In my continuing attempt to understand the amendments to the state constitution that have been placed on the 2010 ballot, I am posting my research and thoughts on this blog. This post concerns Amendment 4.

Amendment4, called the Florida Comprehensive Land Use Plan, proposes to require a taxpayer-funded referendum for all changes to local government comprehensive land-use plans. This means that voters will decide every time a WalMart or new development is to be built.

People favoring this amendment claim that the people will be able to control development and claim that Amendment 4 is needed because “our homes and communities are too important to leave in the hands of crooked politicians.”

I would point out that instead of voting on every development because we don’t want “crooked politicians” making the decision, perhaps we could vote those politicians out of a job. Remember that a land use plan that would build a Walmart on one end of the county would be voted upon by people in the other end of the county.

Looking at the financial backing of the Amendment, we see that the following contributions have been made to the cause since 2003:

Lesley Blackner (Lawyer) $828,749
Steven Rosen / Tend Skin Int’l (Skin Care) $635,000
Sierra Club of Florida $186,470
Joe Redner $37,035
Floridians for a Sustainable Population $33,538 

It seems like Lesley Blackner has nearly a million invested in this. Why? I don’t know, and I could not find out, even after an extensive search.

Vote yes if you think that voters should decide in a direct vote, vote no if you think that the voters should decide through their elected representatives.

Edited to add: I have decided to vote no on Amendment 4. Lisa (in comments) has made me see that there is a real problem here: Other people are presumed by the supporters of this amendment to know better what I should do with my property than I do. It doesn’t matter to me if a commissioner decides what I should do with my property, of if my neighbors decide. Either way, I do not get a choice. At least when the commissioner decides, I can talk to him and try to make him see my side of things. If the public is to decide, then I must cough up millions of dollars to run political advertisements to get my message out.

How about an amendment that lets me do what I want with my lawfully purchased property without having to beg for the permission of others?

Categories: Uncategorized


Jill · October 17, 2010 at 11:10 am

Let's take a look at who is donating to the political action committee created to defeat Amendment 4.
Pulte, Lennar, Publix, Wagreens, CVS, The Florida Home Builders Association, US Sugar, The Florida Realtor's Association.. they have contributed more than 12 MILLION dollars to prevent people from having the right to vote.
You should recognize the names… they are all over the place, on foreclosed homes, half-empty strip malls and you pass them every two blocks when you are creeping along in heavy traffic on an overly congested road.
If you think our economy is in better shape now that it was 8 years ago, by all means, vote no.
We deserve the right to vote on issues that impact our property taxes, property values and quality of life, I'm voting yes on Amendment 4.

Divemedic · October 17, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Ok, that is your right. Note that I did not take a position on this amendment (as I did with the others).

I would point out that your position is a tad misleading, though. They are not trying to remove your right to vote, that is hyperbole. You still have the right to vote and to be represented through your elected officials.

Jill · October 17, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Poor choice of words. I should have said spending millions to convince people to deny themselves the right to vote on land use changes to their comprehensive plans.
By the time we vote elected officials who make bad land use decisions out of office, the damage has already been done.

Divemedic · October 17, 2010 at 7:28 pm

There is a faulty premise there: You are assuming that your neighbors are better at making decisions than your elected officials.

For example: Under Amendment 4, a person who lives in Bay Hill (west Orange County) would be voting on the land use plan to build a WalMart in Christmas (east Orange County) which is over 40 miles away.

I am not convinced that this is any better than what we have now. I am not convinced that it isn't.

Jill · October 17, 2010 at 8:28 pm

With Amendment 4, the only land use changes we will vote on are those first approved by our commissioners. In essence, it will give us the opportunity to veto changes we feel are not in our best interest. On the other hand, it will also give us the chance to affirm that our commissioners are making good choices by approving them by voting yes.
If commissoners made these decisions based on sound planning principles there would probably be no need for this amendment. But, I have seen project after project rejected by the development reviwew committee, rejected by the planning commission, recommended against approval by the county's paid planning staff only to have the commission approve the change in a 3 to 2 vote.
I do not think that all elected officials are corrupt, but I do think that there is a subliminal suggestion of debt when most of a candidates campaign contributions come from the same developers, builders, realtors and land use attorneys who regulary come before them with applications for land use changes.
What we have now is three minutes in front of a microphone to try and influence our elected officials.
We have crowded roads, crowded schools, a housing glut, foreclosure crisis – obviously what we have now is not working very well for Florida.

Divemedic · October 17, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Even if I grant you the point that what we have isn't working, how will this make things better? What do you think this bill will accomplish?

Jill · October 17, 2010 at 10:50 pm

It will give people a second bite at the apple to overturn bad growth decisions approved by their commissioners.
I don't know if you know how the notification process works for land use changes but only people living within a limited number of feet away from the impacted property are notified in writing by the county. If the property is isolated and they want to increase the denisty quite a bit, only a few people get the notice. Yes, you can scour the legal ads for changes in your county then show up at every DRC, planning commission and commission meeting to speak your mind. But those meetings can be rescheduled at the last minute and not everybody can take time off work to attend if the meetings are held during the day.
The real issue is that most growth ends up costing existing residents more than it brings into the community in increased tax base. If we have to subsidize growth, we should have the right to vote on whether or not we think it is a benefit or detriment to our community.
If the issue comes to a vote and the community at large confirms the approval, then so be it.
But I think most people know whether or not a project will enhance the place they live or change the character from the very reasons they chose to live there in the first place.
It will also give our commissioners a scorecard. If they make decisions that are constantly overturned by the community, then maybe they will be more selective in the projects they approve.

Divemedic · October 17, 2010 at 11:51 pm

1 There is no mention in the amendment about scorecards. According to you, voting the politicians out is a waste of time, so even if there were a scorecard provision, what good would that do?

2 A second bite at the apple? How would this improve on what we have?

The rest of your post doesn't even come close to answering the questions, so I ask again:

how will this make things better? What do you think this bill will accomplish?

Any post that does not begin by answering the above questions will not be posted.

Jill · October 18, 2010 at 12:14 am

There doesn't have to be a definition in the amendement to have a recorded track record. If a majority of commission-approved changes are overturned by the citizens effected by the changes, that would be a clear demonstration that the elected officials were not making decisions that reflect the will of the people.
If land use changes approved by commisioners are affirmed at the ballot box, it would show that the people agree with their decisions.
If not, it would indicate that the elected officials have lost touch with their constituency.
How will it make things better?
Right now the appearance and evidence of our over-saturated housing market is our elected officials are influenced by campaign contributions made by developers, home builders and land use attorneys.
Amendment 4 will level th playing field.
How will it improve things?
The Department of Community Affairs may not be reauthorized next year. Comprehensive plans are supposed to be our blue print for growth years into the future, not fill in the blanks for deveopers looking for cheaper places to build.
I bought my property based on my county's legal document saying that it would remain rural until 2025. Unless my commission can demonstrate a need that will benefit the entire county, I don't thing they should be able to change that land use without community consent to benefit a single landowner.
I made an investment backed decision to buy my property based on my county's own projection on how it shoudl grow responsibly in the futre. Many other people do the same.
Post my response, or don't.

Divemedic · October 18, 2010 at 12:20 am

I still fail to see how voting will improve the system. Your basic flaw is in assuming that the people will vote for what is best for Florida, and not simply what is best for themselves.

Look up "tyranny of the majority."

Divemedic · October 18, 2010 at 12:21 am

To add: I thank you. This discussion has helped me make my decision.

Jill · October 18, 2010 at 1:03 am

I have also researched how our forefathers have provided for amendments to our constitution to take power back from our elected officials when we feel our interests are not being adequately represented.
Many of us feel like our interests are not adequately represented under the current system.
It is very appropriate for those with the ultimate power, "the people", to place
limits on those who represent them… That's why we have Charter's and
Constitution's in the USA.
And that is what Amendment 4 is all about.
Thanks for the discussion.

Divemedic · October 18, 2010 at 2:40 am

Good for you. I agree that the government is not adequately representing the people. I just don't think that direct Democracy will fix it.

I want the government to have LESS power over me and my property, not MORE. A direct vote on land use gives the government more power to tell me what to do, not less.

I just can't stomach that any more.

Jill · October 18, 2010 at 2:53 am

No, it wouldn't be direct democracy – that's what they did in St. Pete Beach and it didn't work because our growth management laws weren't followed.
If it were direct democracy we would vote on everything.
Amendment 4 gives us the right to vote on land use decisions FIRST approved by our local commissioners. That's a fine but important difference.
If they do not approve a land use change, that's the end of it.. no mob rule. If they approve a change to our legally approved community plan, the people who have to live with the change will have the option to agree or disagree. That is not mob rule.

Comments are closed.