Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel
By Lauren Ritchie
October 14, 2010
lies are starting to work.
A multimillion-dollar campaign financed by developers, builders, land
speculators and others who stand to make fortunes from over-development is
starting to convince Floridians that Amendment 4 will bring on Armageddon.
What a shame if development interests are able to obscure the truth with
their wild and monstrously inaccurate claims that the proposed amendment
on the Nov. 2 ballot will collapse the economy and cost taxpayers their
I bet it'll be the cause of world hunger, too. Not to mention the collapse
of morality in the Western world.
Dear reader, it is easy to strip aside the nonsense being brought to you
by the greedy people who helped create this lingering economic meltdown
and who care about one thing and one only: their pocketbooks.
This is so, so simple — but voters have to engage themselves long enough
to realize that they're being snookered.
That's hard when a sea of amendments will be floating before them on the
ballot next month. But make no mistake — this is the single most
important change to come before voters in decades.
If passed, Amendment 4 it would change the way business is done in Florida
and maybe even "save" the state from utter ruin.
Lake already could double
The amendment is dramatically simple — voters would get to say yea or
nay on big developments whose backers want to build them where they should
Despite howling from developers, Amendment 4 would not have control over
all development. Quite the reverse. Communities being built where
development is supposed to go — typically near cities where
utilities and services are offered — could merrily build without
interference from Amendment 4.
In Lake County, for example, there are already enough parcels of land
approved for development that the population here would double if they
were all built at once.
The proposed new law would step in only when developers stray into
places where they should not build, such as rural areas. But that's where
builders want desperately to put up subdivisions because it is how they
make unfathomable profits. Greedy developers buy the cheaper land for
bigger rewards, and do not care a whit about creating sprawl, destroying
the rural lifestyle and costing taxpayers a bundle to serve the community
with police, fire, schools and new roads.
Consider this: Under Amendment 4, a builder who wants to dump a new city
the size of Mount Dora on the fringes of Leesburg could do so tomorrow. If
that same developer wants to create a city in rural, ecologically critical
south Lake, for example, the developer would have to ask you, the voter.
Ignore the noise
This terrifies builders. Why? Do the math. It's so much easier to sway the
votes of five county commissioners than trying to win an approval from
nearly 200,000 voters across the county.
No longer would developers be able to contribute the $500 limit to the
campaign of a county commissioner — and get each of their family members
and employees to "contribute," too, — in exchange for the
unspoken agreement that their poorly-planned projects will be approved.
Inexplicably, one of the most vocal arguments from opponents of Amendment
4 is that it would (horror of horrors) change the way representative
democracy works. The power would shift from elected hands to voters. How
awful! And our elected officials have done such a splendid job of
controlling runaway growth! Florida's development is top drawer and built
with the interests of the resident in mind!
Ignore the noise. There is one question and one only at stake: Do you like
the way Florida has developed?
If so, vote no on Amendment 4. If you think local elected officials are
doing a great job of guiding growth, vote no on Amendment 4. If you think
that elected officials are listening to residents and voting in your best
interest, then vote no Amendment 4.
But please don't vote against it because you're confused by the ton of mud
that developers have dropped onto this issue to trick you.
Don't do it because you think that you're somehow a traitor to democracy.
It is democracy, after all, that allows voters to take this sliver of
power back into their own hands.
Don't do it because you're afraid of dozens of expensive, confusing
elections. That won't happen. Developers don't want to face you, the
voter. They will be satisfied with building communities where they ought
to be and making a little less money.
Don't do it because you're being told the economy will get even worse.
That's a lie. Developers can build thousands of homes today. Right this
minute. They just want the extra gravy on their mashed potatoes, and they
want you to ladle it on.
Follow the money trail
Instead, give this a little thought.
Amendment 4 is no panacea. It won't fix all the ills of growth. Rather, it
will give voters a small measure of control over the very worst of the
As always, follow the money trail. The Miami Herald reported last week
that Lennar Homes, which has taken $251 million in taxpayer-funded relief,
managed to sink $367,000 into the fund to fight Amendment 4. Pulte Homes
got $800 million in bailout bucks — and sent $567,000 to the opponents
of Amendment 4.
Do your interests align with those of big developers?
I'm voting YES on Amendment 4.