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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

The ballot measure that dare not speak its name



St. PETERSBURG -- City officials may make changes to the land use code to better prepare for a ballot measure voters will decide on in November.

But City Attorney John Wolfe said they can't make the changes with the measure, Hometown Democracy's Amendment 4, as the stated reason. Even if it is.

This is the world we live in after a bill was passed by state lawmakers last year that prohibits governments from politicking against proposed ballot measures. Wolfe said the city shouldn't make those changes in the context of Amendment 4, which would require any amendment to a long term growth plan to be approved by voters, not elected officials.

Council member Karl Nurse, who strongly objects to Amendment 4, proposed the move to give the city "greater flexibility" (read looser rules) in case the measure passes.

But Council member Herb Polson said doing anything in anticipation of the referendum could be interpreted as advocating against the measure.

"It's a slippery slope," Polson said. "We need to be cautious that we don't violate the law."

Nurse changed his motion, so it didn't mention Amendment 4. He said he was just trying to save the city a future headache.

"I see a pothole ahead," Nurse said. "I'm trying to swerve out of the way."

-- Michael Van Sickler, Times staff writer 

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:29pm]


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