Voters Beat Down Amendment 4 -- but Is There a Way to Preserve Its Good Meat and Slice Off the Fat? | New Times Broward-Palm Beach


Voters Beat Down Amendment 4 -- but Is There a Way to Preserve Its Good Meat and Slice Off the Fat?

The amendment that would have given voters the right to directly approve land development projects was rejected yesterday by an overwhelming majority in both major parties. It seems the proposal was so riddled with unanswered questions and gray areas that it left voters no choice but to say "no!"

This Miami Herald article explains that Amendment 4 is a murky proposed solution to the problem of overdevelopment and urban sprawl. Yesterday, voters responded to the measure's potential pitfalls:

-- Amendment 4 could cost the state a lot of money to hold these additional elections.
-- By creating more hoops to jump through, it could drive new businesses (re: jobs) out of the state.
-- Voters could face numerous plans on a single ballot.
According to the Miami Herald:

Because of imprecise wording in the amendment, however, the state Supreme Court and the Florida Association of Counties have concluded those votes would also encompass comprehensive-plan elements as arcane as infrastructure improvements, including placement of sewer and drainage lines, traffic circulation plans and community design standards. The state says about 8,000 comp-plan amendments are approved by local governments each year in Florida.

-- If Amendment 4 led to a laundry list of projects on Florida ballots, people may not care enough to cast an informed vote. Naysayers could easily overtake the process.
-- If people were to vote "yes" only for things that will not directly impact their area, Amendment 4 could backfire as a solution to Florida's ever-expanding uninhabited asphalt blanket.
-- Complex plans require pages of explanation. To reduce these documents to a ballot-box boilerplate would lead to misled and angry voters.
-- Plus, who would write the ballot-box descriptions? Public relations people? And what about language barriers? Even the minutiae of this amendment are puzzling.

Even so, urban sprawl and overdevelopment are very real problems Florida faces, but what would be a better solution?

Something moderate and clearly defined. This election will not be the last time we see Amendment 4 in some form, but what changes must be made to make the ideas behind it serve us well?

A few considerations while this issue is still fresh on our post-election minds...
-- Amendment 4 should clearly define "big" projects and stipulate that elections will take place only for projects that meet these criteria.
-- Lawmakers should consider implementing committees of citizens to vote on these projects. It is more reasonable to fully inform a smaller group on a big complex project. That way, questions can be raised and answered in a way that is productive and progressive.
-- There should be a fast-lane process for nonprofit and government-funded projects so that shelters and social service facilities could be negotiated and debated but not ostracized.

What other measures could preserve the worthwhile goals of Amendment 4 while keeping it from doing more harm than good?