Skip to main content
Longboat Key Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010 7 years ago

Our View


Of the six statewide constitutional amendments on the ballot this election, Amendment 4, if approved, can and will do more harm to Florida’s economy and unemployment rate than any of the amendments.

It cannot and will not do anything to improve Florida’s economy.

And no matter how the proponents of Amendment 4 tout it as a protective measure for Florida’s environment and quality of life, today, nothing is more important to a favorable quality of life for the people of Florida than the health of Florida’s economy.

So let’s cut to the quick:

All you need to remember to make an intelligent choice on Amendment 4 are these facts:

1) Florida’s unemployment rate is 11.7%, fifth highest in the nation, 1.15 million unemployed.

2) Capital flows where it is welcome. And the flow of new capital is essential to the creation of jobs.
If approved, Amendment 4 is and will be an enemy to the flow of capital. This means it will not help reduce Florida’s unemployment rate.

No other conclusion can be reached than to say Amendment 4 will make Florida’s economy weaker and an economic rebound more difficult to achieve.

Here is why that is true:

If Amendment 4 passes, the word will spread quickly throughout the national investment and development sectors that Florida just raised the obstacles — and costs — to new development and redevelopment. This will create additional uncertainty and risks for investors, financiers and lenders. They will look for other places where their capital is more welcome.

Even the St. Petersburg Times, one of Florida’s most left-leaning newspapers, agrees with this. Said the Times in a Sept. 27 editorial: “Amendment 4 likely would discourage developers from pursuing projects that required a plan amendment, even projects a community might desire. It would lengthen the approval process and increase developers’ costs and risk.

“Developers who survived the already lengthy government approval process could wait up to two more years for the next regularly scheduled election, and then voters might say no,” the Times said. “It is easy to see why developers might decide to build their projects in another state, which could imperil Florida’s recovery from the recession.”

It gets worse — particularly if investors and developers do attempt to pursue approval for their projects in Florida. Rather than have their projects go before elected county and city commissioners, who were chosen democratically to represent taxpayers and whose jobs are to evaluate the fact-based merits and demerits of development projects, the process will become a political contest with two sides waging what will be ugly, emotional and expensive campaigns.

Because of the referendum requirements in Amendment 4, project opponents and developers will be compelled to engage in costly political campaigns to persuade voters to their sides. And along the way, we can be sure that in many of these instances large segments of the voting population will not understand fully the often complex and arcane details and ramifications of land-use issues. Indeed, this is why we have representative government — to rely on elected officials to know the issues and act in our best interest. It’s absurd to expect the average voter to understand these issues.

Another consequence of these comprehensive-plan elections is they will drive up the cost of living in Florida — in every sector of the economy. Every $1 a developer must spend to conduct an election campaign for a comprehensive-plan change is $1 that must be recouped to make a project economically feasible. These votes will adversely affect the cost of housing, offices and retail stores. Floridians lose. Florida’s economy loses.

But all of these consequences of Amendment 4 are exactly what its proponents want. They want to retard development and growth altogether in perpetuity. And they want to do it through a process that favors their position — by turning over difficult decisions to the masses.

They call this “Hometown Democracy,” a term that sounds benign and appealing. Why, even the opening statement of the amendment has a special persuasive appeal:

“Public participation in local government comprehensive land-use planning benefits the conservation and protection of Florida’s natural resources and scenic beauty, and the long-term quality of life of Floridians.”

The statement subliminally tries to make the voter conclude that, under present law, the public is excluded from land-use planning and that direct voter participation in proposed changes to comprehensive plans is necessary to protect the environment, Florida’s beauty and “long-term quality of life.” Even Sarasota Herald-Tribune columnist Eric Ernst and his headline writer drank the Amendment 4 Kool-Aid. “Why Amendment 4?” asked the headline over Ernst’s column last week. “To empower the public.”

This is a ruse. And it is false.

Every Florida citizen is already empowered to have his say on comp-plan changes. Local governments are required by law to advertise, announce and conduct public hearings on all such changes. You can participate in comprehensive land-use planning now.

Amendment 4 is really a version of mob rule, majority rules. Although that may sound just and like an expansion of your freedoms, Lawrence Reed, president of the Foundation for Economic Education, has written: “ … No society of any size and complexity can practice this form of governance for long … It’s unwieldy and unworkable, endlessly contentious and disrespectful of certain inalienable rights of individuals who may find themselves in the minority.”

Contrary to the claim Amendment 4 would give voters powers they do not enjoy now, if it is enacted, Amendment 4 will not increase your freedom. Any measure that restricts the flow of capital restricts and reduces freedom.

Don’t be swayed by the illusions of “hometown democracy.” It will hurt, not help Florida’s quality of life.

Vote no on Amendment 4.

Amendment's Full Text
Article II, Section 7. Natural resources and scenic beauty of the Florida Constitution is amended to add the following subsection:

Public participation in local government comprehensive land-use planning benefits the conservation and protection of Florida’s natural resources and scenic beauty and the long-term quality of life of Floridians.
Therefore, before a local government may adopt a new comprehensive land-use plan, or amend a comprehensive land-use plan, such proposed plan or plan amendment shall be subject to vote of the electors of the local government by referendum, following preparation by the local planning agency, consideration by the governing body as provided by general law and notice thereof in a local newspaper of general circulation. Notice and referendum will be as provided by general law. This amendment shall become effective immediately upon approval by the electors of Florida.

For purposes of this subsection:

1. “Local government” means a county or municipality.

2. “Local government comprehensive land-use plan” means a plan to guide and control future land development in an area under the jurisdiction of a local government.

3. “Local planning agency” means the agency of a local government that is responsible for the preparation of a comprehensive land-use plan and plan amendments after public notice and hearings and for making recommendations to the governing body of the local government regarding the adoption or amendment of a comprehensive land-use plan.

4. “Governing body” means the board of county commissioners of a county, the commission or council of a municipality, or the chief elected governing body of a county or municipality, however designated.

The amendment’s impact on local government expenditures cannot be estimated precisely. Local governments will incur additional costs due to the requirement to conduct referenda in order to adopt comprehensive plans or amendments thereto. The amount of such costs depends upon the frequency, timing and method of the referenda and includes the costs of ballot preparation, election administration and associated expenses. The impact on state government expenditures will be insignificant.

You can tell a lot about a political campain by who contributes to each side. On Amendment 4, the major contributors are clearly distinguishable: anti-growth, environmentalists versus pro-growth businesses. Environment versus economy.

Amendment 4 supporters
Total contributions since 2003
• Lesley Blackner, architect of the amendment and Palm Beach lawyer, more than $828,000.
• Steven Rosen, a Davie dentist and founder of Tend Skin International Inc., $635,000.
• The Sierra Club Florida Chapter, $182,270.

Large donors since 2009
• Lesley Blackner, Palm Beach, $123,000
• Steven Rosen, Davie, $120,000
• Sara O’Connell, Stuart $26,000
• Volusia Flagler Sierra Club, Ormond Beach, $18,500
• Sierra Club of Northwest Florida, Lynn Haven, $16,000
• Floridians for Sustainable Population, an anti-immigration group, $13,700
• Rand Araskog, Palm Beach, former CEO of ITT, $10,000
• Michael Singer, Alachua, $10,000

Amendment 4 opponents
• Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy, a business-backed group, has raised more than $7 million
• Florida Association of Realtors, $1.75 million
• Pulte Homes Corp., $567,000
• The Florida Chamber of Commerce, $565,000


Related Stories