Saturday, May 9, 2009

Must respond to this absurdity...

From Lynn Anderson's blog, calling out yours truly:

Even on a local level, we have Wes Blackman, a CRA member and local blogger who says he wants to run for Mayor. He seems to relish in the thought or possibility of Save Our Neighborhood Inc. and the Lake Osborne Heights neighborhood losing on the Sunset property issue and disses Florida Hometown Democracy, every chance he gets, calling it a "radical proposal." The only thing radical is his statement.

Some people get perverse pleasure in just fighting the very people they live around and get turned on when thinking that their view is the only one that is correct, hoping the other guy goes down in defeat, thus proving that they were smarter all along. One thing for sure that can be admired, he is not hypocritical in his beliefs on these issues even if they are not very politically smart with a lot of the people. I like someone who stands up for what he believes but he just alienated one half of the city by a single statement.

All we are saying is "Let the people vote" on land use changes. Why should three commissioners be able to change an entire neighborhood for a developer? Sounds fair to me.

Well, for those around here that surf the local blogs, you might already be aware of Ms. Anderson's. It is a unique breed. You can find it through a Google search if you're interested. In my opinion, its tone is decidedly negative and is laced with half-truths and misinformation. I defend her right to say whatever she wants, but it would be wise for her to look in the mirror of public opinion after she touches her computer keyboard. Can life be all that bad?

I don't "relish" the thought of anyone losing anything. I relish "win-win" decisions and the time when we can all co-exist peacefully, follow established process and laws and have the ability to look at the facts objectively. For many reasons, I see the Hometown Democracy movement as a dangerous precedent for the State of Florida. This conclusion comes after my years (26+) as a certified urban planner, most of which have been practiced in the State of Florida. My professional experience is predominantly one that is all about sensitive redevelopment of already existing urban areas and the promotion of historic preservation - it has not been about "greenfield" development.

Hometown Democracy is dangerous for the following reasons:
  • It will over-politicize a process (amendment and adoption of Comprehensive Plans) that should be based on "data and analysis" - objective fact, rather than emotional hyperbole.
  • It will draw big developer money into elections in order to "buy" the vote of an already weary electorate tired of big money media campaigns.
  • It will push what development there will be to areas away from an established voter base - locally that means western portions of Palm Beach County and interior regions - many environmentally sensitive - in the state of Florida. This would ensure the "sprawl" type of development pattern that has been the bane of our existence since the advent of the automobile as a primary means of transportation.
  • It will tax the voter in studying complex issues that are distilled into a minimum number of words to fit on a ballot. These may appear in groups of 10, 20, 30 more individual items on that ballot. The difficulty in interpreting what is actually being proposed will encourage over-simplification of these complex issues and lead to sound-bites contained in 15 second advertisements on your local news programs.
  • It will lead to lawsuits from those people who may have their property rights (founded in the U.S. Constitution) taken away from them.
  • It uses the romantic term "Hometown Democracy" to pull on the heart strings of petition signers and voters - dropping bread crumbs to follow toward disastrous land use decisions.
I am not "fighting" against the people. I haven't involved myself in PACs or lawsuits or signature gathering like Ms. Anderson and her associates such as Ms. Blackner (head proponent of Hometown Democracy), have in the pursuit of their vision of what "right" is. My involvement was limited to an affirmative vote when I was on the Planning and Zoning Board to change a land use designation and rezoning on a 4 acre property at the edge of a single family neighborhood - surrounded on three sides by one of the most dense residential projects in the city. My vote was based on objective information and the implementation of safeguards that buffered the effects of the zoning change on the surrounding neighborhood. As a result of the City Commission voting 3-2 to approve the land use plan change and rezoning, a very small and vocal group has leveraged this decision to advance their political agenda by backing certain candidates for the City Commission. The composition of the present Commission is a result of their efforts.

The property was also annexed by the city of Lake Worth. Oh, and the resulting change in land use and zoning amounts to four (4) additional units from the former County zoning designation. I have the documentation of that if you care to read it.

Does growth management and how we adopt and follow local comprehensive plans need to be overhauled in the state of Florida? Yes indeed! The fix to the current situation is not Hometown Democracy as currently proposed by its most ardent followers. And it's also not found in the gutting of the growth management laws produced during this last legislative session.

Locally, I have come around to believe that we should vote on anything - ANYTHING - that would involve changing or spending significant money at the city's beach property. And I think it's interesting that those that push for "let the people vote" are the ones that ignore a local Lake Worth referendum that allowed height of buildings to go up to 100 feet west of Dixie and 65 feet east of Dixie Hwy. Hmmmmmm.

Personally, I like Ms. Anderson and think we'd have a great time on the dance floor dancing to disco tunes. We just don't see eye to eye on issues related to redevelopment.