Friday, April 30, 2010

A Poster Child for Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment 4

Amendment 4* can’t come too soon for Florida. Case in point, there couldn’t be a better poster child for getting A4 passed than the Diplomat Hotel proposal.

The Diplomat Hotel owners, wanted to build massive condos on their Hallandale property, but because the maximum land use only allowed 50 units per acre and they wanted to almost double that they came up with a scheme to call their land an LAC** so they could have the increased density.

This is a perversion of the intent of an LAC. But, recently, the Hallandale commission passed it 3-2.

Hallandale is the most densely populated city in Broward County, which most likely makes it the most dense in all of Florida, but three commissioners thought they could squeeze some more in and Okayed the plan.

The plan was fought by outraged residents who convinced the County Commission to turn it down; probably because of Amendment 4 looming, but there is no doubt in my mind that it will be back. The hotel’s lawyer was flabbergasted and irate, she is not used to commissioners crossing her.

Now to my point (finally). One of the Hallandale commissioners was contacted by a Diplomat supporter and told that if he voted against the proposal that they would hand pick and fund someone to run against him in the next election.

Was I surprised, no, outraged, but not surprised. I have seen similar things happen in Deerfield Beach in just the last two elections.

This sort of thing happens all over but, I am convinced, more so in Florida as the whole economy has been built on growth and only growth. Current expenses have traditionally been paid for by future building. Over and over again we have seen the boom and then the bust when the Ponzi scheme that is Florida topples.

Powerful land speculators get angry if a commissioner will not rubber stamp a proposal, then out of the blue, a person who has never attended a commission meeting or even been on a city committee, but is buddies with Mr. Speculator, has mega-bucks to run a campaign. The slick advertisements, cutsie slogans and frequent mailers often bring a win. Then the city suffers, as commissioners in the pockets of the powerful do their bidding and disregard quality of life issues. Residents are given lip service, a pat on the head, and then voted against.

Our officials have learned their lesson very well, even the ones who start out trying to do what they are elected to do, represent the voters, are told in effect, and in this case, literally, if you want to stay in office, play by our rules or you are out! So, we, the ones who have to live with the consequences of the betrayal, fume and rant and lose, and the speculators have their way.

Small wonder Hometown Democracy Amendment 4 is eagerly awaited by the Hallandale residents and others who have been betrayed. Each episode, such as the Diplomat Hotel or the Colony West, Woodmont or Crystal Lake Golf courses, has Amendment 4 converts flocking to spread the word.

*Amendment 4 on the Nov. 2 ballot gives voters the chance to vote on proposed changes in land-use plans. Amendment 4 will require that changes in the land use plan which have been approved by the city or county commission will then go to the voters for final approval or rejection in a referendum.

**From Broward County, “Local Activity Centers (LACs) are intended to encourage compact development reflecting characteristics which includes a mixture of community-serving uses such as commercial, office, employment, civic and institutional, recreation and open space and residential, characterized by an efficient infrastructure, close-knit neighborhoods and sense of community, preservation of natural systems, promotion of pedestrian circulation and convenient access to mass transit facilities.”

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