Sunday, July 26, 2009

"We Got The Message"


Coming into the final week of the special election for State Senate district 28. Joe Negron appears to be leading with early returns mostly Republican. Negrons opponent, Bill Ramos was dealt a setback when it was announced that he had been found guilty of theft and had a felony record.

In true fashion Democrats rushed to his aid. Bill Clinton, Tim Mahoney, and now Bill Ramos. Question, what do you have to do to embarrass a Treasure Coast Democrat? We don't know, adultery, theft, threatening women, lying have all happened and it wasn't enough.


Time to check into local elections.

City elections are scheduled for November in Sebastian, Vero Beach and Fellsmere. Several incumbents have yet to announce for re election including Andrea Coy and Eugene Wolff in Sebastian, Debra Fromang in Vero Beach, Susan Adams and former mayor Sara Savage in Fellsmere.

Dale Simchick, a popular member of the Sebastian Council is expected to announce for the County Commission.

Fromang is likely to be Vero Beach's next mayor if she seeks reelection.Several other candidates have already announced and others are expected to announce soon.

In County election news Tom Lowther and Peter O'Bryan are in a scheduled rematch in the District 4 Commission race.

District 2 is still up in the air. Defeating Commissioner Joe Flescher is the number one priority for the Indian River Neighborhood Association and Gary Wheeler. Wheeler and the IRNA have been plotting to unseat Flescher ever since he failed to vote as the Indian River Neighborhood Association instructed on the Charter Government issue championed by Commissioner Wheeler.

The school board has Carole Johnson, Karen Brombach and Debbie MacKay facing unhappy voters with MacKay being the most vulnerable.

There are also three judges, three hospital board members, mosquito control and state representative including Erin Grall from Vero Beach who announced for Ralph Poppells open seat.


Let's call it a "Paper Cut". County Commissioners voted 4 to 1 to follow County Administrator Joe Bairds budget recommendations. The major point of discussion was the Sheriffs budget. In the end Commissioners cut ten positions more than the Sheriff wanted which allowed the Commission to adopt a "no new taxes budget". At the same time, however, Commissioners promised to fund the ten positions if the Sheriff asked later.

Last week I mentioned that the County was nearing 1/2 billion dollars in spending. Commissioner Peter O'Bryan corrected me pointing out that the County had gone from over 400 million down to nearly 300 million. In all fairness he is right, it is 1/3 of a billion dollars.

I am often a critic of government and there are things still to be done to bring government under control but at least in the County we are on the right track. Jason Brown and the entire staff made significant cuts. The elephant in the room at the County is still the same as all other governmental jurisdictions from Washington to the City of Vero Beach, extremely generous employee salaries and benefits.


There is so much information and so many things to write about I have decided to just summarize.

1. Generous pensions and health benefits for City employees cannot continue and are not sustainable.

2. If you are expecting major relief from utility rates in January, don't hold your breath.

3. The City of Vero has spent its cash and may need to borrow.

4. The Vero Beach power plant is not competitive with other power providers.

5. We can lower rates, raise property taxes or cut employee benefits. Those are our only choices.

6. The more our conservation efforts succeed the higher our utility rates are likely to be. We are conserving so much sales are down. Results, higher rates to get cash. "Isn't to Ironic".

7. The city has just discovered the internet. Department after department reported cuts in training budgets by moving to the internet.

8. Increased benefits to employees are one of the major reasons we have to continue to transfer from the electric utility to the general fund. Translation, our electric increases are needed to pay for employee pensions, salaries and health benefits. Tell that to a single mother whose family has no health insurance and has to choose between food and paying the electric bill.

9. We could sell the power plant and keep the profitable transmission lines.

10. For the moment the shell game of lower property taxes and higher electric fees will continue. No council member wants to be the one to triple taxes to make utility rates lower.

11. While planning to close the pool and the fountain to save $40,000 it was revealed that the City has been paying for irrigation at the Riverside Theater and the Museum of Art, Grounds maintenance at the Museum, and maintenance for the entrance to Vero Isles (the fingers). Amount $45,000.

12. Monte Falls, director of public works is a very valuable employee.

13. The City is complaining about how hard it was to get permits! I kid you not.

14. Vero Beach has the best solid waste collection service I have ever seen.

15. Parts of Humiston Park will be closed until Christmas.

16. Furloughs in the City INCLUDE the top employees. Department heads and officers including the City Attorney, City Clerk, and City Manager. (Council members however declined to have furloughs for themselves.)

17. Pension fund needs 32% to remain solvent. Council led by Debra Fromang joined by Mayor Sabe Abell have come to the realization that it cannot continue. We will see if they see it through.

18. Health Clinic for government workers may not be dead but it is very sick.

19. Council is not being informed about critical financial matters.

20. Health and pension benefits got through for another year. Going to study the issue. Will we still be talking about the same thing next year? Will employees drag their feet long enough to put it off again? We will see.

All in all Jim Gabbard gave the best summary. At the end of the three day budget review he said " We Got The Message". Let's all hope so.


Some of my friends have told me that I am getting too angry. They say I am getting more serious, personal, and less funny. Maybe they are right. So like many others in government I am going to take a few weeks off to try to readjust.

The grinding economy, kids locked in a hot car, politicians who vote their own personal benefit while the people they represent suffer, powerful political groups with selfish goals, government employees who receive benefits while taxpayers go without, are getting me down.

I will post again after I have had an attitude adjustment.

See you soon.

Charlie Wilson

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