Naples Daily News/Zogby Poll: Hometown Democracy falling short of passage

Among likely voters

Support: 48.8 percent

Opposed: 27.8 percent

Undecided: 23.4 percent

Margin of error: 3.5 percent

Needed to pass: 60 percent

Results of the Naples Daily News/Zogby Poll

Results of the Naples Daily News/Zogby Poll

Topic: Hometown Democracy

■Who put it on the ballot: Florida Hometown Democracy Inc., PAC, through signature initiative

■If approved: It would require local governments to get voter approval before adopting a new comprehensive land-use plan or making changes to existing land plans.

■Supporters include: Attorney Lesley Blackner, Sierra Club of Florida

■Opponents include: The Florida League of Cities, the Florida Association of Counties, Florida Association of Realtors, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Farm Bureau.

■Ballot language: “Establishes that before a local government may adopt a new comprehensive land use plan, or amend a comprehensive land use plan, the proposed plan or amendment shall be subject to vote of the electors of the local government by referendum, following preparation by the local planning agency, consideration by the governing body and notice. Provides definitions.”

— The state constitutional amendment to give residents a stronger say in local development is far from its needed supermajority for approval, according to a Daily News/Zogby poll released Thursday.

Amendment 4, called “Hometown Democracy,” received 48.8 percent approval from likely voters in the poll.

South of the Interstate 4 corridor, 54.8 percent of voters said they support the amendment. But the state requires a 60 percent supermajority for amendments to pass.

Naples and Collier County officials said that while they were surprised by the amount of support Amendment 4 has received, the fact that a bulk of that support came from South Florida wasn’t shocking.

“I have not heard any voices in favor of Amendment 4 ... (but) I would imagine it would get a lot of support in the Miami, Fort Lauderdale area,” Naples Councilman Sam Saad said. “It seems like there is a lot of throw-up-the-concrete-block houses, paint them and see what happens with no real thought on the environment” there.

Part of the appeal to voters is the name, according to many who oppose the amendment.

“It’s got a sexy name, the right look,” Bonita Springs Mayor Ben Nelson said when asked why he thought residents would be interested in the amendment. “It’s got ‘democracy’ in it. It’s got ‘hometown’ in it. It’s like apple pie and grandma. ... The irony is, it does the exact opposite of hometown democracy. A majority of the people who support this want lighter government, less taxes and actually having this put into place will do the opposite of that.”

Opponents of the amendment, which include the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Association of Realtors and other businesses and governments under the umbrella of a group called Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy, were just as far away from success, with 27.8 opposed.

While a split of the 23.4 percent remaining undecided voters would push the measure above the 60 percent threshold, University of Florida political science professor Daniel A. Smith said historically undecided voters tend to opt against amendments when they finally must decide.

Zogby International Chairman John Zogby said the ballot language might be a factor in the amendment failing to get a majority support.

CLICK HERE FOR database on Naples Daily News/Zogby Poll results

“The large number of those who report being unsure is probably due to it being presented to the electorate in an unabbreviated format, which is difficult for many to grasp,” Zogby said. “How proponents and opponents get out their message before Election Day will make all the difference.”

Ryan Houck, executive director of Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy, said he wasn’t surprised by the numbers and expects more of the undecided voters to shift toward the opposition when they hear about the economic impact of the amendment.

“We’ve just started our advertising campaign, focusing on the costs and consequences of Amendment 4,” Houck said. “The more voters learn about the higher costs, wasted tax dollars and serious job loss tied to Amendment 4, the more they’re opposed to it.”

The Florida Hometown Democracy organization that backs the amendment introduced a new TV ad Tuesday titled “Monsters” that plays on a Halloween theme by calling opponents of the measure “corporate vampires” and “zombie political insiders.”

Houck called the ad “unusual” and “misleading.”

Wayne Garcia, spokesman for Florida Hometown Democracy, said eventually those undecided voters will see that Amendment 4 comes down to their right to vote against retaining the same boom-and-bust cycle of speculative real estate that has made the recession in Florida.

Final of three days of coverage of the Naples Daily News/Zogby Poll.

Tuesday: The race in Florida for U.S. Senate

Wednesday The race for Florida governor

Today: Hometown Democracy amendment

Pick up a copy of the Daily News throughout the week for more poll results

Are you going to vote yes or no on Amendment 4?

See the results »

View previous polls »

“Once voters understand how Florida’s over-building industry will say and do anything — including builders who donated millions to oppose Amendment 4 after getting millions of dollars in a federal bailout — to maintain their stranglehold on the broken economy and sprawl machine, they will see that Amendment 4 is the only hope for a level playing field,” Garcia said. “We continue to believe that Floridians deserve a seat at the table when development issues are decided that will raise their taxes.”

Andrew Dickman, a Collier County environmental attorney in favor of Amendment 4, said supporters still are working to rally community members in support of their cause.

“I would tell people: ‘Wouldn’t you want to have a voice in the future of your community and how it’s developed?’” Dickman said. “Right now, local elected officials are making these decisions in the middle of the day at public meetings when you’re at work or at night when you’re attending to your kids.”

Smith said critics of the amendment have a vast advantage when it comes to getting out their message, but with the support hovering at 50 percent or lower, they may not need to unleash their barrage of attack ads.

“If this was in high-50s, the chamber would start to open the purse strings of the upwards of $10 million they have to oppose this measure,” Smith said. “That’s cash that may go to issue ads against (Democratic gubernatorial candidate) Alex Sink.”

He said it might also be too late for Hometown Democracy, the sprawl-critic group that got the amendment on the ballot.

“They’ve run a couple of TV ads, but nothing that is going to saturate the airways to get people to know why they might want to support changing how we decide comprehensive plans and growth,” Smith said.

The Daily News/Zogby poll, which interviewed 802 registered voters between Sept. 27 and Sept. 29, had a 3.5 percent margin of error.

The amendment, which is also opposed by many elected officials, was favored more by Democrats, 57.2 percent, than Republicans, 39.4 percent, while opposition stood at 33.4 percent among Republicans and 25.6 percent from Democrats.

South Floridians were more supportive of the amendment, 54.8 percent, than those in the central and northern part of the state, both just above 45 percent.

Support for the amendment grew the younger the voter’s age and lower the voter’s income.

Whites were more likely to oppose the amendment than Hispanics or African-Americans.

Poll results from early October

CLICK HERE FOR database on Naples Daily News/Zogby Poll results

Naples Daily News/Zogby Poll: Hometown Democracy falling short of passage

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CLICK HERE FOR PROFILE on Alex Sink VIDEO/PHOTOS The Alex Sink story: Humble start, business career, Florida governor?

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__ Staff writers Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster and Tara E. McLaughlin contributed to this report

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Comments » 2

ajm3s writes:

Imagine the government does not like the Amendment as well as the well heeled 'special' interests. It is so interesting that government does not like to be saddled with government.

If you are not leery of what your government recommends on your behalf, then I suggest you vote NO to maintain the status quo. But if you did not like the way things have gone in the last 10 years on Marco Island, I recommend you vote YES. Because, regardless of how you vote, the cost will be laid on the taxpayers - in the NO camp, hidden, in the YES camp open and evident.

The NO camp will tell that you will pay a premium because of increased cost to publish and create referendums for public vote. I reply by saying that those in the YES camp, will at least be able to engage and be counted if it passes. Kinda of a cost/tax for the privilege to voice your opinion on developments that may impact your neighborhood.

They say Freedom is not Free, which is so true, therefore, I choose to pay for the option to review land codes etc. via a referendum vote.

But if you think the YES option is too much of an added cost, then vote NO. If you subscribe to central planning with no official public scorecard, vote NO. It costs less, but I may not be what you wanted. And how many times have we taken the "economy" government model only to find it lacking in performance.

How many examples of monies spent by municipal and county government that you would have wanted a vote, that did not occur, as well as those that were by statute to come before the citizens, that did not. For me, way too numerous.

I wish there was a more moderate Amendment, but we do not have this option, yet. Consequently, I will vote YES even if it may be overbearing to planning management. Because so many communities have catered to interests that were not in alignment with its residents. If you have another way to adjust this inequity, I am all ears. But today we must vote and pull the handle.

VOTE YES, or convince me otherwise, for this article does not change my view.

The way I see it, the PEOPLE understand the influence of Federal and State mandates that government places on its electorate, now we have an opportunity to mandate how the government will operate in managing its cities and towns future. Well I say, to policymakers this is what you get when you contaminate the well of fair and balanced representative governance.

In the end, let's just count the votes. That is the official referendum/ballot vote and the bar has been set at 60% of voters for passage. Just another hurdle, we get it.

ajm3s writes:

This is the best I have read to date from Naples Daily News LTE, by Dawn Koncikowski of Bonita Springs. She begins:

"On Nov. 2, vote yes on Amendment 4.

It was created after extensive public hearings and input from regular citizens, planners, builders and developers. Once adopted, it becomes a plan that designates broad categories for land use, including commercial, industrial, residential and farmland.

The plan is created in a careful, thoughtful process, the result of public input and public consent. It provides for planned and orderly growth.

So long as municipal officials conform to the approved comprehensive land-use plan when considering new development, Amendment 4 will have no effect. There would be no special elections. There would be no clogged election calendar, no voter involvement in minor zoning and no special elections.

The details of development that conforms to the comprehensive plan would be handled as it is now.

Under Amendment 4, it is only when officials decide to ignore and override the comprehensive plan that voters would be asked to vote to approve or reject the change to the plan.

Amendment 4 does not stifle sound growth or good growth, but it will help limit unmanaged growth. Many cities in Florida already have enough residential and commercial units built into the existing plans to cover public need for the next 40-plus years.

Amendment 4 is about giving voters the right to insist that the comprehensive plan be respected and enforced unless good reason is presented to override it such as for a public need.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need to reserve this authority to ourselves, but it’s not a perfect world and many elected officials have done a poor job of protecting our plans. So it is up to us.

Vote yes and protect your community."

I would like to add by asking:

Can the council on Marco Island please rebut this fine comment? And with a council vote of 7-0, what were you thinking, can you please explain? I just do not get it. Who do you represent? Or is the electorate of limited perspective?

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