Tag Archives: Mark David Major

For Florida Hometown Democracy

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is a guest editorial in support of Florida Hometown Democracy originally published in October 2010 on the online magazine, Metro Jacksonville.

EDITORIAL: VOTE YES ON AMENDMENT 4
by Mark David Major, AICP

Voting Yes for Amendment 4 this November 2nd is a vote for a better, smarter Florida. Our real estate and development industry is a dinosaur; equally dull in its collective wisdom and just as extinct. Over the last 25+ years, our real estate development industry has been driven by one arrogant and fatal assumption: this is what makes us the most money, therefore, this is what the people really want. It’s akin to offering a man dying of thirst in the desert a shot of bourbon to forget his troubles (“oh, and here’s a Golden Calf to help you pray for help”). The dying man wants… needs water. But the profit margins on bourbon and golden calves meet the quarterly profit projections of Wall Street. Now Amendment 4 comes before the voters this November 2nd to offer water in the desert. Predictably, the entrenched, moneyed interests in Tallahassee and town halls across the state have risen in opposition to Amendment 4. In the wilderness of the desert, they proclaim, “Don’t drink the water! Water has a 100% mortality rate! Anybody who has ever tasted water has died!” But the voters know better. Amendment 4 proposes to make amendments to local comprehensive plans subject to voter approval. And this will lead to real change in how Florida develops and grows, for better and smarter development, in the future. Once the inevitable economic recovery appears, our real estate and development businesses will still make money (a lot of money, in fact). But the “this is the way we’ve always done it” business models they have relied for the last 25+ years will have to adapt when the voters approve Amendment 4 this November 2nd. Americans are optimists. We believe a vote can change our world. In 2006 and 2008, we voted to change direction after the Republican Party betrayed its core principles. Now, in 2010, we are once again preparing to vote for unprecedented change after the disappointment of the last 2 years. The media pundits and talking heads are pontificating about “the angry voter”, as represented by the enthusiasm of the Tea Party movement. But people don’t get angry and enthusiastically go out to vote unless they are optimists. The optimist votes because we still believe our vote matters and we can change things for the better. We stubbornly cling to our optimism despite being bombarded by the ‘conventional wisdom’ of cynics who prey on the fear we can never change a corrupt system dominated by moneyed interests, lobbyists and entitled self-serving incumbents (of both parties). I urge you to exercise your optimism by voting Yes on Amendment 4 this November 2nd for a better and smarter Florida.

Mark Major, AICP was the Chair of the First Coast Section, Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association from 2005-2008.

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For Amendment 4

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is an opinion piece written in support of Amendment 4 and published in the September 10-16 issue of the Jacksonville Business Journal. The opposing opinion piece against Amendment 4 was written by The Honorable John Peyton, Mayor of the City of Jacksonville, Florida.

Why are you for Amendment 4?
by Mark David Major, AICP

The way we have planned and managed growth in Florida since the adoption of the 1985 Growth Management Act has failed. It has led to an unsustainable, energy-inefficient, suburban sprawl nightmare built on over-inflated property values. It has led to our real estate market being Ground Zero for a global recession. It has led to widespread unemployment, massive home devaluation, and record levels of foreclosures and bankruptcies. It has led to the worst economic downturn in our country since the Great Depression. Approval of Amendment 4 is an opportunity to change the dynamics of how we grow in Florida for the better and to make smarter decisions about growth in the future.

Why do you think the arguments that opponents have to the Amendment regarding unintended consequences are false?

Florida Hometown Democracy was never going to achieve what its supporters originally intended; namely, to stop growth. However, the arguments that opponents of Amendment 4 make about unintended consequences are disingenuous because what they really mean is they will have change the way they do business. But it is ‘business as usual’ that is the problem. Approval of Amendment 4 will lead to businesses making better and smarter decisions about what land is best to develop rather than what is the cheapest land to purchase. The most crucial calculations about a development are made long before it enters the regulatory process and approval of Amendment 4 will alter those calculations.

How do you think growth will evolve after the amendment?

Approval of Amendment 4 will promote the potential of already-entitled urban land, in-fill development, and reclamation of brownfield properties. It will also benefit traditional urban cores like Downtown Jacksonville. It will place greater demand on the design skills of planners, architects, and urban designers because property owners and developers will want to maximize profit in the horizontal and vertical dimension of their projects. Over time, this will lead to development patterns that make public transit alternatives (such a trolleys and rail) more economically viable for cities like Jacksonville.

What would its failure mean?

Failure to approve Amendment 4 will mean more of the same. Our real estate market, our properties, and our homes will remain trapped in a cycle of ‘boom and bust’. More importantly, the solution opponents of Amendment 4 are offering is ‘more of the same’. They are poised, even eager, to make the same mistakes all over again because that is “how we’ve always done it”. But ‘more of the same’ is not a solution. Voting YES for Amendment 4 this November 2nd is a step in the right direction for a better Florida.

Mark David Major, AICP is the immediate past chair of the First Coast Section of the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association.

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