Amendment 4’s Slick Campaign Will Prove Costly to Floridians

Would you vote to put your neighbor out of work? Would you vote to raise the jobless rate to 15 percent, or higher? Would you vote to make it tougher for small businesses to operate, grow and add jobs

Palm Coast, FL – July 20, 2010

Source: SunSentinel
[Emphasis added]

(July 18, 2010) Would you vote to put your neighbor out of work? Would you vote to raise the jobless rate to 15 percent, or higher? Would you vote to make it tougher for small businesses to operate, grow and add jobs in Florida?
This November, Floridians will have the opportunity to vote "no" on Amendment 4 – a Trojan Horse measure that will leave tens of thousands of working-class men and women without a job.
The slick campaign behind Amendment 4 is funded by a handful of wealthy lawyers; their promises are as simple and seductive as they are deceptive and misleading: "Amendment 4 is really simple," they claim, "We just want to give the people a vote," they say.
But that is not what Amendment 4 is designed to do – and that is not what it did in one small Pinellas county town.
In 2006, the tiny Gulf Coast town of St. Pete Beach adopted a local version of Amendment 4. The measure quickly decimated the local economy, prevented the restoration of vital community landmarks in the town’s historic district, and promoted endless litigation at taxpayer expense. In fact, Ward Friszolowski, the former mayor of St. Pete Beach wrote that his town’s "experiment in Amendment 4 has turned St. Pete Beach into a battleground for special interests." Friszolowski went on to say that Amendment 4 "did not empower voters, it empowered Political Action Committees."
By 2008, the voters of St. Pete Beach had become frustrated with the stagnation created by their local version of Amendment 4. They decided to update their growth plan to permit the restoration of several properties in their historic downtown district. The people of St. Pete Beach exercised their "vote on growth" at the ballot box, decisively approving a series of comprehensive plan amendments designed to revive their flagging economy.
But that wasn’t the end of the story.
Within 24 hours of that vote, the people of St. Pete Beach found themselves in court, defending the results of their election. Astonishingly, these lawsuits were orchestrated by some of the same lawyers who wrote Amendment 4, and who had once said that their measure just "gives the people a say on growth." The same special interest lawyers have now filed a half-a-dozen lawsuits in St. Pete Beach, aimed at overturning the expressed will of the people.
St. Pete Beach is proof positive that Amendment 4 is not designed to empower voters; it is designed to hand power over to special interest lawyers, and hand taxpayers the bill. In St. Pete Beach – a town of roughly 10,000 people – that bill has now risen to nearly $750,000.
Perversely, the voters of St. Pete Beach are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend their vote against the very people who promised it to them in the first place; meanwhile, projects that would have created jobs and supported the local economy remain stalled, despite having been approved by the voters two years ago.
It is not hard to see why Amendment 4 is often called a "stimulus package" for special interest lawyers. In fact, Amendment 4 would force taxpayers to fund elections for even minor and technical revisions to local government comprehensive plans, meaning that thousands of pages of technical planning data would be condensed into 75-word summaries before being dumped onto Florida ballots.
The inevitable result: Special interest groups on the losing end of a land planning referendum will have new standing, and greater motivation, to file lawsuits to overturn any election they lose. Essentially, Amendment 4 paves the way for special interests that lose at the ballot box to take their case to court, at taxpayer expense.
If passed, Amendment 4 would make the example of St. Pete Beach seem mild by comparison. Floridians would be expected to vote on hundreds, even thousands, of comprehensive plan amendments each year. According to a Department of Community Affairs report, there were nearly 6,500 changes to local government comprehensive plans in fiscal year 2006-2007. Amendment 4 does not contain any limiting language and there are no exceptions for state-mandated amendments. The result: Thousands of minor, technical plan amendments would appear on the ballot individually. Here in Broward County, the numbers range from about a dozen to over 700 amendments in a single year.
Under Amendment 4, the residents who are most impacted by land use issues are also the least empowered. Amendment 4 means that residents living an hour from your neighborhood will be voting on whether or not to put landfills, jails and sewage plants in your backyard. Ultimately, your voice – and the voice of your neighbors – will be drowned out in the noise of high-priced, countywide media campaigns.
Amendment 4 will also create an explosion of political campaigning – nonstop mail pieces, phone calls and TV ads – all aimed at securing your vote on hundreds of minor, technical planning issues. This means more money in politics, less accountability for elected officials, and longer lines at the polls. That’s the last thing Florida needs right now.
Last year, the Sun Sentinel wisely wrote that "Floridians would make a big mistake to support this misguided amendment." And they are right.
To date, more than 280 small business, labor, civic, planning, and environmental groups oppose Amendment 4. The coalition to defeat Amendment 4 is virtually unprecedented in its diversity and scope because the threat of this proposal transcends traditional political boundaries. And while many of these groups recognize that the current system has its flaws, they resoundingly agree that the proposed solution is far worse than the problem.
Amendment 4 was written by lawyers, for lawyers. It is not designed to empower voters; it is not designed to improve growth management in Florida. Amendment 4 is designed to pave the way for endless litigation at taxpayer expense. You don’t have to take my word for it – just heed the warning from our fellow Floridians in St. Pete Beach, and vote "no" on Amendment 4 in November.
Frank Ortis is the mayor of Pembroke Pines. He is also president of the Florida State Council of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and a board member of the Florida AFL-CIO.
4 replies
  1. stainbrook
    stainbrook says:


    Whatis the background of Amendment 4?
    How and when did it get on the ballot in the first place? What organizations are behind it? As we know, very few voters have any idea what they are voting for. Very few read these amendments before they vote. Maybe the answere to the above will shed some light on what is going on

  2. lynn-a
    lynn-a says:

    Amendment 4

    What you should be worrying about are the organizations AGAINST Amendment 4 and all the LIES they are spreading because they have a fear of losing money from overdevelopment and sprawl. This amendment is supported by residents across Florida and environmental groups.

  3. Brad
    Brad says:

    I Agree

    I have to agree that Amendment 4 is ridiculous in theory and in practice. You can not feasibly put everything in a community to a vote without expecting significant slowdowns in progress. Voters vote for representatives to make most decisions. Yes, those representatives must be held accountable.

  4. Toby
    Toby says:

    Reply to Stainbrook

    You make a good point. I’ve attached links to related stories so readers can become more familiar with the history of Amendment 4. It is also referred to as the Hometown Democracy amendment but that title simply puts lipstick on a pig. The amendment has nothing to do with hometowns or democracy.

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