The important question to ask ourselves

Twisting facts to fit a particular narrative is prevalent in Martin County. No one is more adept at that practice than former county commissioner Maggy Hurchalla, who lauds her protege, Commissioner Sarah Heard ,as the only environmentally minded and fiscally conservative candidate in the District 4 county commission race.

If that were true, then why did universally respected environmental icon Nathaniel Reed, prior to his death in June, reject Hurchalla’s choice? He endorsed Harold Markey, instead of Heard.

The editorial board of our daily paper also chose Markey over Heard, a switch from its previous 16 years’ of Heard endorsements.

The reasons for their choices are the facts – those stubborn little things considered by juries and upheld by law – that get in the way of campaign rhetoric. Heard even had to go back to the newspaper’s four-year-old comments for her campaign materials, because nothing else over the past four years offered anything positive.

You’ve got to search hard for facts, by going to sources such as the Clerk of the Court’s website that files all court documents and internal audits. If you rely only those incessant emails authored by Hurchalla, or by Hurchalla’s personal attorney, Virginia Sherlock, or another former commissioner, Donna Melzer, you’ll get only twisted facts dressed in campaign rhetoric.

You also will not find truth when listening to Heard’s declarations of innocence in breaking public records laws, for which she’s already been found liable in a civil court and facing those charges in criminal court.

You will not find facts among Heard’s claims of being honest and transparent, both critical to effective government, since her claims of a computer hacking that destroyed eight years of public records on her personal computer was debunked by IT experts.

She also can no longer claim fiscal responsibility after her actions as chair of the county commission for four years led the county into more lawsuits and at the greatest expense during any term of any politician in the county’s history, including the years of Hurchalla and Melzer.

Melzer, like Heard, took the protections of the Fifth Amendment when investigated by the grand jury in the ’90s on abuse of power charges during her term as commission chair.

During Heard’s tenure, the City of Stuart reached nine square miles, nearly double what it was 10 years ago, as the result of landowners knocking on its door to be annexed. Indiantown became its own municipality to protect its community from the commission’s unethical, if not unlawful, actions, as Hobe Sound is attempting to do now.

Do residents really believe that Heard has not hurt the economy and ignored the environment in pursuit of her own agenda? It takes more than talk and waving signs to restore our river. It takes real commitment inside our everyday lives, as already shown by the other candidates vying for the District 4 seat.

– Niki Norton, an architect and former president of the Palm City Chamber, obtained the LEED AP (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional) in 2007, showing that environmental stewardship is not new to her. As a board member of the USGBC (United States Green Building Contractors), she developed the Generation Green awards program for Treasure Coast schools in 2013, raising funds to ensure the environmental program is free for students and teachers, and has been recognized widely for her volunteer work in bringing sustainability awareness to Martin County schoolchildren. She became a Florida Green Building Coalition certifier and board member in 2009, winning awards from the Treasure Coast Builders Association, which endorses her. Norton walks the walk of environmental stewardship.

– So, too, does Markey, who approached the formidable task of bringing environmental awareness to Martin County’s staff and practices through his own personal initiative as the county’s General Services Director, by doing everything from switching the county to environmentally sensitive cleaners to earning the Gold and Silver countywide certifications of the Florida Green Building Coalition to creating a strategic energy master plan – saving the county millions in energy costs in the process. He walks the walk, not only of environmental conservation, but of fiscal responsibility.

– Butch Olsen Jr., president of the Port Salerno Fishing Dock Authority and chair of the Port Salerno Seafood Fest, spent a lifetime on the water. He serves the Marine Association, the Agriculture and Natural Resources Advisory Committee, and the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative, volunteering as director of the Pecks Lake Reef Clean up and co-chair of the Treasure Coast Waterways clean-up.

His question, and the reason he threw his hat into the ring in the first place, is this: Why after 16 years on the county commission, with Sarah Heard leading the majority for four of those years, has our water gotten so much worse, not better?

It’s the same question that all of us need to be asking ourselves now, before we cast our vote on Tuesday.