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Historic Coalition Effort Defeats Amendment 4

By November 15, 2010 No Comments

November 12, 2010

The results of Constitutional referendum can rarely outcompete election night candidate photos and racier front-page, top-of-fold headlines announcing long-shot wins or prospective recounts. Therefore, it falls to other organizations and outlets to write our own version of the headlines we’d like to have seen post election.

CPR believes the unwritten story of Florida’s 2010 General Election cycle might best be captured by the headline: “HISTORIC COALITION EFFORT DEFEATS AMENDMENT 4!”  While this highly appropriate headline won our internal office contest, a close contender was: “Hometown Democracy Proponents Treated to Property Rights Smack Down!” (It just had to be said by someone, didn’t it?)

The writers who will draft Florida’s political history must acknowledge something truly extraordinary happened in the State of Florida in response to the threat posed by Amendment 4.

This ill-conceived measure, aimed at eviscerating property rights in our state, united individuals and industries across the state as they have never been united before. We witnessed a unique unity of purpose which makes the resounding defeat of Amendment 4 that much sweeter.

The work of uniting thousands of individual citizens and organizing hundreds of professional associations and industry groups into an unprecedented communications mechanism is something seldom seen in Florida or in any State. We have seen single industries unfairly targeted and destroyed because there was not collective common-interest support. We have seen legislative measures and taxes opposed by small combinations of combined special interests or industries, but we have never witnessed the combined interests brought together as occurred in the strategic effort to educate voters about the negative impact of Amendment 4. 

Another aspect of this statewide educational campaign was the historic participation of thousands of ordinary citizens and local business leaders who stepped up personally and corporately to supplement the paid communications plan with grassroots support. Citizens who have never participated directly in voter education efforts contributed funds, sent emails and letters to their friends or clients, put bumper stickers on their vehicles and placed signs in their yards and business storefronts, etc…

The impact of the work of these ordinary citizens and new participants in the political process may never be measured precisely. We know one thing for certain – the mass communications and grassroots efforts had the effect of reversing voting opinion on this measure.

In Spring of 2010, every statewide poll showed Amendment 4 was poised for passage.

On Election Day, 67% of Florida voters cast votes and rejected this anti-property rights amendment.

Over 3.4 million Florida voters voted to protect property rights and Florida’s economy.

That is very good news!

Florida property owners owe a debt of gratitude to the entire “NO on 4” campaign team and specifically including Ryan Houck of Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy, Inc. and John Sowinski of Consensus Communications, who were critical in planning and executing the “NO on 4” mass media campaign and organized a grassroots army unexpected by the opposition.

We must also be sure to thank the critical funders of this important fight. Communicating in a mega-state such as Florida requires extraordinary financial resources. Membership organizations such as the Florida Association for Realtors, Leading Builders of America, Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Land Council, Florida Home Builders Association, National Association of Homebuilders, Florida Retail Federation, National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, International Council of Shopping Centers, Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida, Broward Workshop and others put their members’ collective monies to work.

Individual companies also stepped up “in a big way,” according to NO on 4 finance director JJ Whitson, and chose to contribute corporate funds to support Florida’s state economic bottom line instead of their own corporate balance sheets. The corporate leaders who made those financial leadership decisions and the individual citizens who made personal donations also deserve our heartfelt thanks.

Every dollar spent defeating Amendment 4 was a dollar well spent.

The private property rights of every Floridian were saved and a permanent state recession avoided.

If you personally contributed in any way on this collective statewide effort, please accept CPR’s organizational applause and take a moment today to celebrate and again join us in saying out loud, “WE DID IT!”

The statewide dragon known as “Hometown Democracy” was slain.

CPR members and long-time e-newsletter readers will also recognize a familiar aspect of this campaign.  The call for unity has been a relentless refrain of CPR as an organization. For the past nine years we have conveyed that if and when individuals who value of property rights will stand together and channel this energy and support in one unified direction and to get behind issues of common purpose…that we would represent in number, in economic power and in political power, a force that could not be beaten.

In many ways, the collective success in educating Florida voters and defeating Amendment 4 represents the hope and dream of CPR’s founder,  Doug Doudney, who envisioned property owners across Florida could unite in stronger mutual defense. The statewide team that defeated Amendment 4 proves this unified model works.

One of Amendment 4’s strongest strategic opponents is no longer with us, but the memory of Wade Hopping and his foundational work to protect private property rights in Florida and to bring together the initial gathering of “The Coalition of Coalitions” will not be forgotten.

SO…WHAT’S NEXT?

As we celebrate this epic effort and enjoy the opportunity to pat one another on the back as comrades in arms, victorious on a statewide political battlefield, we must be recognize the fight to defeat Amendment 4 was simply a single great battle in a much larger war that has yet to be won.

Amendment 4 was nurtured in a rich soil of anti-growth and anti-property rights sentiment. It was watered by the failure of busy and industrious professionals working in property-related fields to acknowledge the need to publicly promote their own work, their professions and to defend development when attacked in public forums as the mechanism through which individual private property rights and freedoms are exercised.

For several decades in Florida, special interests – with strong support of the news media – have perpetuated the idea that land use in Florida must be strongly controlled and highly regulated. These interests have purposefully fostered support for “the centralized planning mindset” and spent millions promoting regulation-minded visioning theories. Many of these anti-property rights activists care nothing about the end result of lost jobs or the crushing human impact on individual property owners and entrepreneurs who believe in the American dream and are seeking simply to put their privately-owned land to constructive economic use.

In the coming year, we must reclaim the moral high ground. We must promote the idea that private property should be put to constructive use in order to advance Florida’s economy and to enable individual socio-economic advancement. We must reframe the debate about land use regulations and explain the role that unnecessary regulation plays in killing jobs and limiting the aspirations of individual Floridians. We must also work to restore the public view of government’s proper role and that that role is protecting private property rights, not restricting these rights. We must replace the failed ideas of centralized planning theology, with the idea that local, state and federal officials should instead be working to promote the use of private property – as private property rights are the most cost effective economic stimulus known to mankind.

We must also face an awareness that on November 2, 2010, approximately 33% of Florida voters voted “YES on 4” because they were either uneducated about its negative impact on individual property rights or Florida’s economy or because 1.7 million Florida citizens voted purposefully to sacrifice Florida jobs and the individual human rights most closely associated with the American dream because they possess a different values set. These individuals and well-funded interests are not going away anytime soon. They are already back at work promoting their agenda. Some have already begun promoting the idea that while the “Hometown Democracy” initiative failed at the state level, it might be passed in individual counties or cities.

I was recently asked what my greatest “regret” of the 2010 election cycle was…and my response was this – that we did not fight the battle against Amendment 4 on pure ideological grounds and that the mass media ads used to defeat Amendment 4 did not contain stronger or purer pro-property rights arguments. However, this was not the primary message of this campaign year, because polling showed that the voting public was more motivated to vote against Amendment 4 to protect their own jobs and prevent future job losses of friends and loved ones. However, having said this, I do believe millions of Floridians fully understood what Amendment 4 represented and that most did cast ballots in strong support of property rights, as well.

With the threat of Amendment 4 behind us, every member of the coalition to defeat it should be encouraged to look at this result as an opportunity to stay united in purpose and to continue to fund the work to promote our individual industries and the common mission of protecting of property rights.

As we have learned from California, when property rights are restricted, a state economy is constricted.

We must learn from history. Instead of simply waiting for the next opportunity to play “defense,” we must work together to create a new “offensive strategies” chapter in our state political playbook.

We must replant the soil which nurtured Amendment 4 with the seeds of knowledge of two simple and incontrovertible facts: 1) unnecessary regulation kills jobs and 2) where property rights are protected, prosperity is the result.

It is simple, common sense.  When you give Americans unrestricted opportunity to build their dreams, they will do so.  If they aren’t delayed again and again, or nickel-and-dimed at virtually every turn by their own government, entrepreneurs will dream big, save big, invest big, risk big and labor longer hours to build up our state economy.

The challenge moving forward is how we continue to spread the post-Amendment 4 message of hope and how we begin to get government out of the way by repealing regulations which were poor public policy when passed…so that the historical economic truth – which is true across the globe – can once again be free to play out in our state.

Another important lesson from this cycle is that candidates who publicly support property rights and limited government platforms can win and win big!

Take a look at Florida’s senatorial and gubernatorial races as perfect examples. One of Senator-Elect Marco Rubio’s most notable achievements, which he touted on the campaign trail and included as a key point in his campaign materials was his work passing private property rights protections. Outgoing Governor and defeated Senatorial candidate Charlie Crist continued to cling to the label of environmental activist, despite his plummeting poll numbers and a double digit recession. Governor-Elect Rick Scott openly discussed his own pro-property rights views about the centralized planning bureaucracy known as DCA which is strangling Florida’s economy and stifling billions of dollars in economic investment. Property rights champions Dean Cannon and Mike Haridopolos were selected by their peers to lead both houses of the Florida Legislature.

Florida property owners and property-related industries have a unique opportunity before us. We must seize it.

Florida has an opportunity to become a national model of how a statewide recovery and extraordinary economic rebound can occur.  Instead of front-page Wall Street Journal headlines stating, “Is Florida Over?” – they could be asking, “How Did Florida Do It?”

We have the opportunity as a state to look the serious threat of repeating what has happened fiscally to the State of California (in large part due to California’s wholesale inability to divest itself of the heavy burden of unnecessary regulation at the state and local level) in the eye and to say, “NO, THANK YOU! WE CHOOSE PROPERTY RIGHTS & PROSPERITY.”

We have an opportunity right now to begin the work to reverse Florida’s economic course. This is the opportunity that lies before us, individually and collectively if we can harness the Post-4 momentum.

CPR’s QUESTION OF THE DAY:    Are you ready to personally recommit yourself to this important work?

IF YES, then make that commitment known. Re-enlist today as a public supporter of private property rights via http://www.proprights.com/.

Reader responses welcomed! Carolsaviak@aol.com

Carol Saviak
Executive Director
Coalition for Property Rights
2878 S. Osceola Avenue
Orlando, FL  32806
407-481-2289 telephone
407-481-0834 fax
http://www.proprights.com/

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