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Guest Editorial: Amendment 4:

Martin County Democrats

The Truth Behind the Lies

Published Sunday, August 22, 2010 7:00 am
by Joe McClash

Amendment 4 is a valid option for citizens to better manage their community’s Land Use Plan. The opposition has created a scare campaign filled with outright lies. They often refer to a study conducted by "The Washington Economics Group" that is not based in Washington and relies upon no facts, but mostly opinions ? opinions of developers and elected officials who are against Amendment 4.

Getting the truth out about Amendment 4 may be difficult since the opposition's money can fund their campaign of misinformation. We can only hope the citizens see through this and vote for what is in the best interest of our local communities and the State of Florida.  
It is disappointing that those opposing Amendment 4 have resorted to lies in this important state decision. As an elected official, I find it necessary to provide a response to their misinformation as follows:  

  • Lie Number One: Voters must “Vote on everything.”

NOT TRUE! Only Comprehensive Plan amendments will need to be voted on. There is no requirement to vote on land use items that are zoning issues. Their use of this lie has people believing that if they want to build a house or add a room, it would have to be voted on in a referendum. Just not true!  

  • Lie Number Two: “Will drive jobless rates higher.”

Florida has the ability to more than triple its population without one more additional Comp Plan change, so this is just not true! And wasn’t it the “run wild development” that caused this great recession we are in now - speculation and over-development which created the worst crisis since the great depression? 

  • Lie Number Three: “Would mean higher property taxes.”

If anything will drive taxes higher, it would be more development. Several studies show new residential development costs 10 to 30% more in taxes than we receive, which leaves existing taxpayers to subsidize developers.

  • Lie Number Four: “Local government will be required to hold expensive referendums. More elections require more tax dollars.”

The fact is, no expensive referendums are required. Every two years we have a primary and general election. There is even a Presidential primary "Super Tuesday" in March every four years. Amendment 4 would allow citizens to give their stamp of approval as part of the existing elections. The process allows that if a developer is in such a rush to change our community's comp plan, they can request a special election – at their cost.

  • Lie Number Five: “Ultimately Amendment 4 would force local and state governments to raise taxes or cut services.”

This is already happening under our current economy with the devaluation of property values caused primarily from over-development. Amendment 4 will allow a process for citizens to give their stamp of approval on only those comprehensive land use changes that have the initial approval of their elected officials. There would be no reason to believe all these changes would be voted against. However, some could be voted down if citizens like their current plan over the developers' proposed change.

As a commissioner for 20 years, I have seen changes to our Comprehensive Plan that were not for the benefit of the community, but did benefit the influential developer. Yes, you can get rid of the elected official if you do not like the way they voted, but the damage to your community has already been done.  

Candidates receiving generous contributions from influential developers and the construction industry, put good people who care about our community and have decided to run for a commission seat at a disadvantage. Less money means less opportunity to let citizens know who you are and your vision for the community. Some may call this representative government. I call it a special interest (representative) government, which is the reason so many of us feel that government is no longer representing the best interests of its citizens.
Amendment 4, if passed, would finally give the average citizen an equal voice to the developer's influence. Most people realize all development is not bad and there are good developers who truly care about their community.
However, the history of Florida is riddled with the scars from horrible development approvals. If you like the status quo, then do not change our failed policies. If you want something that may finally change our history of past development practices, then Amendment 4 can be the answer.  
In summary Amendment 4:

Will not force expensive elections
Will not ruin the economy
Will not increase the jobless rate
Will not force governments to raise taxes
And is definitely not a vote on everything built.

The outspoken special interests tied to “development as usual,” including those elected officials who help spread these lies, are not interested in what is best for Florida but what is best for themselves. The news media has been threatened to support development interest or lose their advertising revenue. The only risk with Amendment 4 is that we have to trust you, the people. This is a risk I am willing to take.


Joe McClash

(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.)