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Sparks fly at Hometown Democracy debate

The already heated debate over Amendment 4, known as Hometown Democracy, got hotter than a summer day in Tallahassee Thursday at Capital Tiger Bay, as presenters on each side offered a window into the issue that has polarized growth advocates and reform activists across the state.

Leslie Blackner, the Palm Beach County attorney and one of the authors of the ballot initiative that will ask voters to require that changes to a county's comprehensive growth management plan get voter approval, called the measure "a very simple thing.'' It gives voters veto power and "only affects comprehensive plans."'

On the opposing side was Ryan Houck, director for the Chamber of Commerce-supported group called Floridians for Smarter Growth. He summed up the issue as "a great problem, wrong solution,'' because "everything will be voted on."

"It’s like taking a two by four to a fruit fly,'' he said "You’re probably going to miss the fly and do a lot of damage in the process."

Blackner said Houck and his organizatio is lying about the effect of the amendment and that it will stop local elected officials from "handing out comp plan changes like Halloween candy" to benefit greedy "evil developers." The result is that there is "millions of authorized developments authorized on the books waiting to break ground" and that there is as much residential development already on the books to house 100 million Floridians.

Houck said that Blackner lives on Palm Beach island and "shares a zip code with the Kennedy Compoud" while the chairman of his group is former South Bay Mayor Clarence Anthony. "Why should Ms. Blackner's neighbors get a vote on if South Bay wants a civic center,'' he said. "It's not fair. It's not democratic."

Blackner responded that if the county's growth plan is sound, there will be no need for an amendment. "Ryan's job is to make things confusing and technical so that people just throw up their hands and walk away,'' she said.

Comments

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Gaby

This is a great amendment! About time the people had some say! The Lowe's superstore struggle is the perfect example of why we need this amendment. When you have enough time and money on your hands (as Lowes did), it is easy to keep contesting. Meanwhile residents face a terrible struggle if they wish to stop developments like this for hte sake of their environment.

Coleman

I agree that the problem we're facing is a difficult one, and something needs to be done. I just don't think HTD is the solution, at all.

As an ardent supporter of our American representative republic, I'm terrified of anything that puts direct control of anything in the hands of the public. We need that extra layer of separation between the hands of the general public and radical change to temper the extremity of government action.

Pam in Lake County

Gaby...don't you get it? Lowe's will probably always have more money than I do...so they will always beat me in a BALLOT INITIATIVE. However, if I'm effective in presetinging reasonable information to reasonable commissioners, I can beat them at a county commission meeting. Amendment 4 gives me LESS power, not more. I can't afford to run a countywide campaign, Lowe's probably can.

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