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Unwise pro-growth laws make Florida Hometown Democracy more likely to pass in 2010

Our state is divided into two camps.

One camp thinks that the money to be made off construction in Florida over the coming decades is what's most important.

The other camp thinks that Florida needs to balance its growth against rules for protecting what quality of life we have left.

The first camp is winning.

No, scratch that. For now, the first camp has won.

Thanks to Gov. Charlie Crist and our Legislature, Florida has just thrown out a lot of the growth rules that we've had for the past 24 years.

We have a new law on the books, ironically called the "Community Renewal Act."

This law says that developers in "dense urban areas," which is defined liberally (one person per acre), can build without regard for the impact on local roads. State review has been weakened as well.

Crist made a terrible decision in signing this bill. It is the worst thing he has ever done, maybe the worst thing he will ever do. This will be his legacy:

The Governor Who Repealed Florida's Growth Laws.

Governor Gridlock.

And yet there's still a chance that the winners might not get away with this entirely scot-free.

Like Hamlet …

Like Captain Ahab …

Like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill

Plenty of Floridians are furious down deep in their souls, and looking for revenge.

And here comes their opportunity, right on cue:

Hometown Democracy.

This is an idea we're likely going to vote on next year in Florida. Here's what it says:

We'll use elections to make our major growth decisions at the community level.

If a builder wants to change the local land map — the "comprehensive plan" that every Florida community has — the voters will have to say yes.

People tend to think this is either a great idea, or a crazy one.

Great idea, supporters say, because it breaks the power of local politicians who are addicted to saying yes to development.

Crazy idea, opponents say, because it turns technical decisions into political ones, clogs the ballot and creates new problems.

Either way, Hometown Democracy announced last week that it has gathered enough signatures to make the 2010 ballot as a proposed amendment to our state Constitution.

It's not official yet. There's still a window of time in which signers can change their mind. Besides, older signatures on the petition start to expire on June 22. So the thing still might not make it.

But the opinion of folks I talked to last week was that the "Community Renewal Act" has given Hometown Democracy an extra push.

Even some people who think Hometown Democracy is a radical idea will be more willing to consider it.

Me, I'm thinking about the Hillsborough County Commission over the years. And the Pinellas County Commission on bad days, too.

Not to mention all those council meetings in countless Florida burgs over the years where citizens begged for reason, only to be shot down.

Last, I'm thinking of the Florida Legislature and this rapacious new law.

So, if you're trying to convince me of how much worse off we'd be if the dumb, ignorant voters were in charge — well, you're going to have to work pretty hard at it.

Unwise pro-growth laws make Florida Hometown Democracy more likely to pass in 2010 06/13/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 3:43pm]

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