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Jenny Wemert's Blog

By Jenny Wemert | Agent in Orlando, FL

Amendment 4: What Every Florida Voter Should Know

On November 2nd, you will be asked to vote yes or no on Amendment 4, a plan to alter Florida’s Constitution. This proposed change to Florida’s Constitution would require a taxpayer-funded referendum for every single change to a local government comprehensive plan. Simply stated, Amendment 4 would force Floridians, not the representatives they elect, to decide hund reds of minor, technical comprehensive plan changes each year on issues like drainage, traffic circulation, and intergovernmental coordination.

 According to the Orlando Sentinel, “The cost to local governments of Amendment 4 would soar into the millions." Those costs would be shouldered by Florida’s taxpayers who could expect to see not only more government waste, but also nonstop lawsuits as special interests wage war in court over the technical wording of endless ballot summaries. Referencing a failed experiment in Amendment 4-style rule in the small Florida town of St. Pete Beach, the St. Petersburg Times wrote that Amendment 4 leads to “short-term thinking” and “invites lawsuits…”

Please take the time to learn more about Amendment 4 by visiting www.Florida2010.org

Comments

By Dori Sutter,  Thu Sep 9 2010, 15:13
1. Technical Amendments to Comprehensive Growth Plans are currently handled in a 'bundle' via 1 vote by Commissioners...the general public's referendum would be 1 vote at the next scheduled election date adding little to nothing in added costs.
2. Amendment 4 only adds one step to the process we already have now of approving land-use changes...it does not apply to variances, annexations or zoning issues. The Commission plays an important role in continuing to review and make recommendations on plan changes, Planning Departments make their review and recommendations both to the Commission and general public through public hearings, the same as the process is now. The only difference, is that with any approval cast by the Commission and DCA, only then, would it go to referendum at the next scheduled election. The ballot issue will be written in 75 words or less because everything else has already been presented in public hearings and most being available on-line for the public's review in case they missed the public hearings...in Orange County you can view hearings live or later on video and get all the details. Although, common sense is easy to determine if there is a 'need' for the change, is it located in an environmentally sensitive area, does it create a safety, traffic or neighborhood problem...really heavy stuff here to consider, but not mountains of pages to go through. Common sense will direct the path in lieu of campaign contributions to local officials.
3.St. Pete Beach is not Amendment 4...both the Commission and citizens attempted to circumvent the process instead of following State mandated growth management rules. It was a city charter issue, Not a State Constitutional Amendment. However, Yankee Lake is the real deal on how a Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment 4 plan works and they have had great success...do your research!
4. You can believe the Opposition which is made up of the same groups of Developer, Real Estate, Building and Banking institutions that played a huge part in crashing the economy through greed, instead of need and they will continue the same historical 10 year cycle of boom and bust....or You can believe a true grassroots organization of Citizens that want to preserve Florida's valuable resources, such as water and the quality of life that is fast disappearing under the pavement and concrete, readhing for Florida to truly Grow Better, not just Bigger!
Vote Yes on Amendment 4 for your Quality of Life's Warranty in the future.
By Jim Martins,  Thu Sep 9 2010, 18:41
Jenny, you hit the nail on the head!

Dori is forgetting that Florida has strict single-subject laws that prevent "bundling" for ballot questions in the same way that legislative bodies (like a commission) do. Don't take my word for it. There's plenty of case law and precedent to prove it.

Dori is also forgetting that comprehensive plans aren't constitutions -- they're technical planning documents that are meant to change. If they weren't change to encourage smarter growth, you'd get more sprawl! That's one of the side effects of Amendment 4 -- it encourages the very thing it's designed to prevent! Again, don't take my word for it. The Florida Planning Association and 1000 Friends of Florida have both said the same thing.

Dori, come on, I know St. Pete Beach isn't a "convenient" example, but it's actually a TAME version of Amendment 4 (they excempted small parcels, which Amendment 4 does not). The DCA and an Administrative Law Judge have both found that St. Pete Beach was in compliance with state growth management laws. You're just making the same arguments that failed to persuade a judge and a state agency. Bottom line: the lawsuits in St. Pete Beach have been filed by the same lawyers who wrote Amendment 4! And they say they just want to give the people a say on growth! Give me a break.

Dori, the opposition to Amendment 4 is HUGE. You've got business groups like the Florida Chamber, yes. But you've also got the Florida AFL-CIO, the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Planning Association, 1000 Friends of Florida, and EVERY EDITORIAL BOARD in our state.

Jenny's got it right. VOTE NO ON 4!
By Dori Sutter,  Thu Sep 9 2010, 20:23
Sorry Jim, but 1000 Friends of Florida doesn't endorse the opposition either...they pulled out long ago.
Any friend (editorial boards) of the Chamber of Commerce is not a friend of Amendment 4 due to 'advertising', the same as any local official, politician...they can see their campaign coffers empty when developers no longer need to 'bribe' them with campaign funds...oh, forgot that Florida ranks number 1 in the nation for political corruption.
As well, since you really don't know the people behind Amendment 4, let me fill you in...Lesley Blackner is NOT a land-use attorney and she has no 'business' interest in this fight, most of her work has been pro bono working for citizen groups that Commissions tend to ignore. Ross Burnaman, is an environmental attorney, and represented the Citizens Group who hired him to defend their case against the St. Pete Commission (who were the first to file suite to get citizens petitions thrown out) for not following State mandated growth management guidelines...so, A. There are no 'attorney's' interest for future business involved B. Neither of the two attorneys that founded Florida Hometown Democracy was involved in the St. Pete issue until a private Citizens PAC hired them and C. It was a charter issue that brought about the people's right to vote on the comprehensive plan.
I'll have to check my facts, but I believe the supreme court ruled that the 'single subject' rule doesn't apply to Amendment 4...I'll get back to you on that.
The Opposition brought about by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and backed by Big Builders who took taxpayer bailout funds to contribute to the oppositions campaign, can twist and turn the facts any way they want to...but the facts are very clear....we didn't get in this mess because of Amendment 4.
Have a good evening!

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