State needs Amendment 4
Most of the time, my views are in lockstep with the Times, but on Amendment 4 you and I are at opposite poles. Your editorial of Sept. 27 offers no clarity to the debate. Let me be specific:
It says Amendment 4 "would make things worse by creating haphazard development patterns." Are the existing land use plans so bad that they would allow that to happen? How were they developed? Could it be any more haphazard than it is now?
You say the amendment would shift "more influence to monied special interests." I ask you, who is fighting this amendment? It is exactly those monied special interests you are describing: the developers, builders and real estate agents — those whose contributions to political campaigns make our Legislature a bad joke.
You say Amendment 4 would spawn "expensive lawsuits." If the law says the voters decide, by what authority would these lawsuits be allowed? If a candidate loses an election, can he bring suit against the winner unless there is some illegality involved? If an amendment passes, can the opposition to it bring suit against it? The St. Pete Beach debacle had no such law at the time. That's why it is in such a state.
You say Amendment 4 would undercut "recovery from the recession." I say that we do not need more development until the huge backlog of homes begins to move again. If more building were to take place now, would it do anything but lower existing home prices even more?
By your own admission, "typically the vast majority" of projects fall within the existing land use plans. So what's the big worry? We allow the voters to choose the most powerful men and women on Earth: the president, senators and representatives. Granted, we have not been doing such a great job on that for a while. But if we can choose them, I think we can decide whether we want 2,000 homes on the big farm next door.
Lois Fries, Largo
Tired arguments against amendment don't hold up
I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the Times editorial against Amendment 4. The recommendation read like it came right from the "No on 4" campaign with the same tired arguments.
Example: "It is easy to see why developers might decide to build their projects in another state, which could imperil Florida's recovery from the recession." Exactly! We have 350,000 vacant homes now. What good is a recovery that results in another round of boom and bust?
On the St. Pete Beach issue, most of the litigation resulted from actions by developers, aided by local officials, aimed at bypassing state growth management laws — not from the local Amendment 4-type charter amendments.
Even if Amendment 4 isn't perfect (it's not), the Times offers nothing as an alternative. With growth management in the developer-riddled Legislature's bull's-eye, without Amendment 4 there will no checks and balances against the over development that already has made much of Florida the pits.
We the people are mad as hell at the broken system of greedy politicians spoon-fed by campaign contributions and worse. Something must be done.
No one has presented anything as an alternative. Business as usual is not acceptable.
Edward Candela, Yankeetown
Bring balanced growth
If a developer has potentially profitable developments he can make in Florida and Georgia, the Times says he will choose Georgia because of Amendment 4. But the truth is that any company that has two profitable options will pursue both.
You also speak of this turning development into a political campaign. Do you really think it is not under our current rules? The only difference is that there are fewer "voters" to influence when you are talking about a City Council. The way the Times has been bashing Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman for his help to developers proves this point.
And finally, the reason St. Pete Beach is having legal battles and added costs is because the developers are fighting the city. If Amendment 4 is part of the Constitution, there are no more legal challenges because it all comes down to a flat vote.
Right now, developers have all the say and the people none. Perhaps after a year or two of Amendment 4, the two sides can get together and design an amendment to evenly balance all interests. But to toss your hands in the air and surrender to the developers will not get them off their duffs to compromise.
Bob Bost, St. Petersburg
I want a say in development
Here's why I'm voting yes on Amendment 4:
I want a say in how my community is developed. I don't trust that our elected officials will work for the greater good of the community. There was a time when I wouldn't have felt that way, but today is a very different time.
Recently, the Times reported that Jabil announced a new corporate center and will pay just a fraction of the public infrastructure costs, thanks to our government officials and SB 360. The remainder of the costs to build roads, sewers, etc., will be the burden of the taxpayer.
Look at the groups who do not want Hometown Democracy. They are the wealthy developers. The taxpayers know this and are right to demand a say in development and who pays for it. Every taxpayer should consider the consequences of allowing their governing bodies and developers to decide on what projects get built and who pays what.
Cherie Haigley, St. Petersburg
After long fight, English dies of shame Sept. 26
Dumbed down and doomed
I, too, mourn the death of the English language. For years I have argued against the lowering of educational standards with little response or concern from educational boards, schools and classroom teachers.
I've watched as proper grammar and a prodigious vocabulary have gone the way of the dinosaur. Text messaging has become the most popular form of communication for the majority of Americans of all ages. Acronyms, icons, slang and abbreviations are accepted means of communicating — even for classroom assignments!
This is not surprising as reading and comprehending actual books, magazines and newspapers are quickly becoming part of our past. The majority are looking for the quick news flash without the fleshing out of the details. And, as every educated person knows, just skimming headlines without the fine points and complete facts leads to hasty judgments and misunderstandings.
Four years ago America was ranked against 56 other developed countries. America ranked 35th in mathematics and 29th in science. Ironically, reading scores could not be tabulated because of errors in the instruction booklets. That same year Florida was ranked 29th nationally by the Morgan Quitno Press, a research and publishing company.
If we are to stand proudly in the international arena, America must set educational standards that will challenge our students from elementary school through college. Refuse to stand by quietly and accept the deliberate dumbing down of America or we are doomed.
Patricia Lee-Lucardie, Tampa
Epilogue | Sept. 29
A fitting tribute
Thank you to the Times and reporter Andrew Meacham for the beautiful and poignant epilogue on the life of Neil Alan Smith. It's a rare thing to see any story in the media that speaks to the basic dignity, honor and respect due to all beings.
Because of this story, Mr. Smith's life has hopefully given many of us a reminder of the humanity of each person we meet. I've hung the story in my workplace to remind me daily of this fact.
Rick Smith, St. Petersburg