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Editorial: City Council never seems to learn from mistakes of predecessors

Is it even remotely possible that the Vero Beach City Council is going to sign off in less than three weeks on a revised contract that doesn’t even exist yet to buy bulk electric power from the Orlando Utilities Commission?

In the long and inglorious history of Vero City Councils entering into contracts that subsequently turn out to be not just bad deals but virtually unbreakable, this may be the most bizarre headlong rush into a new agreement yet.

Mayor Dick Winger, it would appear, is hellbent on cutting Vero’s outrageous electric costs prior to the November election to boost the chances that he and his acolyte, Councilwoman Amelia Graves, will be retained in office.

To achieve this, he is pushing for approval by Sept. 15 of a revised contract with OUC that would enable Vero electric rates to be lowered by October 1.  Winger claims this will save Vero electric customers $750,000 monthly.

That’s the “quid.”  But every deal has a “quid pro quo.”  In Latin, “this for that.”  So what’s the “quo?”  Surely OUC is getting something in return, and not simply handing tens of millions of dollars to Vero out of the kindness of its heart.

Even if there was no downside to this new agreement (a totally improbable assumption) and the savings would truly be all that Winger claims, the electric bills for the average Vero Beach voter probably wouldn’t be lowered by much more than a Big Mac and a side of fries per month.

No low Florida Power & Light rates to be had here.

And to achieve this token reduction, Winger is proposing to ram through an almost $1 billion contract – one that would run through 2023 – with virtually no vetting, not to mention no public scrutiny.

This is obscene.

For the past half dozen years, we have editorialized repeatedly on the horrific mistakes the 2008-2009 City Council made in how it went about approving the original OUC contract, largely sight unseen, with its outrageous escalator provisions and $50 million penalty clause.

Is it possible only seven years later that another City Council is going to add insult to injury? 

We urge – indeed, demand – that the Vero Beach City Council provide complete details of any new power agreement to the public well ahead of a vote. 

We insist that the Council provide a realistic amount of time for all involved to raise potential concerns, and get questions satisfactorily answered.