How we got to the March 12th Vero Beach/FPL referendum
Animator: Thomas LaBaff, Narrator: Larry Reisman, Audio Editor: Wayne Dillon (Idea Garden)
Once upon a time . . .
There was a small town in Florida called Vero Beach.
Founded in 1925, Vero Beach grew slowly on four economic pillars – it produced the world’s-best citrus fruit, it was home to the Dodger’s spring-training baseball, and, with its unbeatable winter weather and sparkling beaches, it attracted both tourists and retirees.
Vero was a prosperous town from the start. In fact, early in its history, Vero was able to build its own power plant, which, at first, only ran in the evenings. But it was soon expanded to Wednesday afternoons so people could do their ironing.
As the county of Indian River grew, beach-side neighborhoods to the north and south looked to Vero Beach to provide them with reliable electric power. Vero Beach obliged without requiring these neighborhood to incorporate into the City. By and by, these neighborhoods grew into some of the richest in the United States. And everyone worked together as neighbors.
All the while, the City leaders stayed true to what made Vero Beach special. As south Florida was gobbled up by developers, building miles of tract neighborhoods and high rises in the name of short-term profit, Vero held the line. Eventually, Vero Beach was one of the last towns in Florida that could claim both a vibrant economy and a small-town charm. And that only lead to more prosperity and notoriety.
Naturally, it was not always easy to keep Vero Vero. Every generation, developers would come knocking with promises of jobs and riches, if only Vero would change its ways and give into to development. In fact, in 1972, in an uncharacteristic lapse, Vero approved the building of two twin 12-story condos, the Village Spires. To this day, these two buildings are notable as the only high-rise buildings in the County.
Today being no exception to the pattern of greed, the developers are again knocking on the door, asking Vero Beach to give in and become part of South Florida.
But this time, they are trying a new strategy.
Vero Beach electric, the same service that allowed our City and County to grow on our own terms over the years, and the same profitable enterprise that provides the City with one quarter of its yearly $20 million operating budget, is now under attack by forces seeking to sell out the City for short-term profits.
Florida Power & Light and its local supporters are seeking to drive Vero Electric out of business. Promising lower power rates to citizens both inside and outside the City, FPL and its supporters refuse to provide any vision for how the City will survive without the income provided by Vero Electric.
The most likely scenario is that, starved of the funds it needs to survive and unable to convince its citizens to double their property taxes, the City will simply go bankrupt, cease to exist.
After that, developers will only need three votes on the five-member County Commission to change the laws and undo what we’ve all worked to build since 1925.
If you don’t think it can happen, drive to the Palm Beach county line and have a look around.
We all want low electric rates. But how can we vote intelligently without knowing the cost to the City we all love.
On March 12, City voters will be asked to approve the sale of Vero Electric to FPL. If you think this vote is simply about lower electric rates, you don’t have the full story, or even three quarters of it.
FPL may well be able to provide lower rates, but there’s no guarantee it will last. But when we sell Vero Electric, it will be gone forever.