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Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

The Hometown Democracy Debate Heats Up

Amendment 4, also known as Hometown Democracy, will be the ballot initiative to watch in 2010.  The highly-controversial amendment cleared another hurdle yesterday when the Florida Supreme Court issued an advisory opinion to Attorney General Bill McCollum stating that a revised financial impact statement now complied with state law.  

“Local governments will incur additional costs due to the requirement to conduct referenda,” the court opined.  The impact on state government; however, “will be insignificant.”

Amendment 4 would require that any comprehensive land use plan changes approved by city councils or county commissions go before the public in the form of a ballot referendum.  Critics say that requiring the public to vote on all comprehensive changes would clog up local ballots and could necessitate dozens of referenda throughout the year.  On the other hand, proponents contend that local politicians are too dependent on large developers for campaign funds and have been quick to approve amendments in the past.

The recent legislative session only served to further heighten the stakes as the Legislature moved to strip much of the existing growth management policies currently in place in an effort to jump-start the state’s flagging real estate industry.  To the dismay of many, Charlie Crist—a self-proclaimed environmentalist—went along with the Legislature’s efforts. As a result, many previous opponents of Amendment 4 are beginning to change their tune, including Florida Times-Union Columnist Ron Littlepage.  Littlepage cited the Legislature’s near-stripping of concurrency requirements and the on-going Craig Airfield controversy in announcing his shifting position on the initiative.  (Interestingly enough, several local governments, including Weston, Key Biscayne and Miami Beach, have filed suit to block the rewrite of growth management laws.  They argue that eliminating concurrency created “unfunded mandates” for local governments.)

Despite their opposition to the recent moves by the Legislature in regards to growth management, the St. Pete Times Editorial Board is not convinced that Amendment 4 is the answer.  They cite the “St. Pete Beach experiment” in detailing their distaste for the initiative.  St. Pete Beach, the Times said, demonstrates that “land planning via referendum is a messy, unpredictable business that leads to higher government costs due to litigation and a stalemate when it comes to development.”

On its face, some argue that the amendment demonstrates an abdication of voter responsibility.  If the voting public is unhappy with politicians rubber stamping the requests of developers, they argue, then voters have an obligation to show up at the polls in support of individuals who pledge their commitment to uphold the comprehensive plan.  

One thing is for certain—it will be a high-stakes, expensive war as the Florida Chamber, developers and real estate interests make an all-out effort to prevent the amendment from reaching that magical 60%.  

The ad wars on YouTube have already begun.  A sampling, including a satirical reprise of the 1970′s era “Crying Indian” PSA, can be viewed below. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: 2010, Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , , , , , , , , ,

Party begs Crist to enter Senate race

The Florida Senate race that keeps on giving. It looks like the Republican National Senatorial has decided that Charlie Crist is their candidate. And, sources close to Crist tell The Hill he is leaning towards running for the seat being vacated by Mel Martinez.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who until 2006 was the only Democrat to be elected statewide in Florida for years, said he has talked to close friends of Crist who say the governor seems to be leaning towards running, but will wait until after the Florida Legislature adjourns in May.

“I think Charlie is going to consider switching from governor to senator, but I don’t think he’s going to make a decision until after the annual legislative session,” Nelson said.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , , ,

Glenn Beck v. Joe Scarborough for US Senate?

The 2010 US Senate race is set to be a free-for-all in Florida and Dr. Stephen MacNamara is busy tossing possible candidates names into the mix. Of course, the big guys (and girls) have already been mentioned, but in the spirit of Lawton Chiles, Bob Graham and Claude Kirk, MacNamara is pulling for the possibility of an unknown (or untested) candidate throwing the whole race into flux. His most unique suggestion? Talk-show host Glenn Beck. According to MacNamara:

If name recognition, organization and money are so important, how come Barack Obama is about to be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States? Two years ago today 40% of Americans couldn’t even identify him and fully 1/3rd had a negative opinion or no opinion of him. My spell-check still doesn’t even recognize him!

Florida has a rich history of unknowns and statewide political failures capturing statewide offices.[Sayfie Review]

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , , , , , , ,

Kendrick Meek (D-Miami) Jumps into Senate Race

The first “major” candidate has jumped into the race that will be left vacant by the retiring Mel Martinez in 2010. From the St. Pete Times:

The 42-year-old former legislator and son of former U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek, should be a significant force in the campaign. He has a national and statewide profile and network, built leading the class size amendment, the sit-in at Jeb Bush’s office, and leading John Kerry’s Florida campaign in 2004.

And it’s a sign of Meek’s confidence and scrappiness that he’s jumping in the race – essentially giving up a lifetime Congressional seat if he stays in – while other candidates wait to see what heavy favorite Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink decides. Other prospective Democratic candidates include Sink, state Sen. Dan Gelber, and U.S. Reps. Allen Boyd and Ron Klein.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , , , , ,

Vern Buchanan Emerges as Senate Contender

When we first discussed the free-for-all expected after Jeb Bush’s announcement that he would not run for the seat of retiring US Senator Mel Martinez here, US Rep Vern Buchanan didn’t exactly show up on our radar screen. That was, apparently, a significant omission. Mr. Buchanan, who replaced Katherine Harris in the House, had Florida’s own version of the current Norm Coleman/Al Franken controversy back in 2006 when the House decided to seat him, despite the ongoing challenge of his Democratic opponent. With a few years in the House under his belt, he is seriously considering a run to fill Martinez’s seat. With his considerable car dealership and used car warranties wealth, Buchanan would emerge as a major contender. Of course, Mr. Buchanan’s business dealings would provide a Democratic challenger with reams of opposition research. His designation by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington as one of the “20 most corrupt Members of Congress” would also provide the basis for a great campaign commercial.

Don’t expect the negatives to stop him; however, Mr. Buchanan has long held higher ambitions. Stay tuned…

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , , , , , ,

What is Marco Rubio up to?

I mentioned here yesterday that Marco Rubio would be a front-runner for the US Senate seat being vacated by short-termer Mel Martinez. Well, it didn’t take long. Marco is up today with a new website. As FLA Politics puts it, you can:

-Watch a video of Marco, his four bored children and his bored wife.
-Learn fun facts about Marco in the “Did You Know” Section.
-Subscribe to “Marco’s View,” although there is nothing yet posted to the “news letter.”
-Send a message to the “Floridian Shout Box,” although you’ll have to go through a thorough approval process first.
-Join the team!
-Send a text message to Marco!
-Invite Marco to speak at your…whatever!
-”Connect” with Marco on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. How very Web 2.0.
-Check out the “Rubio Review,” whatever that might be, since the page is blank.
-Find interesting typos such as “Welcome to Marco Rubio website.”
-Watch several videos where Marco talks without actually saying anything.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , , ,

US Senate free-for-all in Florida

Jeb Bush’s announcement that he will not seek the seat of retiring US Senator Mel Martinez in 2010 should set the stage for a free-for-all in both parties.

Expect Alex Sink, provided she wants a DC role, to emerge as the front-runner on the Democratic side. Rep. Allen Boyd has made no secret of the fact that he would like to run and several other Democrats are likely to jump in. Sink; however, is the front-runner. And, without Jeb Bush on the other side, Sink should emerge as a strong favorite in the race.

The Republican field will most likely blow up in the next few months as various hopefuls vie for position. Attorney General Bill McCollum fancies himself a US Senator, so you should expect to see him jump in relatively soon. Never mind all that Clinton impeachment stuff and his two failed prior bids, he thinks he can win it this time. (Let’s see if he picked up any of Charlie Crist’s abilities to turn the Attorney General’s Office into a PR machine.) Former Speaker of the House Marco Rubio might have stepped aside for Jeb Bush (Bush is viewed as his mentor), but he harbors no sense of loyalty to McCollum. He has his sights set on grander things (he’d really like to challenge Crist in the Gubernatorial Primary, but doesn’t think the GOP would be keen on it, even though many view Crist as too moderate.) and would love to be Florida’s second Cuban-American Senator. US Rep. Connie Mack could make a great candidate, but he gives the impression that he entered politics because of his name, not necessarily because he has a passion for campaigning. Other Republicans to watch: washed up former CFO Tom Gallagher, former Lt. Governor Toni Jenning, US Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite and yes, attention-loving Governor Charlie Crist.

We are gonna have a real race, folks. Buckle up.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , , , , , , , , ,

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