Soaring housing costs, skyrocketing property taxes, drastic job loss, and an enduring legal and public relations war on growth - that's the future for our hometowns, if we leave it up to the extreme special interests behind Amendment 4. If adopted, Amendment 4 would require citizens to vote on thousands of land-use questions every year.
The extremists behind this Vote on Everything proposal first attempted to place Amendment 4 on the ballot in 2004. But the Florida Supreme Court rejected 80,000 of their petition signatures, and campaign funders went back to the drawing board. Although well-funded, the group failed to inspire any significant volunteer support for their idea and fell short again in both 2006 and 2008.
In June, 2008, lawyers for Amendment 4 filed a lawsuit asking that the court strike down the February 1st filing deadline - a constitutional amendment that was already passed by the voters in 2004. On one hand, they say they want to empower voters. But on the other hand, they are willing to roll back the will of the people if it promotes their agenda.
Now, Amendment 4 organizers have paid for all the signatures they need to get their idea on the ballot. In November, 2010 Amendment 4 will appear on the ballot.
Spearheading the Amendment 4 campaign are special interest lawyers Lesley Blackner of Palm Beach and Ross Burnaman of Tallahassee. In fact, the wealthy Ms. Blackner has already put nearly $1 million of her personal fortune into buying the necessary signatures. She's been accused of "playing too loosely with the facts," criticized for her "bizarre comments," and called "hard to take seriously" by the editorial board of the Tampa Tribune.
Joseph Redner, owner of the Mons Venus strip club in Tampa, also supports Amendment 4. Mr. Redner has frequently been engaged in legal battles with the Tampa City Council, which has tried to place restrictions on his nude clubs for 25 years. His is one of many notorious businesses which would benefit from Amendment 4's "Vote on Everything" requirements. If they succeed in changing the constitution, strip clubs and pornography outlets would have an easier time beating back citizen-supported land use changes to restrict their activities.
South Florida's Joyce Tarnow has also given a lot of money to promote Amendment 4. She supports the amendment because "hopefully, [it] will lead to people all over this country demanding from our Congress a population policy that reduces population pressure."
To pursue this agenda, Ms. Tarnow founded and leads the fringe population control group called Floridians for a Sustainable Population. A close reading of the group's Web site reveals more of their agenda: they call for limiting families to two children; cutting benefits for newborns; higher taxes on families; severe restrictions on legal immigration; and more.
In fact, more than half of Amendment 4's funding comes from people closely associated with Floridians for a Sustainable Population - including Hometown's Lesley Blackner, who is a senior member of the population control group's advisory board.
Ms. Tarnow's business interests have included an abortion clinic and a company called "Sterilization Services, Inc." In fact, she believes "Fertility is an environmental issue. That's why I try to get as many people sterilized as are in my way!" Her population-control zeal also gives her a less than humanitarian view on the plight of those living in third-world countries. Her advice to people in countries like Haiti: forget about American humanitarian aid, just "stew in your own juices."
In fact, the hardcore extremists behind Amendment 4 are pursuing a broader, even more radical agenda that is advanced by their cynical amendment. They've opposed the Sunshine State Parkway, a critical regional highway serving Florida communities. They were among the only people to fight state efforts to preserve and protect Babcock Ranch, and they stood alone in opposition to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.
The wealthy special interests behind Amendment 4 are way out of the mainstream - not far left, not far right, just farout.
Amendment 4 is so extreme that it will actually hurt - not help - the environment. If it were to pass, smart planning would be out the window and Florida's future would be a blanket of sprawl.
In fact, mainstream citizen action groups like growth watchdog 1,000 Friends of Florida oppose Amendment 4 because the amendment will lead to piecemeal planning, allow small groups to block essential public services, trigger legal gridlock, and potentially worsen sprawling patterns of development.
Please visit the Web site of 1,000 Friends of Florida to review their thoughtful statement opposing Hometown Democracy here.