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1. Fosters a sense of community and personal involvement
In Yankeetown, citizens were shocked when they found out local officials were secretly supporting proposed and clearly bad development. Citizens became outraged, banded together and managed to wrest control back from the speculators' friends, the local officials. One result was town charter amendments, very similar to Amendment 4, were adopted. Another result was a new comprehensive plan which attempts to preserve the town's essence and character, and which earned a Citizen Planning Initiative award from the state Department of Community Affairs.
Both the charter amendments and the new comprehensive plan were approved by Yankeetown voters by a two-to-one margin. Town meetings where the plan amendments were discussed were packed with citizens, all of which were allowed to provide input to the process. In most cases today, citizens in other communities find out about comprehensive plan amendments when the bulldozers show up. Virtually no one in Yankeetown is unaware of the comprehensive plan amendments that were proposed and they now all know that they will have their say in the future.
2. Brings accountability to politicians.
The Founding Fathers never could have fathomed the concept of professional politicians at all levels. While the concept is likely not to go away, Florida Hometown Democracy will mitigate the problem.
Simply, without Amendment 4-type charter amendments, future politicians in Yankeetown could have approved comprehensive plan amendments, and no one could stop that.
There is no doubt that if Amendment 4 passes, politicians will think twice before presenting land use amendments to the voters that are clearly bad for the community. The voters will remember that at election time. It is certainly now true in Yankeetown.
Finally, under Amendment 4, politicians will have a strong incentive to inform the community about proposed comprehensive plan land use amendments prior to their appearing on the ballot.
3. Slams the door on bad development.
Bad development is that which benefits the few, such as developers, lobbyists and politicians — via campaign contributions. Florida has more convicted politicians than any other state, according to the New York Times. Yes, sometimes bribes come into play, just as in our own Levy County.
An example of bad development is anything which increases sprawl and requires taxpayer-funded infrastructure improvements, such as an unneeded subdivision that destroys environmentally sensitive land.
It's irrefutable that Florida's natural environment is suffering. The water supply is at critical levels in many parts of the state. Natural springs are flowing at reduced rates or drying up. What water is still flowing from our springs and down our rivers and creeks is clouded with algae.
If you draw a line from New Port Richey through Ocala, through the Villages, and over to say Daytona ... and throw a dart that lands anywhere south of that line ... where ever it lands, you will see evidence of development gone amuck, concrete and asphalt everywhere, sprawl replacing the natural environment. The only way to keep the remaining unspoiled parts of Florida from also going down that dismal road is growth management with a backbone.
Good development is that which enriches all of the people. An example of good development would be a new industry or company where the business hires educated and high-paid employees, is neutral to the environment and returns benefits to the community. Voters are actually smart enough to know the difference.
The overburdening and pollution of critical resources is traceable to poorly planned, unsustainable development. Those resources were what drew people to Florida to begin with and we must change those practices that have damaged them. Amendment 4 may not be perfect but it is the only solution that has been offered. Certainly, no one can expect the greedy, lobbyist-funded politicians to do so. We will never get another opportunity.
Ed Candela is a former Yankeetown City Council member.