Thursday, June 11, 2009

COLUMN: Florida Hometown Defense

Opinion piece by PB Post's Joel Englehardt. Click title for link. An excerpt:

But SB 360 is so bad that it may persuade public officials who dislike Hometown Democracy to embrace it. Voters fed up with Tallahassee are sure to like the concept of public control, despite a concerted Florida Chamber of Commerce campaign to defeat it. Trust in Tallahassee is so low, consider this potential response to the passage of Hometown Democracy: Legislators could eliminate land-use planning. If there is no land-use plan, there can be no voter referendum to change the land-use plan.

Rather than cave in to the inevitability of Hometown Democracy, local communities can unify. If they don't, SB 360 will mean a different set of rules, or no rules at all, in every city based on artificial boundaries, not common sense. Traffic allowed by one jurisdiction would cause congestion in a neighboring jurisdiction. Without countywide control, the neighboring city will have no say.

Getting neighbors to agree can be a problem, as the Royal Palm Beach-Wellington experience reveals. But it's worth the effort. Lantana Town Manager Michael Bornstein has suggested that cities, counties and the school district come together to identify critical issues facing Palm Beach County and create a plan to confront them.

Right now, he correctly notes, the county is like a fibrillating heart because every jurisdiction dances to its own beat. What better issue on which to start dancing together than growth management? Cities and counties have been doing it for two decades. In 1988, Palm Beach County voters insisted on it, approving a referendum that put traffic planning under the county.

This idea of regional planning has merit - and a logical reaction to the illogical enactment of the Hometown Democracy initiative would be the state taking away comprehensive planning as we know it. Then, there would be no referendum since there would be no local comprehensive plans. Perhaps we should talk with our neighbors since we already serve many of them with our utilities - oh, that's right, they may not want to talk to us since we threaten to take away our water service, we bill for items 10 years in arrears and we don't honor agreements. In a way, we are ahead of the curve since we essentially don't have a Comprehensive Plan now.

My point is, it would be great for Lake Worth to be in a position to lead on this regional planning concept, but we have lost any right or claim to that role based upon how we manage our own affairs and our relationships with other local governments.