Amendment 4 test case turns town into special interest ‘battleground’

Hometown democracy is worse than the disease it purports to cure.

ORLANDO, FL – October 12, 2009 – Although they decry money in politics, Amendment 4 backers have apparently failed to notice that their proposal has caused an explosion of special interest spending in St. Pete Beach – the small Pinellas county town that adopted a local version of Amendment 4 in 2006.

"Amendment 4 has turned St. Pete Beach into a battleground for warring special interests," said Ward Friszolowski, the former Mayor of St. Pete Beach. "Citizens have been sidelined by a confusing and frustrating process that favors those with the deepest pockets. Even when the voters approved new projects, a handful of wealthy individuals used the Amendment 4 process to tie them up in court."

According to the Editorial Board of the St. Petersburg Times, "As a three-year experiment in St. Pete Beach shows, land planning via referendum is a messy, unpredictable business that leads to higher government costs due to litigation and a stalemate when it comes to development." The Times explains that "the balance of power hasn’t changed in St. Pete Beach, just the rules of the game. Now, instead of negotiating with city planners or trying to curry favor with elected officials on major land-use changes, developers are able to put something on the ballot for an up-or-down vote and make the calculated investment to win the election. Lost are any negotiated compromises with city officials."(i)

The Tampa Tribune concurred, writing that "St. Pete Beach has become a living laboratory to study the statewide consequences of a proposed constitutional amendment called Hometown Democracy." The result, they explain, is that "issues have been oversimplified in the campaigns as homeowners vs. developers, preservation vs. growth, low-rise vs. high-rise, tourist trap or serene residential retreat, decay vs. progress." The Tribune concludes that this is "no way to run a little city, and it’s certainly no way to run a state."(ii)

"As usual, the Amendment 4 campaign is peddling the very problems that their proposal will make worse," said Ryan Houck, executive director of Floridians for Smarter Growth. "Turning the planning process into a political campaign will boost the influence of special interest groups while costing taxpayers millions in endless litigation and new costs."

Floridians for Smarter Growth (FSG) was founded by Sunshine State business and community leaders to inform voters on the impacts of Amendment 4. Today, Floridians for Smarter Growth leads a grassroots organization of nearly 1000 dedicated volunteers and more than 160 opposition groups.


(i) St. Pete Times Editorial: A Formula for gridlock –
(ii) Tampa Tribune Editorial: Voting on everything dispirits tourist business in tourist town –


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