Lesley Blackner is President of Florida Hometown Democracy. Here is a reprint of a letter that Blackner wrote to Palm Beach Post on Amendment 4 which will be debated at our dinner tomorrow, you have till noon today to RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org:
The Palm Beach Post
Letters to the Editor
The November 2010 election is still a year away and yet The Post is already editorializing against Florida Hometown Democracy, on the ballot as Amendment 4. Given The Post recognized that Amendment 4 is “the biggest thing on the 2010 ballot,” it is very important to set the record straight.
The Post editorialized that under Amendment 4, voters will be forced to vote on every single change to a local comprehensive plan, whether important or meaningless.
In fact, the plain language of Amendment 4 establishes voter referendum only over comprehensive plan changes that concern “future land development.” Nothing else. These “future land development” changes often determine the future of a community for decades to come. The Post thus erred when it stated that Amendment 4 will require a vote on each and every comprehensive plan change.
For the past 25 years, the Florida Growth Management Act has mandated that each local government have a “comprehensive plan.” According to the law, each plan’s purpose is to “establish standards for the orderly and balanced future economic, social, physical, environmental, and fiscal development of the area.” The Growth Management Act acknowledges that Americans rightly expect a certain level of infrastructure and municipal services which will be paid for by a dedicated funding source. The American standard of living requires government to provide certain things like drinkable water, adequate police, drivable roads, decent schools, open space, etc. It’s what separates us from the Third World.
To that end, the law directs that each comprehensive plan must contain a map designating future land use categories. The plan must also contain other elements supporting the land use designation with levels of service for traffic; sewer and water; conservation, recreation and open space; and capital improvements. Commissioners vote on changes to these plan elements. Amendment 4 will not cover those changes. Commissioners also vote on changes to the future land use element, which controls the location, amount and type of development permitted. Amendment 4 will cover these changes.
The frustrating experience of years watching arrogant commissioners ignore the public interest and rubberstamp endless speculative overdevelopment produced Amendment 4. Too many local commissions forget who they represent when they just can’t say no to yet another piece of reckless sprawl that further raises our taxes and depresses our home values. Operating under the influence of developer contributions to their political campaigns, our political class drove Florida’s economy over the cliff. Yet most are loathe to take any “personal responsibility” for the calamity.
Unrepentant, too many elected local officials continue to mindlessly rubberstamp growth plan changes to allow even more speculative “future land development.” Anyone paying attention sees that our political class is incapable of self reform. Voters must take back control. Amendment 4 is the only way to bring accountability back to a broken growth planning system.
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