Thursday, July 29, 2010

FASCE Amendment 4 Opposition: Referendums for Local Agency Decisions

"The Florida Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has recently adopted a position statement in opposition to proposed Amendment 4, to be included on the November 2010 ballot. Amendment 4 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. The Florida Section of ASCE feels the impacts, both intended and unintended, of this proposed amendment are in direct conflict with several established national ASCE policy statements. The FASCE's position statement is available for review at FASCE's website (".

What does this have to do with stormwater management and/or civil engineering in general?

It is amazing to me that during these harsh economic conditions legislators actually consider some of these illogical and impractical rule or law changes to comp plans which can only add to the economy's woes and most likely have a negative impact on the supposed recovery and the restoration of the nation's infrastructure. I can only imagine the unacceptable time delays in actually executing capital improvement projects if every time a local municipality which wanted or needed to amend or change their comp plan for land use or other issues an election needed to be held and the electorate approve or disapprove of the amendment or change.

There are already rules in place that allow the public to voice their concerns regarding comp plan changes through the hearing process, at all levels. As an engineer and project manager, to my surprise I learned that most roadway projects always had a significant amount of opposition, as this would become evident in public hearings and at the local public works office via direct calls from the daily public. Some more than others. It would always surprise me when for example, an existing clay road was programmed and funded for paving, some of the existing residents affected by the proposed work did not want the road paved, they liked it just the way it was, as long as it kept being maintained by the responsible municipality without their taxes being increased. So infrastructure "improvements" can be in the eye of the beholder.

I mention this to make a point, and that is that if enough residents are opposed to a particular project and/or comp plan land use change, the commissioners (or other officials in charge) will hear about it, and as duly elected by their corresponding districts constituents, they eventually vote and make a decision, and it is up to the electors to decide which commissioner if any is serving their needs and wants and thus re-elect them for a next term. I know. It's a bit slow, but it is a process. Can anyone imagine if an additional level of approval by way of general electoral vote for approval or disapproval of each and every specific land use or other change in a comprehensive plan was needed? The time delays? The additional costs? It just makes no sense. Not even if the economy was roaring. But under our current conditions, it makes even less sense.
I suggest the reader to go the fasce link mentioned above and read their position paper which contains the exact language of the opposition statements.

How can this be considered an improvement to the existing process? What are they thinking? Humn............................JC

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