According to developer Bob Fitzsimmons

An Opinion By Jan Bergemann 
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc. 

Published June 10, 2010 


The statement by developer Bob Fitzsimmons: "If Amendment 4 passes the mob rules," was definitely the highlight of a discussion that took place in the Rinker Auditorium of the Stetson University in DeLand on Tuesday evening. The statement clearly showed how desperate the opponents of Amendment 4 are -- and how much they fear that Florida's citizens will do the right thing for themselves and VOTE YES ON 4.


It was pretty obvious that Bob Fitzsimmons considers citizens a necessary evil when he needs buyers for his homes, but has otherwise little use for them or their ability to decide what's good for them.

In an arrogant fashion typical of developers, Fitzsimmons more or less declared corruption of elected officials and the well-known "Pay to Play" system to be an urban legend. Amazing, considering that Florida newspapers are full of articles about elected officials taking bribes from developers, filling up jails at taxpayers' expense!

Ryan Houck, the paid mouthpiece for the developers opposing Amendment 4, is officially the Executive Director of "Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Strong Economy" (the name alone gave me a good laugh).  Houck had not much more to offer in regard to actual facts.  Trying to get his point across, he was using scare tactics backed by so-called reports from dubious consulting firms with more fancy names.  And he always repeated the fact that 17 editorials of major Florida newspapers were written in opposition to Amendment 4. So what? Everybody knows who sits on the editorial staff of all the major newspapers. His arguments against Hometown Democracy: Even more people losing their jobs and failure to attract new business. The question: Could we do worse than we do now?

But neither Fitzsimmons nor Houck could convince the estimated 100 attendees with their arguments: Deadly silence after their finishing words. Not one member of the audience even attempted to clap.

And that despite the fact that the deck was stacked from starters against Amendment 4, because there was a third panel member opposing Hometown Democracy: Mike Abels, former DeLand City Manager, a person well aware of all the shenanigans going on behind closed doors when it comes to handing out "favors."


Talking about stacked deck: The open discussion surely lacked substance due to the fact that the audience members were not allowed to ask the questions directly. Questions had to be submitted in writing and -- considering the comments from many audience members after the meeting -- the moderator conveniently lost quite a few "inconvenient" questions. Remark of an audience member: "It seems the ‘awkward’ questions went into the trash can, the ‘convenient’ questions into the microphone."


But the hosts of the forum invited as well two proponents of Amendment 4 on the panel:

Michele Moen, known for her volunteer work for environmental and responsible growth causes, made sure that everybody understood why Florida 's citizens need to vote YES ON 4: "Even our elected officials violate our laws and ignore existing guidelines. Florida's citizens have to put a stop to the misuse of power -- and Amendment 4 is the answer." 


Henry Lee Morgenstern made the legal points in favor of Hometown Democracy. Morgenstern is a Seville attorney who has written, lectured and litigated extensively on comprehensive planning. His expert opinion was a word of wisdom that made the opposition's arguments look far-fetched. He made sure that the audience clearly understood: "VOTING FOR AMENDMENT 4 IS NOT A VOTE FOR NO GROWTH, IT'S A VOTE FOR INTELLIGENT GROWTH! Plans can be changed, but it has to be for the good of the whole community, not just to make a killing for a developer."


The reason for this expensive campaign and the willingness of the developers to spend so much money on the campaign opposing Amendment 4 is very obvious: It's easier for developers to bribe a few money-hungry politicians than to convince the local population that their plans deserve their support! We have seen only too often money stuffed in a doggie-bag buying the vote of an elected official.


All panel members agreed unanimously that the system is broken and that something needs to be done. But only two of the panel members offered a solution that would fix many of the existing problems: VOTE YES FOR HOMETOWN DEMOCRACY, VOTE YES FOR 4!


If the vote had taken place after the forum, it would have been a great victory for AMENDMENT 4. All panel members were greeted with a polite applause at the beginning of the discussion, but the two finishing presentations by opponents, Ryan Houck and Bob Fitzsimmons, were greeted with dead silence from the audience.  Then the finishing arguments from the two proponents, Michele Moen and Henry Lee Morgenstern, were greeted by a thundering applause. I guess only the tricky chairs prevented a standing ovation?


It looks like Florida's citizens are finally willing to stand up and FIGHT AGAINST GROWTH MISMANAGEMENT. It's about time! Let's face it.  If we want to save what's left of Florida's natural beauty, our battle cry has to be: