Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hometown Democracy Amendment 4 in Florida

More info from the Town Hall meeting in Wilton Manors. 

I did say that I'd be continuing this in pieces.  The meeting had so much good information that to put it all out at once would be overwhelming.  That statement leads in nicely with the whole idea of the "Hometown Democracy Amendment" or "Amendment 4" that is coming up on the next elections here in Florida. 

Basically the Executive Summary is that it is a well intentioned law that went way too far. 

There was a presentation from the No on 4 Group at the meeting, and while that would seem a bit one sided since the people for the amendment were not present, the people here did ask what are the possible Pro arguments for the amendment.   After seeing the presentation, I am left wondering if there are any real reason to want to vote for this unless you feel like turning progress into its complete opposite and funding some lawyer's next S Class Mercedes Benz.

No on 4 was introduced by our own Brett Nein.  Brett is the President of the Wilton Manors Planning and Zoning board, and is in an excellent position to see what this amendment would do for decision making at the city level.

Not wanting to slight the other person on this discussion, there was a former mayor of a city in Palm Beach County who's name I am sure I got mangled, but I think it was Clarence Hampden.   I was in the back having someone yap in my ear when the name was given, if I am wrong, someone will let me know so I can give him credit.  He put forth an excellent presentation and should be credited.

What Amendment 4 will do is to say that any change to the "Local Comprehensive Plan" must be put forward to the citizens for a vote.  "Local Comprehensive Plan" has a specific definition to the law makers in Tallahassee and it is meant to describe a very broad group of issues.  Issues that can be considered a part of the scope of this Amendment would be things like Roadway Improvements, Zoning Changes, Building Schools and Hospitals, and many other issues. 

The discussion on these sorts of Zoning issues are done typically in a committee like our own Planning and Zoning Board.  If you have ever attended a meeting at Planning and Zoning (PNZ), you will understand why this amendment is an opportunity to shut down the entire decision making process.  When someone proposes a change to Zoning, the impact and scope of the change must be presented at present to PNZ. PNZ will then take these changes and analyze them in sometimes punishing details.  The example that Brett Nein had given was that of the G Resort.  Brett said that the plan summary itself was 124 pages of very specialized language that made references to existing municipal code. 

The idea is that if you have a group of experts making the decision, you will have a streamlined process.  That is the basis for the concept of "Representative Democracy" in this Republic.  You vote in "experts" and hold them accountable for their decisions.  PNZ is an Advisory Board.  They are charged to make decisions after very careful analysis and present them back to the City Commission.  All of these discussions are open to the public so that they may have input.  I attended a few of these meetings and was asked outright whether I wanted to comment on the decision of that particular day, the board solicits opinion.  This is the appropriate place to have discussion as opposed to the ballot box. 

 Amendment 4 is an unfunded mandate from the State of Florida to hold these referendum (elections).  If a question falls within the scope of the amendment, then the question must be placed on the ballot.  Holding an election costs money, and will come out of the already cash strapped city budget. 

There is another hidden problem with this amendment.  The language would result in those questions being placed on the ballot in a county-wide basis.  This means that if Wilton Manors had a change, Hollywood would get a chance to turn it down.  We would get a chance to return the favor for any other city in the county.  It is not done strictly on a city basis - as presented by those at the meeting.  I could see someone in a remote part of the county with an axe to grind saying that if anything comes up on the ballot for a specific city they will vote against it even if it doesn't effect them.

This also means the issue at hand will have to be presented to the voters.  Remember PNZ having to go through 124 pages of text describing a change to the plan here in Wilton Manors?  Now you get to read through that for every other city in the county that will be having changes. City govt will have to put though complete documentation and reports to allow people to vote. 

It will be like 'trying to fight gnats with napalm'.
It is funded by special interests lawyers, adult industry businesses and population control advocates.  This was tried in St Pete 2004 for Land Use and Comprehensive Plan amendments to allow voters input.  The result was a stagnated community, property changes not being improved, and it shut down many city improvements. 

Message ends up being delivered by those with deepest pockets.  The result was a steady decline of standard of living. and chased business away from St Pete. There will be no exception for community projects like schools and hospitals.

For us in Wilton Manors it would result in up to 15 to 20 such issues per year.  It was 4 last year in a down market.

You can find out more at the web site

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