Consultant to developers predicts Hometown Democracy will pass
A Tallahassee consultant for developers and planners predicts that the Florida Hometown Democracy amendment will pass next year. Patrick Slevin, CEO of The Slevin Group, says that there is a âlegitimate threatâ that Amendment 4 will get the sixty percent of votes it needs to pass in next yearâs election.
The Hometown Democracy amendment to the Florida Constitution would, according to the website of its supporters, âgive voters oversight control over how their area will grow and evolveâ by holding a referendum on any âcomprehensive plan amendments approvedâ by local governments. Slevin warns that Hometown Democracy will pass because of the influence of what he calls a âvocal minorityâ on the âsilent majority,â
âGiven everything that Iâve seen up to this point, Hometown Democracy is going to pass. Thatâs my professional opinion. That doesnât mean we donât have hope to find something. I think Hometown Democracy has provided a legitimate discussion. The question is, what kind of constructive alternatives can we give the voters of Florida?â
Slevin spoke Thursday afternoon to a gathering of the Urban Land Institute of Tampa Bay. Environmental activist Mariella Smith thinks that Slevinâs prediction is just a scare tactic to motivate the amendmentâs opponents.
âThis has all been one big marketing plug for his company. Heâs carved out a niche for his own [public relations] company of teaching developers these, sort of, used-car-salesman tactics as opposed to real dialog and working within the community. And so, yes, I think heâs using the scare of Hometown Democracy to foment fear and generate customers for his own business. But I do think heâs right, that Hometown Democracy resonates with a majority of people across the state.â
The former Mayor of Safety Harbor, Patrick Slevin was honorary chair of Young Americans for Dole during the Bob Dole campaign for president in 1996. He calls himself âa NIMBY expert.â
âWeâve transitioned from a âNIMBY Nation:â âNot-In-My-Back-Yard,â to a âBANANA Republic.â BANANA means âBuild-Absolutely-Nothing-Anywhere-Near-Anyone.â Weâre a BANANA Republic because Americans feel that the process is out of control and that developers have an edge. And that itâs about the developer at the expense of the community.â
That perception, Slevin says, is based on polling data from a group called Saint Consulting.
âNearly 9 out of 10 Americans weigh their vote, their decision, on a candidateâs or incumbentâs position on development and growth. Three out of four Americans are opposed to development, which is essentially all new development. And three out of four Americans believe that the system favors the developer at the expense of the community. So you have this âX-factor,â as I call it, of public frustration that affects the âsilent majority:â theyâre reading it in the papers, theyâre hearing about it, theyâre hearing about it on this newscast that we have here. And theyâre having conclusions that we need to take back City Hall and we need to support ballot-box type of direct democracy and thatâs how weâre going to be able to have a harmony between growth and progress.â
But activist Mariella Smith uses those same figures to dispute Slevinâs claim that people opposed to some development projects are a minority.
âThatâs one of his tactics: thereâs to marginalize the citizen-activists by name calling; to demonize them. He constantly, in his speech talked about NIMBYs as being a âvocal minority,â usually just a handful of angry citizens, as he said.â
The term âNIMBYâ is used as a derogatory epithet, Slevin admits. Tampa City Council member John Dingfelder - who paid for the $25 dollar luncheon/speech from his Council budget - took exception to Slevinâs use of the term to describe citizens. âSome might call them NIMBYs, I call them constituents.â
During his presentation, Slevin suggested that in order for developers to build political capital for their proposed projects, they should reach out to upper-middle class âopinion leaders.â Dingfelder thinks that developers should instead reach out to a larger group.comments powered by Disqus