Hometown Democracy vs. Save Our Constitution
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11/16/07 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Friday | Listen to this entire show:

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The primary opponent and supporter of the proposed Florida Hometown Democracy constitutional amendment debated this afternoon at the Tiger Bay Club of Tampa. If it makes it to the ballot and if 60 percent of voters support it, the Florida Hometown Democracy amendment would require that voters approve any changes to local land use plans.

Lesley Blackner is an environmental attorney who is promoting the Florida Hometown Democracy amendment effort pro bono. Her opponent in the Tiger Bay debate was former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives John Thrasher. Thrasher is co-chair of Save Our Constitution, an organization that opposes the Florida Hometown Democracy amendment.

Thrasher said Save Our Constitution was financially supported in part by Associated Industries, which represents Florida’s largest companies. Thrasher held up a thick stack of mock ballots that he said had the hundreds of comprehensive plan amendments that voters of North Reddington Beach would have had to vote on if the Florida Hometown Democracy amendment were in effect.

But a member of the audience asked whether that meant that the system needed to be repaired since local leaders approve that many land-use changes.

Hometown Democracy’s Lesley Blackner responded while holding up the stack of mock ballots. Blackner said all the Florida Hometown Democracy amendment would do is add one step to amending the comprehensive plan.

Earlier this year, a group called Floridians for Smarter Growth, sent a letter to thousands of Florida residents who had signed a petition to get Hometown Democracy on the ballot. The letter was signed by Thrasher and asked the recipients to request that their names be removed from the Hometown Democracy petition. The letter refers to voters as “electors” and claims that special interests and developers would benefit if the Florida Hometown Democracy amendment passes. Thrasher said it would also mean that the best-financed interests would prevail at the ballot.

Thrasher said some of the people who support the Florida Hometown Democracy amendment are "‘extreme environmentalists" who want to take away the property rights of Floridians.

But Bev Griffiths, who is chair of Tampa Bay Sierra Club does not consider her group to be extreme.

Thrasher argued that if Florida Hometown Democracy were to pass, the rate of development would slow down and it would hurt the economy. But Blackner said that rampant development has contributed to the current recession.

Groups that oppose the Hometown Democracy amendment say voters don’t want to vote on all of the land-use changes, but Blackner told WMNF that many citizens would be happy to participate.

To learn more, or to sign a petition to place the Florida Hometown Democracy amendment on the ballot, visit floridahometowndemocracy.org.

Stay tuned next week on WMNF’s RadioActivity program hosted by Rob Lorei where we will bring you extended excerpts from this debate.

Learn More:

Florida Hometown Democracy

Floridians for Smarter Growth

Tiger Bay Club of Tampa

Photo Credit: Seán Kinane/WMNF

Photo Caption: Lesley Blackner holds a stack of mock ballots. John Thrasher and Tiger Bay Club of Tampa President April Schiff are also pictured.

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