don’t pay your taxes. 5,358 did not and in effect borrowed thousands of dollars.


Big week for schools. Here are the headlines:

Indian River an “A” district. Special award to Beachland Elementary. Beachland is one of only 33 schools in the entire state to have an “A” rating every year. Perfect record and well deserved congratulations.

Lots of talk about Imagine being the only “C” school in town. Why? Some say Imagine teaches students and does not “teach to the test”.

71 schools in the area in trouble for failing to reach No child left behind.

Dreaded early release Wednesdays defeated by the School Board. Thank you.

Board considering a huge tax increase to get same money as last year. No thank you.

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