Say NO to Amendment 4

Chamber of Commerce Chairman makes a strong case against the so-called Home Town Democracy Amendment

The following commentary appeared first in the April 15th issue of the Palm Coast Observer
Palm Coast, FL – April 19, 2010 – Chances are, you are among the many Floridians who have yet to hear about Amendment 4, which will be on the ballot Nov. 2nd.
Initiated by a group with the innocuous sounding name Florida Hometown Democracy, Amendment 4 would require a popular vote on all changes to local governments’ comprehensive plans. While this notion does have some appeal to those who think their city or county has not done a satisfactory job planning for or controlling growth, it is more than just a ballot measure to correct this alleged issue – it is an attempt to fundamentally change our representative form of democracy.
Mob rule
Our forefathers had the wisdom to understand that a true democracy (in which everybody votes on everything) would lead to the tyranny of the majority and mob rule. Instead, we elect leaders we trust to make legislative and fiscal decisions on our behalf. If we are unhappy with their performance, we can replace them rather easily.
I have heard Amendment 4 likened to the proverbial pig with lipstick. It is actually far worse than that. I’m not sure if even "a wolf in sheep’s clothing" captures its essence. To understand just how bad this idea is, it is helpful to understand the basics of growth management.
Florida’s Growth Management Act of 1985 requires that all counties and cities have their own comprehensive plans. These documents lay out a vision for all future development within each municipality, while zoning regulations govern the details. The plans include elements related to transportation, housing, infrastructure, conservation, recreation, open space, intergovernmental coordination, capital improvements and future land use.
Reduced to a paragraph
A comprehensive plan involves far more than just what type of development goes where. Much of it is subject to technical issues and strict legal requirements, which is why counties and cities employ experts in these areas to advise planning boards and elected bodies. By statute, all comprehensive plans must be periodically reviewed and updated.
Amendment 4 would require a "vote of the electors of the local government" to assess those technical documents. So, rather than having any proposed changes to a comprehensive plan reviewed by a planning board in public hearing and then voted on by our elected officials, the changes will be subject to a popular vote.
Passage of Amendment 4 would result in the need to hold more frequent local elections. Cities and counties, therefore, would be forced to mount expensive public-relations campaigns, wasting more taxpayer money. A change that might cause serious ramifications for a municipality might be approved because of an effective PR campaign by a large developer. Ah yes, and these potentially high-technical decisions would be reduced to a brief paragraph that could fit on a ballot.
Economically, the impact on Florida’s home-building industry, already suffering, could be catastrophic, and job losses wouldn’t be limited to that industry. The Washington Economics Group has estimated that passage could cost in excess of 267,000 Florida jobs. The Flagler County Chamber of Commerce & Affiliates, the Flagler Home Builders Association, the Flagler County Association of Realtors®, the city of Palm Coast, the Flagler County Board of County Commissioners and the Florida Chamber of Commerce are all opposed to Amendment 4.
In all, there are more than 170 opposing organizations statewide, and the list is growing daily. You can learn more at
There has already been a local experiment with an Amendment 4-style ballot measure in St. Pete’s Beach. It was adopted in November 2006 by a narrow margin. In keeping with the requirements of the amendment, the voters approved a new comprehensive plan in June 2008.
Immediately afterward, proponents of Amendment 4 showed their true intent by filing a series of legal challenges to invalidate the new plan that had been approved by the voters. The small city’s legal bills began to mount, and the City Commission raised taxes in September of last year. The need to set additional funds aside for legal costs was cited as a reason for the tax increase. Based on the events in St. Pete’s Beach, it is likely that we would see similar legal challenges all around the state.
The true intent of the Hometown Democracy group is to bring all development and growth to a halt. The group’s founder, trial attorney Lesley Blackner, has said as much in multiple interviews. Interestingly the work democracy does not appear anywhere in Florida’s Constitution – but the word fraud does.
Patrick Kelly is the chairman of the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce & Affiliates
This commentary appeared first in the April 15th issue of the Palm Coast Observer
Toby’s Commentary: 
Flagler County and Palm Coast have made mistakes in handling growth management issues in the past. There is clearly room to improve the process. It’s too bad we don’t have other options to consider. Unfortunately we are left with a choice between the current system and Amendment 4. Amendment 4 is not the right solution. It is far worse than the status quo. Adopting Amendment 4 would be a terrible mistake.
3 replies
  1. John Boy
    John Boy says:

    Admendment 4

    Don’t know te answe but if the Chamber is against it, I’m for it. The C of C is the worst organization in the United States. Has cost more jobs and lowered the standard of living. Anthing for business is good anything for employees is bad. Reminds me of the Robber Barons of days past or the copmany town. Work hardn to make the few "Leaders" rich and the hell with the rest of the population.

  2. Gloria
    Gloria says:


    I have been working with FHD since 1999 to stop the rampant development and destruction of our natural resources. The Chamber of Commerce is part of the problem. Why are builders still building when we have a glut of houses on the market? The main reason for FHD and Amendment 4 is because our city and county representatives are in the pockets of greedy developers. Stop the scare tactics, it doesn’t become you.

  3. Toby
    Toby says:

    Reply to John Boy

    Reply to John Boy
    I am and active member of the Chamber of Commerce. I sit on the business issues committee. We meet monthly to help solve community problems, not to line our individual pocketbooks. The Chamber represents the entrepreneurial free enterprise system that has made our country strong. I’ve been an entrepreneur most of my life. One result of my activities has been the financial and career advancement of scores of my former employees. Some are now better off than I. I’m proud that they are. I believe I played a part in their development.
    Chamber members are predominantly small businesses. They are at the heart of job creation. Its members are at the core of what makes the American free enterprise system work. And it works pretty well if left alone.
    You should not take your cue from what any individual or organization tells you. In fact you shouldn’t be against Amendment 4 because I personally think it’s a disaster. You should look at the issue closely and come to your own conclusion as I have. If you look at Amendment 4 dispassionately, with an open mind, weighting the pros and cons, I would be surprised if you didn’t agree with me. But if you didn’t, I will honor your decision without casting aspersions your way.

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