|"Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people." -Abraham Lincoln
"All political power is inherent in the people." -- Article I, Section I, Florida Constitution
Who Are We?
A grass-roots, non-partisan citizens' initiative organized to put Amendment 4 on the November 2010 ballot. We are Floridians who dearly love our state and know that putting the people back in charge of the places where they live is key to a sustainable future.
Why This Campaign?
People care about the place where they live. Each of us has a huge stake in the growth decisions that can drastically alter our community’s future. The Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment, now on the November 2010 ballot as Amendment 4 seeks to make Florida’s land-use planning system more accountable to Floridians by giving voters veto power over changes to their local master plans (comprehensive plans).
A comprehensive plan is a community’s long-term master plan for sensible growth. Millions of dollars are spent and great care is taken creating these plans in order to ensure that unplanned growth does not overwhelm a community, wreck its economy or harm its citizens' quality of life.
Currently our elected officials have the exclusive authority to approve or deny changes to a comprehensive plan. These plan changes, which typically allow for more density or intensity of development on a particular site, are political decisions. Our elected city and county commissioners take an oath to protect the public interest. Florida law presumes that commissioners are acting in the pubic interest when they vote to accept or reject a proposed plan change. Florida law is clear that a proposed plan change should be rejected if it does not serve the public interest.
Unfortunately, Florida history shows that too many county and city commissioners have a bad habit of rubberstamping plan changes that are harmful to their community. This habit of rubberstamping speculative plan changes has turned Florida into the "Ponzi State." Our commissioners' failure to protect the public interest helps to explain Florida’s destructive boom-bust cycle that wrecked the economy with over-building and led to job losses, declining property values, rising local taxes, foreclosures and business failures.
Florida law is clear that property owners have the right to use their property in accord with its current designation on the existing comprehensive plan. For example, if a property is designated agricultural, the property owner has the right to use it for any and all agricultural purposes. But agricultural landowners do not have the automatic right to change the use of their land in order to sell it to a developer for condos or strip malls, for example. A comprehensive plan change is required. The property owner must request this master plan change from his or her local city or county commission.
Citizens in a community have rights, too. We have the right to protect our property, quality of life, local infrastructure, and natural resources. We also have the right to demand that our communities shall not be harmed by irresponsible, speculative changes to our master plan. After all, we are the ones who must live with and pay for the consequences.
Hometown Democracy Amendment 4 will require that changes to your local master plan for future land development (comprehensive plan) approved by your city or county commission must then go to the voters for final approval or rejection in a referendum. If the change being proposed is sensible and necessary, proponents of the change should easily be able to convince the majority of local voters that the plan change serves the public interest. Under Amendment 4, voter approval will take place at the next regularly scheduled election, by mail-in ballot, or in conjunction with other elections. No special elections are required.
If the city or county commissioners reject a proposed plan change, voters will not vote on the change.
In short, the Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment 4 process creates an opportunity for citizens to veto or approve changes to their local master plans.
As Florida’s recent history demonstrates, changes to your community’s master plan are among the most important decisions that local governments make, and we in the community must live with the consequences for decades to come. Accordingly, voters have a right to be involved in this most important decision-making process.