According to The New York Times, Amendment 4 has been defeated by a margin of 65 percent to 35 percent, with a quarter of the results counted. The amendment needed 60 percent approval to pass.
The state’s business community viewed the passage of Amendment 4, which would have given voters the ability to approve or reject changes to local land-use plans, with a sense of impending doom, pouring more than $12 million into Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy, the main group opposing the measure.
Local governments also girded themselves for the amendment’s passage. They typically approve some 8,000 comprehensive plan amendments in a given year, according to a spokesman for the Department of Community Affairs. Last year, they approved some three times that much — nearly 25,000.
Anecdotally, the DCA spokesman said, the prospect of Amendment 4 passing was one explanation for the surge of amendments, which would have required approval by referendum if the measure passed. Bianca Fortis blogged today about one such last-minute amendment passed in the town of Palmetto.
In an email rallying cry sent out last week by Florida Hometown Democracy, the group behind the amendment, supporter John Hedrick warned that if the amendment failed, “the bulldozers will be unstoppable”:
If you’ve been told that there are “better” solutions than Amendment 4, don’t believe it! Developer-influenced politicians have already killed off those other proposals every time they’ve come up, and they’ll continue to do so. Amendment 4 came to be because the other side concedes there’s a problem, but has never wanted a solution that will really work. It’s their way or the highway.
And don’t think that if Amendment 4 fails this time, there will be another chance to support it later. No, Amendment 4 is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s the result of 7 years of strenuous effort by dedicated citizen-volunteers who collected more than a million signatures, and fought off 7 court challenges from developers. Lacking the opposition’s developer money and paid workforce, Amendment 4 supporters have given this citizens’ initiative their all.
Hometown Democracy president Lesley Blackner has released a statement saying, in part:
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to have a rational discussion of a solution to Florida’s horrible growth management problem in 30-second television ads that cost millions of dollars to air. Voters were subjected to the full financial power of those special interests that are committed to maintaining a death grip on their ability to control the status quo of sprawl and overbuilding in our state. We nonetheless respect the voters’ judgment at the ballot box.
For seven years, we sought to focus a discussion about how Florida will grow. We hope it is a discussion that continues beyond today, which marks the end of the Florida Hometown Democracy movement. It is left to our state’s elected leaders and residents find an answer to Florida’s addiction to promiscuous construction before it is too late for our state’s natural resources and quality of life.
The opposition released its own statement:
“Voters overwhelmingly agree that one of Florida’s most important economic sectors should not be held hostage,” said Ryan Houck, executive director of Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy. “Floridians saw through the rhetoric and recognized Amendment 4 for what it was — a dangerous, costly and job-killing anti-growth measure that would have driven our state deeper into recession.”
Unlike most ballot initiatives, Floridians have been debating Amendment 4 for the better part of a decade — since it was first drafted in 2003. Since that time, an historic coalition has formed to oppose the anti-growth measure, including Florida’s top business, labor, civic and planning groups as well as every major newspaper and both leading candidates for Governor.
“In the beginning, opposition to Amendment 4 was controversial and by the end, it was consensus,” said Houck. “That’s because Floridians had years to learn about this amendment, study its details, and consider its consequences. The result was not just a resounding rejection of Amendment 4, but also a rejection of the anti-growth philosophy that underpins it.”