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"Floridians for Smarter Growth" Amendment Cleared for the 2010 Ballot

Martin County Democrats

Two opinions about this proposed amendment and some information about "Florida Hometown Democracy".

Palm Beach Post Editorial
Sunday, December 28, 2008

Budget Tricks, Tricky Words are Threats to Growth Control

Florida's growth-management opponents have a two-pronged strategy to end what they consider "draconian" state oversight. First, do away with the Florida Department of Community Affairs, which provides a necessary counterweight to local growth decisions. Then, push a constitutional amendment that stamps out a competing amendment that truly would be draconian.

For any controls over growth to survive, both prongs must be stopped.

Look for the strategy's first signs during the Legislature's special session that starts Jan. 5. Community Affairs avoided major budget cuts last year but is unlikely to escape unscathed as the Legislature cuts $2.3 billion from the current-year budget. The second step would come in the spring legislative session, when the department undergoes sunset review and could be abolished.

While many residents feel Florida is too easy on builders, builders say they have to jump through too many hoops. They blame the strict system of state oversight in place since the Growth Management Act of 1985. Rather than improve the rules, builders have been trying for years to eradicate them. That could backfire, however. Anger over Tallahassee's failure to improve growth management is behind the Florida Hometown Democracy petition drive to change the state constitution.

Hometown Democracy, however, is the truly draconian solution. It would subject every one of the thousands of land-use changes made every year by cities and counties to voter referendum. If builders don't like state oversight, they'll hate Hometown Democracy.

That's where the strategy's second prong comes in. The Florida Chamber of Commerce is pushing a competing ballot measure under the Floridians for Smarter Growth banner. That amendment, cleared for the ballot last week by a divided Florida Supreme Court, ostensibly allows votes on some land-use changes. But its real goal is killing Hometown Democracy. As Justice R. Fred Lewis said in a stinging dissent: "Creative wordsmithing that cloaks the true purpose of this amendment - an amendment that actually limits the voice of Florida voters with regard to growth-management-plan changes - in an attempt to ensure passage is contrary to the basic tenet of our democracy."

The Smarter Growth amendment allows challenges to land-use changes if 10 percent of registered voters sign petitions at an elections office within 60 days of the change. With more than 800,000 registered voters in Palm Beach County, 80,000 people would have to show up. Also, the amendment would "preempt or supersede recent proposals," an obvious reference to Hometown Democracy. But voters won't see the preemption language on the ballot.

Community Affairs Secretary Tom Pelham tried to head off Hometown Democracy last year with reasonable growth-management reforms. They got nowhere in a Legislature more concerned with weakening the standards. This year, Mr. Pelham says, he's not going to push reform. He'll be too busy fighting for his agency's survival.

The first step in stopping a takeover of Florida's growth-management system is to save Community Affairs. The second is to reject both ballot measures.

Florida Hometown Democracy Press Release

PRESS RELEASE: Florida Supreme Court approves amendment that discriminates against military

On December 18th, in a 4 to 3 ruling, the Florida Supreme Court narrowly approved a proposed constitutional amendment for placement on the 2010 ballot that discriminates against the First Amendment rights of Florida active duty military and National Guard who are deployed out of state. The amendment also discriminates against disabled, housebound Florida voters. If approved by 60% of the electorate, the provision will become part of the Florida Constitution.

The proposed constitutional amendment is sponsored by Floridians for Smarter Growth, a political action committee backed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce. The admitted aim of the Chamber-backed petition is to derail and defeat the Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment which will automatically allow votes on changes to local growth plans.

The Chamber-backed amendment only allows a citizen vote on changes to a local growth plan after completion of an onerous process requiring 10% of voters to physically go to the local supervisor of elections' office and sign a petition within 60 days. In effect, the process is designed to, and will make it next to impossible to actually achieve the right to vote on growth plan changes approved by local city and county commissions.

Stunningly, the Chamber-backed amendment effectively bans the participation of many thousands of active duty military and National Guard deployed out of state. For example, Florida voters deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan will be barred from participation because they cannot physically get to the supervisor of election's office back home. Florida voters serving at sea in the Navy will likewise be excluded. An army soldier and his wife stationed in Korea will be left voiceless. A wounded soldier convalescing at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington , DC will be excluded.

Similarly, unknown numbers of housebound and hospitalized Florida voters will be banned by the Chamber's bizarre process.

Florida Supreme Court Justice Lewis wrote a powerful dissent that identifies some of the extraordinary difficulties many Floridians will face just trying to sign a petition, but the entire Florida Supreme Court completely overlooked the absolute bar the Chamber-backed amendment establishes for thousands of deployed military, National Guard and disabled Florida voters. Further, the opinion ignores the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which protects the voting rights of our overseas military. The devastating irony of the Chamber-backed amendment should not be lost on anyone: our deployed men and women in uniform are denied participation in the very democracy they serve to protect and defend.

Florida Hometown Democracy will file a motion for rehearing to ask the Court to reconsider the real world consequences of this unprecedented and disastrous decision.

The backers of Hometown Democracy hope Floridians will unite in outrage over the Chamber-backed amendment and the Court's ruling. They urge supporters to call and email Ryan Houck, Executive Director of Smarter Growth and Mark Wilson, CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, to let them know that their petition shows utter contempt for our military, National Guard and the disabled, and to tell them to admit their error, apologize to our troops and withdraw this dishonorable petition.

Mark Wilson: tel (850-521-1200) email: MarkWilson@flchamber.com

Ryan Houck: tel (407-442-0832) Email: RHouck@Florida2010.org

Supporters are encouraged to call and email Governor Crist and let him know that his two recent Florida Supreme Court appointees signed on to the unacceptable majority ruling.

Gov. Crist: tel (850-488-7146) Email: Charlie.Crist@MyFlorida.com

Our troops deserve better than the enshrinement of this hypocritical subterfuge in the Florida Constitution. They and all Floridians deserve better.

For more information contact Florida Hometown Democracy at flhometown@yahoo.com.

Florida Hometown Democracy Information

Just in time for the holidays, we learn that Florida is #1 in public corruption, #1 in mortgage fraud, #1 in foreclosures.

What can Florida Hometown Democracy do about that? Let's connect the dots:
Because developers need local government to approve their plans, they make it their business to own the political process. Not surprisingly, keeping the development machine lubed and oiled is job #1 for too many local officials. The last decade demonstrates the toxic effects of pay-to-play government letting developers go wild: corrupt land use changes, over-development and a collapsed real estate market.
Hometown Democracy will help genuinely reduce influence peddling and developer-dominated politics, because it gives voters the power to decide whether and how they want their community changed by comprehensive plan changes.

Myths about Florida Hometown Democracy

Myth No. 1 – “FHD is a radical change that destroys Growth Management’s Comprehensive Plans.”
Fact No. 1 – Quite the contrary. FHD is conservative in that it maintains the status quo by insulating Comprehensive Plans against radical changes approved by a single Commissioner vote. That’s what happened in Martin County when developer-financed Commissioners passed the so-called Valliere Rural Cluster Amendment to the County Comp Plan by a 3-to-2 vote, despite widespread opposition. Under FHD, a referendum would have decided the issue, but the growth machine does not want voters to control what happens in their own community.

Department of Community Affairs Secretary Tom Pelham has stated:
“The local plan is constantly changing, offers little stability or predictability, and has diminished credibility with the public. Instead of the 10- or 20-year visions they were supposed to represent, local comprehensive plans are in danger of becoming little more than six-month suggestions. It is not surprising that many citizens have lost faith in the ability of local comprehensive plans to control growth and development.”

Myth No. 2 – “FHD will flood us with elections for everything, including every little change in zoning.”
Fact No. 2 – This myth is simply a bald-faced lie. FHD applies only to changes to the Comp Plan, our fundamental document with a long term vision that includes Land Development Regulations (LDR). For ordinary changes in zoning or variances, which do not require LDR and Future Land Use Map (FLUM) revisions, Florida Hometown Democracy does not apply.

Myth No. 3 – “Land use rules are too complex for ordinary citizens to understand, so they should not be put to popular vote.”
Fact No. 3 – This arrogant and elitist viewpoint is a blatant insult to residents. It presumes that the opinion of Commissioners, even if they were not influenced by money, is superior to the collective wisdom of the citizenry.

Myth No. 4 – “There will be costly elections every month with FHD.”
Fact No. 4 – Not so. The county can bunch such elections, and have them annually and concurrent with biennial regular elections. And private amendment sponsors can be required to pay for the election listing just as candidates do.

Myth No. 5 – “FHD is supported only by a small clique of extremists.”
Fact No. 5 – Those 870,000 petition signers are a small clique? Those hundreds of civic, neighborhood, environmental and professional organizations that support FHD are extremists? Let the voters decide ... and they will in 2010.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Martin County Democratic Executive Committee has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Martin County Democratic Executive Committee endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)