Fakename is having a hard time these days. Oddly enough she is on the Board of two local organizations–one devoted to local business, one devoted to local environmental issues. Apparently, never the twain shall meet (except in Fakename’s brain).
The business organization is publicly taking a stand against Amendment 4 to the Florida Constitution, which will be voted on this year. The amendment is more familiarly known as the “Hometown Democracy” amendment.
We interrupt this blog for an important announcement: Steve just posted a response on my “I Am Sad” post. Steve: Fakename is pro-Amendment 4. Stop stealing my thunder 🙂
Fakename was the lone dissenter in the business organization, but has been asked to explain in detail why at the next Board meeting, next week. Actually, Fakename thinks another of her fellow Board members is also pro-4, but quietly so.
First let’s talk about the process by which the state Constitution can be amended in Florida. An amendment can either be proposed by the Legislature, or by citizen intiative. This requires a certain number of signatures on a petition. The amendment language must be clear, and it must be “single issue”. You can’t, for example, say that pregnant pigs cannot be confined inhumanely AND that piglets must be confined in the same space as their mothers. You think I’m kidding with this example. But the prohibition against inhumane confinement of pregnant pigs is now enshrined in the Florida Constitution.
The judge of clarity, single-issueness, and whether or not there truly are a sufficient number of valid signatures on the petition is: the Florida Supreme Court. Which shot down the Hometown Democracy petition the last time it almost got on the ballot, on the clarity and single-issue front. Back to the drawing board for the Hometown Democracy movement. During the interim, the anti-HD people ramped up their fight, and managed to get something through the legislature which would allow people who signed the petition in favor of HD to “revoke” their signatures. HD sued, and won.
Now then, what is all this fuss about? As previously mentioned, Florida has a so-called Smart Growth policy. All 67 counties are required to have what is called a Comprehensive Plan. All land-use regulations are subservient to the Plan, and the concept is to guide growth in a responsible way, while preserving natural resources. And it is a miserable failure. The evidence of that is all around us. Given a free hand, developers will pave over every inch of Florida until it all looks like Miami Beach. (If that doesn’t give you nightmares, you’ve never been to Miami Beach.)
The HD amendment says simply this: any change to the Comp Plan must be voted on by the citizens. The absurdity of the arguments against that idea are laughable. Argument 1: It will break the bank. Counties will go broke having special elections every time someone wants to change the Comp Plan. Reality: the amendment doesn’t say that a special election has to be held. It can be done during the next regularly scheduled election. In addition, changes to the Comp Plan are somewhat rare in the present broken system, and they should be rarer still.
Argument 2. Opinions one way or another would be swayed by advertising on one side or the other, so that reasoned, expert opinion would not prevail. The side with the most money would win. Oh please! Fakename is about to develop hiccups from laughing so hard. Like that isn’t exactly what is happening right now? Except the money, in one form or another, is going to the officials who make the decisions rather than to expensive ad campaigns. Implicit in this argument is also that you, the citizen, are not smart enough to make these decisions, and you should leave it to your elected officials. Let’s hear it for representative government!
There actually already is a process in place for citizens to “comment” on proposed Comp Plan changes, except nobody ever does. Why, say the antis, would we expect HD to change that? Fakename says: a comment is different from a vote. She also says: bring on the advertising! She bets more people will pay attention then. Usually they don’t, until they end up with a Wal-Mart in the back yard. (Ahem, this actually happened, more or less, to Fakename, although she fought tooth and nail against it.)
In closing, let’s talk about developers, who have been stereotyped and demonized during this fight. Fakename says: rightfully so. Some of Fakename’s readership may characterize developers as “producers”, which would be true in a sense. Building things creates jobs, at least temporarily. But in order to stay in business, and to keep those jobs going, they have to keep building things. It’s like a giant Ponzi scheme.
Even Tallahassee caught the condo fever that has consumed the rest of the state. Fakename can point out a recently completed 24-story condo building near her office, which has some 300 units. At last count, they’ve sold around 10. It’s in foreclosure. But do the developers care? Nope. They got their money. They’ve now moved on to plans to pave over the Appalachicola National Forest.