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Confessions of an Amendment 4 Swing Voter

I'm ill-informed and undecided, but I'm absolutely determined to vote on November 2. My name is Tom, and I'm a swing voter.

I want to vote for Amendment 4, which would require developers in Florida to get voters' blessing for projects that deviate from a city's growth management plans. I greatly admire advocates of the cause like Deerfield Beach activist Bett Willett. And I have great respect for the opinion of my colleague Bob Norman, who supports Amendment 4.

But if I were to vote today, I'd vote against it. The explanation, as well as an invitation to be convinced in the other direction, after the jump.

In short, I can't forget what I learned from the year I spent in California and the year I spent in Seattle.

In California, the solution to the toughest debates is to let voters decide, which is paralyzing to government and which defeats the purpose of a representative democracy: We elect you based on your integrity, policy positions, and judgment, giving ourselves the peace of mind that you're usually going to vote in a way that we wanted, if we actually bothered to study the issue you were voting on. 

Allowing voters to make the big policy decisions can work only if the citizenry is extremely well-informed, which brings me to Seattle.

This is a city that's extremely well-informed. I swear, members of the zoning board have groupies. If Amendment 4 were on the ballot in Seattle, I'd be voting for it.

But Seattle's a long way from Florida -- geographically and culturally. For starters, the citizens there are so diligent in following local politics that elected officials know the tiniest scandal (e.g. "My opponent is not a vegan -- and he buys chicken that's not free-range!") will deal a fatal blow to their campaign. For this reason, there's little corruption. So there's little need for something like Amendment 4, which seems to operate on a premise that our elected officials are in corrupt cahoots with developers.

Which in Florida, they often are. But to me, the solution is not to take the decisions away from our local elected officials. It's to pick better elected officials, which requires that we pay closer attention to what our elected officials are doing, such that those officials become scared of being seen in bed with a developer, scared of voting in favor of a development project that so many voters oppose.

Of course, if people paid closer attention to politics, then we wouldn't even need Amendment 4 to begin with.

It seems to me a superficial solution to a fundamental problem. At the very least, it's going to unleash yet another strain of campaign billboards and literature, empowering the dark forces who already get rich trying to mislead Florida voters about the candidates who hire them.

But as I said at the outset, I haven't studied this issue in great detail, although I certainly intend to before casting my ballot. There may be some crucial factor I'm overlooking, and if that's the case, then I'll reverse my position. I hereby open up the floor to Hometown Democracy and anyone else who wants to make a pitch.

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Thomas Francis

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