Still wrestling with which candidate to choose for District 4?

Still wrestling with which candidate to choose for District 4?

With the river running green, it seems some voters feel they have no choice in the District 4 County Commission race except to choose Sarah Heard, whose reputation is to protect the environment. That’s not true.

They do have a choice – as a matter of fact, three other choices who are true environmentalists who have pledged to take the fight for the St, Lucie River to the halls of the federal government. And not just when there’s a crisis.

And not just to be visible for cameras when protesters are lining the bridges and beaches.

Their names are Niki Norton, Harold Markey and Butch Olsen Jr., who have made environmental sustainability an integral part of their daily lives and occupations.

Heard was not the choice of renowned environmentalist Nathaniel Reed. She is not the recommendation of The Stuart News. Markey is. There’s a reason for that. In fact, hundreds and hundreds of reasons.

Those reasons are called public records that, under her care, disappeared completely. Totally wiped out. She’s a public official responsible for preserving and protecting all records of public business who famously said, “My computer was hacked.”

Yet, she did not immediately call Yahoo, who could have retrieved all of them, instead of the 600 emails they retrieved after a court subpoena … four years later. She did not even report the hacking to officials at the county when it happened, and did not ask for help from the county’s IT Department to retrieve them.

Her attitude toward her responsibilities as a public official deserving of the public trust was cavalier, unacceptable and unlawful. Her attitude toward ordinary residents trying to pursue happy, fulfilling lives in Martin County is just as reprehensible.

Under her watch as commission chair, even our established businesses could not expand. The county’s legal department nearly doubled in size, because she ignored the rights of property owners, leading us into more lawsuits against the county than anytime in its history – because taxpayers would pay the tab.

They paid even for her own personal attorneys – until Commissioner Anne Scott was ousted and Heard lost her majority rule.

The cost to taxpayers as the result of her attitude toward businesses range from $25 million to $50 million – money that surely could have been better spent, especially as we watch our beaches close and realize we should have more stormwater treatment areas, at the very least.

And consider also her attitude toward the Pineland Prairie development in Palm City, which does have stormwater treatment areas included in their plan.

Residents who recognize how hard it is to buy a home in Martin County are eager for Pineland Prairie to begin construction. Nearly half of the county’s employees live elsewhere. Half of the city’s and one-third of school district employees live outside of Martin County, spending the salaries they earn here over there, across the county line.

The average cost of a new home is more than $500,000. In order to buy a home in Martin County, a resident’s salary must be $70,000 annually, yet more than one-third of all the jobs in Martin County pay less than $20,000 a year. Forty percent pay less than $50,000. No wonder our woods are home to not only homeless veterans, but even families with children.

We have more than one crisis in our county.

Yet Heard’s was the only vote against Pineland Prairie. The only no vote after two unanimous votes of approval by the Local Planning Agency, where housing developments go to die. Her’s was the only “no” vote at two public hearings before the county commission.

Heard’s most recent “no” vote came just last week for the 3,411 acre development of walkable, interconnected mixed-use housing of 4,200 living units, with a light industrial park, neighborhood schools, grazing cattle and community farms, guided by a form-based code that prohibits gated communities. Her only reason?

Because two schools would be built within the 70 percent open space, including around 900 acres of pristine pine lands preserved in perpetuity, which far exceeds Comprehensive Growth Management Plan requirements.

Heard was right. The calculation of open space should have been 69.99 percent. Had she still been in control, that alone would have been sufficient reason to kill a project widely accepted and eagerly anticipated, although the prospect of housing that is affordable for ordinary residents, not just the millionaires and mega-millionaires, also was on the horizon.

Even the county’s most celebrated curmudgeon, Jackie Transynger, of Jensen Beach expressed not only her support, but her fears – that the housing will be so popular it won’t remain affordable for very long.

Heard proved that she represents the interests only of the mega-millionaires, who can easily write $1,000 checks and to whom only zero growth is acceptable, regardless of how her decisions harm both the environment, county taxpayers and hard-working, middle-class residents.

Oops, forgot for a moment. Nathaniel Reed could have easily written that kind of check to Heard, but he did not.