photo source: Change.org petition (title added)
Vero Beach, Florida
Indian River County
The battle for the sale of the Vero Beach Electric utility entered a new phase as a counter-resistance of fed-up ratepayers comes alive with a social media and grassroots campaign augmented by community events seek to push the sale to FP&L through. Business owners and community leaders are responding to a complaint, seen by many as a politically motivated delaying tactic,
The first offer from FPL to buy Vero Electric can be traced all the way back to the 1920s. Fast-forward a century, and FPL and Vero residents and still trying to complete the sale.
Each time ratepayers think they have finally won the fight; there are community factions, who believe in big government, that get in the way. This opposition faction laments that, “the deal is dead,” and claim Vero cannot afford to sell its’ cash cow. The voters of Vero Beach have passed two referenda to sell Vero Electric, and have now elected a majority of pro-sale candidates 3 elections in a row.
Naysayers only had one remaining barricade, and they are attempting to use it. Former city council members, former City employees, city gadflies, and the Florida Industrial Power Users Group (FIPUG) have all emerged to help give “everyone” a voice in this matter. Everyone but Vero electric customers. The petitions against the sale are all coming from groups with unforeseen motives and no tangible arguments.
Now the ratepayers are fighting back against these naysayers with a petition drive of their own to see the sale through to completion. This campaign to move the sale forward has been largely orchestrated by local political activist and op
The local folks will all have lower electric bills if they are currently on Vero electric, and they already have lower electric bills with FPL if they aren’t on Vero Electric. Why would they want to block their neighbors? It doesn’t make sense. The same goes for FIPUG. They have deep-pocketed corporate members like Georgia Pacific, Mosaic, and CEMEX who have benefitted from FPL lower rates for years, why would they block Vero customers?
The worst part is that Vero Electric does not just supply power to City residents. Sixty percent of Vero Electric’s customers live in unincorporated parts of Indian River County, so they can’t vote in city elections, but they can and are charged higher rates that contribute to Vero’s general fund.
Zaqary Sanders, addressing a civic group (photo source Facebook)
All this inspired a local young professional named Zaqary Sanders to fight back. Last Saturday, he approached the Taxpayers’ Association of Indian River with an idea to start a petition asking FIPUG to drop their petition of the sale. It asks FIPUG to “drop its protest at the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) and allow the Vero Beach electric system sale to be completed.” Sanders’ online petition has 740 signatures as of Friday afternoon. Sanders says that he, with the help of volunteers, have collected 259 petitions in person between FPL’s two open houses and various businesses offering to collect petitions because they are “tired of outrageously high electric rates so that lazy politicians would avoid limiting the growth of government with electric-rate-driven general fund subsidies.”
He believes the petition will carry great weight with the PSC, and will also catch the attention of FIPUG. “This sale is a win-win for everyone,” said Sanders. “Vero Electric customers will have lower bills, and the expanded customer base help all existing FPL customers carry the fixed costs.” Sanders' original goal was 500 petitions. As they pushed well past twice that, he says the “sky is the limit.” (UPDATE: as of 8-18 online petitions reached 1,223 and several hundred more paper petitions were signed)
City of Vero Beach Mayor, Harry Howle in an email to Indian River Poltics.com, said "I can tell you without hesitation, people are very upset; especially the business owners who are VBE ratepayers. It must make it difficult for some people to be seen in public." referring to the small minority of trouble-makers being led by failed politicians working to stop the sale of the utility to FPL. Mayor Howle called on others anywhere in Indian River County to join the fight to save the sale. " I encourage anyone who feels the same way (frustrated with this effort to block the sale) to go to (https://www.change.org/p/petition-to-stop-power-users-group-s-challenge-to-vero-electric-sale) and sign the petition so we can let FIPUG know that we are fed up!"
The hearing will be in early October so the petitions will continue to be collected throughout August and October. Indian River Politics will keep you posted every step of the way.