You Can't Tell the Players Without a Scorecard

Maggy Hurchalla

Who are these people, and what are they up to?

Remember Spy vs. Spy in Mad Magazine? The current group of Martin County pro-growth plotters makes cartoon Bolshevik anarchists look like a gentle ladies book club.
First you have the Sugar people. They claim they are not the Sugar people. They say they are the true environmentalists who want to save the Everglades and our rivers from the horrible extremists in Martin County who pretend to be environmentalists.

The Sugar people include Nancy Smith’s Sugar sponsored Sunshine State News that loves to hate Martin County and to hate the Stuart News as well as various weird “hit men” consultants. The hit men specialize in flyers and online news articles which describe the Everglades Foundation as an evil plot to raise money for fake environmental organizations. The funding for the hit men consultants has been traced to a PAC controlled by the Republican Party of Florida. They couldn’t find anyone to oppose buying land south of the Lake, so they hired actors from Broward County to wave signs at the water management district.

Who Owns Sunshine State News? Big Sugar, hiding in plain daylight...

‘Tea Party’ protesters opposed to Florida land deal were mostly actors hired by Big Sugar

The collective goal appears to be to keep Florida from buying land south of the Lake.

Locally we have Barbara Clowdus.  Clowdus was Sarah Heard’s opponent in the last election.  Clowdus is the owner of Martin County Currents, and best friend to Sugar, the Lake Point rockpit, the Chamber of Commerce, the King Ranch, CRAs, incorporation of Palm City, and Pitchford’s Landing.
On behalf of Sugar, Clowdus is joined by One Florida Foundation. You all may know Nyla Pipes and Don Voss of One Florida Foundation. They won’t tell you where their money is coming from. They did their damnedest to destroy the River Warriors in a finely tuned malicious spirit that was scary to watch.

Left to right: Steven Edmonds, Ag Secretary Adam Putnam, Don Voss, Nyla Pipes

Their best buddy is JP Sasser from Pahokee who comes up our way regularly to lecture us on the fact that the toxic algae in the estuary when Lake Okeechobee is discharging comes from our septic systems. Their benefactor who paid their hotel bill at the Everglades Conference is our local pro-growth plotter, Tom McNicholas, of the Martin County Economic Council. McNicholas is best known for his large flashy attack postcards against Anne Scott when she was first running for the Commission. The theme of their campaign was that Queen Anne and the Fat Cats on Jupiter Island weren’t really for protecting Martin County’s existing residents and its environment. The lies continued that we were really against all growth and for squashing the peons in Martin County because they wanted hungry children and cheap labor. Anne won the election. The County’s children are not starving and growth has not been stopped.

JP Sasser. Former Pahokee Mayor, newest 'One Florida Foundation' member

McNicholas is with the same Economic Council that sponsored op-eds with the standard “Sugar talking points”  saying “Don’t Send the Water South”.
Tom McNicholas, Martin County Economics Council

Martin County Economics Council mailer misrepresenting UF Study findings, supporting US Sugar's party line 'Don't buy the land'.
JP Sasser's latest ploy is to file a complaint with the IRS against the River’s Coalition. The timing suggests it might have been meant to coincide with the Coalition adopting Mary Dawson’s suggestion for a campaign against Sugar. The Coalition has NOT adopted Mary’s suggestion.
McNicholas overlaps with Joe Cantrambone at the Stuart Chamber, Ron Rose in the  Jensen Beach Chamber, and other faux “economic boosters” who feel that if only Martin County would get its head out of the sand and act more like Broward County or Port St. Lucie, everything would be better for all of us.

This group drags more out-of-county PACs and lobbyists. While other pro-growth groups won’t say out loud that they support All Aboard Florida, the Martin County Chamber is firmly on the side of AAF.

The more respectable contributors to the Economic Council, like Martin Memorial Hospital and FPL, get temporarily embarrassed when the FUTURE PAC gets out of hand.  Yet they keep right on giving large donations apparently on the basis that faster growth will be good for their bottom line.
The King Ranch interest in Martin County expanded membership in Big Agriculture from just the sugar folks to include Hobe Groves and the King Ranch.
King Ranch: Bought by Big Sugar in Texas

King Ranch Trivia: Who is Mitch Hutchcraft?

Mitch Hutchcraft: King Ranch VP of Real Estate, SFWMD Governing Board Member

All the large owners of agricultural land piled on to challenge Comprehensive Plan amendments to put our goals back in the comp plan.

They/Big Ag said it was wrong when we added the goal to protect the quality of life of existing residents. They objected to adding policies designed to protect the St. Lucie River as “imbalanced in favor of the environment.”

They/Big Ag are fighting the policy that will require a super majority vote to weaken the county’s 4 story height limit and 15 unit per acre density cap.
It costs the County a great deal of money to defend against their legal challenge. Barbara Clowdus’ scandal sheet repeatedly reminded taxpayers that Big Agriculture’s lawsuits are all the fault of the County Commissioners for being no-growthers.
After getting as much political mileage as they could out of the challenge, all but one of the challengers dropped out.
Hobe Groves, the city that wants to exist in the old orange groves and pastures west of Hobe Sound, is continuing to fight against the notion that residents of Martin County want to plan for a future they really want to live in. Hobe Groves is owned by some millionaire Greeks in New York. Their attorneys are the Gunster-Yoakley law firm best known for successfully dismantling Martin County’s comprehensive plan when the pro-growth commissioners had a majority.
Lake Point is in a class by itself. We’re talking billionaires now. George Lindemann, Jr bought 2000 acres out in a sugar cane field next to Lake Okeechobee for $26,000 an acre or $54 million dollars. The property appraiser says it is currently worth about $6 million -- calling into question young George’s business acumen. George is a millionaire. George Sr is a billionaire. He is worth more than Donald Trump. George Jr keeps proving you don’t have to be smart if you’re rich. He  does understand that money talks. He put more than $30,000 into local Martin County commission races some years back.
Lake Point said they were going to dig a rockpit that would save the Everglades. Maggy Hurchalla criticized their rockpit. They sued Maggy, Martin County, and SFWMD. (see The purpose of the suit seems to be to keep everyone in court til they shut up and give up.
In the 2014 county commission races elections,  Lake Point, through various anonymous PACs, broke records by pouring $150,000 into the local election to unseat Ed Fielding and Sarah Heard. They were joined by Citizens for Tax Fairness run by a guy from Palm City called MacAuliffe. It turned out that he was so anxious to be anonymous that his PAC wasn’t located at the registered address and he didn’t file required campaign reports until after the election was over. He joined Clowdus and an anonymous emailer called “D.Bell” in insisting Sarah Heard was criminally negligent because she used the property appraiser’s valuation on her financial disclosure form.

Lake Point lost.

Sarah and Ed won.
Lake Point’s lawsuit added again to the  rallying cry mantra (lie) for the Clowdus crew: “Martin County is wasting your tax dollars on lawsuits.”  Clowdus and D. Bell keep repeating the Lake Point claim accusing Maggy Hurchalla and Sarah Heard of destroying Sarah’s computer in order to avoid detection of a secret plot to destroy Lake Point. 
Yet another group, led by the King Ranch, collected all the farmers in Martin County to fight against re-instituting the strong septic tank policies that Martin County had in place for thirty years.  JP Sasser claimed we had more septic tanks than anyone in the world and the bacteria were running upstream in the St. Lucie Canal to Lake Okeechobee and then washing back down on us when the Lake discharged.
 In fact, because of our rules, Martin County has fewer septic tanks than any other county on the Indian River. For 30 years, ‘til local septic regulations were removed by the pro-growth commissioners, Martin County had the strictest septic regulations in the state.

Toxic Algae from Lake O ‎(not from Septic, Mr Sasser!)‎

The current commission came under attack when they tried to put the strict local rules back in the comp plan.
The theme of this group’s attack, supported by the state Dept. of Agriculture and Secretary Adam Putnam, was that only the septic tanks of existing homeowners caused pollution. They felt that super sized 10,000 gpd (gallons per day) septic tanks (large enough for a migrant camp with 100 people) should be allowed throughout the rural area and agriculture should not be subject to local regulation. They insisted that the state knows best how to protect water quality and their standards are adequate.
The Commission voted 3-2 to adopt the amendment that strengthened septic standards. By then, Commissioner Haddox was acting like a shorter, wider Doug Smith. Haddox said that the restrictions were drawn up by environmental extremist who wanted to stop all growth and didn’t care about the river at all - Maggy. The King Ranch managed to convince small farmers that their way of life was at stake and environmentalists were trying to destroy agriculture in Martin County. They missed the irony that the King Ranch’s interest in Martin County and in their sugar cane land south of the Lake appears to be to convert it from agricultural to urban use as rapidly as possible. They want to save agriculture by making it all urban.
The County got sued again.
Clowdus again spread the word that all our tax money was being wasted on defending lawsuits because of the NO growth county commission majority.
Somehow these overlapping groups weren’t getting a whole lot of traction. They tried a new approach.  They recruited Commissioner Haddox to applaud the idea that Palm City should incorporate in order to get out from under County rules that were stifling growth.  Haddox suggested that without existing land use policies we could do the Port St. Lucie sprawl west on State Road 714 out to I-95 with strip commercial and produce a better tax base and a more vibrant economy. Haddox said that when he offered to be city manager for the new municipality he was only joking.
The Chamber in Palm City is still threatening to incorporate. The idea doesn’t seem to have generated any enthusiasm among residents since anyone who has ever paid property taxes knows you pay more taxes when you live in an incorporated city.
Meanwhile, “hit men” Citizens For Tax Fairness paid their fine for their election violations against Heard and Fielding and sent a snide email saying they were opening a new PAC to defeat “Queen Anne Scott”. MacAuliffe of “Tax Fairness” is said to be a neighbor of former commissioner Ed Campi. Some folks think he is the anonymous emailer “D. Bell.”  D. Bell used the public records law to get emails of those who speak at county commission meetings. He besieges us with hate mail from Nancy Smith, Clowdus, Sasser, and anyone else who says nasty things about the current commission majority.  But he won’t tell us his real phone number and where he lives.
Desperate for some kind of popular local leverage for their unpopular causes, the groups coalesced around CRAs. They claimed the county was going to steal money from CRAs and take away their independence. They urged them to storm the budget hearings and fight for the right for the CRA Neighborhood Advisory Groups to spend tax money without commission oversight.
CRAs are a long whole other story. If you want to understand the commissioners’ concerns about CRAs, visit the new Golden Gate mall. Don’t know where it is? That’s cause you can’t see it. It is between the back of the stores that line A1A south of Indian St. and the railroad track. You can only get there by driving east from US 1 on Indian St.. Cross the tracks and immediately turn right. This used to be a dirt road and a loading area for the back of A1A businesses.
$1.3 million of county general fund revenue was spent to pave a ¼ mile+ of road, build a wide sidewalk, put in curb and gutter drainage, and install expensive landscaping. There are no businesses that actually front s on the improvements. The  new pedestrian  mall fronts on the railroad to the west and backyard business storage on the east side. You have to see it to believe it.
Not all CRA projects are bad, but following Doug Smith’s suggestion to let them spend money any way they like is bad for all of us taxpayers.
Next Clowdus and crew joined Ron Rose of the Jensen Chamber in supporting Pitchford’s Landing. Ron is the guy who wanted to put a mooring field in the Aquatic Preserve south of the Jensen Causeway. Pitchford’s  is a failed planned unit development on Indian River Drive just north of the causeway. They got approval in the days of the housing bubble from Doug Smith and the old pro-growth commission. When neighbors rose up to oppose the development, they slapped them all with a SLAPP suit to frighten them and shut them up. It didn’t work. The Jensen Beach group fought back and won an undisclosed settlement. Bill Reily, the developer, had his approval, but went bankrupt.

He didn’t let go. He got time extensions on the PUD for as long as legally possible. The deadline for a PUD amendment and new master plan is this August.
Several months ago Reily and a band of expensive consultants sat down with county staff to work their way through discrepancies between county rules and the new site plan. Every time county staff told them how to fix the problem, the consultants said “No.”   Everyone was wondering where Reily was getting the money from.   Watchers were concluding that the county was being set up for a lawsuit. On Tuesday July 28, the County Commission voted 4-1 to follow the staff recommendation to reject the project. That’s the first time in months Com. Haddox has not voted with Doug Smith for problem developments.
Within hours, a lawsuit was filed against the county by Pitchfords.  The lawyer who filed the suit was Ethan Loeb, the attorney for Lake Point. The lawsuit appears to have been created prior to the denial.
It’s hard not to believe that Lake Point is paying for it as part of the spy vs. spy strategy to win back the Martin County Commission for the pro-growth forces.

Because we’re such a good place to live, there is a big pay off in spoiling it.
Having lost the last two local elections, those that don’t like the comp plan and think environmental protection is unnecessary and bad for the economy, are going to try harder.
Stay tuned for escalating melodrama as we approach the 2016 election year.