"To the ATT attorney, congratulations. You've obviously made your rounds through here." 12 words came out so spontaneously last week, from County Commissioner Joe Martinez. They didn't need to be spoken. Martinez praised the lobbyists for how well they greased the skids. That's what he meant, and he meant it in a good way. Then a simple CYA question that is plain embarrassing for its obvious staging and simplicity. That's the shape of democracy in 2010. That's also how big land use decisions are made by local elected officials, put there by campaign contributors who get their way long before any public hearings on changes to the form and shape of our communities. Martinez was congratulating ATT and its lobbyists for "making the rounds" to secure votes to not infringe on distribution* of the Yellow Pages: a relic of the horse and buggy whip economy.
"You've obviously made your rounds through here" accounts for how taxpayers are stuck with the real rounds: gridlock, job uncertainty, economic malaise and massive budget deficits. It is how we got here. The treadmill. It is the reason for voters to approve, in November, Amendment 4: Florida Hometown Democracy.
Everyone knows that accommodating land use changes by local government officials was cannon fodder of the housing boom. Wall Street couldn't get all its fixes without farmland zoned for construction or condominiums for which there was no real demand. The lobbyists who waltz through city and county halls across the state got what they wanted: a Ponzi scheme that made a few people very rich. Taxpayers and citizens got the bill.
Unfunded infrastructure deficits manifest as clogged traffic, overcrowded schools, a degraded quality of life and environment: thanks to the power of backroom dealing making in Florida, we have exactly the set of conditions that businesses flee, when they can. The worst part: the fake economy is all sold on the promise of "jobs, jobs, jobs".
But, the perpetrators -- who still get the inside pages of the mainstream newspapers-- continue to work their magic like ATT did: delivering votes for the buggy whip economy. Stanley Price, picked to oppose Amendment 4 by the builders and lobbyists, gets his inside page in The Miami Herald today. He writes: "... Amendment 4, if passed, will have potentially devastating consequences for Florida's already fragile economy."
A fright campaign is all that Mr. Price and the land use/speculators have. The evidence is otherwise. Florida Hometown Democracy: look it up on the web, not the Yellow Pages.
* Lobbyists secured votes to stop a proposal by Commissioner Katy Sorenson to help citizens "opt out" of receiving the Yellow Pages. Almost all the commissioners agreed that getting the Yellow Pages should be mandatory.