Florida Must Say No To Amendment 4 (2010)

If you don’t know, there is a debate going on. A debate whether or not we should be a Democracy or Republic. A debate we are calling the Florida Hometown Democracy Land Use, Amendment 4.

A little technical background on this amendment is in order. The ballot title is: “Referenda Required For Adoption And Amendment of Local Government Comprehensive Land Use Plans”

If that isn’t a mouthful, take a look at it’s ballot summary: “Establishes that before a local government may adopt a new comprehensive land use plan, or amend a comprehensive land use plan, the proposed plan or amendment shall be subject to vote of the electors of the local government by referendum, following preparation by the local planning agency, consideration by the governing body and notice. Provides definitions.”

If that isn’t confusing, I don’t know what is. This measure is being supported as a “Property Rights” initiative, but it’s more like a spacial interest initiative. Liberty Sentinel of Florida has the best take on this Amendment:

In most Florida communities, this decision-making responsibility is shared by elected officials and urban planners at the local and state levels. As part of the process, citizens serving on planning boards conduct thorough reviews of development proposals in an effort to balance a host of interrelated concerns, including economic development and environmental quality.

Hometown Democracy would place decisions about growth and development in the hands of the voters, many of whom are more interested in getting their kids to soccer practice or trying to keep their businesses afloat than the nuances of realestate markets or the economic viability of different types of land development. Granted, Hometown Democracy’s plan has a surface-level appeal.

The name itself conveys an alluring image of empowered citizens in neighborhoods of white picket fences. But this populist mask conceals an anti-growth, “close the gates” agenda that could threaten housing affordability, economic opportunity, and private property rights.

Hometown Democracy would turn Florida into a laboratory for a statewide experiment in the radical sort of “ballotbox zoning” that has fueled sky-high housing costs in places like San Francisco, where the median housing price now stands at $620,000.

People in the know also opposed the amendment:

• Largo city commissioners are opposed, citing the plan will “effectively halt development in the city while property owners, developers and the city wait for voters to have their say on amendments in elections.”

• Frank Ortis, Mayor of Pembroke Pines, past President of the Florida League of Cities, and current member of the Executive Committee of the Florida AFL-CIO (ie Union Guy) said: “Amendment 4 will devastate Florida’s economy by costing hundreds of thousands of jobs and driving the unemployment rate even higher. Worse still, Florida’s working families and small businesses will bear the weight of this burden.”

• David Levy, Mayor of Palm Beach Gardens, a member of his local Sierra Club, and a former environmental specialist for the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation believes that it will harm Florida’s environment: “This ill-advised amendment has the potential to wreak havoc on Florida’s natural resources by encouraging sprawl, which will disrupt our unique quality of life.”

• Ward Friszolowski, former Mayor of St. Pete Beach, a small town that adopted a local version of Amendment 4 in 2006, knows first hand about the special interest lawsuits and higher taxes. “Our experiment in Amendment 4 has turned St. Pete Beach into a battleground for special interests.”

Let’s see: Unions, environmentalists, and cities who already have a local version of the law, know this will be a disaster waiting to happen. Only special interests would like to see this become law of Florida. For once, I am happy about the bipartisan opposition to this amendment. We can all agree that this is a bad idea.

[Cross-Posted On Practical State.com]


PS: Bill McCollum Opposes Amendment 4.