Hometown Democracy…Apple Pie or Pie-in-the-Sky?

Jul-01-2009

Next November, voters will be asked a question about how to handle land use changes. They will be asked to amend the State Constitution to require that land use and growth plan changes will be subject to the vote of the people.

The group sponsoring the amendment calls themselves "Hometown Democracy."

What could be better?

Hometown conjures up images of apple pie cooling on the window ledge, neighbors talking across a picket fence and kids playing hopscotch on the sidewalk.

Democracy completes the image...founding fathers, a government of the people and for the people.

At no point does the phrase, "hometown democracy" conjure up the reality of backlash politics, nor does it convey the sense that a small group is spitting mad about change and is willing to tear at the fabric of the law in order to have their way.

So what does their amendment really do?

It requires voters to learn about, study and understand a dizzying array of growth and land use changes and to vote on them at election time. It requires voters to choose to support or oppose such things as engineering plans, legal and very technical amendments to maps, and a variety of comprehensive plan changes. Further, a change to a local park's boundary will be put side-by-side with a change to allow a new school where a shopping center used to be...

If this amendment passes, each election ballot will have dozens of questions for voters to consider. Most will be technical and inconsequential while others will be vital to reshaping of or protecting a community. Some will impact a few homes, while others will affect dozens of neighborhoods.

How will we know which is which?

And more to the point...isn't this why we have paid staff and elected commissioners? Didn't' we elect them to review these technical changes, take public testimony, hear the concerns of both sides and then vote to either accept or reject these changes?

Yes.

And when it comes to growth, in addition to a local process, with staff review, public input and public votes of our elected representatives, we also have a state agency watching to make sure the process is fair and transparent.

While it is understandable that some could be unhappy with the current growth management laws in Florida, the Hometown Democracy answer to shut down any and all plans by forcing an expensive, confusing and time-consuming referenda is a grotesque over-reaction that will choke a local community's ability to chart its own destiny.