Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Why We Need Florida Hometown Democracy

Guest Blogger
Elizabeth Ann (Bett) Willett

First I will tell you why Amendment 4 will pass and then I will tell you why Amendment 4 is a good thing for Florida.

Amendment 4 will pass because people in this State are fed up with the poor job their elected officials have done controlling development. In fact, they have not controlled it. Their constant approval of over-development projects, together with the number of corrupt officials being indicted and convicted, has become an embarrassment to the State and has outraged the residents. By any standard you would like to apply, the present system is “broken” and we are all paying a horribly high price for this.

People blame the greed of developers and "flippers" for the fact that Florida is more seriously affected than almost any other State.The history in Florida, of our “planning legislation” being ignored and changed, is well-known. Our so-called representatives completely ignore the desire of ordinary people in local communities to maintain or improve their existing quality of life.

Ordinary people, such as those unfortunate folks who live in Tamarac, who tried to convince their local and county commissioners that a land use change to allow housing on their golf courses was a bad idea. Those folks are now reading about commissioners taking bribes to make that land use change happen.

Florida is full of those kinds of stories. I could tell you of many in my city of Deerfield Beach. Elected officials have clearly lost the trust of the voters, and nothing that the voters will hear from those that they connect with--business, government, or chambers of commerce--will change their minds. They view those anti Amendment 4 speakers as merely spreading self serving misinformation.

I have good news for you about Amendment 4. It will not, as you have been misinformed, clog up the ballots with hundreds of “vote on everything” referenda. Here’s the straight story: In 2006 Ft. Lauderdale had one change to their comprehensive plan, in 2007 they had 1 and in 2008 they had 1, In 2006 Pembroke Pines had 7, 1 in 2007, and 2 in 2008.

Amendment 4 is not a “job killer.” Right now, our city and county land use plans have, on the books, designations that could allow development for over 100 million people. The jobs that opponents are saying will be lost are construction jobs which dried up when the real estate bubble burst and construction collapsed. Keep in mind that the current economic mess has caused Florida’s population to drop.

With the population drop and the vast surplus of existing houses, the need for additional housing in the near future will be low. Also, businesses relocating to Florida will find plenty of space already designated for commercial or industrial use, with no need for comprehensive land-use changes, enough for decades to come. Businesses, which supply high paying jobs, want to locate in stable communities with good schools, uncongested roads, excellent municipal facilities and a good source of well educated young people. Those are the kinds of jobs Florida needs and can readily attract if we can learn to substitute Florida’s traditional boom-bust Ponzi economy with well considered land-use plans. Continuing with the status quo is just stupid.

The sensible planning encouraged by Amendment 4 will, as the economy recovers, promote a stronger, more diversified economy based on permanent, productive jobs, safeguarding our future, and the resources and beauty of this State. Far from harming the economy, sensible control of development will help the economy. By supporting Amendment 4, you can help Florida become prosperous and happy again. Amendment 4 represents real change for REAL, beneficial growth.

Bett Willett
Deerfield Beach

No comments: