“Hometown Democracy” opponents raise nearly $1 million

The new group opposing Amendment 4, the “Florida Hometown Democracy” amendment to the Florida Constitution, raised nearly $1 million in its first quarter of existence with most of its contributions coming from business and development interests.

Voters statewide in November will be asked to decide whether the state will require referendums for changing local comprehensive land use plans. Some environmental groups support the measure as a democratic means of regaining control over growth decisions from development interests, while business groups say the referendum process will be difficult for voters, expensive for local governments and will cripple the state’s economy.

Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy Inc., the main opposition group, raised $986,080 in the first quarter of 2010 with $487,289 coming from Citizens for Smarter Growth, the predecessor opposition group to Amendment 4. Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy Inc., based in Tampa, was created on Jan. 25. The group also received $150,000 from Florida Mainstreet Merchants, a 527 organization, $125,000 from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, $70,000 from the Northeast Florida Chapter of the Commercial Real Estate Development Association and $50,000 each from Waste Management of Houston, Texas and Regency Realty Group Inc. of Jacksonville.

Ryan Houck, executive director of Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy, said businesses contributed to his group because they are concerned that the amendment could cause delays and uncertainty that will lead businesses to locate in other states.

“It’s no surprise that Florida’s business community is against an idea that is going to permanently damage Florida’s economy,” Houck said.

Florida Hometown Democracy Inc., the Amendment 4 support political committee based in New Smyrna Beach, raised $23,689 in the first quarter of 2010 after raising more than $900,000 in 2007 and early 2008. During the most recent reporting period, Florida Hometown Democracy co-founder Lesley G. Blackner of Palm Beach contributed $6,398 towards banners, posters and flyers for the group. The only other contributions over $1,000 were $2,000 from Kenneth Laroe of Eustis and $1,000 from Sara Case of Hollywood.

Blackner said the other side is raising money from members of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the “over-development machine.”

“These people have not learned the lesson of the housing bubble collapse,” she said. “I guess they are just programmed for destruction. They will not change.”

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