Monday, May 09, 2011

Mike Bennett: Friend of Developers

Florida Sen. Mike Bennett has been trying to kill growth management for years. The reason is Bennett runs the PAC Citizens For Housing & Urban Growth. The Florida House and Senate approved HB 7207. Bennett gave his spin on the bill.

“The local governments have been screaming and hollering to ‘give us back control of our communities.’ How could Tallahassee possibly know what is good for downtown Bradenton?” Bennett said.

That's funny. When Bennett was pushing SB 360 last year local governments complained that the change in growth management rules from state to local would increase costs for local government. Judge Charles Francis agreed when he found SB 360 unconstitutional.

The decision by Tallahassee Circuit Judge Charles Francis says the law is an "unfunded mandate" that would force cities and counties to spend at least $3.7 million to rewrite their land-use plans.

"The court finds this amount is not 'fiscally insignificant,' " Francis wrote in his ruling, noting that 264 communities would have to pay at least $15,000 to change their plans.

From a policy standpoint, HB 7207 would create a bureaucratic nightmare. Imagine counties arguing over roads, retention ponds and development taxes with no guiding state policy. Bennett and other Republicans want to get rid of state government oversigth because they believe development lobbyists can buy commissioners and city council members off with campaign contributions. It certainly proved true with Bennett. Developers donate huge into local elections. The late developer Ralph Hughes bought Sen. Jim Norman's wife a house.

Bennett's spin is that we need to get rid of growth management rules to spur more home building to create jobs. This makes no sense when Florida leads to nation with 441,461 unsold foreclosed homes. Who does Bennett expect to buy houses in Florida. Why we are at it, we can ask Bennett and his Republican colleagues why are the "rocket docket" foreclosure courts they created are so ripe with banks using fraudulent documents to illegally remove homeowners from their houses. Bennett's brilliant plan is to build homes that no one wants to buy. Remove owners from those homes. Banks then can't sell those homes. Repeat cycle.

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