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Brevard County Responds To Samuelson Op-Ed.

A few weeks ago, we covered an op-ed piece written by Florida Today Editorial Advisory Board member Ayn Samuelson. The piece covered a lack of a plan, alternatives and other issues concerning the Indian River Lagoon.

Brevard County Director of Natural Resources Management Virginia Barker has responded to the op-ed.

image courtesy florida Today

image courtesy florida Today

Yes, there IS a plan for the Indian River Lagoon

In a recent FLORIDA TODAY, guest column entitled “Is the Indian River DOA?” it was stated that “no coordinated, legitimate plan for recovery has been crafted yet.”

This statement is unfounded and insulting to the many dedicated and talented community members who, after more than 150 public meetings, developed the Indian River Lagoon Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan.

The plan was adopted by the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, the Governor of Florida, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. It outlines 68 actions agreed to by more than 100 agencies and local governments with management responsibility for the Lagoon. The plan was updated in 2008 with additional public engagement and intergovernmental coordination.

In 2009, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection completed another important document for the lagoon: The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Report – Nutrient and Dissolved Oxygen TMDLs for the Indian River Lagoon and Banana River Lagoon.

Action plans for complying with recommended nutrient load limits were adopted in 2013 after numerous public meetings.

The guest column also alleged that dredging will “stir up solids and toxins into the waterways, impacting both wildlife and humans.” Current and prior muck dredging in the lagoon has required technology and safety measures to successfully prevent such impacts.
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Play By Their Rules.

Silence-Lego-Figs-Brevard-County---ROH Yesterday we posted about the Brevard County Resolution put forth by Commissioner Fisher that effectively eliminated the rights of people to seek redress from the government. It also effectively told people to sit down and shut up.

The resolution was supported by Commissioners Anderson and Barfield.

At the end of our post, we said that we would put forth ideas to fight this nonsense which is what this post is about.

First, tell your friends. There is a tendency to only get involved when there are issues that affect someone or with they agree or disagree, but this issue cuts across all ideological, political, racial, and economic lines. Whether you agree with Fisher on funding issues or with Infantini, it doesn’t matter.

This resolution took a shot not just at Infantini, but every citizen in Brevard County. Fisher, Barfield, and Anderson have said your voice will only heard on certain issues and be silenced on others.

That cannot be allowed to stand.

If these three men can silence people on one issue, they can silence people on all issues.

That is why this is important.

So, what to do about it?
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“I Ain’t Never Heard, Seen Nor Smelled An Issue That Was So Dangerous It Couldn’t Be Talked About.”

(image inspired by posters for the musical 1776)

(image inspired by the musical 1776)

In the musical / movie “1776,” the delegates to the Continental Congress take a vote to whether to discuss the issue of independence – just talk about it. As portrayed in the production, the vote is deadlocked with only Stephen Hopkins who represented Rhode Island yet to vote. At the critical point in this vote and with his vote to decide the issue, Hopkins is missing as he is visiting the “necessary.” When he comes back into the chamber, he says:

I ain’t never heard, seen nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn’t be talked about.

Apparently, some members of the Brevard County Commission have never heard that sentiment.

This past Tuesday, Commissioner Fisher introduced a resolution which read, in part:

1. Until otherwise directed by majority vote of the County Commission, the County Manager is hereby directed not to place any item on the County Commission agenda that addresses the funding, defunding or dissolution of CRAs or other tax increment funded entity, or the discontinuation of economic development incentives including cash grants and ad valorem tax exemptions, whether the agenda item is sponsored or requested by a member of the County Commission, a private citizen or any other person.

According to the Florida Today:

County commissioners decided Tuesday to hold off on making any budget changes aimed at finding more money to pay for road repairs — at least until after they hold another workshop on the issue.

But, just before the meeting was about to end, Commissioner Robin Fisher handed out a resolution to other commissioners that wasn’t on the agenda, and asked the other commissioners to vote on it.

Fisher’s proposal directs the county manager not to place any items proposed by commissioners or members of the public on the commission agenda in the future, if the items are related to funding, defunding or dissolution of community redevelopment agencies and similar entities, until at least three of the five commissioners vote to do so. Fisher’s resolution also covers items related to discontinuation of economic development incentive programs for expanding businesses.

Community redevelopment agencies target a portion of new property tax revenue from construction within the CRA’s district to projects in the district, rather than the money going into the county’s general fund.

Commissioners approved Fisher’s proposal by a 3-2 vote.

Commissioner Trudie Infantini felt the action was directed at her, since she had put two items on Tuesday’s commission agenda related to dissolving or defunding community redevelopment agencies and to dissolution of the Merritt Island Redevelopment Agency, and another item on cash incentive grants to new and expanding businesses. Earlier in the meeting, she had agreed to defer discussion of her items until the March 31 workshop.

“I think it’s illegal to stifle my ability to put items on the agenda,” Infantini said.

Fisher said he was tired of continued discussion about finding things to cut, when he believes the county has a revenue problem, and that its current budget already is tight. He said he also is tired of some commissioners trying to reconsider decisions that the commission already had made.

“Once the play has been called, you run the play and make it successful,” said Fisher, a former college and pro football player. “I don’t want to argue about it anymore.”

Commissioners Barfield and Anderson voted with Fisher to pass the resolution with Commissioners Infantini and Smith voting against the resolution.

There is a lot of back story to this resolution and it starts with Fisher. According to Infantini, the resolution was distributed minuted before the meeting began. This meant that the resolution was not on the agenda and the public never saw it coming. Furthermore, the resolution was raised by Fisher after public comments so no one could express displeasure with the resolution.
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Brevard County: “We’re Professionals …..”

Professionals-ROH On December 10, 2015 the Brevard County Commission held a workshop on the proposed gas tax increase / infrastructure increase.

There are several good things to note and some bad things to note. First, Commissioner Barfield did a much better job as the chair than Commissioner Fisher had done in the previous meeting. There were still instances of inappropriate conduct by people on the dais as well as members in the audience, but for the most part Barfield did a decent job keeping the tone respectful and cordial. At the same time the decorum from Commissioners, staff and audience was better, but people still need to work on that.

We left the meeting no closer to being in supporting or opposing the gas tax than we were before we went into the meeting. There are a lot of facts and figures to work through and informed voters should try to understand those numbers rather than just a gut reaction. In addition, we got the impression that short of a money tree growing in the courtyard of the government center, the gas tax is a done deal.

We do want to point out a video that was produced by a group of citizens using County data and information. The video was presented by Pat Paisley (sp?) and shows what a group of concerned and involved citizens can do. The video is a little under 12 minutes long and is worth watching.

In response to the video, the County staff had prepared a mind numbing 2 hour presentation that tried to address the Paisley video. We are going to have to look at the fact and figures presented by the county, but we got the distinct impression that this was a case of “overwhelm with manure.” If you have to take 10 plus minutes for every minute of a video, something’s wrong.

While the deluge of information was slightly overwhelming, we kept noticing a constant theme or themes from the people on the dais.
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Trust And The School Tax.

Brevard-Public-Schools-Chalkboard-ROHOne of the more contentious and discussed items for the upcoming election is the vote by Brevard County voters on increasing the sales tax by 1/2 a percent. The additional money would go to schools and be applied to various projects.

Here is the text of the referendum:

SCHOOL BOARD REFERENDUM

One-Half Cent Sales Surtax for Critical School Facilities Renewal, School Security and Technology Upgrades.

Would you support the School Board levying a one-half cent surtax on sales in Brevard County beginning 1/1/15, for a period of six years, to be used exclusively for critical school facility renewal projects, school security and technology upgrades? A needs based prioritized list of projects has been published and expenditures will be monitored by an independent citizen oversight committee.

In a faery tale world where everything was perfect and people could be trusted, this would be a no brainer. Who doesn’t want the schools to be the best they can be? Who doesn’t want kids to be taught in schools that are well maintained? Who doesn’t want to believe that the money raised from this tax increase will be used to prevent and solve issues?

In that perfect world, everyone would stand, shout and agree “it’s for the kids.”

But this is not a perfect world and there are many questions to be raised about this sales tax increase.

THE HISTORY:
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Brevard County Schools And Sexual Predators.

Child-in-corner-ROH(Editor’s Note: We cannot express how deeply we despise those who harm children and who are sexual predators. There are times we wish we had a supply of millstones to donate.

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” – Matthew 18:6 NIV)

Last week, the Florida Today wrote that a new security system was being “rolled out” in Brevard County schools.

A new security system in Brevard Public Schools will run an automatic sexual predator check when volunteers and visitors sign in on campus.

Individuals will scan their driver’s license, and new KeepnTrack software will run a check through a sexual predator database from all 50 states.

According to the “KeepnTrack” software site, the software is written by COMPanion Corporation and will use another product – COMPanion’s CBC (Criminal Background Check) database.

The KeepnTrack software not only integrates with the CBC database, but also allows for tracking of staff (including teachers,) tracking of students, and tracking of vendors on school campuses.

(One wonders whether the new software will replace current staff and vendor tracking software or whether the school district will keep the current software for staff and vendors as well as paying for the new KeepnTrack software.)

According to the article, the cost of the KeepnTrack software and license scanners for schools is $136,000. The software will also cost the district $31,500 per year to run.

The background check will cost people $20 every three years.

The idea sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?
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All Aboard Florida And Brevard County.

All-Aboard-Florida-ROHAll Aboard Florida, a subsidiary of Florida East Coast Industries LLC (FECI), is planning on running a high speed train service between Miami and Orlando. The plan is for the trains to ferry passengers through Brevard County 32 times a day without stopping.

Upgrade to the rail lines themselves would offer a short term economic impact of jobs but as the trains would not stop in Brevard, it is estimated that there is little long term economic impact.

There are safety and noise concerns from people within the county.

There are major concerns with the cost of upgraded rail crossings which the county would be forced to maintain on the taxpayer dime.

County Attorney Scott Knox estimates that the cost for the crossing maintenance that Brevard County would be responsible for may rise to $1 million a year indefinitely. That compares with maintenance costs that have ranged between $220,000 and $450,000 a year in recent years.

All Aboard Florida, a subsidiary of Florida East Coast Industries, has said it would pay for track and crossing improvements for the new rail service it hopes to begin in 2016. But, as it is now, the counties and cities along the route would be responsible for maintaining the crossings after service begins.

In an April 27, 2014 article for Florida Today, columnist and editor Matt Reed writes:

This train has left the station.

Within two years, a new privately owned passenger train system will zoom 32 times a day through Brevard County railroad crossings, sounding horns in neighborhoods. Its owners aren’t waiting for voters or armchair economists to bless their venture.

The company, All Aboard Florida, appears all but ready to run trains from Miami to a switch in Cocoa, where new lines will reach west to Orlando International Airport. It already has land and capital for three deluxe stations near commuter rail and bus lines in South Florida.

Its 125-mph trains won’t stop in Brevard.

It doesn’t need your tax money. (emphasis ours)

We believe that depends on the meaning of “your tax money.”
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Richard’s Paints And The Brevard County School District.

Richards-Paint-Brevard-County-Schools-ROH An article in the FloridaToday newspaper dated May 7, 2014 heralds the return to success of long time Brevard County business Richard’s Paint

After brush with ‘Great Recession,’ Richard’s Paint back in the black

When the national housing crisis began in 2007, Richard’s Paint Manufacturing Co. in Rockledge was among the first businesses to notice the slowdown.

The paint business, headquartered at the appropriately addressed 200 Paint St. in Rockledge, began drying up. The family-owned company, which had been in business for more than half a century at that point, saw annual revenues drop by more than 10 percent.

As the “Great Recession” started to reverberate across the nation, Richard’s company laid off more than 20 workers and its managers volunteered to take a 5 percent pay cut.

These days, with the American housing industry bouncing back, the outlook is much brighter at the 60-year-old business.

Richard’s, which employs about 80 people, is expanding and exporting its products to independent paint retailers all over the world. Its profits are at record highs. This year, the company expects revenue to peak near $23 million.

“We’re now shipping to 40 states, including Alaska, and we’re opening up a new warehouse in Texas,” said Eric Richard, the president of Richard’s Paint Manufacturing Company and the youngest of four children of the company’s founder, Edward Richard Sr.

Also, Richard’s has rehired some of those who were laid off. And for those who took salary reductions, the company reinstated those wages and offered full reimbursement for prior pay cuts.

We hope you read the whole thing because it is a great story about a small business fighting to stay alive in a county that was hurting because of the economic downturn in so many sectors.

It would have helped somewhat if the Brevard County School District Richard’s Paint as a valued partner in both the community and as a valued vendor, but the District chose not to.
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